Cold Calling Local Churches for Speaking Requests

Photo by tobiastoft

Your palms are sweaty. You pick up the phone, and you flash back to when you were 13 and you wanted to call that boy you really liked, so you dialed fast and then hung up before he answered. Only now you’re long past 13, and you can’t hang up because most churches have call display.

You’re engaged in that most nerve-wracking of all marketing endeavors: cold calling. You’ve decided to cold call your local churches to propose yourself as a potential speaker for women’s events. In our Facebook Page, where we talk speaking ministry and all the aspects of it, one of our readers started this discussion about the best way to contact local churches. I thought it was such a good topic it warranted a blog post!

But before I launch into my advice on what to say once you dial that phone, let’s clarify a few things. Why are you calling the church? I’ve suggested before that when you’re just starting out, doing a few engagements for free is definitely a good idea. It gets your name out there, it allows you to record yourself in front of a live audience, and it gives you practice. And besides that, you get the honor of spreading the message that God has given you!

Perhaps you don’t want to speak for free, though. Perhaps you’ve spoken quite a bit, but you’re in a bit of a slump, and you’d like to see if you can be hired locally. As long as you have your goals set, here are some thoughts as to how to go about making that call:

1. Do Your Research First

Do you know anybody who goes to that church? Ask them if they can give you an introduction to whoever is in charge of women’s ministry-even if all they give you is a name. If you don’t know anybody at that church, ask your friends on Facebook if any of them know anybody at that particular church. The friend of a friend approach tends to work better. When you have a relationship with the church, even if it’s only tenuous, the church secretary is going to feel more amenable to you, and the women’s ministry director will feel better, too.

Check them out on the web! Most churches have websites now, and many will have a pages for their different ministries. Check out what day of the week the women meet. Where do they meet? What time? Do they have any social events coming up in the next few months? Are there pictures posted of last year’s events? See if you can map out what the church tends to do over a 12-month period. If you know, for instance, that they tend to have a dinner around Christmastime and then a Saturday retreat in the spring, then when you call, you can say, “I know you often host an outreach dinner at Christmas, and I’d love to talk to your ministry leader about how I can help with that.”

2. Ask the Secretary for an Introduction, not an Answer

Very rarely is the secretary of the church actually involved in women’s ministry. You don’t need the secretary to actually hire you for anything. What you need is for the secretary to be an ally-and to help you get the introduction.

Don’t ask if the secretary knows if the women’s ministry committee has hired speakers for the upcoming year, or if the secretary knows if they need a women’s speaker, because that sounds a lot like a marketing call, and most secretaries don’t like that. Instead, say something like this:

“My friend Pat Smith mentioned that Rachel Scott was now running the women’s ministry at your church, and I have a passion for ministry to women in our community. I was hoping to speak to Rachel to see if there was any way I could help. Can you tell me the best way to contact her?”

That makes it more personal.

Don’t offer to drop anything off. If you say instead,

“I have some information on the speaking I do, and I’d love to get it to Rachel. What’s the best way to do that?”

90% of the time the secretary will tell you to come down and drop off your packet-and then that packet will be disregarded. So don’t ask to drop anything off. Ask to talk to Rachel. You may get her phone number or her email, but most churches won’t give that out. What you can say is something like this:

“I know you can’t give out her email, but if I sent you an email, could you forward it to her?”

In general, emails from secretaries will be answered and taken more seriously than a packet left at the church, which will be interpreted as junk mail.

3. When Emailing the Ministry Leader, Help her see how you fit.

Send an email introducing yourself, linking to your YouTube videos or testimonials, and listing three or four things you could help her with in her ministry. Maybe you could come and talk to her Bible study group one Thursday morning. Perhaps you could host a kick-off for the new calendar year. You could speak at Christmas. Make it easy for her to envision how she could use you. Perhaps they’ve never had a speaker for a kick-off in January or September before, but it is a good idea! And if you’re willing to do it for free, mention that, too!

Do mention acquaintances you have in common. And in that email, make sure to mention the people that you know whom Rachel also knows. Make sure she realizes that you are local, and that you know people in the community. If you don’t know people because you’re new, then mention that, too, but also mention how you’re planning on participating in the body of Christ in the community. Do you belong to any homeschooling groups? Do you volunteer at the Christian radio station or soup kitchen? Show that you have a commitment here.

Do mention where you’ve spoken before, especially if it’s out of town. Ironically, speaking testimonials from outside your community are often treated more seriously than those from inside your community because it seems like you’re very much in demand. So even if you’ve only spoken at a small Bible study group three hours away from where you live, mention that church and that city.

4. Be Upfront About Fees

If you expect to be paid, mention this in your email. Say something like this at the end:

I’d love to talk to you further about possible topics I could speak on, how I could help you develop a fun evening your women would love, or ideas I have for other events that can be used as outreach into the community. If you want to explore this further, we can compare calendar availability, topic ideas, and discuss fees.

That way it’s there, but it’s not highlighted. You can even add:

…and discuss fees (which I always keep low for local events!)

…if that’s true of you, of course.

5. Mention Further Action

End your email with an idea of where to go next. Are you going to wait for her to email her? Are you going to ask her to phone you? Make it clear what you want, so that she will know what to do. Don’t just send an email introducing yourself. Always end it with something firm, like:

I’m booking up for next season now, and I’d love to talk to you in the next two weeks to see if I could partner with you in ministry. You can reach me by email, or by phone at 555-1212. I look forward to hearing from you!

Then, if you don’t hear from her in two weeks, send a gentle follow-up email asking if she would be interested in talking to you about your speaking ideas. Even better, do some more research to see if you can find a friend of a friend who knows her and who can introduce you or call her on your behalf.

Cold calling is difficult. But now’s a great time to do it! Often over the summer people are just starting to panic about what next year’s ministry is going to look like. So bite the bullet, do your research, and jump in! Ministry close to home is always special because we’re affecting the community we know and love. So go for it!

Want to delve more deeply into how to generate new leads for speaking? My audio download, How to Get Better Bookings, can help you fill up your calendar!


  1. Gail Crust says

    Great advice, Sheila! I feel much more at ease about jumping in to this aspect of launching my ministry! Although, as I think about making that list of local churches to call on, flashbacks to a certain 13-year-old boy named Ricky are leaping into my mind…

  2. says


    I’ve wanted to try this for years, but I get so nervous. The majority of my invites are via word of mouth. I would like to use this plan to fill in some gof the gaps in my calendar.
    You make it sound so easy. Praying as I go…

    Bless you - Robin G.

    • says

      Robin, you have such a rich speaking history I wouldn’t be nervous at all! If you have holes in your schedue, this may be a great way of filling them. And you have great references, too!

  3. says

    I recently went on vacation and cold called several of the churches in the area that I was going. It was HARD and I so wish I had had this guide before I did that!

    All that said, the cold calling actually turned out fairly well. While I didn’t end up with an engagement during my vacation, I did send out several copies of my book and have recently had two of the churches contact me for bookings. It took a little while to see fruit, but it is there!

    Thanks for great tips AGAIN, Sheila! You rock!

  4. says

    Thank you Sheila! I have been procrastinating making these calls, though I knew God had called me to do them, for several months. This morning the man who is courting me called me out, saying, if Esther could risk her life for God’s calling then surely I could risk the annoyance of a few pastors. I got online to see if I could find some direction in how to start; in looking before I had never seen your website, but now I feel prepared to make the calls and leave the results in the hands of my Abba. Thank you, all too rarely do we get to see the results of our labors, and so I wanted to share with you the impact your work had on me.

  5. Helena says

    Sheila, your teaching has given me firm confirmation of taking the plunge of going forward with what God has called me to do! I’m over due! Thank You. I can’t believe God is speaking to me at 4:00am! I got to get some sleep so I can get busy in a few hours!

  6. says

    Hi Sheila, good message. I’ve never used cold-calling to minister (speak). It’s always been word of mouth but living in a new state has proven that to now be difficult and cold-call is necessary. A few of your tips I will prayerfully try.

    Question, please, what is your opinion of the best way to use Twitter to advertise your availability without sounding like you’re marketing/pushing yourself on others?

    Also, do you have any suggestions for the best way to search out the churches locally to cold-call?

    Thanks. God bless.

    • says

      Hi Lisa! I find the best thing that works with Twitter is to talk about what you’re actually doing. Tweet before a speaking engagement and after a speaking engagement. Add pictures to Facebook. If people see that you speak, then they’ll think of you that way and they’ll contact you. I often tweet the titles of my talks, too, so that people start thinking of me that way. Rather than say, “I’m available to speak”, then, you say, “Had such a blessed time speaking for *** this weekend! Delved deeply into Philippians 2, and had a great response!” Stuff like that works better.

      As for how to search out the churches, I’d start with the contacts you already have and ask them for referrals. Alternatively, go to the Christian radio station and see if they have a local calendar of events up on their website and see who does women’s events frequently. Hope that helps!


  1. […] Recently I wrote a post on how to handle gaps in your schedule. We all have them, because speaking is an insecure existence. You will find you are busy at times and very light at times, and that’s just the way the flow goes. I told you that I’m to the point that I accept when I’m going to be not busy. If there are no bookings, I just get grateful for the time to rest, because I know a busy season will always come down the road. […]

  2. […] Recently I wrote a post on how to handle gaps in your schedule. We all have them, because speaking is an insecure existence. You will find you are busy at times and very light at times, and that’s just the way the flow goes. I told you that I’m to the point that I accept when I’m going to be not busy. If there are no bookings, I just get grateful for the time to rest, because I know a busy season will always come down the road. […]

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