Last fall I had contractors working on a new deck and a renovation for our backyard. It was exciting. As the days went by, I could almost visualize what it would eventually look like.
But it was also LOUD. Really loud. It was a pain. And they arrived early in the morning, so I had to be up and dressed much earlier than I’d like. So I was often grumpy.
I think when we’re in the building phase for our speaking ministry something similar happens. We get noise from all sides, everything’s a mess, and we’re not entirely sure if what we’re building is going to match our plans.
That’s when it’s time to take a step back and make sure we have the right tools, we have the right plans (God’s plans)!, and that we’re working in the right order.
I have a dream to train speakers to speak the message God has given them–not just to a Christian audience, but also to seekers to let them hear what God is saying to this generation. I speak a lot, but I can only reach so many. Imagine what God can do with a whole army that is equipped to speak effectively, professionally, and with His power!
I can’t help you get in touch with God; only you can do that through your own personal devotions and prayer. But I hope I can help you build your ministry.
I wrote earlier about the need for excellence, and how we need to take those small engagements. Like it says in Zechariah, “do not despair the day of small things”. Those small things can lead to bigger things!
So what does a building phase look like? Well, let’s go over a few points:
1. You Need a Plan. You need to know what you’re building. Are you trying to be a speaker to mom’s groups? Are you wanting to speak at women’s retreats? Do you want to lead workshops and teach a specific skill? Do you feel a deep calling to urge people back to Christ? Any or all of these things is fine, but we need to know what the main one is! So write out where you think God is calling you as specifically as you can. For example, I would word my own journey this way:
My calling is to urge women to surrender all to Jesus, using humour to engage, and honesty and openness to touch hearts. I talk real life, and give real solutions. No pretensions. Just Jesus.
Now a few years ago I was more specific. I wrote more in there about the fact that I was called to Christian moms. Then I started getting called for retreats in general, and now I find that I can’t specify a niche except “women”, and that’s fine. But when you are starting out, try to define your niche as narrowly as possible. It helps you figure out what speaking engagements you want to focus on, and it helps you identify groups where you want to speak. I talk more about this here.
2. Get to Know Your Niche. If you feel called to speak on a specific skill or practice, like worship or parenting, then get to know your niche. Chances are you’re already familiar with it. You have lots of life experience. But you have to keep up with what’s being said and written and done in that niche right now. So join Twitter and find the groups that talk about that. Seek out these groups on Facebook. Read things on the internet. Keep informed. This also gives you great anecdotes to use when you’re speaking anyway, and the more you participate in these groups online, the more likely that you will get invitations to speak! But don’t rely on your coattails; really study your topic or niche.
3. Seek out Training. When I began speaking, I didn’t get enough training. I assumed that because I was a natural public speaker (and most speakers are) that I’d be able to pull just about anything off. And in general I didn’t do a bad job. But what I didn’t know was how to put together an effective talk. I didn’t realize it wasn’t the same as a presentation I’d give in university or a sermon I’d give at church. It really is quite different.
After about two years of not really going very far with my ministry I took the plunge and went to a speakers’ conference. It was extremely helpful. Even just networking with other people who also speak helped hone my efforts.
However, the whole thing cost me over $1000. And I know most of you don’t have that. I do offer online training that goes over all these basics, and more! You can find my e-courses and teleseminars here. Now, enough said about that. Investigate it if you want to (I know it will help!), but I’ll still write blog posts even if you don’t!
4. Do Lots of Workshops. Don’t be afraid to take some small engagements at the beginning. Let’s say that your niche is speaking to mom’s groups. There are tons of mom conferences around North America! You may want to be a keynote speaker, but that’s hard to do. Getting hired to do a workshop or breakout session, though, is much easier. And as you do these, you become known by the people who organize such conferences (and by a variety of churches). So don’t be afraid to do workshops! Just find something specific in your niche you can talk about! In fact, when you’re starting out, it is strategically better to do a workshop that doesn’t pay as well at a large conference than to do an event at a church. At a workshop, you get people from a whole variety of churches there, so you get more chance to grow word of mouth. God may still nudge you to take the church engagement, but from a purely business standpoint workshops are great for those launching their ministries!
5. Pray. Ask God to show you where He is leading. It’s not always where we think!
6. Be Flexible. You may think you’re heading in one direction, but perhaps God has something else for you. If you begin speaking in a certain niche, and then find that you’re beginning to be asked in another niche, perhaps that’s where you’re supposed to be. So realize that you’re building, but don’t despair if things don’t go as you think they should. Maybe God is just trying to tell you something!
This whole process is messy. You don’t make very much money, and in fact at the beginning you likely cost your family money. Is it worth it? That’s where the prayer and calling come in. The more specifically you can define your calling, the easier it is to measure it and focus your efforts. And then plan a year down the road to re-evaluate. If things aren’t going well, ask yourself, do I need training? Am I in the wrong niche? Do I need to aim for some smaller engagements to build up my skill level? Or ask yourself if this is something that God may be calling you to at a later date, and not right now. Periodically taking stock is important.
But remember that it is tough for the first little while. Building the foundation isn’t glamorous. But it is necessary. Don’t despair if you’re in that position right now. Just build it strong, and then soon you’ll be able to see everything take shape!
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