Is Your Church a Hugging Church?

I started the Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, which as Pastor Rick Warren describes . . . “We’re a hugging church.” So I knew that women attending one of our Woman to Woman Mentoring Orientation Coffees would need welcoming from a “Greeter/Hugger” at the front door.

Some churches starting the Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry question the need for a Greeter/Hugger, until they have an experience similar to the church who shared this story with me:

A helper offered to be the Greeter/Hugger at our Orientation Coffee, but she couldn’t hug a stranger so she would shake hands. We aren’t a hugging church, but since we were following your Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry Coordinator’s Guide where you stress the importance of having a Greeter/Hugger, we decided we would have her help in another area and find someone who would hug the women as they arrived. Then during the sharing time, one woman said she was a newlywed, and shortly after their wedding, her husband deployed overseas. The hug she received from the Greeter/Hugger was her first hug in eighteen months, and that hug assured her the mentoring ministry was just where the Lord wanted her. After the Coffee, the helper who said she couldn’t hug strangers, said she would be the Greeter/Hugger at our next Orientation Coffee.

How Did Church Members Greet Each Other in Jesus’s Day?

God’s design for the church was for believers to be family. Jesus made that clear in Mark 3:31-35:

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

We often refer to ourselves as brothers and sisters in Christ, and some churches still call each other “brother _______” and “sister _______,” but most have dropped the use of this familiar term, maybe to a detriment. Families hug each other in greeting, so it shouldn’t seem strange for brothers and sisters in Christ to greet each other with a hug.

The early church actually went a step beyond a hug and greeted fellow believers with a kiss. This wasn’t a romantic kiss, but one like Europeans or relatives give to each other, maybe on the cheek. When Paul sent letters to the churches, this is how he told them to greet each other . . .

“Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.” Romans 16:16

“All the brothers and sisters here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.” 1 Corinthians 16:20

“Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss.” 1 Thessalonians 5:26

Peter also said, “Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.” 1 Peter 5:14

Why Don’t All Churches Hug Today?

I asked several people if they had a time of greeting in their church, and if so, was it shaking hands or hugging. One man replied that there was greeting prior to the service and if you had a relationship with someone you might hug them, but if there had been some animosity or misunderstanding, you wouldn’t want to hug that person. I thought that was interesting since this is church we’re talking about! But then I had a disagreement with someone, and it was hard to hug that person until we resolved it.

When my husband and I travel and attend churches, we notice that sometimes we’re the only people hugging. One church we attend regularly, the pastor sticks out his hand to shake my husband Dave’s hand, and as Dave gives him a hug, the Pastor laughs and says, “Oh yes, you’re the hugger.”

I don’t remember that many people hugging when we first started attending our small mountain community church where we live now, unless they were already friends, but now everyone hugs! I’m so used to hugging people, I once hugged our new neighbor, and I barely knew her. It just seemed like the welcoming thing to do, although she did seem a little surprised, I did it without thinking . . . because I’m a hugger.

Admittedly, some people are extremely private and don’t like people invading their space. They’re uncomfortable hugging, especially if they don’t know you. I’ve never had anyone take inappropriate advantage of hugging in church, but I suppose that could happen too. And it’s important to caution children to be leery of anyone they don’t know hugging them inappropriately, and be sure your church has a vetting process for everyone working in youth and children’s ministry.

Here are hugging etiquette considerations if you’re a hugger like me, but not sure how the other person feels about hugging:

  1. If it’s a first meeting/greeting, shake hands, especially with the opposite sex.
  2. After several meetings, try a side hug. If you feel resistance or tenseness, return to handshakes.
  3. Be open. Explain that you’re a hugger, and ask if they’re OK with a hug in greeting and honor their wishes.

If you’re uncomfortable with hugs, that’s OK. Don’t feel badly or that you have to explain. A bright smile, and kind, friendly greeting speaks volumes.

“An honest answer is like a warm hug.” Psalm 24:26 The Message

What are your thoughts on giving hugs during greeting time at church?

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Overcoming the Naysayers in Your Life

Live Love LaughRustic Blooms*

Hubby and I just returned home from a month in sunny Southern California. We had a great time visiting with friends and family and worshipping in Idyllwild Bible Church and Saddleback Church. Both of these churches hold dear spots in our hearts and as do the godly pastors gifted in leading their congregations to a closer relationship with God. Last week, I shared a message we heard at IBC from John Holesclaw. Many of you commented on how God has been calling you to Go Beyond the comfort and calm of your daily life as God calls you to follow a new vision.

Today, I want to share with you some thoughts from Pastor Rick Warren’s message of Ignoring the Naysayers that might come out of the woodwork when you start following that vision.

As I listened to Pastor Rick preach, I was nodding my head the entire time because I had experienced every one of his naysayer points when I started Woman to Woman Mentoring. In fact, when I train churches on starting Woman to Woman Mentoring, I always warn them to beware of the naysayers and then I tell them how God helped me overcome them to push through and start a ministry that God has taken around the world for the past twenty years.

If you have a vision that’s bigger than you . . . that only God could bring to fruition . . . you’re going to experience naysayers. Here are a few points from Pastor Rick’s sermon with an example from my own experience. I would love to hear about some of your experiences.

Naysayer: “A person who says something won’t work or isn’t possible; a cynic who habitually expresses pessimistic views.”

How I Defeated the Naysayers in Starting Woman to Woman Mentoring and You Can Do the Same in Your Life.

  1. Remember That They Are Not God!

The fear of human opinion disables; but trusting in God protects you from that. Pr. 29:25, The Message

“The bigger God’s opinion in your mind, the smaller the opinions of others.”—Rick Warren

Naysayers don’t know what God has said to you so they don’t understand your dream or vision from God. It’s not their “call,” it’s yours! They are not God.

We can’t seek the approval of men over the approval of God. It doesn’t matter if others don’t agree with us. Don’t worry what other people will think; worry what God thinks.

When I was starting the Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry, I heard things like:

  • Somebody tried that a few years ago and it didn’t work.

Me: Might have been wrong person or wrong time. I’ll find out what they did that didn’t work and do the opposite. I’ll also try to locate the women who were interested in mentoring at that time. God definitely wants a mentoring ministry at Saddleback now, and he’s told me I’m the one to start it.

  • Twenty years ago, Saddleback was a seeker church and the average age range was 25-45, so people said I wouldn’t find women old enough or spiritually mature enough to be mentors.

Me: Well someone who accepted the Lord six month’s ago is spiritually older than someone who is seeking and who better to relate to a seekers questions and hesitations. We wouldn’t look at Titus 2:3-5 as chronological age, but spiritual age. We might not have large age or maturity ranges, but we would have women who had walked longer with the Lord than someone else.

  • I’d never been involved in women’s ministry before so who was I to start a ministry?

Me: I won’t be influenced by how things “have always been done.” I’ll be open to listening to the Lord and taking my direction directly from Him. My personal writing and speaking ministry became About His Work Ministries.

Ask yourself: Who am I allowing to play God in my life?

  1. Don’t Get Distracted by Negativity

So I replied by sending this message to them: “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?” Four times they sent the same message, and each time I gave the same reply.—Nehemiah 6:3-4 NLT

“Every opportunity comes with opposition.”—Rick Warren

Billy Graham quoted Neh. 6:3-4 when he was doing crusades in London and the journalists were harassing him. He was too busy saving lives to take the time to go down and answer the journalists’ taunts.

Rick said that naysayers’ distractions come in the form of: ridicule, rumors, threats, and endless discussion to slow you down.

I experienced all four of those attacks when starting Woman to Woman Mentoring, I even had a mutiny on my original team, which later became the imputes to write The Team That Jesus Built and Face to Face with Euodia and Syntyche: From Conflict to Community:

  • You should have teas not coffees.
  • “Mentee” is not a word.
  • Who are you to start this ministry?
  • You’re only writing about this to make money.
  • Woman to Woman Mentoring is only for our church not others, so you shouldn’t be writing resources for other churches to start the ministry.
  • You could never match M&M’s simply by prayer.
  • Women won’t come.
  • You can’t match two strangers
  • How are you going to find two women to match in such a large church?
  • And so it went . . .

Ask Yourself: How is negativity distracting you from accomplishing your goal?

  1. Never Attack Back—Leave It in God’s Hands

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.—1 Peter 2:23 NIV

“I’m most like Jesus when I stay silent under attack. Bless them instead.”—Rick Warren

The best way I found to deal with naysayers was to not engage them. Don’t waste your time and emotion trying to convince them they’re wrong, or getting into endless discussions. This is hard to do because we want to defend our position and get them to agree with us, but I learned to simply ignore them and not give fuel or energy to the negativity. A ministry was being birthed that was clearly God’s will and that’s the only opinion I valued. A successful ministry blessing the women would prove the naysayers wrong.

Ask Yourself: How am I wasting time and energy trying to defend my goal and vision?

  1. Stay Focused on God and His Promises

The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?—Psalm 118:6 (NLT)

“The size of your God determines the size of your goals.Rick Warren

To do a mighty work for God, we need to remember that we don’t need the approval of others to be happy or successful; we’re only seeking a “well done” from God. I knew that I had received a Feed my Sheep call from the Lord who had revealed that the feeding meant mentoring and the sheep were women. I had said yes to that call and that was the only thing that mattered.

Somehow, someway, my Great God was going to use me to start a ministry that would change the lives of women for years to come. My role was to not be distracted or dissuaded by naysayers, listen closely to the voice of God and do what He said to do, and give Him all the glory for doing something only God could do.

Ask Yourself: What “call” has God given me that He promises to fulfill, if I let Him?

I would love to hear how God speaks to you about overcoming the naysayers in your life.

You can leave a comment below, or if you receive this by email click here.

Portions of this blog are from Pastor Rick Warren’s message “Ignoring the Naysayers” at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, November 1, 2015.

*Rustic Blooms is a new sign making venture of my daughter Kim Mancini. I’m sure she had a few naysayers along the way (not me), but she’s making beautiful creative artistic signs as the orders pour in and I’m so proud of her.

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“Organic” Mentoring. . . Say What?

My 9 yr-old granddaughter and I are studying together Face-to-Face with Mary and Martha

My 9 yr-old granddaughter and I are studying together Face-to-Face with Mary and Martha

The first time I heard “organic” used in the same sentence with “mentoring” in the church, I was curious and cautious. I wondered: Say what? How’s that working for you? How many women in your church connect “organically” into a mentoring relationship and how does the word “organic” apply in the church?

Synonyms for “organic” in Roget’s Super Thesaurus are:  inherent, intrinsic, innate, native, natural—untouched by man. So using the term “organic” for mentoring implies that mentoring relationships will just happen naturally in the church with no outside help. Yet, when I do Woman to Woman Mentoring trainings on how to formally develop a mentoring ministry in your church and ask the audience how many see mentoring happening naturally in their churches—spiritually younger women asking spiritually older women to mentor them, or vice versa—they respond, negative.

What Does The Bible Say?

Perhaps a few mentoring relationships do develop “organically,” but the majority of women in churches do not naturally, or “organically,” live out Titus 2:3-5, where we are instructed as Christian women to:

 Teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

I am sure that Paul, the author of the Book of Titus, expected that women would naturally follow his admonition, and maybe they did in that day, but today, by their own admission, most women don’t have the desire, energy, interest, or feel they have the time to apply these Scriptures “organically.” Common concerns are thinking that they don’t know enough to mentor and fear of rejection.

My passion is to help women understand the biblical mandate in Titus 2:3-5 to mentor each other and to cultivate a culture of mentoring in our churches. But this takes work—for the women’s ministry director and the women she shepherds. In today’s culture, our inherent, intrinsic, innate, natural,—organic if you will—bent is to take care of our own needs and those of our immediate families.

Organic Takes Effort

Organic certainly has a place in gardening, and my husband and I have striven to eat organically produced foods since my first diagnosis of breast cancer twelve years ago. But “man” touches organic gardens; they don’t just happen naturally or innately. Organic produce takes time, energy, and effort to grow and cultivate without chemicals, and hence, the higher price in the market. Organic gardens don’t sprout up and grow inherently or intrinsically—they need an overseer, someone who plants the seeds, waters, weeds, watches over them to make sure bugs and weather don’t destroy, harvests, nurtures, and cares for the garden.

And here’s my point: so do mentoring relationships and mentoring ministries. Very few ministries take place organically in a church—the music ministry doesn’t organically come together Sunday morning to lead worship without practice, leading, and direction. Children’s programs don’t just spring up organically on Sunday morning without preparation, planning, and supervision. The pastor doesn’t get up in the pulpit and preach whatever organically comes to his mind that morning—he has put in research, energy, effort, planning and study time to prepare his message. People don’t organically become Christians—our natural or native selves are sinful and we must intentionally be born-again.

Rather than using the buzzword “organic,” I propose we think intentional. Intentionally cultivate Titus 2:3-5 in your church, and nurture One generation will commend your works to another, they will tell of your might acts” Psalm 145:4. Help the women learn how to share intentionally their life experiences and God’s faithfulness and help connect and nurture them in mentoring relationships. I guarantee the women in your churches will be “organically” blessed when you have an intentional mentoring ministry—as expressed in this email I received recently from a mentee:

Hi Janet,

About 15 years ago, I attended a Woman to Woman mentoring coffee at Saddleback Church and was matched into a mentoring relationship with Ellie Swain. I just wanted you to know what a blessing that was. I moved to Arizona, and Ellie moved to Arkansas, but we visit each other and talk on the phone nearly every week to encourage each other in our walk with Jesus.

Janet, you made a difference in our lives. Thank you!

Forgiveness. . . . Forgiveness. . . .

Rick Warren on Twitter: “Someone on the internet sold Matthew an unregistered gun. I pray he seeks God’s forgiveness. I forgive him.

MATTHEW 6:15″

Like us, many of you were saddened and shocked to learn of the loss of Pastor Rick Warren’s 27-year old son, Matthew, who took his own life after suffering for years with depression and mental illness.

Pastor Rick is like extended family to my husband Dave and me. Dave and I attended Saddleback Church for over 23 years, and twenty years ago, we met each other in a small group. We’ve watched Saddleback church grow from meeting in a high school gym, to the mega church the world knows today.

Pastor Rick will always be “our pastor.” Even though we have since moved to another state and are members of a church in our community . . . . we’re still all in the family of God. And so it is that Dave and I mourn and grieve with Pastor Rick and Kay and our extended Saddleback family.

The Grieving Process Can Lead To or Away from God

Matthew took his own life with a purchased gun, but someone took my father’s life with his own gun. He was a California Highway Patrolman killed in the line of duty while trying to help the very man who killed him. My father had chosen a career protecting his community. He died two weeks before his 37th birthday doing exactly what he had signed on to do.

My mother shook her fist at God and said no just God would ever allow this to happen. I watched my mother’s bitterness and anger cause her to deteriorate emotionally, physically, spiritually, relationally . . . resulting in a difficult childhood for my sister and me. Praise God, two years after my father’s death, I was invited to a church youth camp where I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

But when I became an adult, mom and I were estranged for 15 years. Then one of Pastor Rick’s sermons went straight to my heart when he said, “You’ll never experience true love if there’s someone in your life you haven’t forgiven.” I had been a single mom for 17 years and realized that if I didn’t forgive my mom, I would probably never have a happy marriage relationship. I did forgive her and within months, met my wonderful godly husband Dave.

Misconceptions Stop Us from Forgiving

In my Bible study, Face-to-Face with Euodia and Syntyche: From Conflict to Community, I discuss the myths about forgiveness and the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation:

FORGIVENESS is not allowing anyone else to control your emotional life except GOD!

FORGIVENESS is VERTICAL between God and you.

RECONCILIATION is HORIZONTAL between you and the other person

If you’re struggling with forgiveness or difficult relationships, studying Face-to-Face with Euodia and Syntyche will help you discover biblical ways of resolving conflict. Here are several of the myths that prevent us from granting unconditional forgiveness:

FORGIVENESS MYTHS I LEARNED FROM PASTOR RICK

MYTH #1:  Forgiveness must be quick like God’s forgiveness.


TRUTH: Forgiveness is a process.

MYTH #2:  If I forgive, that means that the offense was “ok.”

TRUTH: Forgiveness does not make sin into good. Sin is never “ok.”

MYTH #3:  I cannot forgive until I can forget, just like God does.

TRUTH: We are not God. When God forgives, He doesn’t need to learn anything. We do!

MYTH #4:  If I forgive, I have to reconcile with the person.

TRUTH: You do not have to be reconciled to forgive, but you do have to be able to forgive in order to reconcile.

“Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges” (Colossians 3:13 TLB).

Who do you need to forgive so you can be free from the chains of bitterness and anger? You can do it! Listen to Matthew West’s song “Forgiveness” ,which starts out…

It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve

It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have to say the word…

Forgiveness
Forgiveness