It's such an honor to be able to answer some of your questions from Lysa's blog about She Speaks! It was life-changing for me when I attended before applying for the speaker team, and God surprised me by making it just as life-changing last year. As a new speaker team member, I hope my insights as a "newby" will really hit your hearts.
My big question is this, just how do you start? In otherwords, how do you get churches, women's groups, etc. to see you as a viable speaker when your experience speaking is very minimal?
As a women's ministry director, I was getting many chances to teach small groups in our church in Burlington, NC, but I was most consumed with the day-to-day details of the larger ministry. One Sunday, right before our move to Holly Springs, my pastor asked me to share the sermon with him. He wanted a woman's perspective shared about his topic. Afterward, I remember thinking, "Wow! I didn't hate that at all. In fact, I feel like that is what I was created for." It was a shocking thought. In my prayer journal, I wrote that I believed God was calling me to a speaking ministry. Even as I wrote it, I wondered how in the world that would come about.
After our move, it was particularly hard. I went from one-hundred-miles-an-hour ministry to a dead stop. For the next few months, God continued to pour vision into my heart, but I wasn't seeing anything happen externally. One day in a place of depression, I cried out to God for a sign. I didn't ask for anything in particular. I just felt so lonely and sad that I needed God to show me that He saw me in this hard place. Later that week, I got a call asking me to lead a women's retreat for a church in a nearby town. It was COMPLETELY unexpected. Thank goodness that it was in the form of a message on the answering machine. I sobbed for about an hour! That answer to prayer was sooo much bigger than anything I had imagined.
From that point on, God began opening doors for me to speak. Astonishingly, they were all completely unrelated. God spoke to me, "Amy, this is not anything that you will orchestrate. It will happen in such a way that you will know that it is only because of Me." God knows my control-freakishness and independent spirit so well that He has to be very clear with me! He did it lots of different ways. One lady called me from out of town after she attended a funeral at our church. She first called our women's ministry director who pointed her to me. Amazing!
I also eventually sent out a letter and a bio sheet to everybody I knew. I needed the prayers of my friends and family, but I also asked them to pray about giving my bio sheet to women's ministry leaders in their church. I have had quite a few opportunities come out of that mailing. I'm so thankful for friends who have believed in me.
As God opened doors, I spoke without a fee. When leaders asked me about my fee, I simply asked them to pray about an honorarium. That was good for them and good for me. It helped relieve the pressure of expectations. It also built deep into my heart a humility and a strong desire to serve women . Speaking and writing are not simply a career for me. Sometimes I spoke for a gift or a hug, but the fact that God was creating opportunities to speak, learn and grow was enough.
Finally, I got to a point where I knew that I had learned all that I could on my own. I started asking around and researching conferences on the Internet, and God led me to She Speaks. I went to the conference so afraid that I literally made myself sick the week before, but what I found there set me free. God met me there to confirm and enlarge my vision. The staff and speakers of P31 were more loving and nurturing than I could have even imagined. I was challenged, built up and renewed by God's Spirit and His people.
If you still have questions left, come and see at She Speaks! When you get there, make sure to come and find me. I'd love to give you more than a cyber-hug. I want to look in your eyes and confirm to you that God can use your story and your life.
How do you deal with the insecurity, gossiping, and judgemental attitudes that sometimes come with women that are being ministered to?
Lady Astor is famously quoted as saying, "If you don't have anything nice to say...come sit next to me!" I'm ashamed to admit that I've fallen prey to that same habit. Although I pridefully would not repeat gossip, I sure did love to hear it. God has brought me a long way, and that is why I wanted to answer the question about gossip in women's ministry. It surely is one of the plagues of women in general, but gossip can be the absolute downfall of a women's ministry.
When God called me as our women's ministry director in our previous church, one wise pastor told me that I needed a mentor and pointed me to our church receptionist, Mona. I will be forever thankful for that godly advice. Mona is not only a woman of the Word but a woman of great discretion. I needed that strong example as I began to lead, because as I've expressed, I didn't quite have that area of my life under control.
I was not yet a month into leadership when a friend reported to me that there was a lot of talk about what I was and was not accomplishing. I was devastated. I called Mona who told me that I must confront it immediately. With great fear and trembling, I called the women who were at the center and sweetly said (at Mona's direction), "I hear that you have some concerns about women's ministry. I would love to hear about some of your ideas." I'm sure there was talk after that, but the majority was quelled. I learned some important lessons:
- Confront gossip lovingly but directly
- Create an atmosphere in which women can come directly to you with concern and criticism
- You are either known as a woman who gossips or one who doesn't. People will respond to you accordingly.
- As a leader, we MUST set the standard for our women that gossiping or listening to gossip (that one's harder) is unacceptable for godly women.