More and Better Disciples

By Darrel Rowland

Eyebrow waxing, dancing, and a full-fledged mariachi band.

It’s not quite the holy trinity of women’s ministry at Mountain Christian Church.

But it sure helps get the buzz going in the community.

More important, it’s all part of bringing women closer to Jesus and making more and better disciples by helping them take a step on their journey with Jesus

“We try to offer something to women on both ends of the spectrum of discipleship,” said Susan Owens, who is on staff with the small groups team at the Joppa, Maryland, church that averages about 4,500 in worship each weekend.

The role of women’s ministry is to come alongside and embrace the process the church already has in place to make disciples. The best initial step for anyone new to the church is to attend the Welcome to Mountain class, an introduction to the church’s vision, Christian beliefs, and a call to follow Christ.

“This doesn’t sound like women’s ministry, but this informative class is the first place we want our women to connect,” said Karla Cachiaras, the senior pastor’s wife who joined the women’s ministry staff at the beginning of the year. “After this class, it is our job to help each woman take the next step in her journey of discipleship.”

Entry Points

One entry point for Mountain, which has borrowed several concepts from Girlfriends Unlimited, is an annual Girls Night Out—or, as Cachiaras puts it, “a huge, amazing party where women far from God find a warm welcome in a fun environment.”

This year’s Girls’ Night Out gathering had a fiesta theme—that’s where the dancing and mariachi band come in—along with games, a piñata, and, of course, appropriate food, all for $10.

“It’s an event we think appeals to any lady,” Cachiaras said. “It’s a safe place for multigenerations to have fun. Mom feels it’s safe because it’s in a church, and the younger daughter feels it’s cool because it’s not all churchy and they can relate to other people there.”

Because the primary target is women new to or unfamiliar with the faith, this event is undergirded with prayer, she said. A prayer team prays before and during the event, and prayer tables are set up in various places. But the program itself doesn’t contain a heavy-handed spiritual message.

The evening ends with a video that identifies many issues common to women. After drawing women in and helping them see their own brokenness, the video leads each woman to think about possible next steps in exploring faith as a place for answers. Ministries that are highlighted include Bible studies, help for those affected by cancer, groups for single moms, and others.

Drawing on the presumption that “ladies like free things,” the Girls’ Night Out evening closes with a raffle to give away various items. Each raffle ticket supplies the women’s ministry with contact information so the church can follow up and get them connected, Cachiaras said.

An unexpected benefit of Girls Night Out was the impact on the 40 or so 11th- and 12th-grade girls who volunteer to serve at the annual event, she said.

“These girls were allowed to see an amazing amount of fun happening with women, who maybe in their minds are too old to have fun. And they see it happening in the church.”

Local salons were invited in to do hair, nails—and, yes, to wax eyebrows.

For weeks afterward, people at salons throughout the area are buzzing about the party at Mountain, Cachiaras said.

“It’s amazing how quickly positive information spreads in the community; building interest in what’s going on in your church,” she said. “If you can plan an impressive event, the salons can wind up being your best promotion.”

The community sees the fun and games, but the church can see the greater purpose, and that is to draw women into relationships that lead them toward Christ.

“Once again, we attempt to keep the focus about the process, not the actual event. Making sure each event has obvious next steps,” Cachiaras said. “You know, it’s great if you can have 600 ladies come to your Girls Night Out, but there needs to be more, a next step, a way for the ladies to move beyond the event.”

Next Steps

One way Mountain does this is through a twice-a-year gathering called Gab ‘n Grow, usually attended by about 150. These events are lower key, with no cost or fancy decorations, but still offer games or classes on topics, such as photography or taking care of your body physically and spiritually.

“It’s just a fellowship time where people can connect,” Cachiaras said. “It’s a little bit deeper than Girls Night Out, but it’s still comfortable enough to invite your neighbor who doesn’t come to church.”

Helping women take the next step in their journey of faith is part of what Mountain calls its Coffee Break ministry, a two-year program centered on an inductive study of various books of the Bible, offered both Tuesday morning and evening. Everyone meets for a short worship and prayer time, and then divides into groups of about 10 for a 75-minute study. After the two years are up, participants are encouraged to move into a leadership or serving role or to join another small group, which is the next step.

A number of these small groups meet in homes throughout a multicounty area and are exclusively for women. These groups are encouraged to intentionally raise up new leaders, with an apprentice model, Owens said.

“We really encourage our groups to stay open to new people,” she added.

Continuing the Journey

Owens noted that Mountain offers many of the same opportunities as other churches, such as women’s circles, Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) and a variety of “affinity” groups with people of similar interests, from writing to riding motorcycles.

The church also offers an annual women’s conference, which draws people from several neighboring states, and a yearly weekend women’s retreat at a local Christian retreat center. The retreat is designed to encourage women to continue on a discipleship journey by learning the importance of spiritual disciplines. Experiences include the process of self-examination, learning to journal, and spending time in solitude and silence.

Owens and Cachiaras acknowledge that women’s ministry has changed. The current focus for Mountain is to meet women where they are, and then to draw women toward maturity in a journey of knowing, loving, and serving Jesus.

Darrel Rowland is an adult Bible fellowship teacher at Worthington (Ohio) Christian Church and public affairs editor of The Columbus Dispatch.

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