Amy Carroll » Ministry Development » Can You Be Rewarded for Breaking the Rules?

Can You Be Rewarded for Breaking the Rules?

In my last year of teaching in a public schools, I remember having mixed feelings about my principal’s review of a classroom observation she had done.  Her over-arching comment was, “You have excellent classroom discipline.  It’s  your strength.”

Hmmm….on one hand that’s good, because you can’t teach a classroom of unruly children.  On the other hand I wasn’t sure that I wanted orderly children to be the hallmark of my teaching career.  I loved the teaching piece much more than the discipline, and I wanted to be known as a passionate, creative teacher.

As I moved into women’s ministry I often joked that as a former teacher, my motto was “Rule breakers should be punished.”  I most often quoted that about the droves of women who were dying to sign up for our event AFTER the deadline.  Ha!  (Ever been there, women’s ministry leaders?  It’s a wonder you have a hair left in your head!!)

As part of our message development service, I often teach through my message development process and share the pieces of an effective message as presented by Andy Stanley in Communicating for a Change.  Formulas are great for learning and implementing new ideas.

The problem with formulas or a list of rules is that everything starts to look the same.  One of my adored clients said at the end of our time, “Amy, I hate your message development process.”  That made me laugh, because I warned her ahead of time that she might!  Unlike me, she’s a highly creative soul, so the structure that helps me hindered her.

Although I’m a woman who works best with structure, I want to take a page from my creative client.  I need to be willing to suspend my usual way of doing things to take a fresh, new look at a topic or often-used scripture.  Now I tell my clients to be sensitive to what parts of my development process work for them and what parts don’t.  In the end, the goal is to have a tool belt full of tools from which we can pull when we write a new message.

I think the new motto for speaking should be ammended to “Ruler breakers are rewarded.”  I’m not advocating getting crazy with scripture interpretation, after all there’s nothing new under the sun.  God’s Word is constant, but I do think we can ask God to give us a new angle from which to look at His timeless truths so that we can share them in captivating ways to our audiences.

Think about Beth Moore as an example.  She is clearly a woman committed to conveying God’s Word accurately, but she mines more information from scripture that make it come alive than any other Bible study teacher I know.  Just this morning she made me think of James, Jesus’ brother, in a whole new light.  Another example is the way one of my clients wrote her message.  She took the feeding of the five thousand and talked about the faithful mother who had packed her son’s lunch of fish and bread that day.  New.  Fresh.  Still faithful to scripture.

I’m challenged to mix up my tool belt a little and pray for creativity!


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  1. Amy,

    Great message!! We are doing the Beth Moore study of James too! So good and so facinating!

    Your message confirms to me that I am not a cookie cutter speaker or writer. Thanks, I needed that!

  2. Yes, the Word doesn’t change, but our stories that “flesh” it out sure do! Loving the James study too. And by the way, I have found the Message Development absolutely invaluable. I highly recommend this especially to creative types who find it hard to follow steps. Bless you in your work!!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed and learned from the service, Elise! Karen was bragging on you just the other day. I agree with you that structured types like me can help creative types get things done while you creative types help us crawl out of the box. We need each other and are both better when we work together!

  3. Addie Begashaw says:

    So ture, the unique expression our insight brings the unique expression of God’s love.

  4. I love how you said there is nothing new under the sun, but ask God for a new angle! I think that is what stirs my passion for scripture most is the see something there I’d never seen before! Thanks Amy!

  5. I have read Andy’s book – one message – I get it. So Practicing and practicing my presentation has been my goal. July is coming quickly and I am practicing for my presentation there as well!

    I am so excited for this trip and have been planning for almost a year! So…when will registration open? i can hardly wait!

    1. She Speaks registration should be open any day now. I’m excited too!

  6. I really liked your post today.I can’t help of thinking of the overly structured, rule-following side of me which honestly restricts my creativity at times. When I have spoken to others, I do have freedom though, because while I don’t know who my audience is, God sees each and every heart. And when we speak, we need to remember that there are some we will be sharing with who seem inflexible, when in reality, they don’t know they can change. How do I know? I’m finding out, I am not set in stone.

    1. We sound like kindred spirits, Anne!