Passion Vs. Strategy

Photo by The Photography Muse

I hear it all the time–”I have a passion for youth”. Or “I have a passion to reach those with mental illness”. Or “I have a passion for stepfamilies.”

God has put different passions for ministry on our hearts. I would say I have a passion for marriage–partly stemming from growing up without a dad, and partly stemming from seeing how much of a difference a strong marriage has made in my life and my daughters’ lives.

In talking to some of you in my webinars or my Facebook page, I know that God has given you all passions, too. You want to serve Him in different but specific ways, and you have a message that you think needs to be heard.

That’s wonderful. But there’s still a practical conundrum that you have to deal with: how do you actually get hired to speak in the area of your passion?

Let’s say, for instance, that you’re a woman in your mid-thirties with a passion for speaking to teens. What do you do? You can speak at various youth groups, but it’s doubtful you’d get paid. There’s generally not a budget for speaking at a regular youth event.

You could try to speak at a youth retreat, but in general, they hire youth pastors to do that. There actually aren’t a lot of places to get hired, when you’re starting out, to speak to youth.

It’s the same issue with step-families. You may have a great message for step-families, but think about this practically: when do step-families get together and listen to a speaker? Likely the only time is at a huge conference, and for that, they’re going to bring in someone like Kevin Leman or something. Individual churches, or even communities, simply don’t do a lot of events that are simply for step-families.

Thus my rule of thumb:

When you are beginning to speak, it is more important to get known as a speaker than it is to get known inside the area of your passion.

That may sound counterintuitive, but I began by speaking to general audiences, not to couples. I spoke to women of all ages and all marital statuses. But as I spoke, others would hear me, and I’ve been invited to speak at things as diverse as Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, women’s sororities, homeschooling conferences, and yes, even marriage conferences, all springing from my speaking at a general women’s event at a church.

You need practice speaking, and that practice doesn’t need to be in your niche. You need to get known in your community. And as you’re known, it’s more likely you’ll get asked to speak in your niche.

Here are the simple facts: the more specific your passion, the bigger name you have to be, in general, to be asked to speak in that area of passion. Because the niche is so specific, the events have to be huge, and attract people from a wide geographical area, in order to minister to that niche, because it’s small. Thus, the events tend to be bigger, not smaller. And it’s much harder to be asked to speak at a big event, when you’re starting, than it is to speak at a general event. These general events are held far more frequently, and tend to be smaller, so it’s easier to break in there.

It is not that you are selling out, or walking outside of your calling. You are building up your repertoire, and you are building your skills. You are building your name and your platform. And as you become known, when you let people know your areas of interest, they are more likely to remember you when they are in the position to influence who is asked to speak at such an event.

So take a look at your geographical area, and look at the types of events that speakers are hired for. Take a look at where they hire the big names, and where they hire the smaller names. You want to aim for where they hire the smaller names, because that’s your most likely market as you start, too. Don’t get so focused on your passion or your area that you believe God is calling you that you create a situation where it’s almost impossible to get any bookings. Everyone has to start somewhere. I did not start talking about marriage, but over the next two or three years I’ll likely transition so that 75% of what I do will be speaking about marriage. But that has been eight years in coming; eight years of speaking to general women’s audiences.

We all have stories to tell, and if you can find the thread in your story that makes it applicable to anyone, even if they’re not in your target niche, you’ll be able to speak to general audiences. Maybe you have a passion for step-families because you have had to live through blending a family. Not everyone can relate to that, but everyone understands feeling like you’re living with strangers. Everybody understands feeling as if you don’t really belong. Everyone understands having to rely on God to show love in difficult situations. Your message is relevant not just for the area of your passion, but for others, too.

So ask God to show you how you can deliver a general message, and then ask God to open those doors. You’ll find that the more you start speaking, the more you will be asked to speak. And then, once you’re known, it will be easier to break into the area of your passion!

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7 Responses

  1. Love this insight, Sheila!! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Sheila, when you’re first starting out and a church asks you to supply them a recording of your talk, what do you suggest? I have not given a talk before with the exception of testimonies but have only had the opportunity to sing at several churches with audiences as large as a 1,000 or more (at times).
    Just recently I have had two possible speaking engagements however; would need to supply a recording of a talk. Just not sure on how to handle something like that.

    Thank you for your feedback.

    • Oh and I’m looking to make a cd of songs as well and not sure how to go about that. Just curious what your opinion would be on that…
      From a ministry prospective I agree with speaking on a more general topic. I will keep that in mind!

      Thank you.

      • I can’t help you much with the CD. Do you have other singers/musicians you know in your area? You’ll have to rent studio time if you want to produce a really good CD, and that can get expensive!

    • Trish, Here’s what I did when I was in the same circumstance: I asked ten friends to come to church on a Thursday morning and listen to me give a talk–as a favour. I recorded it, and thus it was “live” and you could hear people laughing in the background.

      If that won’t work, you can just talk into a recorder as if you were speaking, but I find I always speak differently when it’s live than when I’m just speaking, so it doesn’t work as well. If you have friends who are willing to do you a favour, I’d go with the first option! Remember, too, that you don’t have to do the same talk that the church is asking you to do. Chances are they just want to hear what you sound like. So if you have a different talk that you’re more comfortable with, or that your friends would rather hear, just do that one! Hope this helps…

  3. Wow, this is great. Thanks so much for this. I have been dreaming of being a speaker for years, ever since I felt like I received a calling from God to be one. I’ve been raising babies and haven’t been sure as to how to go about it or narrow down my topics of interest. Now, I realize I don’t have to narrow them down, but instead, start with them the way they are.. Thank you!!

  4. This is helpful. think God leading me to this, because this has be flashing on my mind .I mean sometimes just thought of my self being in a position to give a talk to people. But have not started in any way.pray God will lead me to that later.Don’t know how but trust he will according to his will.

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