4 Guidelines for Godly Platform-Building
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One of the great blessings of building your ministry is that you gain a community as you go. Last year, Cheri Gregory and I interviewed Shannon Popkin, author of Influence, on Grit ‘n’ Grace, our weekly podcast. Shannon has quickly earned a place on my “favorite people” list, and I fell in love with her even more as I read her newest book for endorsement.
I wrote a whole-hearted recommendation and immediately asked her for some content to share with you. You’re going to love her advice!
Read her wisdom, and then leave your reaction in a comment for a chance to win one of three copies of Influence. Please welcome Shannon to the blog! ~Amy
Are you a Christian speaker or writer, hoping to grow your ministry platform this year? Here are four guidelines for building a platform in a godly (not self-exalting) way.
1. Focus on the opportunities that God has given.
Rather than putting so much emphasis on the more public ways you hope God will use you, commit yourself to the assignments you already have. Be responsible. Serve well. Be passionate. Pour yourself into the opportunities God has granted—whether teaching the Bible story to preschoolers, speaking at a small ladies’ tea, or ministering to your own family. Often God uses small ministry opportunities to grow us for larger ones.
About a decade ago, I was asked to be one of the large group teachers for ladies’ Bible study at my church. I was delighted, and would spend weeks leading up to my teaching date working on my lesson. I would distill my message, weed out side notes, smooth transitions, craft illustrations, and funnel everything into one main point of application for the sake of my sisters who would graciously let me teach them for twenty minutes.
Looking back, I can see that my preparation work then was preparing me for my writing assignments now. As I labor over the Bible study I’m currently writing, I employ the same process. And when I divide up my material into individual lessons, guess how much content I pack into each one? The equivalent of about one of my twenty-minute teaching sessions for Bible study.
I’m convinced that if I hadn’t put so much energy into that assignment, I wouldn’t be nearly as ready for this one.
2. Listen to input.
Because of our pride, insecurities, and selfishness, it’s often incredibly difficult to see ourselves accurately. We need others in the body of Christ to hold up a mirror and tell us what they see in us.
This might mean being encouraged to try a role you feel inadequate for. Other times it might mean being redirected away from a role that you aren’t gifted for. This is humbling for sure. But having the eyes of other Christ-following influencers on our work is invaluable.
I recently had coffee with several church leaders who critiqued the message I had shared with their moms’ group that morning. Don’t worry, I asked for their critique! I knew that my message still needed crafting and development, which meant I could really use their help. It was my first time sharing this material, and since I’m writing a new book on the topic, I hope it will be a message I get to share many times over. Their input was invaluable to me.
I’m guessing that five years ago I might never have been brave enough to ask for critique on a half-baked message. But here’s what I’ve learned. Other people—and especially those skilled in the art of speaking, leading, and teaching—have insight that I might never have. They see things I don’t see. They know things I don’t know. They help me to become far more effective than I could be on my own.
Don’t miss out on the growth opportunities that will be yours when you welcome and listen to input.
3. Be patient.
Years ago, after being told that having a “national” speaking ministry was a next step for me, I made a goal to stretch my reach over state lines. My strategy was to first make a list of direct flights averaging $200 or less from my city. Then I scoured the internet, looking for churches in those cities, and spent weeks reaching out to ministry leaders about my speaking ministry.
Guess what happened? Nothing. It was wasted effort with no fruit.
Now, am I saying that you should never network with friends or do “cold call” solicitation? No, but I am saying that your efforts might not produce the fruit you hope for. Rather than rushing ahead like I did, seek the Lord. Ask Him to direct your networking plans and produce the fruit that only He can—both in you and your audience.
As I look back, I can see that it was by God’s design that my speaking ministry didn’t launch like a rocket. Instead, it has grown like a fruit tree, year by year, right along with the pace of my skill and family life. Slowly and gradually, I have begun receiving speaking invitations from across state lines. And guess what? Just recently, I was invited to speak in California—which from Michigan is a flight that will cost more than $200.
If I could speak softly to myself back when I was checking flights and combing church websites, here’s what I would say: Don’t worry about the timeline. Just be patient and trust the Lord to open the doors that He wants you to walk through in His timing, not your own.
4. Pursue mentoring.
Let me tell you about my ministry assistant, Pearl. I first met her when I spoke at her church several years ago, and she came up afterward telling me how much my message meant to her. A few months later, she contacted me, hoping for some advice on blogging. So I invited Pearl to a local writer’s conference, where I was leading a couple of workshops.
She came and then wrote a post about her experience, which she asked me to look over before she submitted. I gave several suggestions, and Pearl not only followed my advice, she appreciated it!
Later, when I launched my first book, Pearl was one of the first to volunteer for my launch team. She went above and beyond with some beautifully staged photos of herself reading the book, and I had so much fun sharing them. About a year after that, when it was time to hire an assistant, guess who I called? Pearl, of course.
Pearl has some quiet dreams about speaking and writing, and while I can’t pay her as much as I’d like, it has been a delight to offer her coaching and help instill confidence. And guess what? Just last week, she spoke at the very same event at her church where we first met, with a hundred women in attendance. Pearl is a gem, and I’m so privileged to be part of her platform-growing story.
If you’re trying to network with someone who’s a bit further down the road than you are, consider doing what Pearl did. Make a personal connection. Ask for input. Offer your support and then go above and beyond. Then receive mentoring for what it is—a gift offered by someone who cares about you and is willing to offer both friendship and support.
This post is taken in large part from Shannon’s new book, titled Influence: Building a Platform that Elevates Jesus (Not Me). This book is designed to help you think about how to gather followers of Jesus and change the world but not in the way the world says to. Check out Shannon’s site for more resources, and leave a comment below for a chance to win a free copy of Influence.
This post spoke to me as I have been praying about how to go forward with networking when there’s so many other things bidding for my attention. I’m working with a publisher for my second book, but the niche is the same but the audience is a bit different. I’m trying to figure out what’s first to do, second to do in advance of the book launch. I have no website or blog, I also need coaching at some point for speaking and message development but have no idea how to do at the same time as writing a book. Your articles helped to calm me down and reminded me to keep on praying for God’s timing and favor with all these concerns. Thank you!
I’m so glad the article was encouraging, Lisa! If you need help with developing content and a plan for your website, I’d love to help! Fill out the form here to do a free consultation about further coaching if you’re interested: https://nextstepcoachingservices.com/request-call/
Laura, it sure would be nice to know “what’s next” wouldn’t it? But it is by faith (not knowing what’s next) that we please our Father. Blessings to you on your faith journey! – shannon
Thank you for such good points to focus on and remember. #1 is such a great perspective. I often struggle with looking at things the way I think they “ought” to be, forgetting that God is preparing me in lots of little ways for what ever He has planned next. I appreciate the reminder to focus on where He has me in this moment. ? Amy, thank you for sharing Shannon with us!
Thanks for reading, Leslie! I, too, get too invested in how it’s “supposed” to be. Glad #1 was an encouragement!
Thanks for the tips Amy and sharing about Shannon’s new book Influence. It is something I’m right in the middle of, building a following but hoping to do it differently than the world does. Thank you!!
So glad that you are being intentional about adding followers the way Jesus did, Wendi!
Nos. 1 & 3 were such an encouragement to me. Stewardship and patiently waiting are messages God continues to send my way.
Thank you, Shannon and Amy!
Crystal, I’m so thankful to hear that! Thanks for reading with such an open heart.
#3 was for me!! Thanks so much for sharing this wisdom. These reminders and encouragement and challenge have served as my gentle kick-in-the-pants today! 🙂 … Thanks, too, for the opportunity to win a free copy.
Joy, I do hope it was a gentle kick! lol May the Lord bless your ministry journey!
Thank you for sharing this! I love the reminder to serve where I am and give my best to the ministry I have, and let my reach grow naturally.
It’s true! Thanks for reading, Sue.
Amy, you are DEFINITELY on my “favorite people” list. 🙂 Thanks so much for the JOY of connecting with your readers here on the blog, and for the great encouragement you are. I sure hope we’ll get to meet in real life at some point. 🙂
So good! It’s usually when I feel DRIVEN that I know God is not leading me. I want to rest in the promise that He is guiding me instead. I don’t have to grasp or claw my way to the promise. He will lead me there.
So true, Julie! I’m thankful that Lord is giving you new rest.
This book sounds like that it would be helpful.
Thanks, Carol! God bless.
Thank you so much for sharing this post and the wisdom it contains. I have been praying intensely about how to grow my blog’s reach God’s way and then this email arrived in my inbox this morning. Our heavenly Father always provides! I am going to check out Shannon’s website and her book.
Kim, I love that God arranged this timing just for you! May he bless you as you seek to be used by him. – shannon
Thank you for your insights, especially about humility and patience. It’s so easy to get frustrated about my slow “progress,” and miss the joy of seeing the growth!
Hi, Kristen. 🙂 Yes! Don’t get discouraged! God often uses a slower-than-we’d-like timeline to get us ready for the next assignment he has.
Ohmygosh I’ve had such experience with #1! About a year and a half ago I started praying for 2 paid speaking engagements a month. The Lord was faithful, but many of my engagements were preaching at a dying church with an average age of 70 and an average attendance of 50. I said, “Lord this isn’t exactly what I envisioned!” However, I began to see how this environment was perfect for my development as a speaker!
They were “afraid” of technology (no p.p.), and when I showed up I never knew what they were going to throw at me (“Ok, Fred didn’t show up today, so we also want you to do a prayer of confession, words of institution and the announcements…”). I had to be flexible (not my strong suit), and learned to really be present and engaged – not tied so much to my notes. I learned to communicate to a demographic I wasn’t accustomed to. Last September was my last time preaching in this church, and there was a palpable sense of release from the Lord. I am so grateful for how He used this “less than optimal” situation to teach me!
Thanks so much for all the reminders in this post!
Oh, Laura– I can see how the Lord is growing you in so many amazing ways. Especially flexibility. God bless your ministry journey! – Shannon
Thank you for wonderful reminders. One and three spoke to me in my current season.
I tend to sprint through life—trying to get to the finish line of every project as quickly as I can. I mean, isn’t that the point?! In recent years the Lord has reminded me of His sovereignty by not letting me know exactly where we’re headed. Instead, He’s only given me small bits of insight at a time causing me to slow down and let Him lead while turning me into a marathoner instead of a sprinter as He builds my endurance. He knows me so well!
Your reminders that God is preparing us for His purpose even when it may not look like it to us and that we need to be patient and wait on Him to work hit home for me. Thank you!
Hi Chrissie! I’m so glad God used this post to reinforce the patience he’s already been teaching you. Isn’t it good to know that he DOES know where you’re headed? He just wants us to trust him.
Really great and timely advice. It’s hard to wait sometimes, but I’m trusting God to open the right doors in due season.
Hi Shala! Yes, waiting is SO hard. I’ve had lots of waiting time, too. But I’m starting to see that the waiting time was meant to grow me up spiritually. Remember how Moses spent 40 years in the wilderness? Sort of like that. I’m so glad you’re trusting God’s time table!
Shannon, Thank you for sound practical advice…I have been planning my “cold calls,”…. perhaps instead I’ll try to patiently wait and spend more time eirking in my half-baked message. ?
Bridgit, I LOVE your response. Your teachable heart is so refreshing. 🙂