By Shane Bennett
Is the pain as real for you as it is for me? The worship leader begrudgingly surrenders the microphone (just kidding, worship leaders!) to an ill-prepared but enthusiastic “missions person.” A low collective groan rumbles across the room. By the time Missions Minute Man has adjusted the mic and begun to speak, no one is happy anymore. It’s not as bad as a root canal or a sermon on tithing, but close.
If you’re reading this article, odds are good you’re into missions to some degree, and as such have seen a ton of missions-related promos in your day, maybe given a few yourself. And if you’re honest, you might admit: we haven’t always knocked it out of the park!
Give me another four and a half minutes and I’ll give you five key principles that could help you become the mission-report equivalent of Charles Spurgeon, Tony Robbins, and Maya Angelou rolled into one. You’re going to kill at this!
1. Ask for some time.
Here are two things I think you’ll agree with me on: that most churches could use more in the “sharing cool global-God kind of stuff from the pulpit” department, and that they’re probably not going to ask for it.
So, job number one for a killer missions promo is get the time. Maybe your church is so super giant that this just never happens. No worries. Your Sunday School classes and adult fellowships are probably as big as most of our churches! So focus on them.
Courage, my friends: Follow the prescribed path to get five minutes in person or on the phone with your pastor. Explain what you’d like to say and why saying it on Sunday morning will help (not just help you, but help the church). If you get a bit of resistance, it’s because your pastor wasn’t born yesterday! Remember, we may be digging out of a hole here because of past experiences.
If the resistance holds, try this: Offer to videotape the whole desired report, submit it to your pastor, and ask that it be shown. It may never happen, but being willing shows humble moxie.
2. Make it great.
If you get a chance to share, pledge before God and the memory of legendary mission mobilizer Lottie Moon that you will not mess it up! Rather, you’ll make it unforgettable. In decades to come, people who were present for your report will die with a smile on their face as they recount how well you did!
You’ll make it great by making sure it is:
Email and the Web will lie to you (except for Missions Catalyst!) Check and double check any facts, and resist the urge to exaggerate stories. Say things only with the degree of confidence you actually have.
An average service is only about 90 minutes long. Time and attention are precious. Let’s not waste them by talking about stuff that doesn’t really matter. Of course that’s subjective, but do your best. Maybe even risk running your thoughts by your wife or that one surly deacon as a test.
If you can do it in the time you have, tell a story. “Here’s a thing that happened” and “Here’s why it matters.” Stories, told well, are almost impossible to resist. Leverage that.
3. Make it short.
Plan to use only two-thirds of your allotted time. This will do two things for you: You could stand out as one of the few people who ever ended early! And if you do go long, you can still end within your allotted time.
As we all, know, it’s better to leave people wanting more than to end with people just leaving!
4. Make it hopeful.
At any given time, a higher percentage of your church than you’d like to admit is probably thinking God’s getting beaten. Let’s try not to reinforce that. I confess I’m not above using some heart-grabbing statistics or a gut-punch anecdote to get people’s attention, but don’t leave them there. Presumably you have given your situation, so help others see where God is at work in it. Take a long view on what can happen. Paint a picture of the godly redemption that you foresee.
If the situation you’re reporting on is apparently, from all angles and as far as you can see, God-forsaken, go ahead and say so. But honestly, if you do that more than once a decade, people may think you’re being hyperbolic.
If God is doing anything, he’s redeeming this whole broken mess. Let’s remind each other of that as often as we can.
5. Make it actionable.
When you step away from the mic, your audience should have something to think, something to feel, and something to do. Encourage them to:
Present information that is so new and fresh it requires mental processing to integrate.
Pluck heartstrings. Most of us let our emotions have a pretty big role in our actions.
Give people a way to play a part! Even better if the part is somewhat tuned to who they are instead of just a need for any non-flatlined body to join your team. Invite people to pray, give money, invest time, visit, advocate, help, adopt, fight, post, and share.
If you really want to swing for the fence, give them something to take home! As missions people, I think we underuse the tchotchke. A tiny trinket will help people remember your cause. I’m currently giving away small beads made from the lava of Mt. Etna to help people remember to pray for refugees in Catania, my beloved city that sits at the base of that volcano.
Run your next global report through these filters. You’re going to do great! Maybe together we can turn the tide on mission talks. Thanks for reading this and sharing with others you think will benefit from it.