You are someone who wants to influence others for Jesus and help them live wholly and passionately for Him.
So you extend the invitation:
“Come to this…”
But unless you are someone from which the powers of persuasion naturally ooze, you may find yourself scratching your head and wondering,
“Why does no one ever respond to my invitations?
Don’t they realize it could change their life?!”
Recruiting is difficult. And the bigger the cost, the time or the commitment, the harder it is. It doesn’t take long to figure this out, especially when you attempt to ask someone to go on a mission trip. Ever the wits, the authors of Postcards from Corinth say it this way,
“Perhaps your persuasive skills and empowerment by the Spirit far exceed mine, but to challenge someone to give an entire summer of their lives is difficult.”1
So what do we do?
The problem with your invitations
Rick James and Betty Churchill give us an explanation. Notice the different between an invitation and a challenge.
The difference between an invitation and a challenge is a small but significant one. An invitation says, “Come if you want”, “Come if you can”, or “Come if you have nothing better to do.”
The problem is that disciples don’t want to do many things that would benefit their spiritual growth; they are … initially reluctant…. The other problem is that they can’t: at least in their minds they simply don’t have the time. The reality is, of course, they can, but it would require the reordering of their priorities.
A challenge, therefore, goes beyond an invitation. It contains a compelling vision of why this course is the right one, why passivity or neutrality on the issue is unacceptable, and compels a commitment.
Why we choose to invite instead of challenge is quite simple. A strong challenge can strain a relationship, puts us in an uncomfortable authoritative role, and risks that our disciple will take a step back rather that forward. On the positive side, that sounds a whole lot like the way Jesus dealt with His disciples.2 (emphasis added)
A clear, compelling challenge
Ah ha! A challenge. That’s what we need. A well-crafted, loving challenge that compels commitment and calls for a decision. Consider Jesus’ challenge in Matthew 16:24-28.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
A compelling vision without an option for apathy or neutrality. An honest ask that shares both the cost and the reward.
So why don’t we give clear, loving challenges? Isn’t the hope of the world on the line? Perhaps we assume that those in our sphere of influence will make a wise decision without a challenge. Or maybe we are fearful of calling others to a life of extraordinary worship?
You first. Here’s your challenge.
Will you lean into the role of making disciples to which God has called you?
Think of what God could do through the men and women around you if they surrendered their lives to Him and took seriously His call to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Will you take a relational risk and put out a godly challenge to your friends and disciples?
A wee caveat: Obedience is asking God, and then following Him
Our role in presenting a challenge is to inform, envision and call someone to follow Christ wherever Christ leads. A friend of ours recently shared these thoughts and they expresses our heart bang on.
“I don’t think we’re trying to communicate that it is definitively God’s will that every disciple go on a missions trip every year. God might in fact direct them to do something else. We do however want to challenge assumptions and help them get to the point where if they decide NOT to go, that decision would be out of obedience and not out of fear, or lack of consideration, etc. Each specific missions trip is an opportunity, not a commandment.”
Understanding the players or “The 20/60/20 Principle”
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of how to give a challenge, let’s consider for a moment the potential responses and the potential obstacles that may turn up.
I suspect that for most people, opportunities like a Reading Break or a Summer Missions Trip are met with reluctance. It is like James and Churchill wrote,
“The other problem is that they can’t: at least in their minds…”3
The First 20
In any large group of people, (like a campus movement) those involved can be represented by the numbers 20/60/20.4 When an opportunity (like P2C+, or a Missions Trip) comes up, 20% immediately decide to go. To them it doesn’t matter if the opportunity is expensive or is a thousand kilometres away. For one reason or another, they know they want to be there or need to be there.
The Last 20
Another 20% have no intention of going… ever. It wouldn’t matter if the trip or conference were across the street, free, and the Apostle Paul was appearing in a rap battle versus John Piper—they just are not going to go.
The Middle 60
It is the middle 60% that are affected by our recruiting efforts. Those in this segment may be unaware of the opportunity, confused about what the opportunity actually is or reluctant because of real and perceived barriers.
Unfortunately, unless you can read minds, you won’t know who is who, so giving a prayerful and visionary challenge is still the way to go. No matter in which segment of the 20/60/20 group the person is found or what their response is, your role is to challenge in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to God.
Sticking Points: Obstacles and fears
Everyone has obstacles to overcome when following Jesus. Don’t shrug off or make light of someone’s concerns or objections (Romans 14:1 – 15:2). As you met with someone, ask God to give you wisdom and insight into their reservations.
Barriers and obstacles are not final, but rather opportunities for God to work.5 Patiently and compassionately help them consider ways God can work in and through their obstacles.
Here are a few common obstacles…
“Yikes! I don’t think I could do that!”
Lack of skill, experience and a fear of failure are all possible reasons someone might balk at the challenge to share Jesus on a Reading Break or Summer Mission Trip. Can you relate? How has God worked in your life to help you overcome inexperience or fear of failure?
Gently reassure your disciple that God is longing for the opportunity to show His strength through our weaknesses. Take some time to look at what God’s Word has to say about some of these obstacles:5
- Lack of ability, wisdom, or Bible knowledge – Eph 3:20; 1 Cor 2:4,5; 1 Thess 1:5; James 1:5
- Fear of failure – Eph 3:16; 1 Cor 10:13; 2 Tim 1:7
- Pressure from people – 2 Cor 5:9; Rom 8:31
“No money. No money.”
God can supply; He is not short on resources. In fact, each year God supplies millions of dollars (no exaggeration) for the ministry of Power to Change-Students. The adventure of asking individuals to partner financially in the work of short-term missions is one in which P2C-Students is excited to train and coach trip participants. God has the resources, and if He is calling you to participate, He will supply.
“I have to work to pay for school.”
God can supply financial resources for both the trip itself and next year’s tuition. Help brainstorm practical and prayerful ways to tackle this obstacle. Here are a few ideas: a) working two summer jobs instead of one; b) working a part-time job during the school year; c) cut your spending (and other money saving ideas) this school year to free up funds for next year; d) selling something; e) praying for a higher paying summer job and/or f) if you are a returning project participant you could apply to be a paid Mission Trip intern.
“Homework, Summer School, Exams…”
Education is a huge responsibility and should not be taken lightly. The question here is our willingness for God to rearrange our schedule and plans. Is God asking you to participate in a mission trip even though it might throw a kink in your educational plans? Are you willing to reschedule exams, ask for extensions, add an extra class next semester, or forego a top grade if God asks you to?
“My parents don’t want me to go”
This is a real concern that needs probably more insight than this wee paragraph can hold. Start with these suggestions and review the included articles for a more detailed answer.
- Be filled with the Holy Spirit, and pray for your parents.
- Determine specifically what questions or objections your parents have. Perhaps the listed objections above are some of the types of things parents would want to know.
- Take the initiative to get answers and helpful information.
- Begin to take personal responsibility for the decisions you have to make.
- Be firm and assured in the call to go. Parents easily can sense apprehension, which can raise further doubts in their minds.
- Remember that disapproval probably does not mean that your parents will disown you. For most parents their children will always remain exactly that–their children.6
Use these excellent resources:
“Short-term mission trips are not effective”
A difficult objection but one that we have taken a good amount of time to explore on this blog. Check out “Mission Trip: A glorified vacation?” to find out P2C-Students’ view on the strategic and world-changing nature of Mission Trips.
Sitting down for the challenge
Okay, so let’s assume you have selected a few individuals—how about 6, that’s a good number—and have started praying for them, their heart and their walk with God. You have set up a one-on-one meeting and told them how you want to talk with them about P2C-Students’ Mission Trips.
The goal in a challenge is to arouse in them an eager want. Here lies the heart of persuasion—connecting an individual’s internal motivation with the right opportunity. So grab a pen and a piece of blank paper and jot down numbers 1 through 8 to help you guide the conversation. (Click here to get a printable version of these 8 steps to use in a one-on-one conversation.)
Step 1: Discover their motivation
- What are the areas you would like to grow in?
Write this question beside point 1 and jot down their answer. If they need some extra help getting the ball rolling, you can ask:
- What do you long for?
- Do you desire to grow in your relationship with God? In what ways?
- Are you longing for God to answer your questions about the future?
- Do you want to trust God?
- Do you long to reach out to your friends but are fearful?
- How do you want to be equipped for life after graduation? 7
Step 2. Uncover their longing
- Which of the following best describes your current Christian experience?
- Which one would you like to describe your walk with God?
Jot down the following on your note paper and ask the above questions.
- Developing a heart for God – Brand new to following Jesus
- Developing a heart for people – Learning how to articulate who Jesus is and help others discover Jesus
- Developing a heart for the world – Helping others grow in their faith and share Jesus with others
- Developing a heart for the fulfillment of the Great Commission – Training and teaching others to multiply their faith through disciple-making
3. Present the opportunities
Here is where you inform them off the many types of Mission Trip opportunities available with P2C-Students and a few of the important details.
Consider highlighting one or two of the opportunities that you think would suit your disciple.
4. Share your vision, prayer and hope
Time for some vulnerability. Share your heart.
- Why do you think a Mission Trip is an amazing opportunity to serve God and grow?
- What impact do you see this having on their life?
5. Connect their desires to the opportunity
- How do you think going on a Mission Trip in 2015 could help you reach your goals mentioned in Step 1 and Step 2?
- On a scale of 1 – 10 how interested are you in applying to go on a 2015 Mission Trip?
- If not a 10, ask why?
6. Uncover sticking points & address obstacles
Listen closely for those sticking points and gently share, question, pray and challenge.
“God will give you wisdom on how to gently uncover some of the sticking points, but it is not your responsibility to convince them.
It is your responsibility, with wisdom from the Spirit, to unveil hidden fears and motives as to where and why they might be delaying obedience; to tell them what you honestly think of their plan, to challenge thoughts and assumptions that are clearly not true or biblical, and to call them to pray about certain issues with a willingness to do whatever God reveals to them.
To be the best detective, you too must be open to whatever God is saying even if it means they should not go [on a Mission Trip].”8
7. Give the challenge
- Will you take the next 7 days to intentionally and prayerfully ask God if He wants you to apply for a 2015 Mission Trip?
If they agree to bring this opportunity before God, ask if it would be helpful to send them a reminder or meet up to pray together.
Schedule what day you will be following up, and any next steps either of you need to take.
8. Pray together
Pray for the areas they want to grow in. Pray for God to speak clearly over the next 7 days. Pray for answers to any obstacles or questions. Pray for lives of obedience and a willingness to go anywhere and do anything, no matter the cost if Jesus asks. Commit this decision to God.
Challenges can change lives
Are you ready to have this potentially life-changing conversation?
Growth is an equation of grace + truth over time, and a one-to-one challenge can mobilize these three components when it asks, “Will you change?” Think of a conversation someone had with you at a critical point in your own life, how did it change you? Was it the conversation that challenged you to surrender your life to Jesus, or a conversation that challenged you to step up in leadership on campus?
Still unsure that a personal challenge is an essential tool used by God to transform lives? Consider reading through the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life to see how He challenged individuals, or ask a P2C-Students staff member how a personal challenge has been apart of their own journey.
Are you ready to change someone’s life?
1 “Under Challenged: Why no one responds to your invitations.” Rick James and Betty Churchill. Postcards from Corinth. Orlando: CruPress, 2005. Page 139.
2 James 136-137.
3 James 139.
4 “The Philosophy of Recruiting.” Eric Swanson. Cru Press Green. 2010.
5 “EDCA11: Expanding your Circle of Confidence.” PDF. Source: Esther Wong
6 “Questions about joining staff.” Decisions CD. Cru Press Green. 2010.
7 “The Power of an Ask.” Tim Dorsch. Cru Press Green. 2010.
8 James 141-142.