Amy Carroll » Speaking Tips » Who Is in the Chairs?

Who Is in the Chairs?

I’m a retreat girl. There’s no doubt, but I had forgotten since I hadn’t led one in a while.

I think I love retreats so much because I’m highly relational. Retreats give time and space for women to begin to break down the walls and get to know each other quickly on a deeper level.

Last weekend, I led a beach retreat (heavenly fellowship located near heaven), and the deep sharing started from the get-go as each woman introduced herself. Boy, there was a lot of pain and hurt behind some of those beautiful faces, and I immediately began reassessing my message. In my mind, I cut and pasted before I began to speak based on some of the things I heard in the introductions.

In a non-retreat setting, we rarely get much insight into the faces looking into ours as we speak, but it’s important to try to think through who will be filling the chairs at an event.

Photo Credit

Some of the blanks can be filled in as we talk to event planners. We can ask questions like:

  • Will there be both males and females at the event or just women?
  • What is the age range?
  • Are there any special populations I should be aware of? (ie. miliary wives, grief groups, homeless, etc)

But we need to think beyond those basic categories. This weekend I was more aware than ever that I need to realize statistically there will be certain circumstances represented in a group of women:

  • There will be married women.
  • There will be women that have never married.
  • There will be women whose marriage is in crisis.
  • There will be divorced women.
  • There will be women whose husbands had an affair.
  • There will be women who have had abortions.
  • There will be women who have experienced a significant death recently.
  • There will be women who are in the midst of infertility.
  • There will be women who are struggling as moms.

You get the gist. Although I’m tender-hearted and try to be sensitive, I realized this weekend that I hadn’t run my message through the filter of considering the hurts in my audience. I was speaking as a happily married woman with children who are doing pretty well (Right now. They’re young, so I’m humble enough to know that could change tomorrow!).

I don’t think that it’s a bad thing to speak from my personal, current perspective, but I want to make sure I treat my audience with love and care.

[Tweet “As speakers, for a time we hold our audience’s hearts in our hands. Let’s be tender.”]

Being a speaker is a huge responsibility. How are you careful to manage that responsibility?

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  1. Here’s some really helpful info my friend Cindy Finley sent me in an email. She asks event planners:

    1. Have there been any conflicts within this group that I should be aware of? (I like to encourage women to stop arguing about the wallpaper and get busy experiencing real life together.)
    2. Have there been any tragedies within this group or in your community that are on the hearts of the women?
    3. I also ask them to give me three prototypes of who they expect to be there. Here are some I’ve received:

    The stay-at-home mom who is wrestling with her worth.
    The millennial who values authenticity and overshares her story. (She glories in her story, rather than in Jesus Christ)
    The cultural Christian who may never have truly stepped into a relationship with Jesus.

  2. I had the privilege of a retreat, not many groups are doing them anymore, and your opening paragraph were my exact sentiments upon returning home! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Cindy Patton says:

    The timing of this article could not have come at a more appropriate time. I am leading a teen girls retreat this week-end and have, within the past few days, been made aware of some especially difficult circumstances within our youth group. God has gently, but powerfully, reminded me that this week-end is not about me…what kind of speaker/motivator/encourager/planner I can be. I am simply to turn hearts toward a gentle, healing, loving, relational God.

    1. This does my heart good, Cindy! I’m going to pray for you and your girls as soon as I finish typing this. I’d love to hear how God helps you connect with them.

      1. Cindy Patton says:

        …and we will be doing some of my collage art, too! A way for us as “creat”ures to relate and share with our Creator! Thank you for your prayers…about 75 people will be a part of this week-end in a beautiful mountain setting in Tennessee.

        1. Wish I could be there! Your gorgeous collage is sitting on my desk right now. I love it!!