Without a doubt, there are far less opportunities for women in the church to hone their speaking skills than their are for men. I was at my church this Sunday where we had the opportunity to hear from a seminary student in his mdiv program, obviously studying to be a pastor. He wasn't horrible, and although my kids were able to point out some of his inadequacies, I'm quite sure he struggled because his subject matter was a little too broad. He engaged the commentaries, but had a hard time engaging his listeners. I'm sure he would have done much better if his topic had been a bit narrower, but it was an excellent opportunity for him to become a better preacher with hands-on experience.
As I listened to him, and as I ponder it more this morning, I wish there were more opportunities for women's leaders to develop and grow their speaking and teaching gifts. In my world, the pulpit on Sunday morning will not serve this need (and I'm ok with that). So what exists that will give women more opportunities to get this training? And is there a need for it?
Last question first: there is a need for it. The more gifted women's speakers there are at the local church level, the more opportunity we have to provide solid teaching events. Being a teacher necessitates some degree of speaking ability, and while on the job training is helpful, it's very minimal within the women's ministry context.
First question: what exists that will give women more opportunities to further develop their speaking skills? Carol Kent provides Speak Up seminars that help women's speakers to fine tune what they do. These seminars get into the nuts and bolts of how to be a great speaker/teacher. I've never personally attended one of her events, though I wouldn't mind doing so in the future. I know someone who has and she greatly benefited from the event. Beyond Speak Up, there isn't really anything else. But an event like the Evangelical Theological Society's annual conference would provide women opportunities to speak on selected topics with theological/biblical content. Women theologians and student academics are already involved in these events (as do many male mdiv students aspiring to the pastorate), but nothing like this exists on the women's lay leadership level. Some would argue that it need not exist.
Would you participate in a women's leadership speaking conference?