Hey girl, you got something to say? // I’m thrilled to introduce you to one of my favorite authors and speakers today – Bo Stern. Bo just happens to be a girl and she just happens to have a powerful ministry of speaking and writing, both inside and outside of the church. I asked her to share encouragement and advice for other women who feel like God’s leading them to minister through speaking or writing publicly (whether or not you’ve actually “gone public” yet). And she. has. delivered. As you might have guessed, ‘Professional Words Girl’ isn’t Bo’s real title. Her real title is ‘Super Awesome Inspiring Woman Who Blesses Everyone Around Her Just By Being Her’. (I still can’t figure out why her business cards say otherwise.) I’m incredibly grateful Bo has taken the time to share in my 31 Days of Women Empowering Women series (thank you, Bo! xo), and I know you’ll be empowered by the wisdom her years of experience have afforded her.
I am a words girl. And since you’re reading Adriel’s amazing blog, I’m guessing you are as well. I’ve been a speaker and writer in the church for many years and I’m also a voice for the ALS community, so I use words for a living both in and out of religious settings. I love my job and I love to see other women step up and begin to realize that they have a story and a voice.
Though women have come a long way in the past hundred years, the gender debate still rages inside the walls of the church (and women currently represent about 20% of clergy in America). I’m not here to convince you one way or another and I wouldn’t even if I could. Each woman needs to know and own her position theologically and there aren’t any short cuts. Read, research and pray. Do the work of figuring it out. And if you come to the conclusion that you are also a words girl and you’d love to use those words to strengthen the church, here are a dozen tips, gathered from the towering mountain of my own mistakes.
1. Weaknesses are usually a strength gone viral. Women who are gifted at using words to make a case for the goodness of God may also be tempted to use words as a way to build a case against someone else. And they will probably be able to do it quite effectively. Women who are confident enough to step up on a platform and preach, may also struggle when they aren’t noticed and aren’t seen. We need God to harness our strength for His purposes and give Him permission to show us the places that need correction, healing or maturity.
2. My children want to be children and not sermon illustrations. (Yeah, learned this one the painful way.) Draw clear lines between what is for the public and what is not. Our homes need to be safe. Our relationships are sacred and nothing in my career or calling is worth risking the trust of the ones I love the most.
3. Honor men by honoring the man in your life publicly. This is not the same as gushing. No one enjoys that (except maybe your mother-in-law). What I’m saying is: speak well of your man. Don’t expose his faults. Don’t make him, or your marriage, or men in general a punch line. Your willingness to honor him will pay off in all sorts of wonderful ways.
4. Tell the truth. Make sure your sources are right, your stories are legit and your statistics add up. I once heard about a church that had to un-invite a keynote speaker because they found out the story she was sharing was significantly exaggerated. Drama may sell tabloids but it’s the truth that sets us free.
5. Men can get away with saying things women cannot – especially to and about each other. Is that fair? Maybe not, but I don’t think it matters if it’s fair or not. It would only matter if being able to say anything a man can say was the goal. But when you commit your communication gift to God and His purposes, you give up your right to say anything you want so that you can maintain the influence to say what He wants.
6. Filling up is essential to giving out. Time with Jesus is not optional and it is not the same as studying. Make relationship with Him the priority if you’re hoping to communicate about Him to a watching world.
7. Competition kills and comparison is the birthplace of competition. Refuse to compare or compete because I’ve never met anyone (myself included) who could be both jealous and joyful.
8. Social media: choose your battles and weigh every word. When in doubt, ask this: 1) Is it true? 2) Is it positive? 3) Is it necessary? If you are a writer, it’s important that you take social media seriously because it leaves a fairly permanent footprint.
9. Give truth time to prove itself in your own life before you teach it or write it. Good learners make good teachers, but sometimes it’s tempting to skip the learning step and go right to the teaching. I’ve done it and I regret it every time.
10. Harness the power of humility. Ann VosKamp says: “Die to all ladders.” Titles. Bios. Introductions. Credit. Accolades. Affirmation. They are fleeting and crowds are fickle. Your identity must be rooted in the One who does. Not. Change.
11. If you don’t have anything to say, don’t force it. So simple in theory, yet so difficult to pull off in practice. I will confess to sometimes writing myself little notes in meetings that say: Dear Bo, you do not have to have an opinion. P.S. Even if you have one, you do not have to express it. People who love words and are good at them, can easily overuse them.
12. If God gives you a word, He will fight for your right to share it. Trust Him. He’s always worth it.
Bo Stern knows the most beautiful things can come out of the hardest times. Her Goliath came in the form of her husband’s terminal illness, a battle they are still fighting with the help of their four children, a veritable army of friends, and our extraordinary God. A teaching pastor at Westside Church in Bend, Oregon, Bo is the author of Beautiful Battlefieldsand the soon-to-be-released Ruthless: Knowing the God Who Fights for You.
Dear friends, do you feel called as a “words girl” in some capacity? And, if so, have you accepted that yet? What holds you back from really pursuing a ministry of words? And what have you gleaned from Bo’s advice here today?
Love, A x
p.s. For more of Bo straight in your inbox, join me in subscribing to her blog here: Bo Stern – The Difference of Day. (You won’t regret it.)
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