Monday, May 23, 2016

Boasting in You

 

My mama taught me that it isn’t nice to brag, and I’ll bet yours did too.

But it turns out that our mamas weren’t quite right. The Bible actually endorses bragging as long as it’s bragging (or the word is actually boasting) in the right person. Here’s how Paul says it to the Corinthians:

“We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory.  But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”  (II Corinthians 10:14-17)

Paul uses the word “boast” over and over again in his letters to the Corinthians, and when I was teaching on this passage in a session from my Breaking Up with Perfect retreat, I took a look at the definition of the root word. In scripture, the word boast could also be translated as “rejoicing in” or “glorying in.”

Our Proverbs 31 speaker team had a call last week, and Lynn Cowell began to encourage us to boast more– to boast in what we are seeing the Lord do as we go and speak.

I find it hard to break that old habit of not boasting at all, but I think Lynn’s right. When we boast in Jesus’ work instead of our own, it’s something entirely different. It’s rejoicing in Him. It’s giving Him the glory. Boasting encourages the people around us. It reaffirms the continuing work of God. It gives people hope that if God works in that situation, He can work in theirs too.

Listen to how my friend Sharon Glasgow did it on her Facebook page:

“Our 87 year old ‘Farmer’ neighbor fell off his tractor, it rolled over his chest, crushing bones and causing internal damage. He laid on the ground for 4 hours and couldn’t move. When help found him, they said his cows surrounded him in a circle! We asked the neighbor telling us the story what they were doing, he said, ‘Praying!, The Farmer came to a wedding in our barn this past weekend. Yep! He’s alive, well and still farming! God’s got more work for him here!” ~Sharon Glasgow

Sharon is always overflowing with stories of God’s power, and I often read her bragging on Him on Facebook by telling what she has seen Him do at her speaking events.

I want to begin this practice of bragging on Jesus! So here I go:

Last weekend I spoke at Highland Baptist Church in New London, NC. To tell you the truth, even though the women were warm and complimentary as they left, I wasn’t sure if my message had made much of an impact. I collected all my things,including the cards on which they had written a break up letter to Perfect, and left. The next day, I fished the break up letters out of my bag and began to read. Tears filled my eyes when I realized that Jesus had truly set women free. They declared freedom from:

  • Worry
  • Being in control of everything
  • Fixing everyone
  • Loneliness
  • Being judgmental, critical, and complaining
  • The insecurity of caring what others think of them more than what God thinks
  • Trying to be what they’re not
  • Feeling unworthy and not good enough
  • Working to do everything right
  • Trying to make everyone like them
  • Playing games
  • Worrying about not measuring up or having all the answers
  • Competing with others
  • Shame and feeling inferior
  • Being embarrassed by their physical appearance
  • Fear of not meeting expectations
  • Trying to be the perfect mom, perfect wife, perfect friend and keep a perfectly clean home
  • Feeling shame over past sin
  • Jealousy and distrust
  • Feeling responsibility for a loved one’s betrayal
  • Handling all the problems for their children
  • Holding on to hate

Whew! Y’all!!! Jesus was doing tremendous work behind those beautiful, smiling faces, and I wouldn’t have know if they hadn’t been so honest in their break up letters.

So I’m bragging on Him. He is good, and He is at work. How about you? Would you brag on Jesus here? How have you seen Him at work lately?

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Key Ingredient for a Growing Speaking Ministry

 

This week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by a former Next Step client and forever friend, Christy Mobley. I’ll share the whole interview (and a great new resource) when it’s available, but she asked me a question that still has me reflecting.

“Amy,” Christy asked, “what was the best piece of advice that you got as a new speaker?”

I didn’t even hesitate in my answer. Not only is it the best piece of advice I personally received, but it’s advice I pass on to other speakers all the time. Here it is.

Strong Messages

Don’t get me wrong. In this world of warring messages, marketing matters, but nothing counts as much as a strong message.

When I first joined the Proverbs 31 Speaker Team, I had no marketing materials. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. No website. No biosheet. Not even a business card. So you can imagine how I felt when I measured my ministry against the other amazing women on the team and all their bright, shiny marketing materials. I panicked!

When I started into high gear to produce the materials that I thought were essential to growing my speaking ministry, Renee Swope, who was then overseeing our team, intervened. She said, “Amy, your main focus should be on learning to create strong messages. If your messages don’t live up to your marketing, you will have missed the expectations of the event planners. Unfortunately, word of mouth works both ways–both positive and negative– so you want to exceed expectations, not fall short.”

Best. Advice. Ever.

How do you feel about your messages? Do you feel confident about your message development and delivery?

Here’s what I’ve decided for myself. Learning to develop strong messages that connect with the heart of my audiences is a life-long endeavor. It’s not that I just want to be perceived as polished and professional. The deepest desire of my heart is to communicate the Gospel in the most effective way possible. Because we live in an ever-changing culture, the learning curve to communicate a never-changing Truth is unending. I’m always working to create stronger messages!

Here are a few ways that I challenge myself to stay a learner instead of considering myself an expert:

  • Read books on communication. It’s truly a craft to study, so I love to be challenged and grow. A few of my all-time favorites that I use as constant references are Communicating for a Change (on sale right now in the P31 bookstore!) , Made to Stick, and Resonate.
  • Attend conferences. She Speaks is full this year, but why not start saving your pennies for next year? I love it more than my birthday, and that’s a mouthful for a girl who’s a narcissist one day a year!
  • Listen and listen and listen to other speakers. Make yourself a sponge when it comes to assessing another speaker. What do they do really well? What missed the mark? How do they keep their audience engaged? Where did they lose you? Since it’s important to be able to turn off this critique and just be a learner at times, TED Talks are a better time to do this than in your church on Sundays! 🙂

How are you learning to create stronger messages? I’d love to pick up some tips from you!

Note: Did you know that you can share the graphics from my posts in your social networks just by being on the website, passing your cursor over it, and clicking on your favorite network’s icon? Give it a try! If you’re a subscriber receiving this post in your email, just click on the title of the post in your email to go to the site. You can also get these graphics and other speaker goodies by joining Next Step on Facebook and Twitter. I’d be thrilled to see our Speaker Girl community sharing it up each week!

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Gift of a Voice

 

I’m home! I’m home! Or at least my body is here, but part of my heart permanently resides in INDIA. Yes, many of you guessed correctly. Kathy Scott is the winner from Facebook, and Aimee Kidd is the winner from Instagram. Congratulations to the winners of a beautiful silk scarf!

My brain is pretty mushy from all the travel, so today is going to be short and sweet. I can’t miss the opportunity to remind you, though… As American women, we’re blessed to have a voice. Respect. Standing in our communities. Rights. For most women in other parts of the world, that’s not their reality.

I had the chance to visit Mission India literacy projects last week, and I can confidently tell you that they’re changing the world for myriads of women. Becoming literate is restoring their voice. As Kamala, the founder and developer of these programs said, “First they gain self-esteem. Then they gain confidence. Finally, they gain self-respect.”

Those are the essential keys to a woman’s voice– knowing who she is as God’s creation. Standing in the value that’s embedded in her.

2016-04-25 17.33.54The women in the picture are gaining the voice we so often take for granted. (And check out the little boy in the front! That kid is going places!!) I’m so proud of their leaders, their teachers, and the women themselves for the hard work it’s taking to create change– a change that will be passed on to the next generation in the picture.

You might be wondering how you can be part of a woman in India gaining a voice. And I’m DYING to tell you! Hang in there until August when Proverbs 31 Ministries will give you opportunities to make an impact half way around the world right from your hometown.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Where in the World is Amy Carroll?

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. :))

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Encouraging Budding Speakers

 

-Our talents are the giftthat God gives to us... What wemake out of our talents is our gift back to God-

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!

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Word from My Clients 2

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!

 

 

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Monday, April 4, 2016

A Word from My Clients 1

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 amy@proverbs31.org. (Sometimes the forms don’t come through.)

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Reader Question 10

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:

  • BibleGateway
  • CrossWalk
  • 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?

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Reader Question 9

I am a member of a very large church in suburban Los Angeles. I have found that most churches–including ones where I was a member in the past and on the Women’s Ministries team–no longer have Women’s Ministries and do not hire speakers with the exception of a once per year Christmas tea. Without exception, the speakers they hire are the big names – nationally known women – who have published books, and are known on the national speaking circuit, as opposed to anyone local.  There are many talented women locally. Are there any speaking opportunities for us? ~ Brenda

 

Brenda has tapped into a frustration that lots of speakers feel. More and more, as our Christian community buys into a celebrity culture (which I’ve written about here and here), there are fewer opportunities for local speakers. Here are a few ways you can address the issue:

  • MOPS groups are great places to speak. Although they generally don’t have much of a budget, they need many speakers a year, so they are always looking. MOPS International has a great website where you can find locations in your area as well as seeing their theme for the year. (This year it’s “A Fierce Flourishing”.) You could create a message around the theme and weave your ideas into communications with the leaders. Although these groups can’t pay much, it’s a great place to get your feet wet and also to establish your credibility as a speaker in your community. You never know who is on a women’s ministry team that’s listening in your audience!
  • Consider speaking in secular settings. Local clubs and organizations are often looking for speakers for their meetings. What truth can you share that would translate into their world? You could develop a message about leadership or creating relationship connections with God’s truths embedded in it. Since God’s ways are always best, it’s not a stretch to do this, and I’ll write more about how to do this in coming weeks!
  • Change the culture at your church. A few weekends ago I was at a retreat where the weekend was peppered with testimonies of the women in the church along with my sessions. It was wonderful! If you’re in women’s ministry leadership, why not suggest that to the group? Or why not volunteer to share your testimony for the next women’s retreat at your church? I know it’s a little awkward, so follow the Lord’s leading, but sharing in a small way may lead to larger speaking responsibilities later.

This has been the hardest question yet to answer. The truth is that being on the P31 speaker team gives me lots of opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise. I’d love for our community to weigh in! Where do you find opportunities to speak?

 

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Reader Question 8

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!

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