An advertisement for C & T Seminars kept coming across my path. It was about a training company owned by a woman named Ernie Froedge.
I was a burned out preacher who greatly missed preaching (but not church politics and control) and was trying to compensate by setting out to be a motivational speaker. Someone had told me that I could learn more about speaking and training by offering to buy lunch for someone who is doing it and then asking them questions about how they got started.
So I did. I called Ernie and she agreed to have lunch with me. I asked her questions about her business and she graciously shared helpful information with me.
Ernie was a facilitator. She led seminars for companies and organizations across the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and even the Cayman Islands. Rather than standing up and lecturing, she guided people through interactive activities and created an environment for open sharing.
I really enjoyed meeting her and found her business information very helpful. However, I wasn’t too sold on the concept of facilitation. I wanted to be a famous speaker.
I kept meeting with Ernie and we soon became friends. Our networking led to neck-working and within nine months we were married.
Ernie helped me with much advice, support and encouragement. And she helped open some doors for me, even getting me an opportunity to travel and do some facilitation for one of the companies she worked for.
I found facilitation to be very difficult and nerve-wracking. For me, it was much easier and more fulfilling to my ego to stand up and tell people what I know . Giving up control from the front of the room and allowing people to share was scary and uncomfortable. So I decided to focus on promoting myself as a motivational speaker.
Ernie and I used to have discussions about which was the most effective way to change people, facilitation or speaking. I would always take the side of speaking.
Although my life had been transformed in a meeting where people were allowed to share, and as a pastor I had seen that my preaching was not as effective in changing lives as allowing people to share, I still stubbornly thought I could change the world through giving speeches. I was determined.
Even though we disagreed on the speaking vs. facilitation topic, Ernie was always very supportive and encouraging of my goal to be a famous speaker. She even encouraged, helped, and backed me in writing and marketing two self-help books.
I had modest success as a speaker for 12 years, but it never really took off. My life was compartmentalized during this time. I wanted to find a church where people could share, but in my career as a speaker, I wanted to do all the talking.
However, eventually I began to have voice problems and my speaking business fell off. I was diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia by Vanderbilt Voice Center in Nashville and was told that I would have ongoing problems with my voice. I kept trying to make speeches with a broken voice but business fizzled out.
About that time, Ernie, who had given up much of her facilitation business to have more time with our daughter and to focus on spiritual growth, saw an ad in the newspaper for a part-time counselor with The Salvation Army. She sent in her resume and received a phone call from them. The job involved counseling addicted men at night. She felt like that was an opportunity for me instead of her, so she found me and put me on the phone. In a few days I was hired. That eventually led to Ernie being also hired by another part of The Salvation Army in Nashville, which led to our being invited to open Berry Street as a participatory church based on open sharing rather than one-man sermons.
As I have written about Berry Street, I have frequently connected it to my experience in a college fellowship that allowed sharing, but I have neglected to share how amazing God was to bless me with a wife who understood facilitation and who, when I was focused on my own desire to be a speaker, would love and support me and yet still remind me of what was deeper in my heart and be a beautiful example of humbly loving and following Christ! Ernie is truly gifted at honoring others and drawing out the best in them and that has created a beautiful environment for people to feel loved and accepted and have freedom to share at Berry Street.
Thank you, Ernie!