Do you have dreams for where you want your ministry to go? Do you have a sense that God is calling you in a certain direction? Do you desire to have the strongest reach for the message that God has given you? Then you should speak strategically!
We really have two main areas where we need to be strategic: we need to be strategic in our message for the best spiritual impact, and we need to be strategic in the engagements we accept for the best ministry impact.
A. Let’s talk spiritual impact first.
1. Don’t assume everybody in the audience is a Christian
Whenever you speak, give the gospel in some form. Even if you’re speaking at a church. Remember that many women bring out friends and family members to special events that don’t normally come to church. You could be their main chance to hear about Christ! So never make your message inaccessible to seekers.
2. Speak to Change Lives, not to Just to Teach
This is the theme of this blog, and if you’ve never read some of my posts on the difference between speaking and teaching, you should! Start here, and then read here and here. Our goal should be to inspire people towards going deeper with God, not just teaching them more about the Bible. Know the change you’re inviting people to make, and make that invitation clear.
3. Provide an Opportunity to Respond
Often we give a great talk, but then we lose the impact because we end, and the worship leader gets up and launches into a fast song, or the organizer gets up and draws more door prizes. Don’t assume that someone else will invite people to respond to what you said; you provide that opportunity. Direct people in silent prayer at the end of your talk. Invite them to write something down that was meaningful to them. Remember: if they don’t respond at the event, it’s unlikely they’ll respond and talk to God about it later.
Those are the key things to keep in mind for each engagement you speak at to have the best spiritual impact. But in order to grow our ministry, we need to think about other factors, too.
4. Think Retreats
The longer I speak, the more I feel that retreats have the deepest spiritual impact. You’re able to delve so much deeper into the heart issues that we feel when you’re speaking a series of three or four messages than when you’re just doing a 40 minute address after a dessert.
That doesn’t mean that 40 minutes doesn’t mean anything; you can do an incredibly powerful gospel presentation in 40 minutes, or challenge people to think differently about God. But I have found increasingly that the call of my heart is to these longer events with a longer response time. I would prefer to do fewer events, but have more be retreats, than to do many smaller events.
B. Ministry Strategies
When you start getting busy, and you have to start choosing between engagements (the time may come, believe me!), or you’re starting to seek out those engagements yourself, here are some things to consider:
1. Think Multi-Church Events.
An event where people will attend from a number of churches is strategically more effective than an event where people from only one church attend. It often has more impact, for instance, to talk to 50 people from 5 churches than 400 people from one church. Why?
You’re giving a message that will hopefully change lives. If you can change the lives of people from a variety of settings, then that impact will go further.
Also, if you talk to people from different churches, you are more likely to be able to grow your ministry! If you speak at a church retreat, for instance, it’s unlikely they’ll have you back. Most churches can’t hire the same speaker in multiple years, even if they loved you! But if you speak at an event where women from a variety of churches are present, then those women could turn around and hire you for events at their churches.
That’s why I believe it’s sometimes better to take free events, or events that pay very little, if they are multi-church events, then to take a one-night event that pays a few hundred. In the end, the free event may have bigger spiritual and ministry dividends!
2. Think Multi-Denominational Events
The same holds true for multi-denominational events, just on a bigger scale. If you speak to women from a variety of denominations, your spiritual reach, and the potential to grow your ministry, will also be larger.
3. Think Partnerships
Partnering with ministries that are already up and running is another great way to build your own ministry. It’s hard to grow something from nothing; but if you partner with people with the same goals and missions, it’s much easier. My husband and I, for instance, speak at marriage conferences with Family Life. I could never put on a marriage conference on my own, but similarly the organization couldn’t put on marriage conferences without outside speakers. It’s a great partnership!
Read more on how to find such partnerships in this post.
4. Think Geography
There’s two ways to think of strategy geographically: there’s the idea that we should speak as many places as possible, so as to get known in as many places as possible, and then there’s the thought that it’s better to try to get known really well in one smaller area.
I’m going to hedge my bets and say that both have their merits!
For the same reasons listed above, you often can have a big spiritual impact and get more ministry bookings when you throw your net far and wide.
But to really get known well, it’s sometimes better to focus strategically on one area. If you come to different churches in one area, and you’re on the Christian radio station there, and the Christian bookstore starts carrying your books because you speak in the area, then all of a sudden everyone there will have heard of you. It doesn’t take much, because the Christian community is quite tight. People know those who go to other churches, and they talk about their events. If someone heard your name from their sister last month, and then find out from their best friend that you’re going to their church, and then they’re browsing in the bookstore and see your name again, that makes a big impact.
It’s name recognition, and it doesn’t happen with just one engagement. It happens when you’re in an area repeatedly. So get out a map, and choose an area away from where you live, but perhaps not too far, that you are going to target. For me, that area was Kitchener/Waterloo in Ontario, where I have spoken at all the major churches and been invited back again and again. It’s around three hours from where I live, but it’s a wonderful community. Next I’m going to target the Ottawa area.
That doesn’t mean I won’t speak elsewhere, but it may mean that once or twice a year, say in the spring and in the fall, I’ll try to plan a bit of a speaking trip, where I do a retreat, accompanied by a Thursday night event and a Sunday night event, and perhaps a trip to the local Christian radio station.
Once you’re well known in one area, move on to the next, preferably with a lot of connections to that first area. Think of it in terms of ever-widening circles. You want to go somewhere that there are plenty of overlap. People in the Baptist Churches in City A, for instance, talk to the Baptist Churches in next door City B, but they may not talk to the ones in another state very much. So go where there are natural commuting-business-church connections. It is much easier to become nationally known once you are very well known in one area.
I hope that helps! Let me know what you have done to start thinking strategically about which speaking engagements to accept, or even which ones to aggressively pursue!
If you want to delve more deeply into choosing events to generate word of mouth and more bookings, my audio download How to Get Better Bookings will help you fill up your calendar!