“You have a story to tell.”
These words seemed to flash in neon lights in my mind’s eye as I listened to a woman named Carol Kent talk about her passion for evangelism. Kent is the founder and executive director of the SpeakUp Conference — a unique conference for Christian writers and speakers. As an international speaker and best-selling author, she travels all over the word proclaiming the truths held in the Scriptures and sharing her own story of hope. For nearly 30 years, she has also been committed to raising up a generation of biblical communicators through solid training, networking opportunities, and encouragement.
Little did I know when I decided to attend the 2017 SpeakUp Conference, that choice would change the trajectory of my life profoundly. I realize that describing this conference as “life changing” may sound a bit cliché, but it is the truth nonetheless.
Nearly four years ago, I walked into my first conference for Christian communicators. I had a deep desire to serve the Lord through a full-time speaking and writing ministry. I longed to share what God was teaching me in my quiet time with Him and to write books that reflected His character. At the time, I was leading small-group Bible studies and coordinating women’s ministry for local military spouses on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I also created a small blog and was growing a platform on social media. But I felt stuck.
I didn’t know anything about how to begin a speaking ministry or set up speaking engagements. I had no idea how the publishing industry worked or the steps it took to write a book. At SpeakUp, I was taught how to write pitch copy, create an impactful media kit, and watched a mock publishing board. I met with agents, mentor authors, and acquisition editors from major publishing houses. Needless to say, the opportunities presented at SpeakUp would have been impossible to come by without an immense amount of money or connections in high places.
Really, that first year was the genesis of what God would do in our military community for ministry leaders and communicators looking to learn how to share their message more effectively. When I returned to the conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for my second year, I was invited to an annual faculty dinner. I was lavished in love and encouragement by the faculty. I have never felt more seen and welcomed by any other civilian community.
During this dinner, I expressed the vision I had for ministry leaders in the military and how we desperately needed to be at events like the SpeakUp Conference. Our community has an enormous need for gospel-centered leaders and communicators. But, because of our financial limitations, conferences like this create access points through scholarships and virtual attendance. In 2019, the SpeakUp Norsworthy Global Missions Scholarship was born.
Committed faculty members and donors came together to make sure that military members and their spouses could attend. Since the Speak Up-Norsworthy Scholarship’s inception, over 150 military spouses have participated.
During the summer of last year’s event, COVID-19 pushed the event to an online format and boasted more than 120 military spouse participants. Attendees gained access to quality teaching on relevant topics like speaking, teaching, and writing. They received at least three 15-minute appointments with industry experts, including speaker mentors, social media experts, life coaches, publishers, acquisition editors, author mentors, and literary agents. Many pitched their book ideas and some signed with agents.
Since attending the initial conference in 2017, I signed with a literary agent, wrote my first book, and secured a publishing contract with Moody Publishers in Chicago. My first book, “Summoned: Answering a Call to the Impossible,” was released this month May 4 and is available for purchase at Amazon.com.
As the SpeakUp Global Missions Military Liaison, I believe that you have a story to tell, too. Whether through speaking or writing, God can use your story to share His story, the gospel, to bring hope and healing to those who are hurting. Ultimately, I believe that God is in fierce pursuit of our community. We are perfectly positioned to serve as ambassadors for Christ. We have the capacity to carry the redemptive story of Jesus to the four corners during every PCS — in in the midst of every move and make our homes the place where others find Him.
The 2021 Speak Up Conference with Carol Kent will be held virtually again this year, July 14 — 16 and scholarship applications are now being accepted for current active-duty service members or military spouses. A limited number of scholarships will also be made available for retired military members or their spouses.