It happened again. I drove past a church that had a friends and family service planned. I’m cynical…I get it. Please understand I don’t say that flippantly like, “Yo, I’m just being real.” No. There is a fine line between “having a critical eye” and “being a jerk.” I bounce back and forth more than I’d like. I don’t question their motive. I’m not saying that it won’t work to some…some extent. What I am saying is that there is a better way. Go beyond “friends and family.” Friends and family are in very short time either on board or not. However, there is a world of people ready to be engaged, interacted with, and (most importantly) loved.
The first step is to be seen. You don’t have to go door to door (and frankly, I encourage you not to). You don’t have to stand on a street corner screaming about how everyone is going to hell (knock yourself out if you’d like…although someone may do it for you). No, simply make yourself stand out where you already are or start going places you don’t normally go. Before even that is saying a simple prayer asking God to send you to those who need His love. Ask Him to make you aware of who is already around you that you have overlooked. Then, be seen.
Once you have begun to be in the world of people you haven’t been before (by being seen) you simply take it to the next natural level. Be heard. No, I’m not saying that this is where you go over the four spiritual laws/truths or immediately invite them to church, youth group, whatever you’re trying to grow. Relax, take it slow. Allow it to be natural. Remember, we’re in the business of earning the right to be heard. Nobody wants to be told anything. Just by entering into someone’s world doesn’t give you the right to push yours all over them. If you are welcomed into someone’s house I sure hope that the first thing you do isn’t take a bath. The same is true with building relationships.
Be heard. Literally. Make a sound. Say something. Compliment something. Notice something (out loud). Ask a question. I’m not even saying that you have to start a conversation. Just make noises that borderline on communication and emit if from your mouth. Compliments are huge. They will both get you noticed and meet some modicum of emotional needs of whom you speak. “This is a nice place. Your store is beautiful. Your outfit is great today. I love your landscaping. Your decorations look awesome.” are all simple examples. Warning: make sure that the compliments are either plausible or you believe them to some extent. The title of this post is not, “Be heard and be fake.”
Questions are another simple way to be heard. It all depends on where you are being seen but there myriads of ways that you can ask questions that will advance your opportunity to love. If you are going for a stroll in your neighborhood you can ask about anything from their garden, pets, contractor (if there has been obvious recent work) or their vehicles. If you are at school or work, outfits come into play, “Do you mind me asking where you got those shoes!?! That is the cutest handbag, where did you get it? Where do you shop? How do you always look so nice?” Yes, these are very much women oriented. Guys, unless you want to get into some weird moments I suggest you don’t lead with these questions with other guys. Further, this is not a “how to appear like ‘Creepy VonCreeperguy'” post. Don’t be asking women these questions after (or before) getting to know them. For men, stick with what you know. Watches, phones, things that are obviously important to the guy to which you are speaking are fair game for compliments or questions.
Too much? Making you sweat, break out, and twitch just thinking about it? Ok. Let’s scale it back just a bit. Say “hi!” That’s it. I simple greeting to someone you don’t know. Just beyond your comfort reach? Fair enough. How about a head nod? An eye raise? It is a form of communication bordering on being heard and yet more than just being seen. Do something. Take being seen to the next level.
At some point in this whole process you may be thinking, “Wow Jay, this all sounds quite manipulative.” You have to remember the goal. It is not to take anything from them. It is not to change their minds about anything. It is certainly not to get them to drink some juice in anticipation of the great spaceship or move with you to a farm in Idaho. It is to earn the right to be heard…to love them and have it mean something.