I recently had the joy of serving with the planning committee for a women’s conference at our church. The experience was one that grew me, challenged me, and stirred my affections deeper for the Lord. While the process itself was changing me personally, I knew that our team’s preparation leading up to the event could also impact the attendees’ engagement at the conference. We could either create an atmosphere where God could do His work or we could create an environment that fostered distraction.
When it comes to including a guest speaker in your preparations for a women’s event, the details can become a little more complicated. You’re pulling in someone at ground zero. She knows nothing about your church or organization or your vision, and it’s your job to fill in the blanks for them. What you say and how you say it directly affects your speaker’s engagement and, therefore, the engagement of those who attend. So how do you accomplish this effectively?
Take on the Mindset of a Servant
We often think of a guest speaker or teacher as the one coming to serve, not the one needing refreshment, but I challenge you to think of them this way. Philippians 2:1–16 is a perfect picture of how the Church should serve each other with humility. Christ, our example, gives us this ability to serve others. Because we are united with Christ, are recipients of His love, and have His Spirit (v. 1) we are able to serve in one accord. This is true both with your planning team and with your speakers.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (vv. 5–8).
Allow God’s Spirit to Work
Our planning efforts are meaningless without Christ. This is true even in our communication. “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (v. 13).
We are only instruments in the planning, so hold your plans with an open hand and allow room for God’s Spirit to move and to act. Allow God the freedom to move in your speaker’s heart rather than planning out every little thing you want her to cover, and allow God’s Spirit to move in you as you serve your speaker.
Remember to Act in Love
Be intentional to create an environment for your speaker that is both engaging and restful. Pray over her and her preparation, and provide opportunities for her to fellowship with Christ. Think about what will allow her to leave your event feeling built up and encouraged, not unnecessarily drained and needing recovery.
Think also about the language you use. Is it loving or does it tear others down? Never speak poorly of your planning team, women’s ministry, family, etc., to your speaker. “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” (vv. 14–15).
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff!
Put on the mindset of Christ, and then just think practically. Put yourself in the shoes of your speaker. What information would you like to know if you were in her place? What would make your experience a better one? What would help you in preparation and fellowship with Christ?
Practical Ways to Serve
Here are some practical ways you can serve your speaker:
- Assign a point-of-contact.
Set up one or two designated people who will be the sole point-of-contact. One person can be the communicator, sending emails and ensuring your speaker has the information she needs before she arrives. If desired, you can assign another person to be the on-site contact during the event. This may include arranging her travel to or from your event site, serving as an aid during the event to make sure your speaker knows where she needs to be at what time, and helping with things like meals, snacks, water, or coffee.
- Think about what’s important.
The big idea here is to keep it simple. Focus on information that is only pertinent for your speaker. This includes sharing your ministry’s mission statement, as well as the vision for your event. Share your event title, theme, theme verses, and a brief outline of what the event will look like. Share the structure of the event. Will you have breakout groups? Will you hold smaller teaching sessions to enhance the main teaching? How long does your speaker have to teach?
Think about the facets of your event that will either directly affect or be affected by what your speaker is teaching. Also remember to share logistical information about where the event is being held and travel arrangements for your speaker. This information will allow her to plan and pray accordingly, feel prepared, and know what to expect before she arrives at your event.
- Limit communication.
It’s important to limit the amount of communication you send to your speaker, especially if she is a professional speaker and travels frequently. Try to gather all pertinent information up-front so you can limit your emails. Utilize your first email to give as many details about the event as possible. It will be helpful for this information to be in one place so your speaker has one reference instead of searching through a chain of emails.
Then, a week or two before your event, check in with your speaker to ensure she has all the details she needs and ask if there is anything else you can do to help her prepare. As much as possible, avoid last minute changes and new requests. Consider incorporating a final “prayer push” for your speaker, and ask if there are any specific requests she has so you can intercede in the final days of preparation.
As followers of Christ, we are called to love those around us through laying down our lives. When we take on this servant mindset and seek to help those around us, everything else falls into place. You can be instrumental in your speakers leaving refreshed and encouraged rather than worn down. These simple parameters were extremely helpful for us and can be for you, too.