Expanding Your Community
By Irvina Parker, Girls’ Ministries Director
In March of this year, the internet turned 30 years old. We could spin a lot of tales about the pros and cons of what this invention has brought to the table, but that is not the intention of this article. One thing that we cannot argue is that it has expanded the borders for those of us who dare to enter. Our close-knit communities of yesteryear have broadened exponentially.
We can now be “friends” with people around the globe through numerous social media sites. If you use Facebook, you already know that you can choose the level at which your communication is shared. You can choose to keep it smaller and allow it to be seen only by your friends. To broaden the base, you can choose friends of friends. If you want your message to be seen by the world, simply choose Public, and in theory, the whole world can view your post.
In thinking about our fellowship as a body of believers, we face some of the same choices. We have the opportunity for different levels of fellowship through ministries such as Men’s and Women’s Ministries, Girls’ and Boys’ Ministries, Children’s and Youth Ministries, or Singles and Senior Adult Ministries. Each ministry has a lot to offer its respective audience. There is much to be learned as we sit together as peers. You can choose to stay within the confines of the ministry that best defines your life’s current status, but do you realize what you might miss out on if you choose just that one level of community?
I was recently reminded of the ever-broadening community when we visited Chile in February to attend the 6th Global Assembly, where we worshipped with believers from all over the world. It really hit home, in a more personal manner, as we gathered around the table in a Chilean home that Saturday evening after the event ended. As we began getting to know each other better, the conversations were carried out in both English and Spanish, and translations were made as needed. Our backgrounds and nationalities were different, but there was a common thread that brought us all together in this home. In one way or another, we were all connected to a young couple, who will marry in June–Rodrigo Rivas and Dreama Bryant. They will make Chile their home.
Rodrigo is our daughter-in-law’s cousin. His mom and Jessica’s dad are brother and sister. We met several of this Chilean extended family at our son’s wedding in 2005, and we’ve been friends ever since. Rod moved to Oklahoma City to study at Southwestern Christian University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree. He also earned two master’s degrees in preparation to return to Chile and work with his Dad in their church and Pentecostal denomination. When his parents visit the city, they stay in our home. Likewise, when we visited Chile, we were guests in their home for several days.
We not only had family connections with the group around the table, but we also share a strong God connection as well. Others around that table were Dreama’s parents, Bishop Garry and LaDawn Bryant, and other mentors who had poured into this couple’s lives, individually or jointly, over the last few years. Dreama’s bishop, Dayton Birt (Redemption Ministries), and Rod’s bishop, Stuart Sherrill (Heartland) and his wife Sheri, were also there. Rod’s former pastor and mentor, Brad Davis and his wife, Whitney (our new National Women’s Ministries director) were there too. Rod’s parents, Jose and Katty Rivas, were incredible hosts and made us feel at home around that table. Gathered at a second table were several members of Rod’s Chilean family.
Despite all the different backgrounds, we felt connected by the work of the Holy Spirit. That bond grew even stronger as most of us attended the church the next morning, where Jose Rivas serves as pastor. Bishop Sherrill preached, and all of us were invited to greet the congregation and then prayed over those who came for prayer at the end of the sermon. The connections that morning as I prayed over some of the Chilean ladies was incredible. That is the beauty of a God-connection. Language barriers disappear when the Holy Spirit is present and doing His work. A week later, when we attended our second service there, one of those sisters got my husband to translate and shared what had happened that week. She started by saying that she had no idea what I had prayed over her but said she felt a connection. As I prayed, God placed the face of her boss (a leader in the national soccer association) in her mind. She began praying for him and asking God to show her what He wanted her to do. Later that week, God gave her the boldness and an unexpected opportunity to witness to him.
We must take every opportunity we can get to expand our connections. When I think about Girls’ Ministries in the local church, I think of all the opportunities that are presented there. Just as our group around that Chilean table, you will have girls from different backgrounds. You may even have a child whose family speaks a different language. Spending time together each week in God’s Word, through your curriculum, is important. But the fellowship that you have together is important as well. The key word in building a successful Girls’ Ministries is relationship. Girls may not remember the particular lessons you taught, but you can be sure they will remember the time and effort you took as a leader, mentor, and friend.
Life is hectic, but here’s my challenge: Don’t isolate your ministry to an hour on Wednesday night. Look for ways to expand it to involve parents, grandparents, other Godly mentors, and even girls from older clubs. Think of it in much the same way as your Facebook levels of friendship. With Mother’s Day and Father’s Day coming up quickly, look for ways to bring your ministries together for a time of fellowship and gleaning from each other. Be very intentional in starting conversations between your girls and those adults who can bring a different perspective to life. Bring older girls into the classroom to share–whether it’s doing crafts or reading a story or cooking together. The more opportunities you create between your girls and other members of the body of Christ, the stronger the bonds of fellowship will become.