By Gary D. Myers
NEW ORLEANS—An idea that began with a simple joke set Rhonda Harrington Kelley on a decade-long journey that culminated in a new book, “Talking is a Gift: Communication Skills for Women.” Released Feb. 1 by B&H Academics, the book, co-written by Monica Rose Brennan, serves as a communication guide for women seeking to minister to other women.
It all started some 10 years ago when New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley introduced his wife at an event. During the introduction, he quipped that she had three spiritual gifts not listed in the Bible: sleeping, shopping and talking. The joke was well-received by the crowd, but Rhonda Kelley didn’t forget that connection of talking with spiritual gifts.
Later while reading in 1 Peter 4, she came across the words “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.” She began contemplating a simple but profound truth: There is an inherent connection between verbal communication and many of the spiritual gifts.
“So many of the spiritual gifts like teaching, administration, exhortation and mercy must use words to minister to others,” Kelley said. “That resonated in my heart and mind. Talking is a gift. It is a gift that God gives us to minister to others.”
From her teaching experience in the women’s ministry program at NOBTS, Kelley knew that a textbook was needed for women’s public speaking courses at seminaries and Christian colleges. For years the only public speaking textbooks specifically targeting women have been from a secular perspective or have been Christian books with too narrow of a focus. Most of the “speaking” books from a Christian perspective have targeted men and focused on preaching.
“One of the reasons I felt it was so important to have a public speaking book written by a woman for women is because men and women are different and we communicate differently,” Kelley said.
When B&H Academic published its first academic book for women’s ministry in 2008 – “Women Leading Women” by Jaye Martin and Terri Stovall – Kelley wrote a proposal for “Talking is a Gift” and ultimately secured a publishing deal with B&H Academic. “Talking is a Gift” is the second women-focused publication by B&H Academic.
As Kelley began fleshing out the details of the book, she began to think about the advantages a co-author could bring to the project. She immediately thought of Brennan, who teaches women’s ministry at Liberty University. Kelley knew that Brennan would bring a unique perspective to the project. Not only is she from a younger generation, she also teaches on the collegiate level.
The book is divided in three sections: interpersonal communication, verbal communication and non-verbal communication. Two-thirds of the material focuses on verbal communication skills such as preparing, delivering and evaluating speeches, Kelley said. The authors also help provide a general foundation for communication and discuss the gender dynamics of communication. Each chapter ends with a series of questions to help readers process and implement particular communication skills.
B&H Academics supplemented the printed material with online bonus material accessed through QR (quick response) codes and unique web addresses. The web-based material gives readers access to videos of Kelley and Brennan explaining key communication issues related to women.
“The book has some technical information, because it is an academic textbook,” Kelley said. “But our desire is that it would also be helpful to lay leaders. Many women in the church are having opportunities to teach and speak in different ways.”
Though “Talking is a Gift” was not released until Feb. 1 after the start of the spring semester, several schools implemented the textbook as soon as it became available. Women’s ministry classes at The Baptist College of Florida, the University of Mobile, Ouachita Baptist University and Liberty University are all using the book this semester. NOBTS will begin using the book during March workshops.
“Talking is a Gift” is available for purchase through LifeWay Christian Stores and Amazon in hardback and electronic form. For more information, visit www.talkingisagift.com or “like” the “Talking is a Gift” page on Facebook.