Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lessons Learned the Hard Way: What NOT to Do

Last week after sharing the lesson I learned in New Hampshire (by the way, I’ve got some pics on my blog of that beautiful place), I was talking with my friend Tara Furman, founder of Knowing God Ministries.  She was in the midst of making a huge and difficult ministry decision, and I asked her if she’d share her story.  Here’s her story of a hard lesson learned:

Six months ago I received a call I had hoped would come.  A large denominational organization invited me to be a break-out speaker at one of their events.  This organization holds at least 4-6 women’s events annually.  I was finally getting in the door with this organization.  The drive would have been far, but the opportunity to share the message the Lord has given to me would have been great and possibly far reaching. 

When the call came in, I accepted WITHOUT PRAYING.  

Mistake #1:  I did not pray so I missed out on hearing a Word from the Lord. 

It is so important to get a “Word” from the Lord before going somewhere to speak.  We need to find out if He’s going with us.  If He’s not going with us – we do not want to go.  Receiving a personal “Word” from Jesus, takes prayer a few steps forward.  

For example:  Recently I rec’d an invitation to speak in a venue that I was not comfortable with and DID NOT want to go.  My reading the next morning opened with, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.”  1 Cor. 9:16

 Never mind my feelings, I obeyed and went.  As a result, Jesus allowed me to experience Him in a new and fresh way. 

Now, back to what NOT to do… 

For the last six months, I’ve been filled with dread in anticipation of the weekend in February.  I’ve been trained by the best, Proverbs 31 Ministries, and knew in my heart that I needed to send my contract.  Typically for organizations such as these, speakers are paid a modest honorarium.  This would have been okay – because I ASSUMED that I would have my book table…  Mistake – big mistake! 

Mistake #2:  Out of fear and the desire to gain their approval, I did not send my contract. 

Two weeks prior to the event, I received an email saying, “speakers would be paid mileage and an honorarium; book tables would not be allowed.” 

I was 4 hour drive away from this event.  It was a weekend affair.  I have 2 small children.  This cannot be a “holy hobby” for me (although it truly is).   My book table helps my family financially, and my husband’s continued support is paramount. 

My accountant came over the evening I had rec’d the email to do my ministry books.  In casual discussion, I told her what had happened.   Without hesitation, this godly woman told me not to go; that I could not afford to go.  She pressed even further and asked me why I’d want to continue with this organization if this is how they operate.

I was giddy at the thought – but what would the Lord say?  Doesn’t the Bible say, “keep your commitments even when it hurts”?    

The next morning, I carried it to the Lord in prayer.  Immediately He convicted me of my original lack of prayer and He exposed the real reason I never sent the contract:  insecurity and people pleasing.  

And then He shocked me!   He graciously released me from having to go to the event.  My reading, Matthew 28:8:  “So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy.”  (He confirmed in several other places as well.)

The tomb = the event;

afraid = I still had to call the event organizer…  (Yikes!) 

I’m not good at confrontation.  But in God’s power, I made the call.  I wish I could report that it went well.  I felt like a flake and a fool.  I was embarrassed and humbly apologized the best way I knew.  Had the Lord not given me Scriptural confirmation – I would have fallen apart after the phone call.  I felt very belittled.  But I yielded the sword of the Word in the face of my enemy. 

Learn from my experience:  Pray and receive Scriptural confirmation prior to accepting an invitation.  You will be saving yourself embarrassment and heartache if you know if the Lord is indeed sending you. 


 Thank you for sharing with us, Tara!  I love getting to learn the lessons from someone else’s school of hard knocks!  :)  We’ll apply the wisdom to seek God’s guidance for each event we schedule and to have clear expectations in a written contract. 

Ya’ll make sure to visit Tara’s website. There’s so much more on her website and blog about hearing God’s voice in our everyday lives.  You can also see the picture there that I couldn’t get uploaded correctly here! 

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Sorry this post is late.  I was traveling back from a speaking engagement in beautiful New Hampshire yesterday.  Although I’d like to present myself as a polished, professional speaker so that you’ll want to work with the speaker service ;), I want to be vulnerable and share a couple of important lessons that I learned on this trip.

1.  Know your audience (and don’t assume that it’s the same as home)–I had been communicating for months with the event coordinator at an evangelical church in NH.  She began our first conversation by filling me in on the demographics and culture of the area.  One stunning statistic that she presented was that NH is 97% unchurched.  She warned me that this statistic created a very different atmosphere than my “Bible-belt” home.  She went on to explain some ways that my presentation would need tweaked to reach her women–simplicity, no “Christianeze”, etc.  I sort of got it.  Later she said, “If you were going to speak to women in some island in the Pacific, you would know to study the culture so that your teaching is relevant.  Sometimes you need to even do that here in the United States.”  Great observation!

2.  Be careful about reading faces– The habit of reading the faces of your audience is a double edged sword.  When I was teaching, I developed this skill to know when I needed to speed up or slow down.  Reading my kids’ faces helped me to know if they “got it” or not. 

The same skill applies when you’re speaking—sometimes.  I have had 2 times when trying to read faces just about sunk me, and this was one of those times.  Both times I was in other parts of the country that are less churched than my own region.  What I interpreted as blank faces (in my mind that translates to bored and disinterested) caused me to lose energy as I struggled to feel connected to my audience.  I was shocked after the event to have woman after woman come up to me to share what God had spoken to them through my message.  I couldn’t figure it out. 

Because the event coordinator was someone I had come to trust, I felt comfortable asking her about my confusion.  She explained (again!) that I wasn’t “preaching to the choir” with this group.  In other groups that were familiar with the ideas in my message, I might get smiles  and nods.  Her perception during my message was that the women were very engaged but just pensive and processing my words because for many they were something very new.

So interesting.  I left feeling good about the event, and I think I’ve gained some valuable insight for future events.  I want to continue to refine this message (it’s my own testimony so it’s really important to me to get it right), so the event coordinator, who also speaks, and I are going to go over my notes together.  I want to know where I might have included things that tripped up women unfamiliar with the gospel so that I can communicate the Good News in the most engaging and effective way possible.

Do you have any lessons to share that you learned the hard way?  I’d love to hear them!


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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Gathering Endorsements

You are a big risk.

You might not think that you are, but when an event coordinator is considering you as the speaker for their next event, you seem like a big risk.

Some of the questions that float through a coordinator’s head are, “Will she be doctrinally sound?  Will she be professional? Will she interact with our women?  Will she bring all that she’s promised?”  I was a women’s ministry director before I became a speaker, so I speak with authority when I say that choosing a speaker makes a coordinator sweat!

One way that you can put event coordinators at ease is by providing endorsements from past events.  These short statements should be used on bio sheets, websites or any other marketing pieces that you provide.  Here are some things to consider as you gather endorsements:

  • If you need 3-4 endorsements, ask 5-6 people to provide them.  Choose the best from these.
  • After each event, ask the coordinator to write an endorsement for you.  Keep a collection so that you can choose the most inviting when developing new marketing.
  • When asking someone to write an endorsement, tactfully encourage them to use vivid writing.  Ask people who you know are great writers.  One of my favorite endorsements came from my pastor who was also an amazing writer.
  • Keep endorsements short.  Even if the one provided is very long, you can choose key sentences.  People are doing more skimming than reading these days, and they’ll skip an endorsement that looks too long.

Endorsements go a long way in reassuring coordinators of your past performance.  Take a look at the NSSS endorsements (don’t you love that we also have pics of these folks?!) as examples.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What’s Your Value? Part 2

I remember my first time at She Speaks when Renee Swope told the group, “We’ve been praying for God to boil up all your insecurities and self-doubt so that He can heal them at this very moment.”

Thanks a lot!  JK!  The truth was that beginning to speak had boiled up all my insecurities like nothing else ever had.  Creating marketing pieces like a bio sheet turned up the heat even more.  It was excruciating to write about myself in third person, and since I didn’t have a lot of credentials, I struggled with feeling unaccomplished and under-prepared.

Our team training with Rob Eager started to turn all of that negative feeling about marketing around.  He emphasized to us that people aren’t nearly as interested in our list of credentials as in what we will give them that’s of value

Revising my bio sheet with value in mind was so much easier.  Instead of feeling like I had to convince people of how wonderful I’d be at their event, I could focus on telling them about the messages that God has given me.  I could focus on what I’d give.

It’s ministry defining to seek God about your ministry value.  By starting with a foundation of your own personal value to God, you can begin to see that how He has created you brings value to your audiences.  Defining your value, or ministry niche, also defines when you say “yes” to speaking and when to say “no”.  For example, if I’m asked to speak at an event where the emphasis is marriage, I’ll most likely say “no” and refer them to my friend Melanie Chitwood.  Melanie is called to teach on marriage.  I have a very happy marriage, but marriage is not my defined ministry niche.  I’m sure I could put a message together, but I’m also sure that my audience wouldn’t receive the value that they would with Melanie.

How do you start defining your value?  I have heard that Mary DeMuth defines your niche as “the place where your experience and passions intersect.”  Here are some great questions to start with:

  • What are some of my defining life experiences?
  • What topics really “light my fire”?
  • What scripture do I cite as my life verse?
  • When I ask others (friends, spouse, church leaders, audience members), what do they say is my passion?

If you haven’t defined your value in ministry, pray that God will guide you and then start with these questions.  I’d love to hear what you find out about yourself and your calling!


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