by Bishop David Roller
Reality #1: It’s about Jesus.
Christians here in the U.S. and Canada want to know that you’re telling people about Jesus. That’s why they’re sacrificing to send you. So that needs to be your main message when you communicate with the church. Regardless of your job assignment, you’ll want to be collecting your stories of people coming to Jesus, changed lives, the ways Jesus made a difference for people. If, perchance, your job isn’t really “ministerial,” then you’ll collect your stories from your spare-time ministry. For example, my job, as bishop, mainly involves interaction with Christians, but I’m careful to always tell stories about the ministry we do on our street in Baltimore when I’m home. It’s not a part of my job, but nobody cares about my thrilling adventures of meeting with superintendents and MEG boards!
Reality #2: People are smart.
Your potential audience knows that life is tough and that being a missionary must be tricky. Be prepared to address any difficulties on a second level – but don’t build presentations around the difficulties. Let them surface in Q&A times.
Reality #3: You need to be interesting.
Your only hope at being interesting is to be true to yourself … who you are and what moves you. Anything else is going to be superficial. There should be tension (plot, if you will) in every presentation you design.
Now, what to do if you’re not a good public speaker:
1. Pre-package as much as you can. Make videos and PowerPoint (PPT) presentations that basically go by themselves.
2. Tell about things that moved you, emotionally. These stories will always be interesting.
3. Practice saying things out loud. I always try to have said things out loud at least three times before the first time in public.
4. Use the Bible in a deep way. Your audience is hungry for solid development of scriptural themes.
5. Engage people’s senses. What did it smell like? What did you see? What did it feel like when you touched it? What comes back to you late at night when you remember it?
Getting Ready: About nine months before a home assignment, you need to have your scripts ready. I always figure about three solid presentations that are bomb-proof, and then others that I’ll adapt and adjust according to the need. The three big presentations need a script -yes, a script. Just as though you’re writing a short movie. The way I learned to write scripts was to make a two column document … words on the left, visuals on the right. Of course, you start with the words; what do you want to communicate? The script might be for a skit, for a video, for a PPT, for a sermon, whatever. But here’s the key thing about a script, it has to have a plot. By plot, I mean, something goes wrong and then gets fixed (Hollywood), or something goes wrong and is getting fixed (Jesus). Once you have a script, then you’ll have nine months to collect the video and pictures you need. You can’t hope to do this two weeks before you come on home assignment!
Packaging your message: Now that you know what you want to say, you’ve got to figure out how to say it. Here’s where you make it unboring and memorable. Like, do a spoof on a classic fairy tale (“Red Riding Hood,” “Snow White,” “The Three Pigs,” whatever). Or on any TV show people know (“Lassie,” “I Love Lucy,” “CSI,” “Monk,” etc.). Or on a news show. (We did “16 Minutes” and “I Witness News.”) Or on a well-known commercial (“Just Do It,” “Quality Is Job 1,” etc.). We’ve spoofed Star Wars (“Jedi Missionaries” and “Missionary to Mars”). I also did a take-off on the Last of the Mohicans (“Last of the Missionaries”). On the other hand, if you’re gifted at story-telling you can simply stand upfront and tell a story. But make sure you don’t use notes. (Notes will kill a story because they stop your interaction with the audience.)
If you’re “slow of speech” (see Moses) try co-presenting with your spouse.
One of the worst things I ever did was help another missionary prepare a presentation as though I was going to make the presentation. It was a skit based on the old TV show “Tool Time” where the neighbor (Wilson?) was always talking to Tim Allen over the back fence. It was funny and cute and addressed the issues the missionary was facing. But it wasn’t “him,” and it turned out to be a disaster. I’m not sure that missionary has ever forgiven me! So if you’re not funny, don’t try to be funny. If you’re not too serious, don’t try to be too serious. The fact is, you’re doing important work that has eternal value. “Communicate that!”
One final key, love the congregation you’re speaking to. If they just become another date on your calendar, they’ll know it. I know it’s hard to muster up interest in every place you go, night after night, but they are also your mission field. If you love them, they’ll perceive it. Always assume the best about them and lead them to an even better place.