One of the greatest benefits of a short-term experience is probably what happens inside you as a team member and how you can influence your friends and family with a new commitment to missions. Missions multiplies as short-termers tell their story. And it’s important that they tell it well.
Here are 10 ways to help the communication process as you share your story with a group of people, based off of suggestions given by Ron Blue.
Record specific stories and details
During your trip, make it a point to remember the details of certain episodes. Write down the sights, sounds, smells, and conversations (the squeaky chair, the smell of incense, children splashing in a puddle, your own feelings at the time). You’ll be surprised how quickly your memory fades. These details are what make your story come alive. Otherwise we would all share the same story: “I had a really great time. I learned a lot about myself and grew closer with God. We shared the gospel with the local people, and many accepted Jesus.” This isn’t exciting because there aren’t any details! What did you learn about yourself? How did you grow closer with God? How did you share the gospel? Who is a specific person that comes to mind who accepted Jesus? Answering these basic questions (who, what, when, where, why, how) adds so much to your story, and your audience will stay interested throughout the presentation.
Arrange presentation times where you can share your experience. Meet with your pastor to schedule a brief presentation to the church. Get others to help you organize special gatherings for you to share with people outside the church who supported you through prayer and finances.
God gave good advice to his prophet Isaiah when he said, “Shout it aloud; do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet” (Isaiah 58:1). There’s nothing more frustrating than to miss an exciting story simply because the speaker wasn’t loud enough. Make sure you project your voice so your audience can hear. Speak as clearly as possible.
Your opening sentence ought to have a hook in it with bait that the audience will want to bite. Try to create a little anticipation with your opener. Never start with an apology or a complaint. For example, starting with an exciting story is great, but not if you only talk about what the team experienced (like a flight delay or a car breakdown). An exciting story involves the people you went to serve.
Illustrate your story
Don’t be afraid to dramatize. Act out a conversation. Include facial expressions and verbal inflections—just be mindful that you don’t play into racial stereotypes. Select only top-quality pictures and keep them moving fairly quickly and in sequence with the story you want to tell. Don’t merely flash pictures on the screen with a commentary on each one. You can also bring an object with you to help illustrate a point.
Focus on people
Stories that touch the hearts of listeners and move them to a deeper commitment to missions are stories centered on people. Missions is people sending people to reach people. Programs, plans, and policies are important, but they only exist to serve people. So fill your stories and pictures with people (with their permission, of course). When selecting photos to use, choose the ones where people’s eyes are visible, unless you are simply respecting the privacy of the person in your photo.
Convey important lessons
Well-chosen and skillfully told anecdotes will hold the attention of any audience, but a short-term missionary must do more than entertain. There should be a message, but don’t belabor the point of the lesson. A brief statement will make it clear, such as, “You can’t out-give God.” Often a biblical quotation will do: “And the greatest of these is love.”
Accentuate the positive
Try to relate everything in a positive way. Don’t gripe about the trials; glory in the triumphs. Instead of condemning folks for their evil materialism, challenge them to get in on the tremendous opportunities to invest in the Lord’s work around the world.
If possible, give an opportunity for questions. Listen intently to the questions and do your best to answer as specifically and precisely as possible. Do not feel intimidated by this. You have an answer for every question. One of the answers may be, “I don’t know.” In the interaction period, be sure to make some supportive comments, such as, “That’s a good question,” or, “Did you all catch the significance of Fred’s comment?”
Stop on time
In a culture in which time is of supreme significance, don’t fret if you are given a short amount of time to share. Just give a condensed version of your story and do your absolute best to stay within the time limit.