by Terrill Nelson
Creating a personalized strategy map.
I learned my first important lesson on how to recruit prospective missionary candidates during a near disastrous recruiting trip to several Midwestern university campuses.
Thanks to the help of some eager InterVarsity staffers, I was invited to come and talk with students who were interested in missions. At the University of Toledo, I set up my display and carefully spread my literature out in decorative piles. I was overjoyed at the number of students who signed up for a 30-minute interview.
I began my first interview with a hearty welcome speech about world evangelization, then politely listened to the student express her concerns about which major to pursue and her student loan. I just started into my first good snake story when I heard the words: "Your next appointment is here…!" Hurriedly, I shoved some literature across the table and the student was gone.
For the next eager student, I resolved to leave out my biblical history on world missions and go right to the snake stories. The student, however, had a different counseling problem, which we talked about until I heard the word "Next!" Again, I shoved some literature across the table and managed a quick prayer.
The next fellow was eager for counseling on how to get his girlfriend interested in missions and whether or not he should listen to his parents about his career plans. "Next!" And so it went throughout the afternoon. I was similarly frustrated at other campuses.
Here I had invested time and effort on a recruiting trip that was not proving to be very profitable. It felt like all I was doing was listening, talking, shoving literature across the table, and saying a quick prayer with the student. I could have done all of these things by phone or mail from my office.
Then, at one point during my trip, I found myself sitting with a student at a pizzeria. When our conversation turned to missions, I grabbed my pen and began to draw a "map" for him on a paper place mat. I sketched out some stick figures arid a few boxes with a simple list of things to do. I finished by suggesting a strategy for putting all of it into action.
As the student carefully folded the place mat to take with him, he said to me, "Thanks a lot! This has been the most helpful thing I've heard yet on getting involved in missions." I was delighted. All of the other pieces of literature that I wanted to shove across the table couldn't compare in value to this simple customized, handmade "map."
I have realized over the years that there are thousands of pieces of promotional literature produced every year for use in recruiting prospective missionaries. But I have often wondered what percentage of this literature actually gets read. More importantly, what percentage gets used in the careful consideration of a mission board or a particular ministry?
It won't make much difference how glossy the literature is, how dynamic the video is, or how cool the Web site is because they are only tools. It is the interviewer who makes the valuable personal connection with the prospect. It is how he or she uses these tools under the direction of the Holy Spirit that will ultimately make the difference.
Gaining a prospect's attention and securing an Interview
In recruitment, it is essential not only to capture the prospective candidate's attention, but to hold it long enough for him or her to understand important information about missions and to clarify the decisions he or she must make.
One way to capture attention and secure an interview is by asking an intriguing question. This will give the prospect a sense of why it would be worth their while to spend 40 minutes talking with you.
Here is a recommended question designed to secure an interview:
- If I could sketch out for you a personalized strategy map which would show you four basic steps on how to get from where you are today to a cross-cultural ministry (overseas) that God has prepared for you, help you to see the impact of three important decisions that you need to make along the way, and reveal to you the one essential bottom line commitment that I know God expects you to have, would you be willing to invest 45 minutes discovering them?
You could follow up this question by saying:
- Actually, by investing this time with me I'll be doing you a big favor. What I'll be sharing with you will help you be better informed for any mission agency interview you might have, since much of what I propose to map out for you is the same for these other agencies as well.
Rarely has this kind of an invitation been turned down. It is an invitation to sit down and talk specifically and purposefully using a plan to help structure the conversation. The structure is both simple and direct and yet flexible and adaptable so that it can be used in a variety of settings and with people from a variety of backgrounds.
The goal is to produce along with the missionary prospect a one-page, personalized "map" that he or she can use to understand and prepare for a future in missions. If the prospect is married, engaged, or seriously dating someone, I strongly encourage both people to come to the appointment together. There will be inevitable problems if only one comes to the interview to catch a vision.
Plan for the interview to take place away from as many distractions as possible. As a general rule, never conduct an interview while standing. Certainly you can stand and chat with a prospect by your display, but serious recruiting should be done while sitting down together during an interview.
The Interview: developing a personalized strategy map
The objective of a strategy map is to present a straightforward game plan for missionary vocational counseling. It is helpful for the prospective missionary to visualize the different elements in the process. A simple graphic "map" can show the relationship between different elements, demonstrate the impact of different decisions, and provide a best-guess for an estimated time of arrival for beginning an overseas ministry.
The word "strategy" is meant to signify an overall or comprehensive view of the future and show how the prospect could achieve it while taking into consideration the variations and options that are a part of life as he or she makes decisions. This strategy map is much like a vocational counseling chart. In this case, it pertains specifically to cross-cultural ministry.
The four basic steps to developing the "map" are simply four boxes. Each box represents an amount of time and the activities involved. Start out by drawing a simple stick figure on the left side of the paper. (See sample above.) The figure represents the missionary prospect. Write his or her name and the day's date above the figure. Next to the figure draw four boxes.
Box #1: "What I'm doing right now." The box closest to the figure represents what the prospect is currently involved in (short-term goals) such as finishing college or graduate school, working, paying off student loans, etc. Write down what he or she believes to be a realistic finishing date.
Box #2: "The mission organization step." This box represents the application, acceptance, and orientation procedures. Briefly explain each of these steps, which helps to demystify them. Explain why each one is necessary and how long they will take. Give a realistic date for the first available candidate orientation that he or she could attend.
Box #3: "The RDM (Resource Development Ministry) step." This step represents potentially one of the biggest barriers for the prospect, whether he or she has any knowledge of faith missions or little or no missions background. It is important to explain the four aspects of this step carefully: "During the Resource Development Ministry you will be…(1) enlarging the world vision of others; (2) enlisting prayer warriors; (3) engaging a financial support team; and (4) expanding your faith as you see God meet your needs."
Finish this step by setting a realistic time frame for RDM. I believe that RDM for SIM and for Interdenominational Foreign Missions Association agencies averages about 22 months.
Box #4: "The overseas (cross-cultural) ministry step." In this box, write down things that the prospect dreams or envisions himself doing. Mention some of the ministries available. Emphasize the need for making disciples. I usually jump right from Box #1 to Box #4 because the prospect is most likely already envisioning specific ministry possibilities and needs to see how these steps will take him or her from where he or she is today to "over there."
Calculate all the realistic times from Boxes 1-3. This date will represent the best guess as to his or her E.T.A. I usually write down a specific date such as the 15th of January or the 15th of July. The more specific the guesstimate, the better.
Outlining three important decisions. Remind the prospective missionary that you mentioned there were three important decisions he or she would need to make along the way that will affect the strategy map. These are: (1) "Should I be a missionary or not?"; (2) "Which mission team (agency) should I consider?"; and (3) "What additional training or experience do I need?"
Emphasize that successfully engaging in a cross-cultural ministry will demand the best out of them. Ask if they are considering or if they should consider further training to be better equipped.
Obviously, any decision involving training in addition to what they already have or will have when they graduate-seminary, graduate school, flight/mechanics school, nursing, etc.-will mean more time and money, and thus should be added to their E.T.A. on the strategy map.
Emphasizing the one bottom line commitment. Tell the prospect that there is one bottom line commitment that God expects him or her to keep-local church ministry involvement. Make it clear that it is churches, not mission agencies, that send out missionaries. Just as Paul and Barnabas were send out as part of a caring Christian fellowship, he or she too will go out from a local congregation. Ask if he or she is involved in a local church. Does the church know the prospect's name? Does it see him or her developing a track record of service for the Lord?
Unfortunately, many people, especially university students, don't take time to get meaningfully involved in a local church. Although their time is limited, missions-minded students should never be mere tourists in church during their years at school. Developing a ministry track record is important. Tying a campus ministry into a local church ministry is very important for accountability and proper spiritual growth vital for a ministry that will have any lasting effect cross-culturally. You know that God expects them to develop and to keep a commitment to a local church. The relationship between this important bottom line commitment and Step No. 3 is obvious.
Emphasize to the prospective missionary the importance of digging into a local church ministry and making himself or herself useful, discovering his or her spiritual gifts, and developing a ministry track record, which is essential for success no matter where in the world he or she ends up.
Concluding the interview. Whenever possible, the interview should come to a timely and natural conclusion. Keep an eye on the clock to honor your time commitment. Ask the prospect if everything makes sense.
Does he or she understand the four basic steps; the three important decisions; and the bottom line commitment? Does he or she understand each of these on the map?
I give my prospect a follow-up assignment. I ask him or her to share the map with someone else, and see if it makes sense. Once the prospect begins to explain this strategy map to someone else, he or she begins to solidify these concepts in his or her own mind and heart. Until this time, it is only someone else's idea for his or her life, but now it begins to become owned. This prospective missionary begins to visualize how he or she fits into the picture of God's global game plan.
I also ask the prospect to call (or e-mail) his or her pastor and ask him for a brief (27 minutes only) interview. I suggest that the prospect do four things during this interview: (1) Give the pastor a brief overview of what God is doing in your life; (2) share with him the strategy map, briefly explaining the different steps; (3) emphasize that you understand God wants you to be involved (even for a limited time) in a local church ministry. What could he suggest? (4) Pray together before you leave.
Follow-up. I always make a photocopy of the prospect's map. The original goes with the prospect. The copy plays a key role in an effective follow-up process. Not only does the map contain a lot of key information about the prospect, but most importantly the timetable of possible involvement.
A copy goes to our recruitment office for follow-up. Other copies can guide the follow-up team as to what was discussed, what literature was given, and timetables. Any further contact with the prospect can show a coordinated effort between the interviewer and the recruitment office. With the map, it won't be necessary to cover the same ground again in determining where the prospect is.
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