Below you’ll find the transcript for the bonus episode – from the Women’s Ministry Toolbox Podcast.
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EP 21: The Power of Personal Testimonies
Welcome to the Women’s Ministry Toolbox Podcast. I’m Cyndee Ownbey, your host and women’s ministry mentor. I’m the founder of Women’s Ministry Toolbox and the author of Rethinking Women’s Ministry. The Women’s Ministry Toolbox Podcast is a podcast for women’s ministry leaders and team members of all stages (from new to seasoned) serving in their local church community. If you’re looking for hope and inspiration, you’ve come to the right place! In addition to discussing the nuts and bolts of women’s ministry, I’ll be asking seasoned women’s ministry leaders to share their best tips and the lessons they’ve learned. Together we’ll learn to build a flourishing, Christ-focused women’s ministry.
Today, we will be talking about the differences between devotionals and testimonies, why we should share our testimonies, and how to share them.
Many leaders use the words devotional and testimony interchangeably, but I think there’s a distinct difference.
Let’s start by defining each of these terms.
A testimony is often defined as the personal retelling of the moment of conversion. It’s a story of an encounter with Christ or the moment of salvation. The Miriam Webster online dictionary defines a religious testimony as a “public profession of religious experience.”
While a testimony is, and can be, about the singular point at which we accepted Christ as Savior, a testimony can also communicate any experience that we’ve had with God.
Devotionals, on the other hand, are written testimonies, usually written by an author or a Christian speaker.
Did you catch that? Devotionals are someone else’s story, someone else’s testimony.
I understand the temptation to read the words written by someone else. When I first started as a women’s ministry leader, I had a file full of other people’s stories to share in our meetings. If a book had an interesting short story, I turned down the corner of the page and read it to our women. I printed out heartwarming stories from the internet on more than one occasion.
I know it’s easier to share other people’s stories than our own, but like grabbing a fast food meal at a drive-thru, sharing a devotional we found online or in a book is convenient, and it may feed our women, but it isn’t what’s best.
When our women hear other women in the church share what God has done in their lives, it makes a greater impact than any devotional read out of a book ever could!
Suddenly it’s personal. It’s someone that we know! And your women begin to believe that maybe, just maybe, God can help them too.
Sharing personal testimonies, instead of devotionals, connects the heart of our women, and it opens the door for Titus 2 relationships.
Why we should share our testimonies
God makes it clear in his Word that all believers have a responsibility to tell others about Him.
1 Chronicles 16:8 says, “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name, make known among the nations, what he has done.”
Romans 10:14 (NLT) says, “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?”
1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
We share testimonies to help women view life with an eternal perspective.
We share testimonies to encourage one another, give hope, create connection, model obedience, and inspire our women to look for God’s fingerprints on their current situations and circumstances.
Testimonies provide testimony of God’s faithfulness and love.
Testimonies open the door for the sharing of the gospel.
There are times in which our women may not be able to feel or see God clearly, but hearing others reflect on God’s faithfulness and difficult circumstances can be a huge encouragement.
Every time I speak somewhere, the Lord will prompt me to include a personal testimony that ties in with the theme. On a few occasions, He’s prompted me to share about a specific difficult season in our marriage. Sometimes. I know He wants me to share about my dad’s brain tumor and his death. In both situations, I talk about how God carried me through and the lessons I learned.
Both aren’t easy stories for me to share, but I am approached by women every single time I share them. Women connect with the pieces of each story. They share their own stories with me, and they ask for prayer for similar situations. We make a connection. When it’s people that we do life with, it takes our relationship to another level. They know they can seek me out when they go through something similar.
How do we share our testimonies?
Let’s use the word “stories” instead of “testimonies” – that word comes with a whole lot of pressure. That simple word swap can make a huge difference. Stories are familiar. They are comforting.
All stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and our stories should be presented in a similar manner.
God has provided us with numerous examples throughout the Bible of people who encountered Him and their lives were changed. John 9 tells the story of Jesus giving sight to a blind man. When asked what had happened, the blind man replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” (John 9:11)
While our testimony might not be as short as those three sentences, the format is one that we can apply to our stories as we share.
First, the story consists of three parts.
- How I was
- What happened
- How I am now.
Second, the story focuses on what Jesus did.
And third, transformation is celebrated.
Does your team take the time to debrief after every women’s ministry event? Do you record your wins and make notes of the tweaks you’d make the next time? Taking the time to evaluate your events provides an opportunity for your team to reflect, celebrate, and grow. To help you record and gather information after each event, I’ve created the Post Event Evaluation Form. It is the form in my Women’s Ministry Toolbox that I use the most! Your team will have the opportunity to discuss, what you’d do differently, what would remain the same, the promotion of the event, how many volunteers were needed, how women encountered Christ, and much more! This two-page evaluation can easily be completed in about 10-15 minutes during your women’s ministry meeting. This free PDF is available at womensministrytoolbox.com/freebies. I pray you and your team will find the Post Event Evaluation Form a helpful tool for planning future women’s ministry events.
When you consider writing out your personal testimony or teaching your women to share their stories, I want you to remember these three CS.
- Current – Focus on a recent lesson that the Lord has taught you within the last year, if possible. Keeping it current reminds women that God is always at work.
- Concise – Remember, this is not a speaking or teaching session. What you share should last 5-10 minutes, no more than that. Practice sharing it. Record yourself, and listen to it to make sure your story is coming across as intended. Make a few notes so that you don’t lose focus.
- Christ-centered – Keep it focused on what God has done, not on the dramatic details. It’s about Him. It’s not about you. You want your women to remember what God accomplished through you or through the circumstances. When our eyes are focused on God, others see that and can learn by our example.
Here are a few more words of caution as you consider sharing your story.
Please, please do not share anything that would embarrass someone or lead them to gossip.
Protect your spouse, your family, and anyone who is a part of your story.
When sharing with a group, we want to be more general than we do specific. Be prayerful and careful with the details.
You almost always need to get permission and input from anyone that is a part of your story.
If you’re sharing about a hard season in your marriage, your spouse needs to be completely aware and on board with what you’re sharing.
Use caution when asking women to share about their current issues or struggles. We want to remove any chance that their story might be driven by anger or bitterness. Ask God for discernment as you review their written story. It might be better for them to share when they have tourney a bit further down the road or healed a bit more.
You may be wondering, do we always need to invite women to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior after a testimony has been shared?
Your church likely has processes and procedures for sharing the gospel, and your team may not feel that every women’s ministry or activity warrants a verbal presentation of the gospel. However, I want to encourage you to include the how in some way, shape, or form, either verbally, written, or via invitation.
You might want to provide a tract or a brochure that provides the steps for accepting Christ as Savior or invite women to speak to a prayer counselor or women’s ministry team member.
If God truly is everything that we claim that He is, women want and they expect an invitation. Don’t let them leave your women’s ministry event or activity without a path to the how – that night may be the very night that God is calling them to submit to Him, to repent of their sin, and accept Him as Lord and Savior.
With a bit of intention of prayer and preparation, sharing our stories and sharing the gospel can become a regular and anticipated experience at your women’s ministry events and activities.
I love what 2 Corinthian 1:3-4 says, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
Our story can be a tool to providing comfort for those that God has placed in our path. Not that every story needs to be dramatic or heart-wrenching or about troubled times… Stories can be about the good that God is doing and how we have seen God at work in our families, our spiritual growth, or our lives.
Every story has the power and the ability to point our women to Christ and to encourage them in their walk.
Today’s Toolbox Task:
- Record a personal testimony (or story, if you’d rather call it that). Something recent that God has done in your life, or maybe it’s the moment of your salvation.
- Teach your team to share a personal testimony, practice sharing them with each other, and then schedule times of sharing at your upcoming events and activities.
Let your team be the ones to go first, to model the sharing of their stories. It’s going to inspire and encourage your women in ways that you may not even begin to imagine.
Thank you for listening to this episode of the Women’s Ministry Toolbox podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, would you consider leaving us a rating and review in your podcast app? This helps leaders just like you find this podcast, and it also helps them to know whether the podcast would be a good fit. Just open your podcast app, go to the show, and then scroll down until you see the ratings & reviews option. From there, you can tap to rate and then write a review. It really is a huge help – thanks so much! May the grace of God carry you through difficult ministry seasons, may He direct your steps as you seek to make Him known, and may your love for the LORD be apparent to every woman you serve.
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