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Jamie Wood

And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson


Entries in Ministry (7)


What's Better than Working for God?

In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, Debbie W. Wilson challenges us to think through our perspective on Christian service.

"I quit working for God," Debbie says. "I hope you will too."

On the surface, I (Dawn) think that's a jarring statement. Why would anyone quit working for God? Did I misunderstand? Isn't that a good thing?

Debbie continues . . .

How could a Christian worker make such a declaration?

 Because, I found something better.

When we work for God we make mistakes. We bruise people in “Jesus’ name.” We become resentful, proud, and worn out. We may even hurt His kingdom instead of build it.

Don’t believe me? Check out these traits and biblical examples to see what I mean.

  • Misguided: Moses thought he was working for God when he murdered an Egyptian taskmaster (Ex. 2:11-14).
  • Working against God’s kingdom: Saul of Tarsus thought he was working for God when he was eager to kill and imprison Christians (Acts 9:1-4).
  • Resentful: The hardworking son bitterly resented his father celebrating the return of the prodigal younger brother (Luke 15:11-32).
  • Proud: The Pharisees and religious leaders believed their work for God put them in His inner circle (Luke 18:11).

How do those of us who love Jesus and want to serve Him quit working for Him?

We learn to work with Him.

Those who work for God ask Him to bless their ideas.

Those who work with God join Him in His plan. They look to Him for guidance and strength.

  • Moses learned to rely on God. “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here” (Ex. 33:15 ESV).
  • Saul of Tarsus was transformed into the Apostle Paul who said, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20 ESV.)
  • Jesus who said, “No longer do I call you servants, …but I have called you friends” (John 15:15 ESV) also said “ I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV).

I used to beat myself up when I failed to meet the expectations I put on myself. Now I believe my job is to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. That in no way translates into passivity. It means I believe Jesus is living and working in me.

I work with Him. He works through me.

When we serve God by working with Him, He gets the glory.

His plan, through His power, and in His time, builds His kingdom.

Who do you think makes a better ambassador for Christ, the one who works for God or the one who works with Him?

How to Start Working With God:

1. Ask God to show you where you have been striving to work for Him.

2. Admit your inadequacy and surrender your will and your way of doing things to Him.

3. Ask Him to fill you with His Spirit and to teach you how to rely on Him in every area of your life.

4. Thank Him for leading you. This demonstrates faith.

It takes practice, but I’m learning that staying in sync with my Lord is better than reaching my goals—even ministry goals.

Would you rather work for God or with Him?

Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks and writes to help others discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. They, along with their two grown children and two standard poodles, enjoy calling North Carolina home. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of DodgertonSkillhouse, Morguefile.


Christmas Ministry That Makes Jesus Smile: Part 2

Yesterday, Dawn Wilson shared six creative ways to make Jesus smile as we think about Christmas ministry and outreach. In Part 2, here are four more ways to think outside the gift-wrapped box.

7. Share gift coupons.

Many fast food restaurants have inexpensive books of coupons. These can be purchased in bulk and kept in the car's glove compartment to share with the homeless or others in need. Clip them to a Christmas tract or New Testament.

Some beauty salons and barber shops offer coupons for free haircuts for the needy. What other kinds of gift coupons can you find to purchase and share?

8. Prepare Ziploc® Gift Bags ... or Purses.

The Bible tells us to be wise and prepared, not foolish and lazy (Proverbs 6:6-8).

When we are prepared to minister, God will give us opportunities.

Store some gift bags in your car for the homeless. Things that will be helpful to them to take care of themselves (new toothbrush and toothpaste, hand sanitizer, etc.). Add a couple of food bars and a tract or New Testament.

One variation on this is to purchase used-but-good purses at thrift stores and use them to store helpful items in your car trunk. (Since these are for women, add sanitary supplies.

I once had a young mom in a parking lot beg me (with tears) for sanitary supplies. We chatted as I walked her into the store to buy a good supply of them and was shocked when she told me she was using old ripped-up clothing she found in a dumpster!)

9. Relieve Some Christmas Fatigue.

Be alert to ways you can ease some stress in Jesus' name.

Offer a night or two of free childcare to a weary single mom so she can go Christmas shopping ... or just take a nap! Take a young mom or low-income widow (or widower) a ready-to-cook meal or two for their freezer. 

If you can afford it, ladies, give your pastor's wife or another church staff member's wife a visit to a spa! Christmastime can be super stressful on minister's wives. (If you can really afford it - go with her! You may need some relief too!)

Think about how God has comforted you in stresses and hurting times, and consider how you can extend the same kind of comfort to others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

10. Offer your expertise.

Use what you know!

  • If you are a hairdresser, consider offering free haircuts to the homeless or the needy.
  • Handymen can offer one hour of "fixing" things around the house to widows at their church.
  • An auto mechanic might tweak someone's car.
  • An organizer could help a "messie" get organized for the holidays.

Opportunities are directly linked to your God-given gifts, and your learned skills or expertise.

Consider this question: "What is in your hand?"

It's a question God challenged me with one Christmas season: "What's in your hand, Dawn? What is right in front of you that you can use for My glory?" It's a question God asked Moses (Exodus 4:2) to get him to notice what the Lord might use to perform miracles!

For Moses, it was his simple, everyday shepherd's staff. For me, it was my pen and computer. As a writer, I ended up helping a (writing-challenged) Christian friend write her Christmas newsletter that year. And a couple of times, I've helped a friend by researching a topic for a biblical presentation to use at her Christmas tea.

Whatever God has blessed you with, consider how He might want you to use it to bless others during the holiday.

What is in your hand?

Do you have other ideas for Christmas ministry that would make Jesus smile?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices TodayLOL with God(with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is the Director of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in MInistry (NEWIM San Diego). Dawn is the co-author of LOL with God and contributed "The Blessing Basket" in It's a God Thing. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, image courtesy of tiverylucky at


Christmas Ministry That Makes Jesus Smile: Part 1

In this Christmas UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson helps us think of creative ways to make Jesus smile as we think about Christmas ministry and outreach.

In essence, we want to think of ways to be the heart, hands and feet of the Lord during the holiday season. There is no doubt God cares about the poor and needy and Christ-followers should care and help them too!

Operation Christmas Child (with Samaritan's Purse) and Angel Tree Christmas (with Prison Fellowship) are two familiar, popular ministry outreaches during the Christmas season.

World Help offers an entire catalog of ideas for offering practical support (internationally) as a way to touch people with the love of Jesus. I highly recommend this outreach.

Beyond these, there are many local ministry opportunities to consider during this time of year.  

Here are just ten other ways to think outside the "gift-wrapped" box!

1. Set up a Gift Wrap Station.

Get creative to think of ways to raise funds for your favorite ministry.

For example, some department stores are willing to allow you to set up a free Christmas gift-wrapping station. Schedule ahead of time, ask stores to donate the wrapping paper, and then accept donations to benefit a local charity or international ministry (again, like one I trust, World Help!).

I know one child who baked cookies (accepting financial donations) in her neighborhood ... and a seamstress who gave her time and expertise in an announced "mending" day (again, for donations).

2. Deliver trees to low-income families.

Some Christmas tree lot owners are willing to give trees away a few days before Christmas if they know they will go to needy homes. Use pick-up trucks and get some tree stands, and deliver these free trees to the financially-stretched ... maybe to a poor, single-parent family. Add a note or Christmas card, or even a special Christmas tract or booklet.

You might also add some decorations. (Buy nice ones from Goodwill, The Salvation Army, or Amvets to help their organizations.) As a bonus, offer to pick the trees up after Christmas for disposal.

3. Participate in your church's food drive.

My church collects food for the hungry all year long, and there is a big push for food during the holidays.

Consider giving canned vegetables, beans and fruit, canned soup, canned tuna or chicken, rice or dried beans, boxes of cereal or crackers, peanut butter and jelly. Be sure they do not have expired dates!

4. Make a "from Jesus" Christmas Basket.

Fill a big decorated basket with Christmas dinner for a needy neighbor or friend. Include cans or boxes of food to prepare and cookies. (If you're certain it won't be spent on alcohol or cigarettes, add a gift card for your local grocery store so they can buy fresh meat and produce.)

Let them know the basket is "from a frend, in Jesus' name" (Colossians 3:17). Include a tract or booklet (see suggestion #2).

5. Send Christmas Cards to the "Forgotten."

We're to remember the poor (Deuteronomy 15:11b; Proverbs 31:20; Galatians 2:10) and those mistreated or imprisoned (Hebrews 13:3) all year long.

As part of our remembering, we might send Christmas cards to prisoners, the military overseas, Vets in hospitals, orphans, children's wards in hospitals, or people in nursing homes.

(Contact organizations for suggestions, or do this through your women's group or Sunday school. Prison chaplains are especially eager to lift inmates' spirits at Christmas-time.)

6. Contact a Missionary - Fill a Need.

It's not always a cash gift missionaries need. Ask them!

For example, one missionary who visited my church needed measuring cups, measuring spoons and tea towels to give away in a "cake ministry" the Lord has given her in Africa. She helps women in impoverished areas learn how to make simple cakes (a special recipe she created) and then gives them the tools they need but can't afford to buy. Our Sunday school class collected a bunch of these items for her ministry.

My husband and I once sent taco seasoning packets to a foreign missionary couple. They were craving tacos and had meat, vegetables, cheese and flat tortillas, but couldn't get the right seasoning where they were serving.

One ministry needed blank journals for an outreach. Another wanted "pillow case" dresses for little girls. Another, shoes for children. Another, socks and blankets for the homeless.

(NOTE: Remember to add in the cost for shipping to the missionaries.)

Part two of this post continues tomorrow.

Meanwhile, be thinking: What are YOU doing this Christmas to minister in ways that would make Jesus smile?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices TodayLOL with God(with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is the Director of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in MInistry (NEWIM San Diego). Dawn is the co-author of LOL with God and contributed "The Blessing Basket" in It's a God Thing. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, image courtesy of tiverylucky at


Keeping First Things First in Ministry

Melissa Mashburn’s effectiveness in ministry is founded in the words “keep it real.” In this Ministry UPGRADE, she reminds us to consider our focus and priorities.

“Ministry can become all consuming, but it’s important to remember to keep first things first and that’s making your own family a priority,” Melissa says. “Every day you are given a gift—your family. Yes, you have a call to do more, serve more and love the people in your community more, but ultimately, your family is your first ministry.”

I (Dawn) observed firsthand how the enemy destroys children with parents in ministry. “Family” must be a priority!

Melissa continues . . .  

There are so many things to love about ministry, like being able to be a part of someone else’s faith journey, using your gifts and skills for the Kingdom, and doing something with your life that is far beyond anything you could do on your own.

Unfortunately the “job” can become overwhelming. You can find yourself stuck in a never-ending cycle of trying to catch up. 

After fifteen years in full time ministry at a local church in South Florida, I finally realize a few things about ministry:

  1. You will never get it all done. There will always be room for improvement or one more thing on your ministry task list.
  2. It’s not all up to me. You are there to do your part, but the whole thing doesn’t rest on your shoulders. If it’s God’s will, He will make it happen— with or without you.
  3. Your family is your first ministry. If you are married and have children, they need to see they are number one in your life, not your job or ministry.

Ministry is fun, challenging, and it makes a difference; and the great thing is, whether we are in full-time ministry or not, each one of us is called to ministry. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been doing ministry a while, it’s important to learn how to keep first things first.

I almost lost my oldest son ten years ago when he was airlifted to the local children’s hospital where he spent 51 days in the PICU. Even now I shudder to think how close we came to losing him. By some miracle he walked out of that hospital.

That left a mark on our family. It changed us—some things good, some bad—and it certainly helped us rethink what’s important. 

We took our eyes off what was most important, and let our ministry take first priority instead of our family. That’s hard to admit, but it’s true. 

Since then, one of my new favorite sayings is “Family First.” Here’s what it means: We need you to do what you do at the church, in the schools, at your jobs, for sure, but your husband and child(ren) come first. If ever there is an emergency or something you need to tend to—be there. Be fully and completely there.

You only get one chance to be the wife or mom you can be. Someone else can be the room mom, the PTA president or do your job at work. But NO ONE can take your place when it comes to family.

Through that season we learned, slowed down and start reprioritizing family in the face of ministry; but, to be honest, “Family First” continues to be a constant challenge for us.

Friend, don’t miss out on the incredible blessing right in front of you.

Are you going to be perfect? “No one is perfect, not even one” (Romans 3:11 ESV).

Does that mean we don’t try?  No, it just means we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and do the very best we can with each and every day.

Whether at work, in the car line, at the PTA meeting, in the church or wherever ministry might take you, you are in the mission field. Your family needs you before you head out to serve others.

"She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her" (Proverbs 31:27-28 NIV).

Oh yes, our friend The Proverbs 31 Woman is an overachiever, but guess what, her family is her first ministry. She does what she needs to do for her family, and then she sets out to do other things.

By taking care of first things first, we have room to do the other things God brings our way. 

What are some ways you can start today to reprioritize your day so you can make your family your first ministry? Who do you need to talk to help you as you shift things around to make your family your ministry?

Melissa Mashburn passionately pursues God every day by taking her everyday, ordinary life and placing it as her offering to Him. She is an author, speaker, mom, pastor’s wife, and trained communicator through CLASSeminars. With her extensive background in ministry at the local church, Melissa leads women to “keep it real” in their lives and ministries. She is married to her best friend, Matt (22 years), and is the proud mama to two adult sons. You can find her on her site, Melissa Mashburn: Real Women, Real Life, Real Faith.

Photo Credit: Image ID : 27065415 -




How to Minister When There's 'No Time' for Ministry

Melissa Mashburn's insights into Ministry and Leadership are refreshing and practical, as is evident in this UPGRADE.

“I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date,” Melissa says.

Does that sound familiar? I (Dawn) always used to feel pressed for time and often—to my shame—cut out ministry opportunities. Thankfully, the Lord showed me some of the wisdom Melissa talks about today!

She continues . . .

Do you remember the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland? You know the one, he was always running around in a flurry of activity. I can remember being put off that this silly rabbit who was always dressed up and looking so sporty. Within a blink the rabbit was off to wherever else he needed to be at that moment. He left and along with him a rush of anxiety passing right on by as well.

In the busyness of ministry, we can sometimes find ourselves stuck in a vicious cycle of running.

Hoping, dreaming and praying to be purposeful and effective in our ministries, we need to stop and remember we can’t do everything for everyone, but we can do something for one.

Everything was a whirlwind when rabbit was around, and yet, if we are honest for a moment, there are probably a few of us who are just like rabbit. Oh, we don’t mean to, of course, but the demands of ministry and family life can keep us bustling about our days just like that rabbit.

You look at the calendar and see it is overcrowded. Then you get a call from a woman who needs someone to talk to about a crisis in her life. The next “free” minute on your calendar is two weeks away and you're left in that space of “what am I supposed to do now, Lord?”

Oh, my friend, how I can relate to this. I have been in this very spot many times in my fifteen years of  ministry, and I want to share a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Here are three things to help you to minister when there’s “no time” for ministry:

1. Always first, go to God in prayer and ask for His help.

"Hear my prayer, O Lord;  give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!" (Psalm 143:1, ESV)

There is no way for us to be able to make sense of our already crazy schedules on our own. By seeking His guidance and mercy from the get go, we release ourselves from trying to “fix it.”

2. Ask God specifically what the next step is for you.

"The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives" (Psalm 37:23, NLT).

When frazzled by the demands of ministry, I have to stop and ask Him very directly and clearly, "What is the next step?"

What’s the most important thing God wants me to donot what I like to do or what I’m good at, but what has He specifically planned for me.

3. Do for one what you wish you could do for all.

 "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,  you did it to me" (Matthew 25:35-40, ESV).

Listen, ministry is not a nine to five job. We both know that. It can be demanding and overwhelming, but it can also be incredibly simple at times.

Do for one what you wish you could do for all is simply this . . . be fully present where you are at that very moment.

If you are:

  • at the grocery store, be a friendly face to the cashier.
  • in the lobby at your church and you see a new face, go up and introduce yourself—welcome them.
  • in the carline and someone cuts you off, let it go and let them get in front of you.
  • get an email from someone who is hurting, stop and pray for them right that moment.

Ministry doesn’t have to happen the way we always think it should. Sometimes we just have to be prepared to slow down the crazy rabbit in our lives and let God show us what’s next.

What can you do today to minister to others even though there’s not always time for ministry?

Melissa Mashburn passionately pursues God daily, taking her ordinary life and placing it as her offering to Him. She is an author, speaker, mom, pastor’s wife, and trained communicator through CLASSeminars, with extensive background in Womens, Kids and Volunteer Ministry. Her passion is helping women “keep it real” in their lives and ministries. Melissa is married to her best friend, Matt (22 years) and they have two adult sons, Nick & Bailey. She loves to relax with a great book and giant cup of coffee. You can find her at Melissa Mashburn: Real Women. Real Life. Real Faith.