GCI: Graduate Club Manual – Introductory Articles

This manual is a free educational service provided by Grace Communion International for use by speech club participants. Copyright © 1989, 2011. All Rights Reserved

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By Joseph W. Tkach, Sr.

Welcome to Graduate Club! As a member, you will have opportunities for exciting challenges that will help you further develop your speaking skills, as well as your personality and confidence.

When our speaking clubs began back in the early 1950s, I don’t think anyone foresaw the full benefit to the church that would result. These clubs and the training they offer have been helping most of the leaders God uses in our fellowship today to be more effective in fulfilling their roles.

I myself am a product of our Speech Club. I have always considered the training I received in club to be an invaluable blessing from God. I think most everyone who has completed the Speech Club program would agree with me. Graduate Club is the next step.

While the format of Graduate Club is similar to the Speech Club, it offers you an additional level of training. It is not easy — yet you will find the joy of accomplishment and achievement well worth the effort and commitment you give it!

Remember, building effective communications skills is a process. You can’t do it all at once, any more than you will be able to complete all the lessons and speeches in Graduate Club in only a year or two. On the other hand, you need never become discouraged with your progress as long as you are trying, as long as you show that you care about what you are doing, as long as you are committed to improvement. No one who does these things can ever be considered a failure!

It is important to remember that Graduate Club is similar to making a sound financial investment. Club does require time, but it pays off in dividends of personal development. But remember to keep your priorities straight. Graduate Club is a fine activity, but it is only one of the areas for which you are responsible. Your family, especially, plus your job, your other service in the church and perhaps even other areas are more important. Stay balanced!

This Graduate Club that you now have the privilege to benefit from is a major opportunity for personal growth. Take advantage of it!



The Purpose of Graduate Club

The purpose of Graduate Club is to provide opportunities for people who have completed a formal speech club[1] and want to further sharpen their communication and leadership skills. Graduate Club focuses on these important areas:


In Speech Club you learned how to use the basic building blocks of speaking—speaking with purpose, being crystal clear, using color, getting the facts, using intensity, instructing, inspiring. You learned how to give a complete speech, how to put your whole heart into your speaking and how to stir people to action.

Now, in Graduate Club, you will continue to apply these building blocks as you learn how to persuade others about ideas. You will gain experience in explaining scriptures, analyzing world news, reviewing books, and drawing lessons from the Bible.[2] And you will continue to strive to make your speeches interesting, colorful, moving, and, above all, worth the time your audience invests in listening to you!

Personal growth

Are you a warm, friendly, well-rounded, engaging person? Are you sincere, humble and tactful, yet properly assertive, firm and outgoing?

Review regularly the qualities listed in Philippians 4:8 and the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit, described in Galatians 5:22-23. Are you developing these hallmarks in your personality? Study the traits Jesus expounded in the beatitudes (Matthew 5). 1 Corinthians 9:20-22illustrates the importance of learning to relate to all kinds of people.

Think about the way of love described in 1 Corinthians 13. God’s own character—the way of thinking and acting in godly love in every situation, in every decision, in every word, in every attitude—is being expressed in you as you allow Jesus Christ to live in you through the Holy Spirit.

Christians strive, with God’s help, for high personal standards in every area of life. But if we are not committed to God’s calling, we are more vulnerable to the pulls of society (Proverbs 25:28).

Christian fellowship

In this troubled world, everyone needs a friend. In our churches this is especially so. Each of us needs warm, supportive friends who love us and who will be there to lift us up when we need it.

Proverbs 27:17 tells us, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”[3] In Graduate Club you will be part of a concerned group who really care about you. They will encourage you to give your best. They will advise you on how to be more effective. They will inspire you in this Christian race. You will want to give in these ways to each of them, too.

Think about the wonderful way of love described in 1 Corinthians 13. Wouldn’t you like to be friends with people who are learning to live this way in every part of their daily lives? Of course! And you need to be this type of person as well—one with whom others want to interact. Philippians 2:4 tells us to be concerned not only about our own interests, but also about the interests of others.

Leadership that helps others

Christian life should be based on service in love (1 Corinthians 14:40). Jesus said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26).

We want to reflect this in the way we deal with others. Christian leaders, unlike the rulers of this world, serve others. Jesus did not oppress anyone, nor did he come to serve himself. His way of life works for the good of everyone. The way of God works from the top down to serve everyone from the bottom up, in genuine love.

Graduate Club stresses service founded on Christian love. Ask God to help you understand this approach to life and to help you experience and express this love and concern toward your family, on your job, in the church, and in all your relationships.

We hope you will see aspects of this approach to life in club. Learn all you can about it, and try to practice it in every part of your life. This is the way of life that will bring peace and happiness to everyone with eternal life.



Overview of the Graduate Club Meeting Program

Can you name the single most important part of the Graduate Club program? Is it the speeches? Or the topics session? The business portion? Discussions before and after the meeting? All of these are important, of course, but the most vital element is your participation in every single aspect of club. Graduate Club is a laboratory dedicated to developing speaking ability and teaching principles of leadership and character. But it can help you only if you take advantage of it.

When you first started giving speeches, you may have gone through some of the lessons and club activities in a more or less mechanical fashion. You knew you should do those things, and so you did them. This was normal, because you were new to the challenges of public speaking. But as you continued to get more experience in public speaking, you grew and learned more. You came to appreciate more fully the reasons why you were doing what you were doing. The experience became part of your thinking and character.

Your participation in the Graduate Club program actually begins before each club meeting even starts. You need to be prepared mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Think in advance about how you can contribute to the club. Do quality research when you have a speaking assignment, and thoroughly prepare what you will say. Read up on and meditate about the tabletopics that might be covered. Pray that God will help every member of the club to make the most of each meeting, “making the most of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:16). Pray for God’s inspiration so that you and everyone else can be positive, excited, outgoing, alert and enthusiastic about club.

Now, what about the specific activities you will be taking part in during Graduate Club?

  • Fellowship. In Graduate Club you enjoy conversations with people who are trying to express the love of Jesus Christ. As Jesus said, “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). Take advantage of this time. Strive to encourage and build up other people (Romans 15:2) through your words and example. Contribute to loving, family-oriented, spiritual community. Remember, Christ is among you.
  • Business. Contributing helpful material during the business session helps build right confidence. Present your points and suggestions logically. Be succinct, but not abrupt. Learn to be tactful and diplomatic. If you must disagree, do so without being disagreeable.
  • Tabletopics. In an introductory speech club, tabletopics are often finalized at the last moment, and people must respond with little advance thought. But an experienced speaker, a graduate, thinks far enough ahead to give everyone advance notice of the general categories to be covered during the next topics session. Take the time to study the subjects so you can contribute worthwhile comments during this portion of the meeting. Strive for in-depth thinking and clear, effective analysis in your comments.
  • Speeches. Graduate Club is more demanding than was Speech Club. You will learn how true this statement is if you try to “fake” a speech—if you don’t concentrate on the lesson and prepare adequately—if you don’t take the opportunity seriously and put mature effort into delivering an effective presentation every time you are assigned a speech. Speaking is a central focus of Graduate Club, and the speeches in this club are often longer than they were in Speech Club. Therefore, a meeting may have only three speeches, each of which will be carefully evaluated in detail. So accept the challenge and begin to build the skills of a competent speaker.
  • Evaluations. The club director will lead in evaluating the speeches, and may call on other Graduate Club members for additional impromptu comments. In some ways, everyone in Club is assigned to evaluate the speech. Listen intently while others speak so that you may truly help and encourage them when you offer your comments. Emphasize positive points, but offer suggestions for improvement where appropriate.
  • Other opportunities. Don’t limit what God can do through you! In every aspect of the Graduate Club laboratory—dress, personality, diligence, manners, humility and a host of other areas—”Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Ecclesiastes 9: 10).



Put Graduate Club to Work for You

It’s not easy to build new habits, to be transformed in the innermost person, to improve our personality, to strengthen character. We spend our lives shaping, molding and forming character that will last for the rest of our lives—into eternity.

The Greek word for “character” is charakter, which refers to a tool used for engraving a lasting impression on stone or metal. Graduate Club can be a tool for inscribing God’s image in your personality. But it’s a complex tool. Nobody expects you to just pick it up like a simple hand tool and be able to use it to its full potential. It requires training and practice to sharpen your skills.

That’s where this manual comes in. Use the manual and you will find this club can help you grow as a person, to be more effective in your relationships with others.

A new club

Graduate Club is not just an extension of Speech Club. It has some similarities, so you might be tempted to think you already understand Graduate Club. But it we did not just tack some new speech assignments onto the only Speech Club manual. Graduate Club is different; this manual had to be specifically designed for it and the material written especially for it.

Some of it gives a deeper understanding of points introduced in Speech Club. Some topics are entirely new for Graduate Club, introducing areas of speaking that will challenge and give you experience in ways Speech Club only began to do. All of it is designed to make your experience in club exciting and encourage your growth.

A new approach to speeches

Unlike Speech Club, the speeches are not arranged in a progression, one speech teaching you the skills you need for the next speech. The basic skills you learned in Speech Club are the building blocks for what you will be doing in Graduate Club. Your goal is to craft a highly finished product, one that may take weeks of research, organizing, reorganizing and heartfelt prayer. Indeed, you may be thinking about the topic for some speeches months ahead of time.

Read the manual instructions for the speeches. Carefully analyze your topic and approach it in the light of those guidelines. Talk to your club director about the speech for additional input and direction. And remember, if you’re asked to repeat a speech, it’s not a failure; it’s an opportunity for greater growth. It is a false kindness to say that you did well when you actually did not.

The principles you master in Graduate Club can become part of your daily life, not just during club meetings. The manual can help you if you use it regularly. It can remind you of the goals you are aiming at. It can keep your mind on upcoming speeches so you will be receptive to useful ideas. It can help you pray for other club members as they face the same challenges you do in their daily quest for growth and change.

A greater commitment

Graduate Club will make demands of you. It will test you, but not without purpose—and definitely not without reward. If you approach Graduate Club with an eagerness to learn and grow, you will see changes in yourself come rapidly. You may find problems you’ve worked on for years now giving way, being replaced by the growth of confidence and skill.

Anytime you undertake a new challenge, you will have some setbacks. Keep trying, and keep learning from them. Use the manual to help you smooth over some of the rough spots. It will help you put Graduate Club to use in sharpening your communication and leadership skills.



Constitution and Bylaws

“Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way,” the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:40. The following guidelines will help Club proceed in a predictable way.

Club name

The name Graduate Club is used to describe a club composed of people who have graduated from a previous public-speaking training program. The full name of a Graduate Club will include the name of the local church, followed by the words “Graduate Club.”

In some cases, there will not be enough graduates available to warrant having their own club. Graduates may then be part of a Speech Club, with the Graduates following the instructions in this manual, while the others follow the Speech Club manual.[4]


The purpose of Graduate Club is stated in “The Purpose of Graduate Club” earlier in this manual. In short, the purpose is to provide training in speech, leadership, organization and communication skills.

The main tool for fulfilling this purpose is the presentation of 12 types of speeches. The speeches should be completed in numerical order, but they do not represent a closed cycle of speeches and there is no graduation from Graduate Club.

Membership requirements

Club members should be graduates of a previous speech program. Applications should be made to the club’s director. Members are admitted by the director based on openings and qualifications of the individual. Once admitted to Graduate Club, a member must do the following to remain a member:

  • Attend regularly.
  • Pay the dues.
  • Show effort to achieve the goals of the club.
  • Strive to overcome speaking difficulties.

Size limitations of club

The maximum membership of a Graduate Club is 30 people. When there are more than 30 qualified applicants, additional clubs may be formed. If it is impossible to form additional clubs, a waiting list should be maintained.

People who wish to drop out of club for an extended period must be dropped completely. At the time they wish to rejoin, they must reapply for admission.


Clubs should encourage attendance of guests for several reasons. Guests give an extra challenge to the members, because this gives them an opportunity to speak before a larger audience. Potential members have a chance to become acquainted with club activities. Friends and work associates not in the club have a chance to learn about what the club does.

Members who wish to invite guests should obtain permission from the director, president or vice president, who in turn will notify the sergeant at arms to ensure that there is sufficient seating for the guests.

When groups are to be invited to attend club meetings, the president should decide, with the club’s input and the director’s approval, who should be invited and when. This should be discussed during the business portion of the meeting.

Membership dues

Membership dues may be assessed to provide finances for each club. The amount of the dues should be determined by the president, during the business session, with input from club members and approval of the director.

This amount should cover the cost of any manuals, equipment, hall rental and other expenses. In addition to regular dues, funds may be asked of members for specific purposes according to the club’s desire and with approval of the director.

Graduate Club officers

The director is normally the pastor of the church, or an elder the pastor assigns. The director should lead at least half of the club meetings.

Once each year, the director appoints all club officers. The director can reappoint any person to any office. These are positions of service, not status.

For each officer, the official duties are a vital part of the club’s activities, and an officer’s duties are part of the personal training that club offers to its members. Each person should do their best in each task assigned.

When a club member accepts the responsibility of an office, it is the member’s duty to give faithful service. This selfless service builds the kind of character that is a reward in and of itself. To provide this service, each officer should be thoroughly familiar with his/her official duties.

Duties of the President

  • The president must enthusiastically lead the club members in pursuit of the goals of Graduate Club. It is president’s responsibility to plan and administer the activities that will help the club fulfill those goals.
  • The president relies on the director and officers in pursuit of those goals. A spirit of teamwork permeates the club and unites it as one community.
  • The president must also lead the club through a personal example of energy, tact, resourcefulness, inspiration, love, joy and wisdom.
  • The president presides at all meetings of the club except when the vice president or some other member is called to the chair. The president should start all meetings on time and carry them through on schedule.
  • The president must be prepared before each meeting by becoming acquainted with the business to be handled. All meetings and activities of the organization should be conducted in a businesslike manner.

Duties of the Vice President

  • The vice president assists the president, presiding when necessary. The president should occasionally, in advance, ask the vice president to preside if the need does not otherwise arise.
  • One of the vice president’s most important functions is to encourage the growth of each member by helping each member take full advantage of the opportunities club offers. The main tools in this effort are a close working relationship with the secretary and talking with members of the club.
  • Close communication with the secretary about attendance and speech assignments will help the vice president be aware of how members are doing. If any of them are falling short in their responsibilities, the vice president should encourage, not reprimand them.

Duties of the Secretary

  • The secretary is responsible for making an accurate record of each club meeting. After reading the minutes at the next meeting, the secretary will give the original to the director. The secretary is also responsible for silently taking roll at each meeting and noting any guests that are present.
  • The secretary has the crucial role of assigning speeches for upcoming meetings. The secretary should ensure that every member is assigned on a regular basis, and that one person does not repeat tabletopics, for example, until all other members have been given that opportunity. The secretary also assigns the timer for each meeting, and two people to assist the sergeant at arms. Everyone should be rotated through these assignments.

Duties of the Treasurer

The treasurer handles all club financial matters, collects dues, and maintains accurate records of club expenses. Although the president may not ask for a financial report at most club meetings, the treasurer must be ready to give a financial report at any meeting. This would include

  1. the number of members who are paid up,
  2. the number who are in arrears in their dues,
  3. recent expenditures,
  4. the current bank balance, and
  5. the projected balance available at the end of the club season.

Duties of the Sergeant at Arms

  • This officer prepares the meeting room before the members arrive. Tables and chairs should be arranged and the speaker’s stand, gavel, water pitchers and glasses should be ready for use. He/she looks after ventilation, lighting, and the general comfort of members during the meeting and the tidiness of the meeting hall during and after the meeting.
  • Each club should assign one or two people per meeting to assist in these duties. The meeting room must be readied in advance, so the sergeant at arms and the assigned assistants are available to welcome visitors.
  • The sergeant at arms maintains a supply of Club materials, such as membership manuals and evaluation slips.


Meetings should be held every other week, if possible, but no less than once each month. The meetings should be conducted according to the outline presented in the “Standard Programs” section of this manual. A club season should last no more than nine months out of each year.



Standard Programs

The following program is standard for all Graduate Club meetings. It should be adapted according to the starting time of each particular club. The time limit for Graduate Club meetings is two hours, 30 minutes.


Meeting begins. The director brings the club to order and calls on someone for an opening prayer (elapsed time: one minute).


Opening remarks. The president welcomes the club and gives a few opening remarks (one minute).


Minutes. The president introduces the secretary, who reads the minutes (two minutes).


Business. The president conducts the business session, handling old business first and then new business (10 minutes—sometimes much less, sometimes a little more).


Tabletopics. The president introduces the topicsmaster for the evening (one minute). The topicsmaster then presents the evening’s topics (30 minutes).


Break. The president adjourns the club for a brief recess (10 minutes).


Speeches. The president introduces the toastmaster, who then conducts the speaking session (35-40 minutes).


The president introduces the director for the final evaluation. The director evaluates the club’s meeting and the speeches, inviting comments from club members (30 minutes).


Lecture. The director gives instruction on a topic of his/her choice. This may be about speaking techniques, research methods, or extended commentary on a topic raised by one of the speeches (25 minutes).


The president calls on the secretary to read the assignments for the next twomeetings. The director asks for the impression slips to be passed to the president and dismisses the club.


The meeting is adjourned.

Special Meetings

The club format may occasionally be altered. For example, the tabletopics session may be eliminated, and the director may give a more detailed presentation about speech, leadership, or service.

A club may have one or two special guest meetings each year, as a club’s budget and schedule permit. Every member will be encouraged to bring a spouse or other guest, and tabletopics and speeches will be chosen appropriate for the special guests and occasion. These meetings may include a special meal or awards.

Generally, the last meeting of the club year should be special in some way. During this meeting, special achievements will be noted, and officers for the next club season will be announced.


[1] The first speech club could be one that was sponsored by Grace Communion International, or it could be a club sponsored by another organization, or two semesters of speech class at a college or university.

[2] At the director’s discretion, members of the club do not have to be members of the church, and do not have to be Christians. However, the club is sponsored by a church, and the lessons in this manual do include biblical and spiritual topics. Just as we do not have to believe in Greek mythology to draw valuable life lessons from Homer’s Iliad, so also a person does not have to be a Christian in order to draw lessons from the Bible.

[3] Unless noted otherwise, all biblical quotations are from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

[4] The director, president, and secretary will have to remember which members are following which manual. Since Graduate Club speeches are often longer than Speech Club speeches, this will affect the number of people who are scheduled to speak at each meeting. Since the director leads the evaluation of Graduates, the secretary should not assign evaluators for Graduate speeches.


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