If you want to know… click here to go like my Facebook page and make a guess. It’s a little mystery with a prize attached! (Make sure to find the update with the picture clues. :))
I remember that life-changing moment like it was yesterday. Stopping in the middle of the hall, Charlene leaned over to me and said, “It won’t surprise me if you’re serving on this team with me one day.”
“What?!” my brain screamed. I had shown up for She Speaks twelve years ago literally sick and tired. After listening to Satan’s whispers of “Who do you think you are?” and “They’re going to set you straight. You know you aren’t a speaker!” for weeks on end with no resistance, I couldn’t sleep the whole week before the conference, and my stomach (and all associated) was a mess. Even after experiencing the extreme kindness and nurturing of the Proverbs 31 team, I hadn’t waged the necessary spiritual warfare, so I was a beaten-up, feeling-like-nothing girl.
Charlene took a few steps away before I caught her and asked in a near whisper, “Do you say that to everybody?” She laughed and said, “No. You have a gift.”
Can I tell you what that did to my heart? Instant healing. Someone with a gift herself had taken time to encourage the gift in me, and suddenly I didn’t feel like nothing any more. I saw a shaft of God’s light and promise. Maybe this calling I had been feeling was real after all.
Because another speaker’s encouragement literally changed the course of my life, I delight in doing the same for others whenever I can. Last week I got to do it for someone unexpected. Someone who really needed another woman to see her gift and affirm it.
I love doing all kinds of events, but last week I got to participate in two fund-raisers for organizations I esteem highly–Transforming Hope Ministries, a ministry that battles human trafficking right here in Wake Co., and Family Promise, a national organization that helps families out of homelessness. It’s always a privilege to come alongside of worthy non-profits as they communicate their mission.
At the Family Promise event, there were several speakers before me. One was the Exec. Director of the county program, who herself was part of the program years ago, and another was a recent graduate. Brittany, who is only is only six months out of homelessness, stood to speak to a crowd for the very first time, and she was dazzling. Truly. She spoke as if she had spoken professionally for years instead of trying to be invisible in her homelessness for years. She spoke as if she as was a confident, experienced speaker instead of how she said she felt for most of her life– “like a piece of trash.”
I had to follow her. Yep. It went well, but the truth was that we could have all gone home after Brittany spoke. She killed it.
Immediately after the end of the program, Brittany was surrounded by women praising her for articulating so clearly and with so much vulnerability how it felt to come out of homelessness. I stood in that line! It was a joy to tell her that she has a gift.
A couple of days ago, I got an email from Brittany asking me how to pursue her new passion for speaking, and I was delighted to share about this blog/Speaker Girl Community and also this link on my personal website with ideas about growing a speaking ministry.
I hope you’re not only encouraged here every week but also that you spread the encouragement around. There’s somebody that needs to hear from you that they have a gift. Maybe it’s a woman who has been down and out in some way, or maybe it’s a woman who is sick and tired. Either way, keep your eyes open and encourage!
This week I’d like to introduce you to Erika Opperman. Erika was a pleasure to work with, and I love that God is opening doors for her to speak to college girls. (Once you watch the video, you’ll know exactly why those girls want to hear from her!)
Click here if the video doesn’t appear.
After watching the videos of Christy and Erika, can you tell why I love my job? I work with the most awesome women! You can bet that watching Erika’s video made my day, and I promise I didn’t pay her.
One of the elements that Erika included in the message we worked on together is technology. She gave an application at the end of her message that included a response with their cell phone. Genius! That girl knows her audience!
If you’d like to work together to develop your own unique message, I’d love to work with you. Please fill out the Request Information Form, and I’ll get in touch with you to schedule a free consultation call. I look forward to hearing about what God is doing in your ministry and answering any of your questions!
Recently I asked a few of my clients this year to tell you what it’s like to work with me. Christy Williams, the cutie patootie below, and I have worked extensively together this year. She was ready to launch her God-given dream of becoming a speaker, and she’s totally gone for it!
Click here to watch the video if it doesn’t appear in your email.
Now, before you get scared of me from what Christy said at the beginning, let me explain. She’s wired a lot like me. She’s a hard-working perfectionist who likes to get a gold star on the first try. Just like me!!
But here’s what my friend Karen Ehman always says about feedback, “You don’t go to the hairdresser and pay her to tell you that you’ve got great hair and do nothing. You pay your hairdresser to cut and fix your hair.” Coaching is just like that. I’m your paid truth-teller, but I promise to do it in a gentle and encouraging way. It might not always be fun to keep working, but I promise that the results will be fabulous.
The proof is in the pudding! Although you have the flexibility of just doing a single call with me, Christy has completed multiple services– Message Development, Website Development, Biosheet Development and Speaker Organization. Take a look at the fruit of all her hard work with me coaching and cheering alongside– ChristyWilliams.org
To see a list of all the available coaching services click here. To sign up for a free consultation call, click here, fill out the form, and don’t forget to click the “send” button at the bottom. If you don’t hear from me within 48 business hours, please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Sometimes the forms don’t come through.)
This is the last reader question for a while, but I’ve had a great time interacting in this way with you! We’ll do it again soon, so either send your questions as you think of them or store them up for next time.
I was wondering if you had recommendations for specific resources we could use when doing research for our messages. For example, I love it when teachers share the original meanings of words but don’t feel like I have a reliable place to go and look that information up. Are there any specific resources, commentaries, etc. that are reliable sources of biblical information? ~Kate
Oh, Kate! You have hit one of the passions of my heart– resources! I’m a total resource junkie, so here are some places to try:
For FREE concordances (for word searches) and commentaries:
- First 5 App— Proverbs 31 Ministries’ First 5 App has archives so that you can go back and read commentaries written on the books already covered. I am personally growing so much from this study tool!
For FREE word origins and definitions:
- Blue Letter Bible (It requires a little searching, but this site has Greek and Hebrew lexicons, so you can type in a word to see the origins. Very cool!)
For the Bible study tool I use:
- Anne Graham Lotz has a comprehensive page with lots of resources about how to use the 3-step Bible study tool I learned from her. It’s simple but profound, so if you’re looking for a way to deepen your personal study, make sure to look here!
If you have money to invest, I’d highly recommend Logos Bible study software which has been invaluable for me.
Alright, Speaker Girls! Here’s your chance! What’s your favorite Bible study tool, and where can we find it?
Let’s keep the questions about testimonies rolling!
I have recently written down my testimony. I wrote it all down so that I could really process and think through what God has done in my life, and also so that I could more clearly share my story. This written form of course leaves out so many details along the way, as I limited it to about 2 pages. Part of my story is that I grew up in the church and chose to follow God from a young age. Although I never wavered from the faith, I did struggle with sin in certain areas of my life (as we all do). I feel like I could tell my story in so many different ways, focusing on so many different pieces of who I was and what God has done in my life. So my question is:
Is it always appropriate to share all of your testimony, or is it better to share pieces based on your audience’s needs or speaking topic?
For me, there were so many things that God was doing in me simultaneously because of the fact that I was a believer from a young age. I remember when I asked Jesus to be my Savior, but my life didn’t have this dramatic turn around moment. God took me from:
Impure thoughts/actions – to purity
Shyness – to boldness
Plagued by Perfection – to complete in Christ
Jealousy – to contentment
And, the list goes on and will continue to grow.
Basically, I have been struggling with feeling guilty if I don’t admit what I would consider to be my “darkest sin” all the time. But then again, I don’t know if it is always appropriate to share. I think God uses that piece of my testimony when it will directly minister to the individual I am talking with or the audience I am talking to. Any thoughts?
Thank you! ~Emily
Emily, I think you’ve actually got two questions here, and both of them are important.
#1– Is it always appropriate to share all of your testimony, or is it better to share pieces based on your audience’s needs or speaking topic?
It’s almost never appropriate to share all of your testimony simply because all of us have too much to tell. The details of our story can easily begin to overwhelm our listeners and obscure our point. If we keep our testimonies audience-centered like I talked about last week, we won’t include every detail. Instead, we’ll have a point that leads people to transformation.
In a Q & A one time, a woman told me that it would be impossible to NOT tell her whole story. As lovingly as possible, I gently said something she didn’t like at all. I told her that any time we’re in love with every detail of our story, we might not be ready to tell it. Until we love our audience and their needs more than the gratification we get from spilling our own story, we’re not ready. Because you’re asking the question, it shows a willingness to share pieces, so I know you are ready, Emily!
Note: Every part of our story is important and precious to God. Please don’t hear my response to that woman’s question as heartless. It just has to be more about them than us in ministry. I apply it painfully that truth to myself all the time–I promise!
#2– Does our audience have the right to every part of our story?
Years ago at a conference, I found a friend who had led a breakout session literally cornered by an attendee who was berating her for not sharing intimate details of her story publicly. Another friend of mine in ministry felt guilty for not revealing a personal crisis to her audience since she felt she owed it to them to be honest about her life.
Here’s my blunt take. In my opinion, our reality tv culture is wildly out of control. Those of us in ministry are called to be beyond reproach, but that doesn’t mean that we must tell every private detail of our lives to our audiences even if they demand it. There must be enough of a separation between public and private for us to protect our families and ourselves. Don’t hear me saying that we should hide personal sin because that’s not what I mean at all. I simply mean that our lives’ priorities should line up like the rest of the world’s–God, family, others, us. Our stories often overlap with others’, and we don’t have the right to expose them.
Here are questions that we can ask ourselves about sensitive parts of our story:
- Does this story involve someone else? Do I have their permission to share?
- Will sharing hurt a personal relationship that’s already on rocky ground?
- Is this hurt a fresh hurt? Have I found healing that I can share?
- Will this story benefit my audience or feed a voyeuristic/reality tv mentality?
I’ll give my own example. I have a son who has struggled with a pornography addiction. This is something lots of families face, but I didn’t include that part of my story in my messages until time had passed, he had shared it publicly first, our family had experienced healing and some victory, and I had his permission to share it. Now that all those markers are met, I include it in my messages sometimes (not all the time), and it has opened lots of doors to help other moms whose kids are also struggling.
My goal in this answer is to give each of you permission to keep parts of your story private. No one has a right to your story. You should only share it as God leads and as you have considered all the points above.
Do you all have thoughts on this? I’d love to hear!
Was wondering if you could help me? I’m speaking at my home church in a couple of weeks and they want me to share my story/testimony. All of my story.
I have my message outlined but I’m not sure how to make it fit within the ME-YOU-GOD-WE-YOU model. It feels like it would end up being a lot of ME and less of the others.
Do you have any suggestions for this type of message? ~Zahary
Thanks for the great question! Zahary is one of my former clients who did message development with me, and we used Andy Stanley’s book Communicating for a Change as a foundation for our work. He is the one who gives the model she mentions in her question. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it! Click here to buy it on sale from the Proverbs 31 Ministries bookstore.
The answer to Zahary’s question really goes back to balance, just like this post. Just as different settings demand different balance to the elements of our talks, different kinds of talks demand different balance. Let’s look at how a testimony talk works.
Here’s a thumbnail sketch of the Andy Stanley’s outline:
- Me–Tell a personal story to allow the audience to connect to you and your problem (which is your topic).
- We– Create tension by revealing the problem/struggle in such a way that each audience member sees that they have a need for a solution in this area too.
- God– Teach God’s Word as the ultimate solution to the problem.
- You– Give a concrete action step/application to the problem.
- We– End with the inspiration of living out the solution to the problem. This paints a picture of a better life through change/obedience.
I hope everybody can follow that even though it’s a little confusing without the whole book.
The problem with the way most people give testimonies is that most people only complete the “Me” and hopefully a little “God”. That’s a problem because it leaves most listeners impressed with our story but unchanged personally. It’s a problem because it makes our message all about us instead of about our audience.
We want our messages to be an act of service, so our main goal as speakers should be personal transformation in the life of our listeners, not impressing our listeners. Although I’m encouraged with comments like “You’re a great speaker!” after a session, the kind of comments I’m looking for are, “When you talked about ________, it made me realize I needed to ________.” See the difference between the two?
When you’re asked to give your testimony, people want to hear your story, so the “Me” section is going to take up more of your talk than other kinds of messages, but don’t leave out the other sections. Ultimately,we want our audience to see that they have the same need we had even if the circumstances are different. We always want to point to God as the hero of our story (so there should be more about the healing process than the original problem or crisis) and scripture as the highest Truth. We want to give our audience insight into practical steps we took toward healing so they can take them too. And we want to paint a picture of how our lives have changed since walking in God’s Truth so that they’ll want to do the same.
Each of the sections of Stanley’s outline are needed in a message that’s transformative even though the “Me” section will be the largest in a testimony talk.
Zohary, you’re going to be great! Does anybody else want to weigh in with something you’ve learned while giving your testimony? We’d love to hear!
Note: I’ve heard from many of you that you’ve signed up for She Speaks this year. I can’t wait to meet you in person! If you’ve been thinking about going this year, but you haven’t registered, do it today. Seriously. The spots are filling up fast, and we had a waiting list of almost 800 last year. It breaks my heart to think of anyone missing out if you want to go this year, so don’t wait any longer to take the plunge. I promise you’ll never regret attending this incredible conference! (I brag all the time about She Speaks because it’s our amazing staff that puts it together. I just show up to teach a few breakouts and to soak up the rest. :))
What a joy it’s been to answer and process these questions with you! This is the last post in this series unless I receive more from you this week. You can either leave your question as a comment or email it to me at email@example.com. I’ll answer here so that the whole group can see. Here we go!
I have had wonderful opportunities to speak at a few events up at my home church but haven’t yet branched out to speak to any other churches. I realized that in many of my messages, I’ve been able to tailor them so well to the women at my church because I know them. I have the inside scoop, so to speak. How do you prepare differently for a church you’re not apart of and still make the message personal and penetrating? I’d love to learn any tips for how best to prepare for speaking to ladies you know zilch about. ~Kate
This is an important question, Kate! There are lots of things we can do to connect with our audience, but the start of connection is knowing the audience. It’s a difficult task to accomplish, but here are some steps I’ve taken or have heard of to research and know your audience:
- Ask those in the know— The event planner is your primary source of information. I have a speaker planning sheet with a list of questions I always ask. These include:
- What is the age range?
- What is the spiritual maturity?
- Are there any special populations in the group? ie. Military wives
- Is there anything I need to know about the group? ie. Our church reeled with grief after a student died in an accident during a youth retreat. That would have been relevant information for any speaker during that time period.
- What do you see as your group’s greatest need? What’s the goal for the event?
- Conduct a survey— My friend Cheri Gregory has sent ahead a Survey Monkey survey to registered attendees with questions on her topic. She often weaves anonymous answers into her message, and she has a greater insight into the thoughts and needs of the group from the way they answer her questions. I think a survey establishes ahead of time that you care about what your audience has to say rather than establishing yourself as the expert with all the answers.
- Pray for them by name–Several years ago, Wendy Blight, a dear friend and prayer warrior, encouraged me to begin praying for attendees by name. Following her advice has been one of the best steps I’ve taken to bond with my audience. When I talk to event planners, I ask them for the final list of attendees so that I can pray for each of them by name as I pray for the event. I can’t describe or explain the effect this has had on both me personally and on my events, but this is where God steps in and does what He does best. He connects our hearts through the Holy Spirit! Before I ever meet the women at an event, God has given me a love for them. It’s powerful stuff.
- Engage with women at your event— Women often share stories with me during an event that I weave into the next session. At a retreat several weeks ago, two women who had crossed paths at the event after years of not seeing each other came up to tell me how a small, consistent act of obedience on the part of the older woman had created ripples that changed dozens of lives. I asked permission and then shared their story in the next session as an example of a point I was making. It’s wonderful to see women’s faces light up when they realize you’re talking about the “homegirls”!
How about you, Speaker Girls? What methods do you use to make your messages “personal and penetrating”?
I’m having so much fun answering your questions, and judging by your comments, I’d say these are hitting areas we’ve all dealt with or wondered about! I’ve got 2 more in my “questions stash”, so if you’ve got another one to add, go ahead and either leave it in the comments to be answered for the whole group or email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll answer until there are no more questions.
Here’s today’s question:
I was speaking with a woman up at my church, who I deeply respect and know that she loves the Lord with all her might. We were talking about an upcoming conference at our church where we will both be speaking. She is leading the conference and as she was explaining the vision for this conference and trying to describe the type of messages the conference was going for she said, “There’s a difference between speaking and teaching.”
This truly threw me into a tailspin because I had always thought that when I “spoke” I was teaching! That exact same phrase came up again with the other ladies speaking at the same conference (there are 4 speakers) and I had to get some clarification. Turns our our definitions of “speaking” were different – they were simply thinking of someone who basically stood up and didn’t connect with the audience. So, I guess my question is, have you ever found this to be true – a difference between speaking vs. teaching? I had always considered them to be the same – when I speak I teach, when I teach, I speak. ~Kate
Kate, I agree with you. If we are effective communicators, we’ll include a variety of aspects of great communication. No matter the setting or the style, there are three things that we want to include in all messages: information, application, and inspiration. Here’s how these break down.
Information includes all the facts in our messages. A wide range of elements fall under information, and they can include statistics, word studies from Bible passages, the passages themselves, historical background, details found through research, etc.
Application is the practical tools, action steps, and challenges that we include in our messages that lead to transformation in others’ lives. We don’t want to step into “preachiness” here, but we want to give our audience a concrete step to take once they’re home. As Karen Ehman pointed out to me, people are either too spiritually immature or too busy to figure out the next step by themselves. We need to make it plain so that they’re more likely to move toward change.
Inspiration creates a dynamic of forward motion in our messages. This content is what creates a desire in our audience to go live the truths we’ve shared. Lysa TerKeurst always says, “Application is the ‘how to.’ Inspiration is the ‘want to.'” Inspirational material includes stories, quotes, and using words to paint a picture of the benefits of change. These elements show our audience what it would look like to live in the power of the truth you’ve imparted.
For those of us who want to deeply impact our listeners’ lives (and I hope we all do–I’m fairly horrified that “speakers” were defined as people who don’t care about this!), we need to include information, application, and inspiration in every message, no matter the setting.
Having said that, I believe that the setting affects the balance of these essential elements. I always think of “teaching” as what I do in a Bible study setting. Although I’ll include the other elements because they’re all important to engage and motivate, I’ll spend the majority of the time on information and application.
In contrast, at a different kind of event like mother-daughter tea or a spring luncheon, I’ll spend lots of time on inspiration. No one is taking notes, so a message laden with information would be ineffective and inappropriate in the setting. I always build my messages around scripture, and I always want there to be transformation at my events so information and application would play a part. They would just take less time.
Does anyone else have thoughts about teaching and speaking? Are they the same or different to you? How do you define each?