Pink Folder/The Place of the Speaker

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by Tom Bloomer

Certain school leaders have expressed to me their inability to understand the difficulty they have in recruiting high-level speakers for their schools. Since I was consulted on this subject; and since I believe many of our bases are called to become important centres for missionary training in the University of the Nations; and also because I believe that we are in danger of losing one of the strong points of our early years, I have written these paragraphs.

When I see a ministry like the Anastasis, the Kona base in Hawaii, or even our little team in Dakar, I realize that certain ministries seem to attract speakers. Why do some ministries attract speakers?

I believe it comes from their obedience (even semi-conscious) to the following Biblical commands: Gal 6:6, 1Co 9:11, 1Ti 5:17, and Rom 13:7b. To be specific, they honour speakers (teachers) as messengers of the Most High, men and women coming in the name of the Lord, to bring us His Word. One of the main reasons for honouring them is to render their message important. Is the Word that they bring important for us? If it is, let us act accordingly. If we place value on honouring the Word, there will be room for that honour in our budgets, our cubic meters, our timetable, and with our staff.

Very practically, what does this honouring mean?

  1. Meeting the speaker. The leader should go to meet the speaker, either at the airport, the train station, or even the parking place. If the speaker is at another YWAM base before coming to yours, it could be important to go and pick him up by car. This is crucial for a foreigner, especially if it is his first time in the country. Normally this is not a job to give to a small group leader or staff member. It must be a priority of the school leader, perhaps the base leader. For certain speakers, it could be a member of the base Council that does this.
  2. Introducing the speaker, especially for the first time, to the students and/or staff members. One of the main leaders should do this, not a small group leader who giggles, or who says things that are not true, and ends by announcing, "The speaker had better introduce himself." Let us take as model the Apostle Paul's introductions in his epistles. Introductions are a real ministry, yet they are often spoiled. School staff must be coached in how to introduce graciously.
  3. The main leaders should share the vision of the base with the visiting speaker. Speakers are not only interested in the students. They like to get alongside us and see God's vision in a concrete way. They want to see the Kingdom advancing. Therefore, if they understand the vision, they get involved with the base, almost like a staff member but in (all the locations!) of the base, carried out by one of the main leaders, who explains the vision, concrete projects, the needs, etc, is absolutely vital. If the speaker gets hold of the vision, he/she will come back.
  4. Visits around the local area. Lausanne, Geneva, and Nyon are fascinating towns, especially for a foreigner. I have often shown the old town of Geneva to our speakers, and I cannot count the times I have shown someone around Lausanne. Practically speaking, has anyone asked the speaker, or his wife, if they want to go shopping in the neighboring cities? The question remains: Will our speakers leave with a vision for the nation seen through the eyes of a visionary?
  5. Openness to his message - for the community! Once again, the speaker is not only interested in the students but in the staff as well. Do we give him/her time in our staff or leaders meetings? Good speakers will come back again if they can play a part in the long-term work. What is more, the staff need regular and solid teaching. Some of our workers receive less teaching than members of a good local church! It is not possible to be a missionary with a diet like that. If we do not honour the speaker, we communicate (non-verbally, which is, of course, the most powerful communication) that his message is also of no importance. And if we keep him in the school only, the entire ministry will be the poorer.
  6. Respect cultural differences. For an English speaker at a non-English speaking base, the cultural shock should not be ignored. Perhaps this is very human, but someone who has spent a week feeling culturally disoriented is not going to be overjoyed about coming back. Frankly, for many people, one week surrounded by cows and people with whom one cannot communicate, in a little village without so much as a shop, or left alone during the meals and during the times not taken up with teaching... is just not very attractive. The remedy is friendship: human warmth, times of fellowship, bursts of laughter - all these help us handle a lot of other things. This is why Cynthia and I really like going to some YWAM bases ... and not so much to others. A meal in a restaurant, or even dessert in a sidewalk café, would be an unforgettable moment of fellowship for a foreigner. A well-known Swiss speaker was asked why he went to Africa to teach, at his own expense, but refused to teach in YWAM in Europe. He answered, "I go where I have friendships." Do we team up with speakers, to advance the Kingdom together in friendship? Or do we give them the impression that we profit from their ministry as cheaply as possible, without letting their presence inconvenience us too much?
  7. Housing: Those of us who do not have a ministry which means traveling often to teach in YWAM schools can hardly understand the fatigue, stress, and spiritual pressure involved. Especially with age, and with other responsibilities that must be carried at the same time and which do not disappear simply because of spending a week of one's life teaching in a school, a little comfort in the speaker's room is a necessity. I am not pushing for great practical details. None of our speakers would hesitate to go to the third world and be in a room with no electricity, no water, not even a real bed; pioneer situations, the poverty in that context, etc, are well understood. I believe our speakers have proved their readiness to sacrifice everything for the Gospel. And as already mentioned, there are other ways to honour a speaker. But in the West, at an established base, it is wrong to ask a speaker, especially someone with a recognized ministry and somewhat older, to spend his/her week in austere conditions. If we are going to make austerity a virtue, very well; but let us then live it out in our own offices, houses, and apartments. If we are not willing to live in this way in our own homes, let us not ask it of the speaker, who lives out his itinerant ministry year after year, or even decade after decade, in these situations.
    1. The speaker's room: those of some Western bases are much smaller than some of those found in the third world. Some are only just big enough for one person, and can not accommodate a couple. Sometimes there is not enough room for two medium-sized suitcases, plus briefcases, etc. The other major problem often met with is the lack of a bathroom; the necessity of going down the hall, finding the toilets often occupied, having to search on another floor, and so on, is tiring because it breaks the concentration during a time of preparation, you meet people who want to talk, you lose precious time, etc. A further complication to life occurs if the room is noisy, and if there is no internal telephone. More and more we are seeing YWAM bases providing separate little apartments for speakers (for the last 15 years at Heidebeek). For those who come as a family, it is almost a necessity for couples; or even for someone who does a lot of counsel-ling, it is very nice. But we should aim at a large room with bathroom and shower, and a little kitchenette. For a life that is intense, with a lot of traveling and many responsibilities, it is a ministry to the speaker to offer him/her a comfortable situation for his/her housing. I am challenged to see on the Anastasis, with its absolute limit on space, that they keep the two best apartments for the speakers. During some schools at Lausanne, we had two speaker's apartments as well as the big room with bathroom included.
    2. Furnishings: There must be enough drawers, coat-hangers and so forth; if not, a lot of articles have to be left in the suitcase, but if there is not enough room for the suitcase. Sometimes the lights are not sufficient for reading or writing conveniently (important for a speaker!). A 55-year old needs four times more light by which to read than does a 19-year old. An armchair for reading and a table to put one's books to study and prepare are very much appreciated. Listed below are a few other items sometimes found in some YWAM speaker's rooms:
      • Coffee machine with cups, saucers, etc. In short, a few items to help you feel "at home" if you want to drink something early in the morning or late at night or on the day that the hostess has her day off ... or when you want to offer someone a bit of hospitality yourself.
      • Small refrigerator for fruit juices, milk, yoghurt.
      • The choice of what to eat for breakfast.
      • Cassette player with music cassettes.
      • Hair dryer.
      • Books to read, especially English ones for foreigners.
      • Books edited by YWAM, especially in English and the local language.
      • Written information on YWAM, the base, and the area: folders, brochures, The Go Picture Book, The Go Manual, U of N catalogue, a short history of the ministry.
      • Photos with names, not only of students, but of staff and especially the leaders.
      • A television with VCR (now, that's more radical!).
    3. A note to the hospitality hostess: If you want a higher budget for the speaker's room, ask the base council members to each to take a turn spending a week in that room, with their wives of course. They will sleep on the speaker's bed, use the same bathroom, work at the same table, etc, etc. You will see a response! Ask them this question, "Do you feel honoured staying in this room?"
  8. Honorarium: Beyond the actual travel expenses, I hope an honorarium is given which honours. For example, 15 years ago at Lausanne, it was calculated to give SF 100 per hour of teaching. If we bless the speakers, they will bless us. Let us give materially to those the Lord sends to bless us spiritually. And let us be especially sensitive to those who live by faith, often on a razor's edge financially.

If speakers who have a ministry came to your base in the past but no longer come, there are certainly specific reasons. If your schools no longer attract enough students, it is perhaps, at least in part, because your speakers are unknown or they are staff members just beginning a ministry and therefore not the sort of ministry for which students would be inspired to put aside several months of his/her life.

During the time that the Cunninghams and the Stephens[who?] were in Switzerland, this entire ministry toward the speakers was called "hospitality". It is not an option for those who have spiritual responsibilities (see 1Ti 3). I suggest that you ask the Lord for His point of view toward the attitude that was heard expressed at one base, with some pride, "Here we don't coddle our speakers the way they do in other places." I encourage you to find out before the Lord what He is asking you to do in this area of giving double honour to the speaker. Do not look at what you have always done, or at what Lausanne or Kona or others would have done, or at the limitations or difficulties in doing something else. But look at what God is asking you.

The Place of the Speaker in the U of N; Tom Bloomer; February 18, 1993; Printed July 12, 2005 2005 U of N Reference Guide. Copyright © 1995 by YWAM/U of N; revised 1997, 2000, 2005. All Rights Reserved.