Tips to book-slinging success.
1. Your idea of what success is. In this context, success is not when someone agrees to receive material. Success is when I overcome my fears and make an offer of material.
The February 2005 Ensign article "Seven Lessons on Sharing the Gospel" by Clayton M. Christensen and Christine Quinn Christensen, pgs 36-41, has a paragraph titled "What Is Success?" Elder Christensen pointed out that success is in making the invitation.
The immediate goal that I concentrate on during an encounter and a conversation is not the delivery of material. It's not about getting the other person to agree to something. My goal doesn't require anyone else to do anything, believe anything or say anything. My goal is merely to make the offer of material. My goal is entirely dependent on me, and not at all on the other person.
So even when the other person declines my offer, I was still successful at making the offer.
This is called "divorcing yourself from the outcome." This leads to confidence, and you'll avoid coming across as desperate, manipulative or pushy. And by avoiding those negative things the other person will be more open to considering your offer. I don't "give out books," I "offer books." And only if they accept the offer do I then give them the material.
2.People are hungry for material in their non-English native-language. This really is the sizzle that attracts people's attention. There is nothing wrong in promoting this aspect. Many people are also hungry for bilingual material, so mention that they can get the material in both their native language and in English.
Aside from an attitude of "just making an offer", this is the next key ingredient. There is no wrong reason to read the scriptures. This "hey, a free book in your language" is not manipulation. This foreign/native language aspect is the key to reaching many more people than you could with just an English Book of Mormon. This allows the Book of Mormon to reach people who aren't ready for a spiritual investigation at the moment, but might be in the future. As long as they keep the book, even if they don't read it right away, the book can call to them from their bookshelf at some point in the future when they are ready to spiritually investigate.
And so what if they never investigate? If reading a book in their native language brings them joy, and they never spiritually investigate, it's still worth it. You've brought a few moments of joy to someone's life.
It can be very difficult to obtain reading material in foreign languages other than Spanish. Not everyone knows about Amazon, or can order stuff on the Internet. And even on the Internet, it's hard to find books in arcane African tribal languages.
I just can't sufficiently describe how ecstatic many people are that there are books in their rare language. The fact that it's a religious book just pales in comparison.
3. Say it's free. Many people will naturally assume you're selling something, so use the word "free" several times. It's a free book, or free magazine, or free video.
4. Mention up front that it's Christian/church/religious material. You don't have to mention the name of the church, but if you conceal that it's religious until later, they will likely feel manipulated. Our fear of religious conversation is mainly a Western cultural habit. People from other lands don't have this fear of mentioning or casually talking about religion. The only immigrants who generally turn down my offers are Western Europeans. (Eastern Europeans have generally been open to receive material.)
If you're afraid of proselyting, then don't proselyte. Just offer "a free book from my church." The sub-title on the cover says what it's about, right? Mentioning that "It's religious material" or "It's Christian material" is sufficient to inform people so as to be up-front and honest. But after a while, you'll realize that that fact is not a turn-off to most people. For instance, most Muslims will accept the material just to have something to read in their native language.
And chances are that some will ask you "What church?" Well, there's your opening. If they ask you "What church?" then you have the right, even the duty, to say the name of the church. And if they ask, you will feel comfortable in saying the name of the church.
5.Get as much as you can in the first sound-bite. "Would you like a free book in Swahili from my church?" "My church has free books in Swahili." Both of those sound-bites convey the previous four points: A) an offer, not an imposition, B) their language, C) free, D) religion.
6. Types of opportunities. I've observed three categories of opportunities:
- Opportunities that you seek out and create by going someplace where you are likely to encounter someone who speaks another language, such as an ethnic restaurant, or an independent convenience store.
- Opportunities that just happen. There are many immigrants in the US, and just by being out and about, and being observant, you'll notice when people speak with an accent or are dressed in a style from their native land. Be on the look-out for accents and foreign or ethnic clothing.
- Opportunities created or directed by the Spirit. In addition to the people you're normally going to run into by doing normal things, there are those who you could meet if you altered your path or itinerary just a little. Are you open to buying gas at a different gas station than you normally do? Would you drive a block out of your way to shop at a different place in order to have an opportunity? Would you stop someplace you normally wouldn't stop at, and buy a $.75 newspaper that you don't need in exchange for an opportunity? Would you alter your itinerary and do things in a different sequence than you planned? All these things can lead to meeting people you otherwise wouldn't have met. Heavenly Father knows who is ready to receive material, and He knows where they are. And if you believe in personal revelation, then Heavenly Father can tell you where and who they are.
Be aware that the general rules of personal revelation apply. Generally speaking, you only get one step or direction at a time. If you don't obey/follow the first step, you won't be told the 2nd step. You generally are not told the reason why you should do something, only that you should do it. The Spirit will use what you know and can see in order to lead you to places you can't see or reveal things that you didn't know; it's a step by step process, building in layers.
The general mix of these categories is 45% type 1, 45% type 2, and 10% type 3. My opinion is that you have to put forth some effort to create opportunities in order for the Lord to bless you with more opportunities, like the parable of the talents. It's as if the Lord sees you go out and create an opportunity, and then He says "Oh, you want to give out the Book of Mormon, eh? Well, here you go." And "boom" more opportunities just crop up on their own, as if they're just dumped in your lap. And once the Lord can trust you to respond, you'll get the third type, where the Spirit will actively direct you.
7. Open your mouth, open your mouth, open your mouth. Look at how often the command "Open your mouth" is repeated in Doctrine and Covenants.
8. Conversation starters.
- "Excuse me, where is your family originally from?"
- "Excuse me, I don't recognize your accent" or "that's a cool accent" or "that's a pretty dress/outfit." Then: "Where are you originally from?" or "Where is your family originally from?"
- "Cool. What other languages do you speak?"
- "The reason I ask is that my church has free books in ________. They're free, would you like to see one?"
9. It doesn't have to be a Book of Mormon. It can also be Gospel Fundamentals, the "Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith" pamphlet, or a multi-lingual video. By downloading the various "Language Material Listings" you can find out what languages have something available. There are over 160 now.
It's also best to describe the material in terms that a non-member can understand:
Book of Mormon: "is a book that we use along with the Bible." (They'll see the "Another Testament of Jesus Christ" on the cover. And you've already said "religious/Christian" in step 4, so you're covered.)
Gospel Fundamentals/Principles: "is our Sunday School manual." (Investigators and new members class, which would apply to the contact person if they were to visit."
"Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith" pamphlet: "is a booklet on how our church started."
The "Together Forever" video: "is a video about families, and husbands who work too much." It's in the languages of: English, Spanish, French, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, and Tagalog.
10. Memorize this number 888-537-2200. And program it into your cell phone. That's the number from the Book of Mormon pass-along card. Once you have it memorized, anything you write it on becomes a pass-along card. The missionaries who answer the phone are oriented to giving out the Book of Mormon, so if you know that your contact speaks one of the "Gospel Fundamentals" or "Joseph Smith Testimony" languages, be sure to note that on whatever you write down for your contact. (I realize not everyone is going to keep a miniature bookstore in their car like I do.) So if it's not a Book of Mormon language, but one of the others, your contact will have to remind the missionaries and specifically state during their phone call that they are looking for "Gospel Fundamentals" or "Gospel Principles (simplified)" or the "Joseph Smith Testimony" pamphlet.
Or, if you and your contact have time, you can call the toll free number right there from your cell phone, and help the person request the appropriate material in their language.
For instance, if they speak Bambara, they can get a Gospel Principles, stock number 31110-514, and a "Joseph Smith Testimony" pamphlet, 32667-514, but there's no Book of Mormon for that language yet.
If they speak Burmese, then the only thing available is the "Joseph Smith Testimony" pamphlet, stock-number 32667-256.
But if they speak Bengali, they can get the Book of Mormon.
And whether you call, or they call, emphasize that they can get two copies of the material, one in their language and one in English. The missionaries who answer the phone are not used to such requests, but they can check with their supervisor to confirm that the church will send out one copy in each language that the person speaks.
11. The scripture about being a witness at all times and in all places is literal. It can be at a laundry, gas station, grocery store, gym, etc.
Related posts: Tips part 2. TIps part 3. Tips part 4. How this started, some of the overall-story. A quick-start quide. How-to at Chinese restaurants.