Organize a Spirit-filled ladies' prayer group

A pastor's wife can minister to the needs of the women in the congregation in ways her husband cannot.

Crystal Earnhardt, a pastor's wife, writes from Misenheimer, North Carolina.

Leading out in a ladies' prayer group can be one of the most re warding experiences that you can enjoy as a pastor's wife. In a ladies' prayer group you have the privilege of ministering to the needs of the women in your congregation in a way that your husband can not. If you possess an understanding heart and a love for souls, they will be able to confide in you their most intimate problems. In turn, you are in the position to provide monthly programs that cater to their specific needs.

Lucy is a prime example of how this works. She and her husband were new members in our church. After I had be come acquainted with Lucy, she tearfully confessed that she knew little about child training. I already suspected that Sabbath mornings her children competed with my husband for the congregation's attention! Her need compelled me to rent from our local conference office videos on child training by speakers such as Drs. James Dobson and Kay Kuzma. Our ladies' prayer group spent several sessions with these films. During the discussions that followed our viewing of these films, most of the women who attended, old and young alike, shared helpful hints. Lucy and her family benefited greatly not to mention my husband, who no longer had to shout to be heard.

Getting started

Operating a ladies' prayer group is not an overly demanding task. In fact, leading one will likely require less of your time than you would have to spend to lead a children's Sabbath school class. Typically, the groups that I have led have met one night each month. The goal is to re-create, to restore, to build up not to start something that will become a time-consuming burden. Choose a night that the majority finds convenient; usually a week night works best.

Whet the appetites of the potential participants with suggested projects and programs, choosing ideas you are sure will create an interest. Use your church bulletin and pulpit for enthusiastic announcements. Make personal phone calls or write a short letter to be duplicated and sent to those whom you wish to come. Encourage them to leave their children at home if they can. This is la dies' night out! (You may want to enlist the help of a few teenagers and offer baby-sitting.)

Your prayer group should encourage spiritual growth. How about offering a series on women of the Bible or one on how to improve your devotional life? One Sabbath afternoon 17 of us floated down a river on a church member's pontoon boat. As we drifted along we sang "Nearer, My God, to Thee." Then we shared ideas on how to make Sabbaths more meaningful. One elderly lady in our group confided that she had never experienced a more Spirit-filled day.

Your group will likely appreciate some meetings devoted to practical skills. Favorite topics in my group included how to improve self-esteem and how to save money. A local beautician contributed by demonstrating how to cut and style hair. You can dedicate several months to weight control, exercise, and healthful cooking.

An elderly church member taught us how to do lap quilting. Our group made a quilt and sold it for the church building fund. Another offered to teach decoupage; and still another, crocheting. Involve your church members! Ask different ladies to share their talents or give a devotional.

Your ladies' prayer group also should offer social activities, as well as learning opportunities. In November ask the la dies to bring a dish of their favorite holiday food with the recipe and a homemade craft with instructions. You might also arrange for your group to carpool to an outlet mall for an enjoyable Sunday afternoon of shopping. (But as a general rule, limit your group's weekend activities to special occasions.) Social activities enable the group members to form closer, stronger friendships a must for the growth and development of your group.

Your prayer group will be strengthened if it becomes involved in outreach activities. If your group is large enough, organize the women into several subgroups. Have each subgroup choose a leader, and then see to it that each of these leaders has a list of the names and phone numbers of her members. In the event of a death in the church family or surrounding community, ask subgroup A to prepare a meal for those who are bereaved. The next time a tragedy occurs, subgroup B takes over. You may also wish to use these subgroups, or to form others, for visitation of shut-ins and the sick or other kinds of ministries, depending on the talents available in your group.

When everyone shares the work, no one has to carry the whole burden. Best of all, many hearts will be grateful for the love demonstrated by these ladies. And all the while you are teaching your members the Caring Church concept.

After your ladies' prayer group gets established you may want to start a secret sister society. Begin by announcing your plans to the congregation several weeks in advance. Those who wish to join must put their name, address, birthday, anniversary (if any), and favorite color on a card and drop it into a closed, slotted box that you have placed in the church foyer. As leader, you should keep a record of all who participate. Your record will prove helpful when someone loses her information card or has to drop out for some reason.

When you have copied the information on the cards, let everyone who is participating draw a card. Then stress to the ladies that the idea is to remember their secret sister in thoughtful, inexpensive ways during the year of course, doing so anonymously.

At the end of the year have a party to which each brings an inexpensive gift for her secret sister, this time with the giver's name attached thus revealing who has been whose secret sister through the year. Be sure to inform all the participants about this event in plenty of time so they can attend or at least send a gift. It's embarrassing when some don't show up and a few are left without a gift or the knowledge of who their sister is.

Once you begin your ladies' prayer group, ideas will flow like ever-widening rivulets of water. You will be in touch with your church members' lives. You will be supporting your husband in a team ministry, and your church will love you for it. You will feel good knowing that you are an instrument in the Lord's hand and that through you He can touch someone's life.

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Crystal Earnhardt, a pastor's wife, writes from Misenheimer, North Carolina.

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