It Happened To MeRelated Media
These are real-life stories from the Bible.org Women’s Leadership Team to encourage you and provide take-aways for your ministry.
I was almost derailed in my first year of teaching a medium-sized, all-ages women’s bible study. During the lecture portion of the lesson as we gathered in a smaller area, the front row was especially close to the platform. I began to hear someone’s phone ringing (this was many years ago, so even the sound of a phone ringing during Bible study was a bit disarming). Not only did the young woman not silence her phone, she picked it up and engaged in a rather lengthy conversation.
I was so distracted by someone having a phone conversation fifteen feet in front of me that I’m certain my train of thought went out the window. What did I do? I kept teaching but totally lost my concentration and was rattled for a few moments afterwards. What should I have done now that I’m more experienced and have the benefit of hindsight? Several possibilities come to mind:
- Remind the audience to turn off their cell phones prior to beginning the lecture.
- Focus and carry on despite the distraction.
- Silently wait for the conversation to be completed and then continue the lecture.
- Stop and address it creatively with humor. For example, sing or dance to the music of the ring tone.
Take away: Distractions are a given if you plan to teach. Expect them. There’s no telling what you will face as a teacher. As you become more experienced you’ll learn how to take distractions in stride. That’s why it’s essential to pray and rely on the Holy Spirit to guide you and your responses. Remember to be gracious, the next time the phone rings it might be yours.
You’ve had the nightmare, haven’t you? You show up at school and realize your homework isn’t done or you didn’t prepare for the test? Perhaps your nightmare is into a staff meeting forgetting a big project due today! From time-to-time we all share these bad dreams that reveal our subconscious concern and desire to be prepared.
Have you ever experienced a real-life nightmare? I narrowly missed one and I learned a valuable lesson.
I was asked to speak at Dallas Theological Seminary chapel service. What an honor to address the students and faculty where I had graduated from years earlier. Since I had the freedom to choose my subject topic, I wanted to share my current ministry challenge of working with and leading a diverse “lay” team. My role as Minister of Community included leading the effort to change our Sunday School model to a “church of small groups.” To accomplish this I recruited a lay team that was intergenerational, singles and married, male and female. I was to learn how different each personality was on the team. The road to work together was not always smooth but we found ways to work through our differences. My great desire was to share how challenging ministry is and yet, how great the opportunity to learn to love one another while accomplishing a task.
Videoing each team member individually sharing their story of working together was powerful and uniquely answered the question, “Am I valuable on this team?” My task was to pull their stories together and compare to the “team” Jesus had led. I was relying heavily on the videos to illustrate my points. I knew my script well and had several copies of the videos. But I was in for a big surprise when I got to campus!
I was the last person scheduled to be in the “old” chapel before anticipated renovations. All technology was going to be replaced and current video capabilities were not always reliable. In fact, I was told when I arrived it may or may not work today. My worst nightmare could potentially happen as I did not have a hard copy of their stories; I was depending on the videos. As I prayed, God graciously answered and the team videos worked without a glitch. But what if it hadn’t?
Take away: I have learned to be prepared “in season and out of season,” with technology or without technology. Ask yourself the question, what is your backup if the technology fails for this presentation?
- Arrive early the day of the presentation to test the technology.
- Bring an electronic copy of your presentation on a different medium.
- If possible, also bring a hard copy of your presentation.
Was I out of my mind? How could I have agreed to be one of five speakers on a panel discussion for my alma mater, Dallas Theological Seminary? (Sheer intimidation.) The moderator of the panel discussion assigned just two questions to each speaker and allotted only three minutes per question. “I can do this,” I thought, trying to give myself a pep talk. “No problem. That’s no time at all.”
The day before the event I wrote out answers to each question and practiced (out loud) to ensure my responses would fall within the time limit. In fact, knowing that I tend to speak slower in public, and ad lib on occasion, I left room for the unknown and even shortened my responses. Taking my preparation a step further, I highlighted the essential key points should I have even less time for whatever reason. Lastly, I made note of the clock time/duration when I would be speaking. I then transferred my responses to my iPad and printed out a hard copy. (Never put your whole trust in technology.)
My boss from my previous career in architecture always used to describe me in this way, “Whatever you lack in experience, you make up for in preparation.” I was still nervous, but at least I was prepared.
The next day the moderator placed me fifth in the seating arrangement, the last of the speakers. The discussion began and although nervous, I got caught up in the other speakers’ contributions. What they were sharing was fascinating. When it became my turn to speak I glanced at the clock and with shock, realized it was already 11:17 a.m. I was scheduled to speak from 11:14-11:17 am for my first response. I had no time. My time was up before I even started. As often happens in discussion formats, time slips away.
But I had to say something, and I had to say it fast (but not make it seem like I was saying it fast). As I started speaking I also started scrolling past all the details that I had written and hit the main highlighted points only. I wrapped it up in record time and turned it back to the moderator. The moderator then explained we now had just two (not three) minutes each to answer the last question.
Four speakers and four more fascinating responses later, it was again my turn, and when I looked at the clock, again I had no time. Time was up. So once again I scrolled, scrolled, scrolled through my responses on my iPad, hitting the main points and cutting the rest. The moderator wrapped it up, and overall, we only exceeded our total time by a few minutes. Whew! I survived.
How did I survive? Preparation. Had I not practiced, had I not highlighted the key points, I would have either frozen on that stage or caused the entire discussion to be way over time, possibly not allowing for question number two. But I also give thanks to the Holy Spirit, who, during the inside-my-head-panic, made sense of all that I had written and practiced, and condensed it down to be exactly what the audience needed to hear.
Take away: Be prepared, have key points highlighted in your notes, rely on the Holy Spirit, and then try to not take time away from other speakers. (Ha!)
“I wear makeup as a public service.”
That is one of my favorite lines when I give my testimony. It always gets a laugh . . . in the United States. But when I shared my story through a translator with the women of a small church in Belarus (in the former Soviet Union), it fell flat.
In Belarus, many women--especially those in churches--don’t wear much makeup. In fact, it is frowned upon; many church people see it as ungodly and worldly. And there is no such thing as public service in Soviet bloc countries as we have here. My little joke fell completely flat because it didn’t make any sense. Humor often doesn’t translate well into other cultures. (Except, as I learned from my friend Dr. Sandra Glahn, for mother-in-law jokes. Those are universal.)
Take away: know your audience, and be especially sensitive to cultural differences.
I wasn't sure I could make it. It was time to give the lecture I prepared but I awoke with a burning bladder infection. I was abjectly miserable, but with an entire class dependent upon me to complete their morning study, I got dressed and drove to Bible study, prayed and began. My memory of the forty-minute teaching was blurry, and snuggling into bed to recover later that day I was overwhelmed with feelings of failure.
The next week as the class leadership gathered, I began to hear reports of how God worked in the lives of not only the leaders, but the class members as well. Truly God had used a weak and stumbling lecturer to accomplish His purposes.
I learned that day, and the lesson was reinforced over and over many times, that it IS God who does the work through the instrument of His choice. So often as teachers we inwardly "rate" our performance: good, bad, or in-between. That habit is dangerous. If we feel that we have "done well" we are in danger of pride. If we feel we were totally ineffective, we berate ourselves and succumb to guilt. Neither is productive.
I am reminded of the words of Dr. Bill Bright when he was teaching on evangelism. He described witnessing as "Sharing Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and leaving the results to God." That mantra is mine now for teaching. My job is to be faithful in preparation and presentation in the power of the Holy Spirit and trust that God will use it for His purposes. In this way, no matter the skill or lack thereof, if I have been faithful in prayer and preparation, I can leave the results to God. I can resist the temptation of pride and the bitter taste of guilt and failure.
- My responsibility is to pray, prepare and present.
- God's part is to use my preparation for His purposes.
- Don't waste time and emotional energy scoring my "performance."