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The Vulnerable Act of Public Speaking

Find your voice—and keep it.

When you realize how personal voice it, it shapes significantly how you do ministry. For example it shapes how you interpret Scripture. When you know what it feels like to be silenced, then you notice those who have been silenced in the biblical texts. You notice who gets to talk and who doesn’t. You take an interpretive stance that is committed to allowing the silenced to be heard. You give voice to those who so desperately wish to speak.

Your voice also shapes how you do pastoral care. Who in your congregation do you sense wants to speak? Who has something to contribute, but has not figured out how to let others know? How can you help them articulate their theology, opinions, and faith? Because of who you are, a woman in ministry, a woman in leadership in the church, you will have other women—and even men—who will come to you to help them find their voice. When you are able to utter your truth, you automatically invite others to imagine the same. You invite them to envisage that this is possible for them. But they will need your help. You will need to accompany them, to give voice to who they are.

Public Speaking for Women

We can think about voice and identity from a very practical perspective. Your voice is, quite literally, your voice—how you express yourself verbally. This becomes a critical point for women in ministry because of the physical nature of women’s voices. Women’s voices tend to be higher pitched and harder to hear. It will be essential to assess the nature of your voice and whether or not it reflects the power of your own person. You will undoubtedly receive comments on your voice that, while critical of its timbre or pitch, more often than not originate from a resistance to what it means to listen to a woman’s expression of God’s word. The concern is located less in the person’s hearing challenges and more in the person’s ability to hear the ways in which a woman’s voice is now another source of hearing God speak.

The practical issues around voice are crucial, and reflecting on the concrete components of voice must begin with a general knowledge about the essentials of public speaking. As a leader, you are a public figure. You will be called to speak in public on a regular basis in situations that include, but are not limited to, preaching. In these moments, you are communicating your power as a woman in ministry. If your general presence as a communicator, which includes your voice and your image, is not given attention, it makes it far more difficult to communicate your power and to convince people of your power in other ministry settings. Furthermore, your power will be acknowledged if there is a strong correlation between who you are as public figure in public settings and how you present yourself in more private and individual moments of ministry.

July11, 2016 at 8:00 AM

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