Thursday, September 15, 2016

7 Communication Tips For Preaching As A Woman

"How Do I Preach With Authority As A Woman?"

"…especially when I know people are listening who may disagree with me preaching because I'm female?"

A student in my preaching class asked me this question recently.  Trying to find the answer took me on a two month journey seeking out answers from solid female preachers.  Since I couldn’t speak from personal experience as a guy, I sought out women who speak primarily from a general platform to both men and women.  I'm looking to encourage more than debate, since I serve in a Christian community that openly embraces leaders and preachers, whether male or female.  As I interviewed four different highly respectable female preachers/leaders, certain themes started to surface. I realize these tips won’t universally apply to all women depending on your situation, personal calling, or doctrinal stance, but this was too rich for me to keep to myself.  


Answer #1: “People Need Jesus.” 

The shared heartbeat of these women is that, “People need Jesus.”  They see spreading the gospel of Jesus as the main issue. It isn’t these preacher's and leader’s first and foremost mission to prove women’s role in ministry.   Actually, focusing on being a female too much was seen as potentially inhibiting by losing sight of the main goal.  “When you preach, it’s not about being a woman.  It's about you wanting people to hear from God…”  

*These pictures included are of women preachers I respect but aren't meant to be tied to specific quotes, answers, or themes below.
Priscilla Shirer

Answer #2: “Focus More On Growing In Communication and Leadership As A Leader, Than As A Woman.” 

These women treat ministry challenges as universal leadership and preaching issues, rather than making it gender specific to female leadership and communication issues. “At the forefront of our thoughts, we are, first, prophets called by God, (Joel 2, Acts 2, Galatians 3:28) before we are women, men, young, old, red or yellow, black or white.” “It’s not, 'How do I lead and preach better specifically as a woman?'  It’s, 'How do I lead and preach better as a whole?'” Remember that most difficulties, “are not because you're a female, but because you’re in ministry.” People & ministry are messy.  There will always be problems and problem people.  See new job adjustments as young leader challenges that every young leader has to face rather them unnecessarily attributing them to being a young 'female' leader

I understand the irony that more extreme stances might argue this blog's title including "as a women," is counterproductive or contradictory for the reason stated above in #2. 
*Nicole Reyes

Answer #3: “It Becomes An Issue When You Make It An Issue.” 

As mentioned above, These women repeatedly commented that preaching and leading as a women often becomes an issue when you make it an issue.  The encouragement was that "being a woman is not a personal hindrance for many of their ministry contexts and world circles.  It's about being qualified or the right leader for the opportunity."  Don't use your gender as an excuse or obstacle.  Focus on walking in confidence in your calling & pursing competence first and foremost as a leader. If you “walk in your gifting (as equals)... people will then equalize you... so that you’ll talk less about your difficulties specifically as a woman.”  “I do not speak about being a woman when I am in the pulpit [in a mixed crowd].  If we don’t bring so much attention to it, then it helps others to stop bringing so much attention to it."  

(Those interviewed acknowledged women can face specific hardships and would never seek to undermine legitimate discrimination & hard circumstances), but they were consistently trying to relieve female students from fears of pending hardships in the “real world.” Their tone was more about open doors and ample opportunities than closed doors for gifted women. 
*Heather Semple

Answer #4: “Settle It In Your Own Heart.”

These women are all very settled in their hearts on their calling and role in ministry.  They encouraged other women to do so sooner than later too.  Finding resolve in your hearts about what capacity you felt comfortable serving in was game changing.  They Prioritized their deep resolve to minister & preach the gospel out of their strengths.  If you’re confident & called to speak/minister, then step out and do it.  Don’t preach in certain settings if you have a strong conviction or deep questioning about women being in front of men.  Believe in your ministry call so much that it drives you at your core.  Otherwise you'll continually be aware or insecure about things like age or gender...  "If the gospel rewards your steps, go with it."  Also, “Help other people with the language" of women in ministry. I've heard multiple lead pastors mention how they expect to yearly or semi-regularly answer questions about women leading and preaching at their church.  It's wise to have resources on hand (like the ones provided in the next paragraph).  

*Christy Lipscomb

 Answer #4 (Part 2): Settle It In Your Own Heart Biblically.

Two beginning sources to read for a Biblical basis in my denomination are Why Wesleyans Favor Women In Ministry for a short Biblical explanation and Women In Ministry Resource Page for more Resources. Helping honest inquirers with Biblical answers and explanations for 1 Timothy & 1 Corinthians will most likely be a semi-regular part of your future  ministry.
To settle things in your heart, you need to have A starting Scriptural basis for women preachers & leadership is that men and women are "One in Christ" Galatians 3:27-28 and both are made in God's image back in the Genesis 1-3 Account.
  Here's a beginning list of examples of "not silent" women preaching, leading, & ministering in the New Testament.

o   Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17 predicted that Christian daughters would prophesy.
o   Philip’s four virgin daughters prophesied (Acts 21:9)

o   The Spirit is without preferential treatment based off gender in Acts 2:1-11 & 1 Cor 12:7,11

o   In Romans 12:4-8 & 1 Peter 4:10-11, all believers offer gifts for the benefit of the Body
o Phoebe is a “deacon” Rom 16:1-this word is used in Phil 1:1 and 1 Tim 3:8 for church leaders 
o Women are ministering to men in Acts 18:26

o   The church meets in women’s homes like Lydia Acts 16:15 & Nympha Col 4:15.

o   Junias may have been an apostle (Romans 16:7)
o   Men and women together make up the new priesthood in Christ. (1 Peter 2:9-10).
o   1 Cor 11:4-5 Refers to married women prophesying -The lack of covering dishonors their heads which 11:3 defines as their husbands.  And nothing in the context indicates that these women only prophesied to women, 1 Cor 11-12 actually imply the contrary since women and men are undifferentiated “in Christ.”
The starting Scriptures used against women preaching or in certain ministry roles often include

o   1 Timothy 2:11-15 “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man…

o   1 Corinthians 14:34-36 “ Women should remain silent in the churches…"
 o   Other verses involve the themes of Headship & Submission (1 Corinthians 11, Ephesians 5)

Note: Biblical scholarship has strong defenses for both sides of this argument
o   So, be diligent in your Scripture study
o   Find voices who can patiently explain, discuss, & explore your hard questions with you.
*Anita Eastlack

Answer #5: “Go Where You’re Welcomed & Disregard The Settings Where You’re Not.”

The women interviewed respectfully but confidently dismissed their need for the approval of 
closed audiences and people.  “It doesn’t matter if others question you…” they advised.  "If they 
don’t believe I should be preaching… that’s okay I’m still going to see them in heaven.  There are 
plenty of people who don’t struggle with this theology and they’re usually unsaved."  "It’s not your 
responsibility to make sure everyone believes and listens to you…”   One leader added, “I would advise a called woman to pray and seek out a setting where the theology allows for women in leadership.” 

*JoAnn Lyons

Answer #6: Model Respect & Professionalism Through Work.

Stay consistently professional in your work relationships.  It will send a message about boundaries to yourself and to those around you.  It will also help you earn trust. Even if you have an outgoing and down-to-earth personality, you can choose to sacrifice that for the sake of your calling just as missionaries make personal sacrifices for their calling.  Dress, act, and talk according to the respect that you wish for people to give you.  Again, it can be a sacrifice, but our outward appearance is a part of our testimony.You will dress different as the point leader of churches than as a preschool teacher… always professional but different.  Dressing for the role.  What I wear is about stewarding the role while giving hints of my personality.

*Constance Cherry

Answer #7: Preach and Lead in Christ From A Well Carried and Humble Self-Confidence that's Obedient, Authentic, Adaptable, Excellent, & Direct.

"Spiritual Authority is the blessing of the Holy Spirit bestowed as a result of serving God's purposes faithfully while receiving the voice that God has given to you and are willing to embrace." One's spiritual authority, whether female or male, emerges over time as they faithfully employ the giftedness and calling that comes from God... humbly obeying and investing in you craft.  
“Authority comes [with] authenticity.”  The women interviewed consistently encouraged young women looking to preach or lead to be themselves. “You can’t be something you’re not.” “You can't be a great communicator if you're not being yourself. Don’t despise the vessel.” "Just be you."   
Self-awareness and grit are essential for welcoming the necessary feedback & changes you need to remain healthy.  Your insecurities left unbridled or un-dealt with can ruin your ministry and the people around you.  You have to be strong enough to face the facts (instead of blame, excuse, or deflect).  For example, if people avoid having a necessary but sensitive conversation with you around dress and modesty out of fear of you being offended or defensively reacting, this can be symptomatic of an unhealthy "walking on eggshells" environment. " can't lead with a chip on your shoulder.”  Leading or preaching defensively or being bitter won't bring the results you want.  
“Know your audience.”  These preachers were very aware and sensitive to knowing their platforms and audience. “Great communicators need to know their audience”  and whether they are speaking to children, teenagers, elderly, men, women, etc?  Being "all things to all people" is an art. 
“Work towards using the best illustrations & sermons possible.”  Instead of defensively avoiding how to sound "too female" or feminine, focus on preaching and using the best illustration possible.  If you speak about your family… make sure it can take the whole audience down memory lane with something they can all connect with from their childhood… avoid limited crowd or isolating experiences like shopping experiences only girls would understand.  
 Preach to the point.  These women all had a directness to their communication that allowed them to speak candidly and to the point without being passive. Don't helicopter and keep circling and talking around a point...  Land the plane! Also, stay to the main point... Vary between using "We"/"Us" language with "You" language, to avoid coming across as condescending.  Watch your pace & breathing to avoid getting to high pitched. 
*Natasha Dongell

CLICK HERE: For An Even Longer Unfiltered Version of the quotes I collected 

A few other blogs to consider: