You’ve been invited to “PWOC” but you have no idea what it is. What is it? Where does it meet? Who is it for? Well, I hope to try and very briefly (if you have read any of my other blogs, you would know this is a major task to K.I.S.S. I don’t even say that but we are talking about military familiar folks and you know how they like to throw around lots of acronyms! 😉 ). If you want to know all about the history of PWOC please read here. If you want to read more of my personal experience (and history) with PWOC I’ve saved it till the end!
Every organization that has been around successfully for over 50 years operated by committed volunteers (overseen by the military Chaplaincy) has to have a strong sense of purpose. This purpose has been broken down into a Motto and the Aims. Now, you may have attended PWOC for a while and never knew these things, but I like to know a little bit about where things come from so I know what I’m getting myself into. My time is valuable and I’ll bet so is yours. Let me just say that after having attended and then helped in PWOC in various ways and places around the world since 2009 when we were stationed in Fort Bliss, Texas, I’m telling you that becoming a part of your local PWOC is worth it. I’ll try to explain my personal reasons why later after this.
PWOC Motto –
“We are workers together for Christ.”
PWOC Aims –
To LEAD women to Christ
To TEACH women God’s Word
To DEVELOP women’s spiritual gifts
To INVOLVE women in Chapel ministries
Okay so this may not sound too interesting, depending on where you’re coming from and what you are looking for at this time in your life. I understand. Let me share with you what I’ve seen and experienced from my time in PWOC. By the way, “PWOC” stands for “Protestant Women of the Chapel.” You do not have to consider yourself a “Protestant” to attend a PWOC. Anyone who has access to get to PWOC can attend a PWOC meeting or function. It is designed for women though and it is a Christian organization. It is for single, married or divorced women. It is for women who have children and also for women who do not have children. It is for women who work outside of the home and also it is also for women who work within the home.
The Hub at PWOC says, “PWOC is an ALL volunteer organization overseen by the Chaplaincy and designed to help Chaplains minister to women associated with the military, especially those who participate in a military chapel. Every woman who is an active participant in a Protestant military chapel, whether or not she attends PWOC meetings, is considered to be a part of Protestant Women of the Chapel. Although PWOC meetings are generally held at one particular chapel, women of all chapel communities are encouraged to participate in PWOC.” “Each PWOC is different in how they accomplish the AIMS, Bible Study, and fellowship. Some larger Installations/Bases have more than one meeting time and day, but the focus of each PWOC is Bible study and fellowship.”
I hope you will come and check out your local PWOC and feel welcome when you do. If you don’t feel welcomed then why not help serve in that area because we do need each of you to make it work every single year!
What’s it like?
Time & Location
Typically PWOC meets once or twice a week at an on base chapel somewhere. You can search the thehubpwoc for a location nearest you. Currently, I am located near Fort Lee, Virginia. The PWOC here meets on Thursdays from 9am-11:30am at Liberty Chapel during the summer and a few minutes longer during the fall/spring semesters. They also have prayer & praise and worship time as well on a different day of the week. If you use Facebook, most PWOC’s will have a FB page for their location. Just type the name of the closest military installation nearest you and “PWOC” (or try looking in the worldwide directory). I would check there for current days/times/locations and to ask any specific questions. The FB page for “PWOC Fort Lee” is here. (We also have a closed group for active participants here at PWOC Fort Lee for more private communications. Please ask how ladies communicate in-between meetings at your local PWOC so that you can stay connected!)
What about my children?
The military installation that sponsors your local PWOC knows the needs of the women they serve. Many of us want to know about childcare so that we know what we need to do in order to participate and to be able to remember what we did after we left. (haha) Contact your local PWOC to see what they offer. It may be that they portion out a large part of the chapel budget to pay for watchcare services. They may do that because they see the value that PWOC women bring by investing back into their families and their military community. Or, at your local PWOC the budget and climate may be different. There may be no formally organized childcare at all. Or, it may be that there is a volunteer system in place so that ladies will share the load of blessing other PWOC women by watching their children for them so that they can focus on their Bible studies distracted (after getting background checks of course).
Here at PWOC Fort Lee, currently, we are thankful that the Fort Lee Chaplaincy approved the payment of watchcare services offered to PWOC moms on a first-come, first-served basis for ages 1-5 years old. These monies come from other Fort Lee chapel congregations and any offerings collected during PWOC. Also, here at Fort Lee during the school year, there is a volunteer-staffed homeschool room. I, personally, have been extremely grateful for someone else stepping up to help in this area while I served in another area for our PWOC- away from my homeschooled children for a while. That time helped me to refocus on God and directly helped me to become a better mother, wife and leader.
Again, the best thing to do is to contact your local PWOC through email or Facebook to get your questions answered if you will have children with you so that you may make plans to attend. Read on for how to find your local PWOC.
Each PWOC may look and feel a little different because it is run by different people each year. You see, each year (usually starting in January) you will begin hearing information about the “Leadership Selection Team” asking for prayer for discernment in choosing who will fill which positions for the upcoming year (the year typically runs from the end of May – May the following year). All of the positions and details about each position is detailed in the Women’s Leadership Manual here. These are selected roles (women prayerfully apply for these positions and interview with the selection committee for these roles) which make up the “executive board“: the PWOC President, the 1st Vice President – Spiritual Life, the 2nd Vice President – Programs, the Administrative Coordinator and the Finance Liaison. Once chosen by the Leadership Selection team including the PWOC chaplain advisor, the selected persons are announced to the PWOC body. The new executive board is formally recognized and installed by the installation chaplain at the end of the PWOC year, typically in May, when they officially begin their new roles for the year (until the next installation the following May). The newly selected PWOC President for the year begins to appoint other needed roles such as Hospitality, Praise & Worship, and Retreats. These persons usually form teams who will help to use their different gifts and interests to serve the other women who come and also to support the needs within the installation community. Again, because these positions change each year, each time you move and check out a new PWOC or even if you don’t move you will see how each year, God provides new women or stretches “old” women (haha) to trust in Him as He leads us all in loving Him and one another.
Typically, PWOC is usually around 3 hours long, once a week. There is a time where all the ladies who come are all together in a large group and then a time where ladies are broken up into smaller groups. In the “large group” time, typically ladies meet for a time of worship (singing songs together of praise to the Lord and to prepare their hearts and minds for their time together). Then there might be a time of welcome (or saying goodbye because we know that there are many transitions in the military life) and a time of prayer. There might be a time of Biblical teaching or a testimony/devotion planned out by the Spiritual Life person. There is always a time of fellowship (free time of getting to know one another) usually over food. Then there is a transition into your “smaller groups”; this is what many would call the “meat” of our time together. This is where you have a more intimate time of building friendships, sharing encouragement and Biblical growth as you work through the selected Bible Study material throughout the semester. There are usually several different studies to choose from in the beginning. The different studies are usually announced via social media right before the semester starts or at the first meeting of the season so arrive early as many times the more popular studies fill up and close quickly due to space.
My experience with PWOC
Even though I served on active Army duty for 12 years, I had never heard of PWOC until I ETS’d out of the Army. I approached a chaplain and asked him for advice on how to survive this upcoming deployment with two babies (my son just turned one and we just had our daughter two weeks before moving to Fort Bliss, TX). He referred me to PWOC. I went and I cried the whole time overwhelmed with what was ahead and that I’d be doing it all alone in a new place. Do you know what happened though? I heard, through our introductions, that I was not the only one in this exact same boat. I felt maybe I was in the right place. I quickly volunteered to do any of the jobs needed because, back then, there was free childcare offered for anything you volunteered for and so I jumped at the chance to have a break. Thank you God!!! My first PWOC Bible study was led by an older woman on the history of the Bible. I was bored. But again, there was still FREE CHILDCARE! (Just telling the truth here.) However, I kept coming and I tried to listen in class. I will tell you that this was back in 2009. It is now 2018 and I STILL MEET with that same “older woman.” Nowadays, I would call her my mentor. Thank you Carole for investing in me. I owe you my life for helping me. I was new in my marriage, new to not working (and dependent on someone else for money) and being a stay-at- home mom looking around for anything else besides dealing with my kids. I was new to learning more about Jesus Christ too. I thought I knew about Him, but I didn’t really know how to apply what I learned in my day to day life. More about mentoring here. More about how to study God’s Word here. Being involved in PWOC means a place you know you can go to, anywhere in the world (if you are near a military installation) and find like-minded women who have more in common with you than you may think. It is also a place where you will develop and grow, not just spiritually, but as a woman and as a member of your community.
I’m not “new” anymore to the faith like I was back in 2009. I’ve grown tremendously because I’ve served in various ways.* It has developed me as a leader and as a Christ-follower. So, I will add that what I really love about PWOC now is the opportunity to serve others by helping other women find God, discover and develop the gifts that God has given them through encouragement, mentoring and Biblical teaching. So, no matter where you are in your spiritual journey and sanctification, you are needed in this- your local PWOC body. *Fort Bliss PWOC- Historian, Newsletter. Baumholder PWOC- Administrative Coordinator, Praise & Worship, Bible study facilitator. Fort Lee PWOC- Inreach, Bible study facilitator.
You can go and see all the new faces and know and feel that God is at work in this place. I hope you will check out a PWOC nearest you. Give it some time to get over the “I’m new and anxious” jitters. Everyone has them. Trying out anything new is always awkward so bring a friend with you!! In time, you will make many new life-long friends. I know I did.
Please share this with others that might want to know more about PWOC.
The main website is here http://thehubpwoc.net/.