I recently wrote about the dangers of being a lone ranger in welcoming ministry. And I can hear what some of you are saying: “Ok…that’s all well and good, but what if I just don’t know other people who are interested in welcoming ministry? What if I’m the only one?”
That’s a lonely place to be. But there’s potential that you yourself can change the situation by recruiting your friends to join you in welcoming immigrants. Easier said that done? Maybe–but you never know until you try.
Here are 5 tips for recruiting your friends to welcome with you (without being weird):
1. Share stories.
Stories are the most powerful recruitment tool. Stories are more convincing than statistics and generalities (think: “My friend Fatima” vs. “the worldwide refugee crisis”). This can naturally be a part of your conversation with your friends–talk about last week’s ESOL class or show pics of Fatima’s adorable kids from when you went over to her apartment on Tuesday to learn how to make samosas. (Bonus tip: share the samosas themselves–those might be even more effective than stories as a recruitment tool!).
2. Be positive.
We all get more than enough bad news about everything, including about immigrants. When you talk about immigrants with your friends, do it with a smile on your face! Share what friendships with immigrants have meant to you personally, how much you have learned, how much fun you have had, how interesting it is to learn about other cultures, etc., etc. Note: Your friends will be more convinced by your tone and your passion than the words that you say.
3. Don’t shame.
This is a related point. While I truly respect the work that many immigrant/refugee advocates are doing by calling out the global community for not doing more to help immigrants (and specifically refugees), I sometimes worry that some of their rhetoric is alienating those on the fence.
I think very few people have ever changed their minds by being shamed into it (have you yourself ever truly changed through this method?). Instead, people are usually convinced of something by being intrigued (see #2–a positive strategy).
Shaming usually sends shamed opinions underground–doesn’t change them–whereas the piquing of curiosity allows light and air and room for conversation and possible change (i.e. getting involved in welcoming ministry).
When helping others get involved in befriending immigrants, I often ask, “What are you doing this week (taking a child to baseball practice, going grocery shopping, going to an art museum, grilling, going to a thrift store, watching football, going running…)? Could you invite an international friend along?” Now I’ll take that one step further into recruiting, and ask you, “What are you doing this week with your international friend? Could you invite your American (or other host-nation) friend along?”
By inviting your host-nation friend along to do something with your international friend, you’re taking the pressure off. You’re like the buffer between the two of them, easing their getting to know one another. You’re there to answer questions afterward. And you’re there to follow up with your host-nation friend afterward: “Would you like to come with me again sometime, or maybe to our Monday night ESOL class?”
5. Take a long term approach.
This tip could also be titled “Please don’t be weird.” We all know over-zealous people who are ALL-IN for their “thing”–whether it’s Crossfit or essential oils or Star Wars–and think you should be too! Don’t bombard people with your love for welcoming ministry.
Be cool. Be strategic. Be low-key.
(I am *trying* to do this myself, but I’m sorry to anyone who knows me personally and thinks I’m overzealous!)
You don’t need to turn into a recruiter every time you guys get together, badgering them into joining your crew (preaching to myself…). But if you’re truly committed to welcoming ministry for the long haul, you’ll have many opportunities to normally and naturally share your heart and invite them to get involved.
Praying for you today–that not only would immigrants be welcomed through you, but that host-nation friends would be graciously recruited by you to get involved in the amazing opportunity that is crosscultural friendship.
How have you tried to get friends involved in welcoming ministry?