Choosing the Right Speaker for Your Women's Retreat
- Tuesday, September 26, 2006
An excellent retreat program can draw women to their church’s women’s ministry like bees to flowers. Most women love to get away from their daily responsibilities for a time of spiritual and physical refreshment. Often, the choice of guest speaker attracts the attention and provokes women to attend. What qualities should leaders look for in a speaker? How do we choose the right speaker for our women’s retreat?
The speaker’s significance to the retreat can not be overstated. She proclaims the Word of God. She is the model of what Jesus can do in women’s lives. In a sense, she is the Lord’s representative, speaking on His behalf to woo women into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to build up those who already know Him. The speaker sets the tone of the retreat, making it an inspiring God-glorifying experience — or a let down. Choose your speaker carefully and prayerfully.
Questions to consider:
Is she grounded in God’s Word?
To transform lives, choose a Bible teacher. Be sure she teaches messages based on the Scriptures and sound doctrine. You may want her to affirm your church’s doctrinal statement to ensure her beliefs are similar to those of your church. Often friends or women in your church will recommend speakers they hear. Keep a record of these names to draw from when you are ready to begin the selection process.
There are many ways to evaluate whether a speaker is a good match for your retreat. Explore her church background and training. Check her references. Ask for feedback from others who have heard her speak. Listen to taped messages, or even better, observe her in action to analyze not only the content of her message but also her demeanor and body language.
Is her Bible message interesting, relevant, and applicable?
It’s a sin to bore people with the Bible, but speakers still do. If your speaker is dry, unable to connect or relate to women’s everyday needs, she can ruin the retreat. Find a speaker who is passionate about ministering to women, one who knows issues women today face, and who will challenge them with measurable goals to apply after they leave.
Is she a skilled, gifted communicator?
Find a woman who loves to teach God’s Word and is good at it. You can tell by listening. A gifted teacher connects with her audience. She presents her material in ways that are easily grasped by the newcomer and the veteran. Her content is valuable, something to ponder and chew on. She loves to study and pass on what God teaches her. She is interesting, often humorous, but her message is more than entertaining. There is solid, meaty substance that changes lives, and it is delivered with winsome words and clarity.
Is she mature?
Once a gifted young woman in her early twenties asked her older Bible teacher if she could join the teaching team. The older teacher answered, “But, my dear, what would you have to say?” Certainly the teacher did not mean that this young woman had nothing to offer. However, she had not lived long enough to have very much to say about life. Find a woman who has walked with the Lord long enough to have something meaningful to say. This does not necessarily correspond to chronological age, but often age is a factor.
Is she real?
Speakers who give the impression they are perfection personified are liars. Find a speaker who is a fellow struggler, yet an overcomer. Ask her to tell her story early in the retreat, especially if she is a stranger. As she opens up her life to the women who attend, they will open up their lives to one another. Then the process of healing can begin.
Is she personable?
No matter how good the speaker, if she doesn’t spend time with the women, she sabotages her message. You want a speaker who connects with women one-on-one or in groups, especially with those who have questions or need a special word of counsel. Speakers who join women at meals, sit to talk and pray after main sessions, and take time to greet women beforehand show the heart of Jesus and back up their words with action.
What is her heart attitude? Is she a super-star, an entertainer there to make a name for herself—or does she genuinely care about the women she is teaching? For a retreat that changes lives, choose a speaker who cares rather than a prima donna!
How do you recruit a speaker?
Pray about the names of recommended women, asking God to reveal His choice for that year’s retreat. Remember to work with one speaker at a time. If you cannot work out the details with one, then you know she isn’t God’s choice, and you begin the process again with another.
Contact your candidate by phone to learn about her availability and fee. If these meet with your approval, explain your expectations. How many messages would she deliver? Are there other meetings you want her to attend? If she is positive about the possibility, ask her to pray and tell her you will call her back, giving her a time frame when she can expect to hear from you.
If she accepts the invitation, meet face to face. Now is the time to work out details. If she isn’t local, set up a time for an extended phone call. What details do you need to agree on?
What do the women need to hear?
Often a retreat speaker will have three or four prepared retreat “packages” to choose from—subjects that are her passion. You know the women who will be attending. Does one of these subjects meet their particular needs right now? If not, is the speaker willing to create new retreat messages for you? Preparation time may be up to eighty hours for four new messages. Some speakers simply do not have the time. Others are willing. Take this into account when you pay her.
What will you pay her?
Fees vary from speaker to speaker. Professional speakers and authors often have a set fee, sometimes thousands of dollars as well as air fare and expenses. Authors want to sell their books and some even bring a team to oversee their sales. If she is traveling, you are expected to pay airfare or mileage as well as accommodations and meals. Most churches can’t afford a professional speaker and instead look for a woman in their locale. There are probably a number of excellent speakers right in your back yard. Talk to women at other churches. Whom have they enjoyed?
Most local speakers do not charge a set fee but work with the church on the amount. What is reasonable? Find out what a speaker normally is paid in your area for a luncheon and multiply by the number of messages. Explain to the speaker if you have a limited budget, and she may be willing to speak for less. Work out these details up front.
Where can you find speakers?
Your location and size will determine much of the resources available to you. In the “Bible Belt,” it is difficult not to find any number of qualified speakers. But across
Ministry is about people — not programs. And your speaker is key to your retreat’s success.
Kelley Mathews, Th.M. (Dallas Theological Seminary), married and blessed with three young children, spends her spare time freelancing as a writer and editor. She served several years as the Women’s Ministry Director at Rowlett Bible Fellowship. Her two coauthored books are New Doors in Ministry to Women and Women’s Retreats: A Creative Planning Guide (both from Kregel). She welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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