I once wrote about a 'Women of Faith Lecture Series' that I helped start in Brooklyn. Since starting the series and writing about it on the blog, it turns out there are quite a few 'Women of Faith Lecture Series' being started around the country! AMAZING! I couldn't be more excited. Also, many people have written me to get specifics on how to plan the events. I've been sending out answers, but thought I'd also share them here in case you'd be interested in starting your own Lecture Series.
Do you do it at your church? Yes. But it could be done anywhere if someone doesn't have access to a church. You could also do it in someone's home, which would actually be so nice.
What is the meeting format? One of the women (usually whomever organized it - or any assistants) will lead the meeting, welcome everyone, and introduce the speaker. It would be great to provide a brief bio on the speaker, too. And then the conductor can announce that there will be Q&A afterward if anyone has questions for the speaker. The speaker then takes the floor and shares her story of faith. At the end, she'll usually stay standing and field the questions after. Then the conductor will thank her and close up the meeting.
How can you advertise? You can send emails to the heads of other women's organizations in churches or in the community. You can announce the event on neighborhood chat forums or newsletters. You can set out a sign in front of your venue or church. You can create a flyer and pass it out to anyone who might be interested. You can invite any of the attendees to spread the word and invite people to come. You can announce your event on blogs in your area.
Who gives the lecture? How do you decide who speaks at each one? Anyone from the community can speak, of course. We also had guest speakers from time to time from other communities. The speaker is usually asked a month or more in advance. We just asked anyone who might be willing to share her story of faith, HER TRUTHS - whatever they may be. I think EVERY person has a journey to share. It doesn't matter what her story is - it will always be unique and powerful to hear. And I think it's SO valuable to tell our stories. Especially as women. This is something we can't do often enough.
Is anyone ever offended by the discussion or topics? Our group was extremely open-minded, non-judgemental, not gossipy, etc. The feeling there was just one of love and support and togetherness. If anyone was uncomfortable with a sensitive topic, in my opinion, it was an accomplishment! I feel it's wonderful to have exposure to things that are new to us. It's the silence and taboo nature of some of these faith journeys that we were trying to overcome. There is way too much fear out there regarding sharing REAL LIFE stories. But when it happens, it can turn into something profoundly inspiring, bonding and powerful.
Do you have many older women in your midst? Or mostly younger? Most of the women were between their late twenties and forties. Though we had some women in their 50s and 60s, too, and they have LOVED the series as well. One of the older women said it's the BEST activity she's ever been to in her whole life.
What is your overarching goal for these? We just wanted to hear women's stories of faith! Sometimes in a church, stories told are too cookie cutter, there may be pressure to conform to cultural norms, or there may not be enough time to really share in detail, or the topics are not ones that you would normally discuss in church. So it's great to hear THE REAL STORY of what a woman has gone through to get to where she is at. We liked the idea of being inspired by each other and hearing about the faith and healing that another woman has tapped into. Though I would say if someone is still trying to find her path of faith or define her own truths- that she could still share details about that journey, too. It certainly does not have to be a display of the perfect journey where one has everything figure out. No matter what, sharing these stories has been unifying, uplifting, and really so, so touching that you wouldn't believe it.
Has anything happened that you didn't expect? It seems that with each story, there often was an overarching theme that related to the woman's journey of faith. (i.e. a health crisis, family issues, sexual abuse, marriage, suicide, depression, being gay, being single, divorce, eating disorder, the challenge of being a woman in a religious institution, breast cancer, working on a PhD, infertility, living on a budget, being a mother, etc.) So sometimes at the end of the lecture, the speaker would end up educating us further on the topic, based on what she had learned. And the audience would chime in as well. The discussions that developed were amazing. We all learned so much - and had the opportunity to discuss so many important topics openly.
Do you teach about your church at these events? No. Though if the woman speaking is a part of a particular faith, her journey will often reflect that. The ideal would be to hear from many women from different faith practices or paths.
How many speakers per night? Usually just one speaker per night. Though a couple of times we had a panel of women if there were several that had a similar journey (i.e. infertility).
Size of group? Our group was about 30-40 women and it worked so well. Some of the events even brought as many as 60 people! But group size shouldn't matter, I don't think. A very small group would be just as wonderful. Though chances are it will grow as people find out about it. I think people have such a need to connect with others in meaningful ways.
How long do they speak? The women speak for as long as they want, really. It usually turns into 20-30 minutes (sometimes longer) with a very active Q&A /Discussion after. We had refreshments at the end and everyone stayed as long as possible to continue the rich discussions. The entire thing would last 1 1/2 - 2 hours. We would begin the event at 7:00 pm.
Let me know what you think of the idea or if you have ANY questions! I'd so love to hear if you plan an event like this in your area.
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