At Candidate Missionary Orientation in Missouri last fall, I met a lot of other candidate missionaries and got to hang out with a lot of those who were also called to Europe. Ryan and Angela McCullough were two of them.
Recently on Facebook Ryan wrote a great post of tips he’s learned during their own itineration journey, and he gave me permission to post it here on my blog. I hope it gives other itinerating missionaries some help and encouragement as it has me.
Here are 10 key things we are learning from Itineration and calling to schedule services:
1. Explain who you are.
Jog people’s memory until they go: “oh.. Yeah! Hi how’s it going!!”
People will not always remember your name but they remember the last time they saw you. (I saw you last at the pastor’s retreat or light for the lost banquet). If they don’t know you, just give quick basic details about who you are and where you live and what you do with the AG.
2. Do yourself a favor and before you call, enter the church’s and pastor’s entire information into your cell phone.
Enter that contact as a new contact and fill the whole thing out, or you’ll drive yourself crazy looking for it later. City first, church name second, pastor and wife name last. The other advantage to this is when they call your cell phone back it’ll pop up on caller I.D. and you’ll remember their name and you won’t feel like a dork for forgetting what city they live in. You don’t have time to look up those details when your phone is ringing while you are driving or in line at the store. The other thing this does is link contact with maps and email for future. Also you can look back in your call log and see what calls you made, who you missed, who to call back.
3. Write everything down.
Write down who you called and what the result was. Write down details of conversation… Especially if you schedule a service. Not joking on that last sentence. I’ve done it once and had to call back to confirm. That was not my best moment. You won’t remember later. Promise. You won’t remember. (What did I just say? I forgot..)
p.s. Use the reminder feature if you have an iPhone.
4. Do as much research as possible before you call.
Sounds like work – and it is, but but nothing is more work than right after you’ve been told “no” just because you failed to represent yourself well as an informed, concerned friend. Look up the church’s website/Facebook to get a feel of who you are talking to and know what’s going on.
For example: “Hey.. I hear you have a big men’s retreat coming up!” Can be a great conversation starter: also, see if the pastor has a Facebook page. You may want to be aware of events that are posted in plain sight, like tragedies, troubles, vacations, victories, birth of child/grandchild, etc. You might find a mutual friend. You might even find that the pastor is no longer the pastor there! Ha ha. There’s nothing wrong with doing good research. Be a good Facebook friend!
5. The conversation:
When you’ve introduced yourself (“Hi, I am Ryan McCullough from Boise”) and maybe chatted with the pastor if he is sociable, then, get to the point. Say that the reason you called was because you were appointed as an AG World Missionary and are scheduling services and you are excited to share and that you wanted to see if they would be open to having you come.
Don’t forget to say you are actually appointed and actually with the AG. Otherwise, pastors will ask and that does not set you off on the right foot. You don’t have to share your whole vision first, in my opinion. Most of the pastors I have talked to will ask questions after you’ve announced why you’re calling and want to hear all about it. That makes it less like a sales pitch and more like a conversation. You’re just calling primarily to ask a question.
6. Give people a date or some potential dates.
Today, we looked at the first two holes in our schedule. (They were March 9 and March 30.) Guess what days we filled… Yep. Not only is it the power of suggestion, it just helps frame the question. You have a day that you’d like to come and you are asking if they can make that happen. Even if you have no services scheduled in a particular month, when you say: our first opening is: ” / / ” Then, you have communicated that you are on task and not sounding desperate. The last thing I’ll say is: well, “any Sunday” or, “we are wide open”. If your suggestions don’t work, then you ask them: “What will work for you?” It’s a lot harder for people to say: “well, nothing works for me” at that point. You’re putting the ball in their court.
7. Deal with “rejection” in a positive manner.
Yes. It happens a lot. But it’s hardly as severe or as bad as we first think. Don’t think you failed just because they said they “can’t”. “Can’t” doesn’t always mean “won’t”.
The first thing people will say is.. Well, we can’t right now, but let’s talk later. You’ll get a lot of that. But it’s not a final “no”. Be positive and upbeat, not disappointed, and resist the temptation to hang up the phone.
You’ve just been told that they want to schedule you after they’ve thought about it a month or three or four. Ask when a good time would be to revisit. Schedule a call-back in three months. Both services we got today were people who told us to call back THREE months ago. Ask “if not a Sunday morning, then is there a time we could come and share with your Bible study or small group?” Or… “Oh, hey.. We are going to be driving by on our way to a service in a month. Can we have lunch that Saturday?” (You just scheduled a face to face meeting)
8. Dealing with a “no” or an “excuse” or an awkward moment or even a perceived cold shoulder.
Well, usually that pastor is being totally honest with you. He just said.. “We would love to have you but we can’t because…” Or he said he has a full schedule or feels bad because he wants to give you a good offering and his church is in financial dire straits. Or maybe he doesn’t want any more guest speakers.. Well, instead of saying: “ok… Bye”, the better thing to do is to say: oh, I understand.. Unless you were told: “no, we don’t want you to come” (which has happened a couple times), I usually jump off from there and say that we would still like to come somehow and ask if we can come on a Wednesday or Sunday night or to a church or youth event. Ask if there is anything you can do to serve the church. You’ll be amazed what kinds of conversations will come when you are not deterred by the “negative outcome” of not getting scheduled, and they see that you are a human being who cares.
9. Schedule something!
What does that mean? That means that you should make it a goal to try to end the conversation with “scheduling” something. Anything. What does that look like? It looks kind of like this:
“Oh, by the way, are you going to be coming through town soon? Are you going to district council? Do you like to golf? Do you like barbecue? Do you fish? Are you going to men’s retreat? etc.. “Cool, see you there” or, “Oh, too bad. I wonder when I’ll see you next?
What you just did was “schedule” your next meeting. Sometimes you’ll be surprised that they may be passing through “coming to see you” Before you could ever “go to see them” When you do see them again, your conversation will flow very naturally because they know that you planned to see them and the conversation didn’t end on a “no”. The worst thing for a relationship is when your last conversation ended awkwardly or without resolution.
10. Flow with it and try to have fun.
If you had a particularly tough call, compose yourself and pray about it. If you had an awesome call and it went super-well.. Celebrate it! Another thought.. If you’re too tired or not in a good frame of mind, wait it out. Even if it means waiting until tomorrow. There’s plenty more you can do. Recycle that negative energy and use it to reach out to a friend instead and be an encouragement and a blessing instead of just sitting and feeling like you just fell into a frozen lake.
Lots of rambling here, but it was on my mind. Hope it can help somebody. Lastly, remember that we can all do this because God is with us. Be encouraged!