Why Ministry Leaders Need To Talk To Strangers

I sighed as I looked at the list. I’m so bad at making cold calls to strangers. One, I can’t see the person’s expression, and I don’t know what I’m interrupting. While going up to a stranger at church isn’t any more comfortable, at least I can read the room. Knowing how to talk to strangers is vital when you work in ministry because it’s how you:

  • Recruit new volunteers
  • Ask for people to increase their giving.
  • Invite someone to visit your parish
  • Overcome many of the obstacles that have created a divide in our society

One of the most transformative books I’ve read in the last year is Malcolm Gladwell‘s Talking To Strangers. The book addresses many of the issues that our country is facing in regards to race; however, there are so many transferable principles to ministry. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it (especially the audio format).

When it comes to recruiting, serving, or evangelizing, there are fears and biases we have to overcome, such as:


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve refused to talk to someone because I assumed their response would lead to rejection. It’s painful to be turned down. There is a little bit of embarrassment, and then we can also question our likeability. I hate being rejected, but I know refusing to approach someone has higher consequences.

When you allow the fear of rejection to dictate who you talk to you:

Limit your ability to know them. You won’t get to see that person’s reasons behind saying yes or no. You make a character judgment based on your own biases or assumptions.

Hold back an opportunity for someone to accept God’s calling. The reason you recruit people to serve or invite them to come to your church isn’t because of their desires. It’s because God wants to use you as the pathway to bring people closer to Him.

Miss out on God’s blessings. The more we invite others in the church, and the more people we encourage to give of their time, talent, and treasure, the more we bless the community around us.

I’m not saying every time you talk to a stranger (even for God’s purposes) that you’ll be well received, but the alternative limits the potential that you and your ministry have to make a life change.


Even though I am not seeing people in person, I’m finding that my conversations have become more meaningful during the quarantine. I believe the main reason is that I’m less busy and concerned with getting to the next activity, meeting, or place. I’ve found that I can focus on the person in front of me (whether they have a mask on or through a screen).

We stink at talking to strangers because our minds are consumed with all the tasks and obligations that are in our thoughts. If we want to accompany people and walk with them in their relationship with Christ, we have to make it a priority in our schedules. That means sitting with them, listening, and asking questions. Take some time to look at your calendar and answer the question, “How much time do I make to build relationships?”

When you are in relational ministry, it’s more than okay to talk to people on the phone, grab a bite to eat, or meet them for a cup of coffee. The investment you make in time spent with them will bless your ministry beyond measure because people will know that you care about them. And when people know you care, they want to be around you.


We’ve all heard the adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” It’s incredible how easily we ignore that, especially in ministry. We form ideas about people and conclude that:

  • He’s too old to serve with teenagers
  • She’s too young and doesn’t have the maturity to lead
  • They don’t have any kids they’ve got plenty of free time
  • They can’t speak English so they can’t help me

We jump to conclusions and form biases that dictate how we interact with others. This lack of knowledge about someone is where we get generalizations and stereotypes. The only way we’re going to break through those biases is by learning more about that person and challenging our preconceived notions.

If you refuse to talk to strangers because it causes discomfort and pulls you out of your comfort zone, then ministry might not be your calling. God is calling us to love Him by loving our neighbors, even the ones we have yet to meet.

I believe the better we can be at talking to those we know and don’t know, the healthier our parish communities will be. We’ll not only enrichen our relationships but be a model for others. Our efforts to recruit new volunteers and evangelize those in our community will not only create a healthier church but a healthier world.

What’s holding you back from talking to strangers in your church and community?

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