Friday, January 7, 2011

Do It Afraid!

Of all of the many phobias out there, they say public speaking is one of the most common fears people have. Ok, I don’t know who “they” are, and I’m too lazy to look up a reference, but let’s just agree that “they” are pretty smart. Public speaking is terrifying! Some people are great at it, gifted even, and are energized when they get a chance to share in front of a large group. I am not one of those people.

Fortunately, most jobs do not require people to speak in front of large audiences. But, a few times a year, my job overseeing Growth Groups at Great Lakes Church requires that I do. I share for about 60 long seconds at the end of our 101 (Membership) Class. I also speak for about 45 minutes at our Growth Group Training class. Knowing I’ll have an audience of about 30, I always get a little nervous. But before our most recent training this week, I was overwhelmed with greater levels of insecurity and anxiousness than I’ve experienced in a long time! I was having vivid nightmares for a week leading up to the class.

In each dream I was late to the training. People were laughing at me. The training books were missing pages and had a ton of typos. Then people would get up and leave right in the middle of the class, completely mocking me. By the end of the class, not one person went on to lead or host a group and it was all my fault! Maybe your nightmares are scarier with “real danger” of people chasing you with guns or something, but I could not shake the way these dreams were making me feel. I talked to Tony about them and he laughed with/at me, but also assured me that Growth Group Training would be just fine. He had every confidence in me, I just had no confidence in myself.

I reached out to a couple of friends and asked them to pray for me. My biggest fear at this point was that I would have those dreams so stuck in my head that I would make them a reality. I would say the wrong thing. I would be boring and confusing. I would be unprepared and it would be obvious! Dreadful! One of my friends, while praying for me and encouraging me, shared with me this little gem:

“Even when you’re afraid, do it afraid!”

I’d never heard it put quite like that before. You mean, it is possible to still do something while being afraid? I don’t have to conquer the fear first? It sounded so simple, but it meant everything to me. Do it afraid!

I went on to read and re-read my notes, prayed and tried to relax, and finally I showed up to the training. We had more people attend this training class than ever before, which did not help my nerves. I originally asked our hosts to open their home for a group of about 30, and 58 showed up!

I was about to speak to 58 people and share with them my passion for groups. I was going to do my best to equip them with what they needed to know to successfully run their own groups. I needed to get their attention and hold it long enough that they would actually walk away with something new. How was I going to do all of that while still being me, afraid and insecure?

In the end, people squeezed into this house, nobody openly mocked me or walked out in the middle of training. I did stumble over my words a few times and even said the wrong name of the church which got a unanimous and loud “OOOHHHHHH”... And, in fact, one person was missing pages out of their book.

Still, people were gracious and understanding when we ran out of chairs. They played along with my silly games, engaged in conversation with one another, and by the time the night was over dozens of people shared with me their excitement in taking this next step to lead or host their own groups.

Going into this new season of Growth Groups, these 58 people are likely doing something they’ve never done before. I know it is very possible that they are nervous and maybe even feeling inadequate. Many others are leading groups they’ve never led like mission groups and study groups. There is always risk involved in moving into new territory like this. So, I’ll pass on to all of you the best advice I was given all week.

Even when you’re afraid, do it afraid.

Let us Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand

– Isaiah 41:10

God is with us and will continue to be with us as we stretch ourselves to be used by him for the sake of others. We can’t let that fear take over and rob us from these adventurous days!


Charmayne said...

Michelle, I think you are just marvelous!!

Kim Drury said...

Michelle, I couldn't even tell you were nervous. I was thinking... "WOW! I wish I was as confident as she is!" My husband and I had a great time at training and we learned a lot, what a fun night!