By Suzan Braun
Kim Newlen’s story changes lives by inviting women to Christ one sweet invitation at a time and inspiring fun fellowship and genuine encouragement from God’s word. Years ago, after quitting her teaching job to stay home with her baby, she felt lonely and isolated even though she was walking closely with the Lord. “What are women feeling who don’t know the Lord?” she wondered. She brainstormed ideas for an outreach. It should be ongoing and at the same place and time. Preparation had to be inexpensive and simple or she would dread doing it. With these guidelines in place, Kim opened her home the first Monday night of each month and provided a simple theme-based dessert, devotional and program. Sweet Monday was born. Just Between Us caught up with Kim recently to learn more about this simple idea that God has grown into a dynamic outreach for women around the world.
JBU: Tell us about your heart for evangelism and how you started Sweet Monday.
Kim: Honestly, my heart for evangelism has been a result of God changing me as only He can do. As I read scripture, I see what I’m really like and how much I need Jesus. I told my husband, Mark, a few years ago, that I used to like myself better before reading God’s Word. One thing I have in common with every single person I meet is sin. It’s ugly, but it’s true. But, oh, the freedom of forgiveness we have only in Jesus Christ. We have the only hope to offer others in this world!
Sweet Monday started 16 years ago. Staying home to raise our daughter and feeling isolated, I wondered how I could carry out the Great Commission in my neighborhood and connect women of all ages in and out of the church, believers and non-believers. I have always believed more is caught than taught. How could I, from our home, simply model creative evangelism, fun fellowship, genuine encouragement from God’s Word, practicing hospitality and younger and older women learning from each other?
I started inviting women to our home – same place, same time, no shoestrings attached, and kept it so simple; I never dreaded it. I asked the Lord, “What do you want me to do?” God tells us in Matthew 6:33 to, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Sweet Monday was a step of faith forward and something I could do right where I was. I believe a sweet invitation is the key to evangelism whether for a cup of coffee, a smoothie or a Sweet Monday. Fun and faithfulness can go together.
JBU: How did God work in your life to multiply this ministry beyond your front door?
Kim: God used my quiet, laid-back husband, Mark, to tell me after a year of Sweet Monday outreaches in our home, “Kim, other women can do this. It has been so successful in our home. If you put the ideas down on paper for your first Sweet Monday socials and devotionals, I’ll go and make 50 copies.” I only put the ideas down as a step of faith to respect my husband and thus be obedient to the Lord. I did not feel like it one bit.
I was too self-conscious to tell anyone I was writing a book. Me? Writing a book? In God’s sweet providence, it sold well from a peach crate in our grocery store called Ukrop’s. In a month’s time, a lady from a neighboring county called me out of the blue and asked, “Can I do this in my neighborhood?” After my first radio interview on creative evangelism on Moody’s Midday Connection, we received letters from around the country requesting these ideas. I did not know at the time it was a national broadcast.
JBU: What is happening now in Sweet Monday?
Kim: “…Immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).
The Sweet Monday office has been encouraged with increased interest from new people and the number of new Sweet Monday hostesses and churches getting involved. We are experiencing our largest growth spurt.
In these tough economic times, a church can start or revitalize a women’s ministry on a shoestring budget with one volume of Sweet Monday and a training DVD. These tools can be used to reach out to the women in church as well as a way to invite new women to attend,
Women in Hungary and Australia are praying about starting Sweet Monday outreaches because they have been so moved by the existing Sweet Monday outreaches in their area.
The women’s assistant ministry leader of a large Baptist church in Virginia contacted us. She spoke at a college student's Sweet Monday and wants to bring several women from her church to discuss starting Sweet Monday outreaches in their church in the fall.
A women’s ministry coordinator for a Christian college in South Carolina has been offering training to some of the female chaplains under her office on how to offer a Sweet Monday outreach.
Sweet Monday is regularly contacted by Salvation Army officers who have attended our training events. The Salvation Army is using Sweet Monday as a creative outreach tool in housing developments and shelters to reach women with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Sweet Monday has a new Training DVD detailing how to start a Sweet Monday. The DVD of the Annual Clutter Auction theme was filmed in Kim Newlen’s home.
Sweet Monday is used in adult day care centers and assisted living facilities. The simple themes can easily become a part of regular programming at these facilities on a shoestring budget.
JBU: What are others saying about Sweet Monday?
Kim: I call these Eternal Dividends. These say it all:
We had a ‘women’s ministry council that was dying a slow death and needed a revitalization. Once I read your story, it caused me to think about giving the group a shot of energy. I spoke to the leaders of the group and they were excited…. At our first Sweet Monday meeting we had 21 women! We’ve averaged 20-25 and sometimes as many as 40 ever since and one of the most exciting things for me is that we have a group ranging from the age of 25-80. …I have purchased all the books over the years and have used almost every idea. Your ideas have given us the motivation to create a few ideas of our own that we’ve really enjoyed.
Sweet Lorie, Ohio 2008
Sweet Monday (well Sweet Tuesday here) is a huge success. The response for the program has been phenomenal and as of September, we will be going every month. He is such a generous God. We are so blessed. …Word of mouth is another wonderful thing and I am praying this will continue to bring ladies out. …So many of us are isolated by fences, reaching out in friendship has been phenomenal.
Sweet Christine, Canada 2008
Since starting Sweet Monday last year, we have had 21 non-Christian women attend, and many of them keep coming back. We are so encouraged that relationships are being built and strengthened. The women never leave at 9:00 pm when we finish, but stay and chat for ages. One of our Sweet Monday women has made a decision for Christ and she now attends our church regularly and is growing in her new walk. Our Sweet Monday nights are always a huge success - lots of laughter and sharing - with the gospel message included every time. We can see that the women are enjoying a night out with new friends who genuinely care about them. We even have a non-Christian who invites her friends! Sweet Monday is such a wonderful way of sharing Jesus with whoever God sends through our door!
Sweet Lynda, Australia 2008
JBU: How did you overcome your doubts and fears?
Kim: I am still overcoming my doubts and fears IN CHRIST! Most every single morning for over 20 years, I “encourage myself in the Lord” through talking with Him, laughing with Him, or crying to Him through His Word. God is always fresh. Never stale. Always true and He always gives me courage. Why, I can honestly say through the many bitter and sweet circumstances of this abundant life He gives all of us in Jesus Christ, I have come to love Him more than I ever have before. It really is simple. Life is all about loving God and loving others. And the “others” part cannot really happen apart from Him. I choose, in His power, not to run on my feelings but to walk by faith. He says in John 15:4 & 5b, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me…for without Me you can do nothing” I decided a long time ago I did not want to be physically tired at the end of each day “for nothing!” I want to be about His agenda and not my own. I do not know what is best for me – His will is good, acceptable and perfect. It doesn’t get much better than that. I want His will, don’t you? As we continue reaching out, more changed lives will just keep becoming sweet history for His kingdom.
Kim Newlen, Founder and President
Amy Bohlen, Executive Director
Jamie Breeden, Office Manager
Kim Newlen shares her personal story in: Living Above Tough Times