Vision-Casting: Developing Your Methodology

12.26.12_Celebrate_Success_and_Plan_for_2013So, we’ve dug through scripture to determine our biblical foundation.  We’ve lined that up with the cultural and contextual teachings that drive our ministry.  We’ve laid a foundation and built walls to form our structure….now for the fun stuff! What do we do?  How does our ministry function in the world?


Jeremy Pace from Resurgence calls this our furniture.  He puts it like this:

Furniture should complement and enhance the function of a room. Likewise, yourmethods (the how to’s) should be based on your theology and philosophy and should fitwithin the boundaries set by them. Remember, furniture is only functional for so longbefore it wears out and either needs to be replaced or reupholstered. The reality is thathaving a solid foundation and a clearly defined framework allows you to be creative andnot limited to how you go about doing ministry


To begin “furnishing” your ministry, ask yourself these questions:

•Based on your theology and philosophy, what are the methods that you will use to
see the vision fulfilled?

•Does your current furniture fit in the new rooms? Do you have a toilet in the living
room or a bed in the bathroom?

•How does your philosophy of ministry look organizationally?

•Do you have the right positions in your organization?

•How does each ministry/program fit within the philosophy?

It’s important to remember that the methodology should not drive the ministry.  Your philosophy and your theological foundation drive the ministry.  Don’t become so attached to a “how-to” that you find yourself “remodeling the room because you like the couch.”




Vision-Casting: Your Philosophy is Your Filter

12.26.12_Celebrate_Success_and_Plan_for_2013Last week we talked about building the framework, or more aptly, the foundation for your ministry.  We began (or continued) working through the questions that every ministry leader should ask as they begin the process of deciding how their ministry should function in the world.

The theological foundation upon which you build is extremely important to defining your over all goals and mission on the field.  It has been a lengthy and prayerful process for me to work through taking the better part of a month and lots of wise counsel and prayer from my spiritual mentors.  Take time to nail this first part down, before moving on,

Once you’ve determined the scriptural basis for your ministry, it’s time to begin building the grid work which will become the filter through which all opportunities and ideas should pass when making decisions: the philosophy. Jeremy Pace of Resurgence likens these to the walls of a home.

You begin with the load-bearing walls.  These are immovable, unchangeable within the structure (else the structure falls down). They are the primary grid which make up the shape and form of a home.  Ask yourself the question:

•What are the non-negotiable, prescribed truths of Scripture that set the boundaries?

The next step is to begin constructing the interior walls.  These determine what you are and are not about.  Ask yourself these questions:

•What biblical imperatives and indicatives does your church/ministry/organization need to explicitly articulate because they are overlooked?

•What biblical imperatives and indicatives does your church/ministry/organization practice faithfully (almost without thinking)?

•What biblical imperatives and indicatives does the culture and context of your church ignore or fight against? These you will want to make more explicit.

•What biblical imperatives and indicatives are paralleled within your culture and context but need to be connected? (These too you will want to make more explicit.)

These questions will begin to define the type of culture your ministry will subscribe to and thus become the filter for everything that you do.

snail crossing finish lineSo I am on to building these walls.  I said this before, but I think it bears repeating, this has not been a speedy process for me- although I must admit I thought I had already done most of this work.  What I have found is that as I dig, God opens up questions in my heart.  He opens up visions of something more in places and less in others and is awakening me to a renewed sense of purpose through my ministry.  I hope and pray that as you work through these questions with me, he does the same for you as well.

Vision-Casting for Your Ministry- Pt 1

It’s that time of year again….
You know the time of year when you put on your rose colored glasses and look bright-eyed into the future…

The time of year when you take a serious look at all that you are discontent with, and, with hope rather than our usual resignation look forward to a better you…

A skinnier you.
A healthier you.
A wealthier you.
A more deeply in-tuned to the Spirit you.

At this time of year you can google “New Year’s Resolutions” and literally get 135,000,000 results.  I’m actually working through Donald Miller’s Storyline this year and loving it so far.  The thought is to use a story to create a narrative that compels you to reach your goals and there is a an awesome online resource that can help you through that- you can go start your own storyline or simply root me on as I write my story here.

And guess what? Your ministry needs a fresh vision every year.  Not resolutions that will get shelved by Valentine’s Day and not a re-branding that confuses all the folks that follow and support you, but a fresh look at the plan God is working through you.  You need a strategic plan just like any other business.

For me, this starts with a question my friend and mentor asked me a couple of years ago.

“What is your philosophy of ministry?”

Your theology determines your philosophy, which THEN determines your methodology.

So your philosophy of ministry then is the attitude that acts as the guiding principle for your ministry.In Christian terminology, we’ll call that your ‘calling’.  What is your ministry called to do?

This question is such a vital part of planning your strategy for, well, anything- events, engagements, blog posts, books…whatever it is you are doing- this question should be the VERY first step.

A philosophy of ministry isn’t a one-line mission statement, although it is what shapes and forms that statement.  Philosophy of ministry is a well-thought out framework that becomes the filter through which you filter everything you decide to do.  It’s an amazing resource when the calendar begins to fill up and distractions start flying at you.  And while it requires some thought and prayer and a little bit of elbow grease, it is well worth the work and thought.  In the coming weeks, I will post my own philosophy of ministry as we talk through this subject of vision-casting for your ministry.  But until then, maybe you would like to start on yours?  The guys at the Resurgence have a great free resource that will walk you through it.  Over the next month, we will be working through the development of a strategic plan for your ministry- starting with the writing of your philosophy of ministry.

So let’s travel the journey together, shall we?

How to Find a Great Speaker for Your Event-Pt 2

Good speakers are everywhere.  They are right under your own noses in your Sunday School classes, in your congregations, in your women’s groups, they are down the street from you, across town or across the country. With a little patience and the posts in this series, you will find the perfect speaker for your next event.
Last week, we looked at the foundation you need to lay to begin preparing to book a speaker.  Today we talk about the nuts and bolts of booking one.

So you’ve determined what you want your audience to come away with, what you need, when, where and how much you can spend. You’ve even found a few great candidates through a speaker’s bureau and online. Now what?

1. Review your options and interview your speaker candidates

This sounds like a no-brainer, but you would  be surprised how many groups will try to handle most of the business of booking a speaker via email.  Insist on interviewing your speaker candidates at least once.

  • A professional speaker will be a real partner in this process. Often they will ask questions about the needs of your audience and what they can accomplish for you. Ask your candidates for references and, if they are speaking in your area, ask if you can attend the program and observe them in action.
  • Assure that a potential speaker has addressed groups similar to yours. Talk with them about their experience. Ask for a biography, testimonials and videos of their presentations, preferably before a live audience.
  • Find a speaker who will tailor his or her presentation to your group.

2. Select your speaker

  • Hire a professional and you’ll hire an ally. Professional speakers understand that your reputation is riding on their performance. Their experience with hundreds of audiences can add to your peace of mind and to the success of the event.

3. Get it in writing

You should have a letter of agreement or contract that clearly outlines the expectations of both you and your speaker. Consider:

  • Travel arrangements and transportation– will your speaker fly or drive? Booking a local speaker is a great way to save money in this area. Be prepared to reimburse mileage, travel expenses or a flat transportation fee.
  • Accommodations and meals- I prefer to stay with a congregation member.  If this is the case, make sure to create a space for your speaker to be alone. We’ll talk more about how to make a speaker feel welcome in a later post.
  • fees, reimbursements and payment terms- I think I’ve covered this sufficiently.  Don’t think you need to pay an arm and a leg for a great speaker, but do plan to pay something.   Work out how you are going to pay, where the payment is sent to and what format it needs to be in.
  • Whether you want the speaker to attend social events – this is especially important during conferences. If you are going to request the speaker attend events (dinners, meet and greets and the like) outside the scheduled speaking time, let them know ahead of time, while you are discussing the contract.
  • If the speaker may sell products and if so, how this will be handled- This is most often how I make ends meet.  Often speaker’s will lower their fee if they are given the opportunity to sell merchandise.
  • An agreement on any audio- or videotaping of the presentation- Oh, this one has gotten me in trouble before.  Specifically discuss whether it is ok to record the presentation or not and whether it is ok to sell the recording of said presentation later.
  • Cancellation policies- What happens if the conference is cancelled or if the speaker gets sick? Talk about these things beforehand. They do happen. It doesn’t have to be a crisis if it’s discussed prior.
  • Audio/visual requirements- What kind of equipment (microphones, projector, sound, video, etc) does she need?
  • and legal implications, if any, your contract may contain.

4. Work with your speaker

Share information about your group or . This will help the speaker become familiar with your organization, while facilitating a customized presentation.

  • Send your newsletter or anything which would include key people, buzz words or insider news and views.
  • Give the speaker a clear outline of what you expect.
  • Be specific about the size and demographics of your audience.
  • Let the speaker know in advance about other speakers on the program. This gives the speaker the opportunity to build on (and not duplicate) what the other speakers say.

5. Set the stage

  • Make sure the room is set up for optimum impact. Consider the number of chairs and how they are arranged. Also consider room temperature and lighting.
  • Stay on schedule. Although a professional will be able to “make up” time or slow things down if needed, keeping your program on schedule will allow your audience to get the full impact of the program you have created for them.
  • Your speaker should be able to provide you with a good introduction of themselves and their topic. The introduction should be short, energizing and create positive expectations.

6. Evaluate the results

  • Have your audience complete evaluations on the speaker and his/her presentation. This will allow you to gauge your results and plan for future programs. Send copies of the evaluations to your speaker.

So there you go, the steps to finding your best speaker ever!  I hope it helps make the process easier for you!  If you have any questions on this post, please feel free to comment below.  

How to Find a Great Speaker for Your Event-Pt 1

Good speakers are everywhere.  They are right under your own noses in your Sunday School classes, in your congregations, in your women’s groups, they are down the street from you, across town or across the country. With a little patience and the posts in this series, you will find the perfect speaker for your next event.
Your speaker selection is one of the most important elements in a successful event, but finding the right speaker for your retreat or event can be a daunting task. Just google Christian Women’s Speaker- there are a few of us out there :). So how do you decide? Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll lay out the steps your group needs to walk through to make sure you get a great speaker for your event.

In this post, we’ll talk about the first steps you need to take to lay the groundwork to find the perfect speaker to fit your agenda. This foundation is vital information and will help you immensely in your search. Next week, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of hiring/contracting a speaker for your event.

1. Determine the needs of your audience

Thorough knowledge of the needs of your group is essential in selecting the right speaker. What message are you trying to impart? What do you want your attendees to walk away with? Do you want to just have fun and fellowship? Build connections? Do you want a Bible teacher or a motivational speaker or a retreat leader- they are very different animals, you know?

You need to have a really good idea of what you want for your attendees, who they are and what they need.  One of the best groups I’ve worked with was a women’s committee who knew that they wanted a fun and inspirational message for their group, but they didn’t want to put anyone on the spot with interactive activities. I respected that they knew enough about their group that the committee could tell me how to structure my talk.

2. Establish your date, time and budget

Did you notice that this isn’t step 1?  You see the most important thing is for you to understand what my friend calls your “philosophy of ministry.” Before she goes into ANY event plan, her first question is “what are we trying to accomplish with this event?” Answer that question FIRST

THEN, start planning logistics:

  • Start looking for a speaker as soon as the date for your event is set. Many speakers book engagements up to a year in advance and you will want to get on their calendar as soon as possible.For example, I am writing this post in December- my calendar for the next year is almost completely booked in the months of April, June and October.
  • Consider how much time you have to fill and where that time falls in your overall program. If your time slot is flexible, a professional speaker can often tell you the right amount of time for the job. A professional can also make recommendations about the flow of an event. Elements like worship, fellowship time, time to eat, and where to plug in other speakers are program items a seasoned speaker can help you place for a seamless event.
  • Factor in the fee you are willing or able to pay for a speaker. Your search for a speaker can be narrowed or broadened based upon your budget.  Plan to pay your speaker.  Many speakers have a set speaker’s fee.  Many don’t. I personally, choose to speak for a love offering (and travel expenses) not because I don’t think I am worth a hefty speaker’s fee or churches can’t pay one, but because God has called me to trust His provision for this season of my ministry.

I used to work within a fee structure in the thousands of dollars for one speaking event. And here’s the thing, when I asked for a speaker’s fee, no one balked….not one church or organization thought it was ok to send me away with a gift card to Chik-fil-a and an ornament made by the kids at craft time (please don’t think I have anything against Chik-fil-a or homemade ornaments.) Since I’ve begun requesting a love offering, I have been sent away with that more than once. I love these things as much as the next girl, but they don’t put new shoes on my kiddos feet.

Whoever you choose to be your speaker deserves to be compensated for the time and effort it took to prepare for your event. A well thought out talk doesn’t just fall out of a speaker’s mouth, it takes preparation, study and prayer.  I will often spend 20-30 hours preparing for a 45 minute talk.  A weekend retreat can take up to 100 hours to prepare for, not to mention the time spent travelling to and from the event.  So consider that part of your logistical planning.  Please don’t think that I am saying you have to pay thousands (or even hundreds) of dollars for a great speaker, but also understand your speaker is trying to feed her family and compensate her accordingly. Some speakers may negotiate their fees when they are doing more than one program for you or when they are allowed to sell their products. Ask about your options.

3. Identify the type of speaker who will best match the needs of your audience

A speaker’s expertise in a given field may be the big draw, but a well-known name does not guarantee a professional presentation. High prices don’t always mean high quality. Will your audience and the overall program benefit most from a celebrity; a popular Bible teacher; a best-selling author; or a professional speaker who has a thorough knowledge of the appropriate topic?

4. Locate your resources

  • Personal referrals are a great way to narrow your search. Ask colleagues and other ministry leaders for recommendations.
  • Speakers bureaus locate and book speakers according to your specifications and needs. A bureau can locate speakers and quote fees. Many bureaus specialize in particular speakers such as celebrities, authors or athletes. You can also use the internet to find Speakers bureaus and, for that matter, Christian Women’s Speakers (google it, it’s amazing what you come up with.) There are a few bureaus that I have worked with in the past and know the requirements to be extensive and the quality of speakers to be really wonderful:

– Christian Speaker Services –

-Proverbs 31 Ministries-

-ProvenWay Ministries –

One caveat of using a speaker’s bureau is that speaker’s bureaus very rarely negotiate fees.  There is generally a finders fee paid to the bureau that increases the overall fee for that speaker.  Don’t be afraid to choose a speaker who is not associated with a bureau.  I have worked both ways, and prefer to be unattached to a bureau in order to maintain control over my speaking fees.

 So there you go, the first few steps to finding your best speaker ever!  Next week we’ll talk about what happens after you figure out what you are looking for and where to find her.  We’ll talk about negotiations, collaboration, contracts and evaluations.  If you have any questions on this post, please feel free to comment below.  

My Top Five Picks: Improv Games as Icebreakers

I love icebreakers.  I love opportunities to get folks up, moving and interacting with each other, and I think you can learn amazing things about your group just by listening to the interactions as they are happening.

Never underestimate the power of laughter to disarm even the most shielded person.  By opening a group up to hilarious and goofy interactions with one another, you give them an opportunity to safely let their guard down without feeling too vulnerable.

My favorite way to create fun interactions is through Improvisational Comedy.  I would have to say improv games are my go-to resource for fun activities and icebreakers.  I’ve talked about ice-breakers before, but you asked for more…so here they are….My top five pics for Improv games:

Fun and Laughter pave the way for open conversations.

1.  Conjoined Twins

Supplies Needed: None

Set Up: Have your group divide up in pairs. Each pair has to come up with some way to be ‘conjoined’ (yes that means they have to touch one another.)  You’ll need someone not playing to interview each set of conjoined twins.

The rules for this game are simple.The players are conjoined twins who must speak simultaneously when giving answers to the questions from the audience. The players receive questions one at a time from the group and are then given the opportunity to spontaneously answer. Generally, the answers are only one or two words. Asking questions that require longer answers challenges the players. The players are forced to follow each other in determining what to say- they are speaking together as they listen.  The content of the answers is not important to the game but yield howls of laughter as the players try to come up with the answer and speak in unison.

I’m kind of starting with the most difficult on the list first, but this is my absolute favorite.  This game brings up so many things….like trust, listening, willingness to lead and to follow. It is a veritable minefield of learning lessons.  The drawback is that once you get a gaggle of gals giggling, it can be a bit difficult to control, but it’s a great trade off, especially for a smaller group of 10 or so.

2.  Circle Warm Up

Circle Warm Up– Warning: Uncontrollable laughter is possible!

Supplies needed: None

Circle Warm-Up is Comedy Improv game used to loosen a group of people up and get loads of laughs.  The group stands in a circle facing in.  First person steps forward and makes a gesture or sound and everyone in the group repeats it.  Play continues around the circle until everyone has gone.  GO FAST! Do whatever you think of first.  If someone gets stuck, and starts to fidget, that becomes their motion and the group repeats it.  This is a great way to begin talking about how much easier it is to open up and be silly when you trust everyone is going to as well- this helps build the trust that others will open up and be vulnerable later.

3. One Word Story

One Word Story- Learning to accept and build

Supplies needed: None

One-Word Story is an Improv game used as a warm up in Comedy Improv groups.  Divide your group into groups of 8-10.  Once you are in your groups, ask for a suggestion of a fairy tale story to tell as a group.  Then instruct the groups that they will have 2 minutes to begin to tell the story one. Word. At. A. time. The key is to go fast and to add onto the word the person in front of you said.

Tip: Inevitably, you will end up with a yellow submarine in Cinderella or ruby slippers in Snow White.  This game gets hilarious. Stop the game after two minutes and ask, “Do you guys actually remember the story?”  Ask for some of the really ridiculous suggestions.

This game highlights the point that even though we may have a really clear direction and idea of where things should be headed, we only have control of ourselves and our contribution to the team.  The idea is to learn to take what your teammate gives you, view it as a gift no matter how much it diverges from your plan, and build on it.

Recently I played this game with a group of young women 18-25.  As we were going around the circle there seemed to be this wrestling to control the “power” words of the story- you know the big ones- nouns, verbs, seemingly ridiculous adjectives like Irish, and frankly, the story got lost.  This game the opportunity to talk about the fact that often times the most valuable word in a story is a single letter, like ‘a’ or a short word like ‘the,’ and tat while those words seem insignificant to us when we look at them by themselves, the story can’t go on without them. It was a beautiful moment that spoke to the importance and purpose of each and everyone one of us.

4.  Whoosh

Supplies needed: None

Whoosh is a warm-up improv game that is played in a circle.  The basic level of it is whoosh is passed around the circle like an energy, it travels from person to person in one direction around the circle. Then you can add levels like “BOINK” which stops the whoosh and rebounds it to travel in the opposite direction. You can add “OVERPASS” which makes the whoosh jump over the person next to you and land on the next person. And at this point you can add many fun hilarious levels to the game which gives players handfuls of choices to make, respond to and be confused by. We play ninja,  monorail, scooter, galactica, hyperspace and subway just to name a few…and I am fairly certain that most of these I made up on the spur of the moment…so have fun with these!

This is a great exercise to watch who engages and who doesn’t and to learn who has a tendency to overpower things as well. This one game can tell you a whole lot about the personalities in your group and how well they work together.

5.  Flock Dance

Supplies: None

This is a very physical, very silly and wildly fun game! Stress the silliness of it and that there must be commitment on everyone’s part in order for this to be fun.

Have your group arrange themselves in a “flying V” with one person at the front of the ‘V’ and the others staggered behind them, like a flock of birds. The player at the front begins leading a dance (either to a stereo or to music that they hum or sing themselves). The other players follow the leader, duplicating their movements as closely as possible. After 15-20 seconds (or when the song changes, if you’ve got a stereo and a “DJ”), a new leader moves into the front until each player has had a chance to try leading.

The idea behind this game is to get full commitment.  This is an especially useful game if your subject material for the rest of your event is very deep and will require lots of vulnerability.  This also helps players be aware of leadership and take the initiative, to follow, and to let go of habitual patterns of movement and really WATCH someone else closely.

Flock dance is about finding a balance between leaders and followers, so in as much as followers should be aware of the leader, so should the leader be aware of his/her followers and ensure that they are supported.

Safety is also a concern, as the flock will be watching the head bird.

Woah! This is a long post, but there you go…my top five improv games.  There are so many more that I love…you know what, that I would love to share with you- so if you are interested in more or in chatting about how you can make your next event super awesome- shoot me a line at, I’d love to help!

Have fun!

Re-Mix:The Key Ingredients for Incredible Women’s Events

I originally wrote this post in early 2011, not much re-mix needed here….women people still need the same things to stay engaged.  In the past couple of years, lots of churches have gone to using DVD materials to lead retreats…this is not necessarily a bad thing (well maybe for me it is- I do feel that pinch!) but we still need to build in time to move, to fellowship and to be alone with God…and no, the five minutes the DVD gives you to write your answers in the $10 workbook you bought from Lifeway does not work on any of those counts. Remember, just cause you are using a boxed curriculum, doesn’t mean that you are suddenly off the hook when it comes to making sure that your attendees have gotten the message.  *ahem* Stepping down from the soap box now :)…here’s the post:

As a speaker, I am often called on for advice in planning women’s events. I hear over and over again how different and fun Strings Attached events are, but what makes them so different?  I think that there are a several key ingredients to an incredible women’s event.  Keep these in mind while you are planning and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Always create moments to connect with each other and engage everyone’s learning method.

An incredible women’s event is centered on building relationships (with God and with others).  I know, I know, relationships are kind of a big deal here at Strings Attached, but this because all women are relational.  They want to interact with each other.  Many women’s conferences try to shove so many special features into the day that they don’t leave time for forging connections.  As a team-building coach, this is my forte – bringing games and exercises that invite connection and sharing of story.  Plan times for connection, for mingling, for fun. Laughter is a great unifier.

Even the most engaging speaker will lose your audience after 45 min.

People should never be talked AT for more than 45 minutes.  This is a difficult one, especially if you are using an inexperienced speaker or a DVD program.  I always think back to my school days.  When sitting in a class, no matter how interesting I found the subject material, my ability to concentrate and assimilate would wane at about the 40 minute mark.  This is true for the women who are attending your event as well.  Incorporate experiential games and mixers to help the message stick, object lessons to bring real world metaphors to life, and time to reflect and absorb the information. Get the women up and moving, get them talking, help them form bonds and connections.

Every lesson should be applicable and give “real world” ways for incorporating it into life.

Remember, that the speaker’s story or curriculum needs to be applicable.  This gets left out most often when using lay speakers or women who haven’t yet learned to craft their talks.  (Sheila Wray Gregoire provides some great instruction on honing your message on her website Becoming a Christian Women’s Speaker.) Every presentation should have a way to apply it to everyday life.  There needs to always be a “Why” and  a “How”. Choose a retreat and speaker that challenges women to grow personally and wear the message home.

All women do not learn the same way.  Incorporate activities that provide a variety of learning methods.  In Strings Attached Retreats, you always find auditory (music/speaking), visual (object lessons and games), and kinesthetic (games that require movement and touch).  It’s not difficult to build these into your event, but it does take some thought and practice to get the timing right.  Many games and exercises cover all of the learning modalities.  We will be posting more about how to build this into your event in the coming weeks.

Leave time for reflection at the end of the day.

Reflection, reflection, reflection. In our harried world, in our frantic lives, we very rarely give ourselves time for reflection.  These women who have chosen to share their most valued resource—their time—with you, need time to reflect and connect with God. I attended Stasi Eldredge’s Captivating retreat in Colorado last year (if you haven’t been or haven’t read the book by the same title- you should!). Many things touched me—the speaker, the worship time, the food :), but the most profound moments came during what they called “Covenants of Silence.” It was during these times of reflection that the message of the weekend, the message God had brought me there to hear really soaked in. So many times during a women’s conference, we get so excited that we cram full our day or our event with programming. Leave some time and space for quiet reflection.

So there you go, “Cari’s Special Recipe” for a fantastic women’s event.  I am booking dates for the spring and fall of 2013 now if you would like Strings Attached Ministries to come to your group. We have packages available for any budget. We’d love to be a part of making your event spectacular. You can contact us here.

However, if you are a do-it-yourself-er, I will posting more tips on how to create this on your own. Until then, if you have questions  feel free to put them in the comments or send us an email at

Photo credit: Laura Keck. All photos were taken at Hayward Wesleyan Church during 
"Vital Pieces: You are Signifcant to God's Plan." If you would like to order a copy 
of this presentation on CD, click here.