Taking Yourself Seriously

Do you feel called to speak?

Do you feel that God has given you gifts, talents, and a message to share?

If so, that’s wonderful! But here’s a problem that many women in ministry have. They feel called, but they’re also a little embarrassed about it. Who am I to say that I have something special to share? Is it arrogant to think that I’m called to be a speaker? What about my “real” job, or my duties as a wife and a mom? I can’t let speaking interfere in the slightest bit with that, so speaking will always get last place.

I certainly struggle with these things. Finding a balance between my ministry at home and my ministry as I speak is a challenge, because home is my top priority. But I fear that often we diminish our calling too much out of embarrassment, shame, fear, or confusion.

If God is calling you to speak, then embrace it. Recognize it. Or, if you’re honestly not sure (and it’s okay not to be sure!), then pray about it, and decide that you will dedicate a certain amount of time exploring it. If God doesn’t want you to speak, ask Him to close the doors.

When I read Scripture, I see that God steers people that are moving far more often than He steers people that are standing still. Remember Paul, when he was called to go minister in Macedonia? He had prayed, and was heading in the wrong direction when God called him elsewhere. But at least he was heading somewhere! He wasn’t sitting there until revelation struck. Sometimes we do need to wait on God, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you don’t sense God telling you to wait, then maybe it’s time to explore the opportunities to speak, praying that if this is not where God wants you, that He will shut the door.

And remember: if God has called you to something, there doesn’t need to be any fear! He is the One who will help you and equip you.

That being said, I do believe there’s also a point to giving a year for training and building your skills (and quite often it takes more than that!). If you’re interested in how to treat yourself seriously, next week’s Blog Talk Radio show has to do with exactly that: how to treat your speaking like a business, and learn good business principles that will help you grow. It’s totally free to listen, and if you head over here now, you can set a reminder to notify you when it’s about to start. We’ll be going live Tuesday at noon EST!

Of course, there often is a tension between speaking as a business and speaking as a ministry. When we’re scared or a little ashamed that people will think we’re arrogant, we may focus solely on the ministry side, and ignore the business side. But there’s a problem with that: if God truly has called you to speak, you need to appear professional, and that includes treating it like a business. I don’t mean that you have to make buckets of money–not by a longshot! And I don’t mean that you have to be concerned primarily about fees. But what is important about a business?

First, a business invests in itself, and you should, too. A business stays current and tries to cater to the market (in other words, give talks that people can relate to and that touch people’s hearts where they’re at). A business gives off a professional air, one with authority, that will help people to be more open to listening to you. A business invests the time it takes to do things well. A business works on growing itself.

Do you want to do these things? Or do you want to figure out how to make some fees from speaking, because from a practical standpoint you do need to make some money at this?

Then come and listen! If you can’t make it, you can listen after the fact. And don’t forget my inexpensive resources to help you launch your speaking ministry!

As a writer, I’ve travelled to Christian bookstores across North America. I’ve seen a wide range of them: some huge, some small. Some stuffed with “junk”, some with only bestsellers visible. Some have fancy cafes, and some have no room to walk.

What I’ve noticed is that size doesn’t matter. What makes a good bookstore, and one that I enjoy being in, is the attitude of the owners. Some owners firmly believe that the bookstore is “simply a ministry”. And you can tell that’s what they think. They don’t necessarily invest in a comfortable store. They seem to feel intrinsically that the store will lose money, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. On the other hand, the stores where owners do focus on customer service and making a profit often tend to be the ones that are most fun to be in. They’re innovative. They’re doing a lot to attract customers. They have interesting stock. Their salespeople are knowledgeable.

Now, which is more of a ministry? The one that sees itself as solely a ministry, and is always on the brink of folding, or the one that is trying to turn a profit by attracting customers? I know the analogy isn’t perfect, but I don’t agree with all that goes into marketing Christian books and products today. But I do think that the general statement is still true: if we want to have the most impact, we need to take ourselves seriously. If we don’t, our ministry won’t expand.

So take yourself seriously. Invest in your speaking. And then see where God leads you!

How to Sound More Confident When Speaking–And Feel More Confident, Too!

When you’re starting your ministry, you naturally feel a little apprehensive. What you don’t want is for that apprehension to be felt by the audience.

Do you remember what the people said of Jesus? He spoke as one with authority, and not as one of the teachers of the Law. So how do we sound like we have authority? How do we make sure we don’t sound scared, or intimidated?

One of the most common ways that people sound like beginners is in the use of “filler words”. I have another post here on that very subject–your Ummms, and You knows–whatever you say when you don’t know what else to say.

But I want to expand on this a little bit further. I’ve been listening to recordings of other speakers, and to some of my old recordings, and I’ve watched others speak recently, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a common mistake that many of us make, and it’s this:

We put needless words at the beginning of sentences.

These may not always be Ummms. More often they’re simply EXTRA words, and maybe even DIFFERENT words each sentence, but they make us sound a little intimidated. For instance, can you tell the difference between this:

So, I’m very glad to be here today! Well, I’m excited about what God has in store for us! So, why don’t you turn with me to Philippians 3? Okay, do you see how in that passage Paul says we are to “forget what lies behind”? And what do you think “forgetting” means?

And this:

I’m very glad to join you today, and I’m excited about what God has in store for us! Turn with me to Philippians 3. In that passage, Paul says we are to “forget what lies behind”. How strange! What do you think “forgetting” means?

Virtually the same words, but a slightly different twist. And the main thing is that there are no extra words at the beginning of sentences.

In common speech we often throw in these extra words. They connect our thoughts, and they sound right. But they don’t sound right when you’re at the podium.

When I used to lead worship in church, the pastor came up to me one day and told me that I was saying, “Okay” too much. I’d say, “turn with me to page 273, okay?”. I didn’t realize it. I didn’t mean it. But the pastor told me that by saying “Okay”, it sounded like I was giving the congregation the choice to refrain from turning to page 273. I was asking them a question.

You don’t want to throw in the word “okay” because it sounds like you’re asking for their agreement. It makes you sound unsure of yourself. And if you’re always throwing in “and” and “well” and “so” at the beginning of sentences, too, you don’t sound very powerful. You sound like you’re worried.

Here, then, is a tip on how to stop this. Generally, we breathe between sentences. When you breathe, pause for a split second and think, “what is the next word out of my mouth going to be?” When you start thinking like this, chances are you will use a powerful word. When you just open your mouth, chances are a filler word will come out while you collect your thoughts. It is better to speak more slowly, and take more care, and start your sentences well, then to speak more informally and throw in a lot of “wells” and “okays”. Do you see what I mean?

Try it yourself. Take the opening to one of your talks, and say it to yourself while you’re lying in a bubble bath or looking at yourself in the mirror. Practice thinking of the next word each time you take a breath. And you’ll likely find that fewer of those filler words come out of your mouth! Besides, the more we breathe and think, the more we’ll put ourselves at ease. And that will go a long way towards feeling more comfortable, and more authoritative, up on stage, too!

Great news! Every Tuesday at noon EST I have a FREE radio show on Blog Talk Radio just for Christian writers and speakers, called “Use Your Words”. Come on over and sign up for it! You can listen later, or download to iTunes!

And don’t forget my speaker training, available here.

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