Let me let you in on one of the best tips/directions I learned on my mission: the SPARC.
If you're wondering how it can be used in a sentence...
"Wow, you really SPARCed that family!"
I learned about the SPARC my first day in the mission field. I served in France, and it's no secret that the French can be a little tough on the outside. In order to help break the ice a little quicker, our mission president created the SPARC.
SPARC is a contacting tactic (try saying that 5 times in a row) that makes talking to people about the Gospel a lot less intimidating and a lot more fun!
Here's what it means:
(It's originally in French, I promise I'll translate)
P: Présenter les intentions
A: Améliorer leur vie
R: Renseignements sur eux
In other words, it means:
Smile. Present your intentions. Improve their life. Learn about them. Testify of Christ.
Now let's break it all down.
You only get one first impression with everyone you meet, so why not make the best impression with a smile? It immediately makes you look less intimidating as well as warm, friendly, and easy to talk to! I'm one of those people that just has a natural frown on their face, so my whole life people always thought that I was mean until I finally opened my mouth and realized I was actually kind of nice! I learned quickly on the mission that I couldn't let my natural frown become something that people remembered me by. I needed to have a natural smile. I was even told in my setting apart blessing that my smile would open doors, so I REALLY needed to learn how to constantly smile! After learning about the SPARC I made smiling one of my goals. Even if I didn't have time to contact someone on the way to an appointment, I would smile at them anyways, and they smiled back! Day made. So long story short, ALWAYS SMILE.
PRESENT YOUR INTENTIONS
It's always best to present who you are and why you're here before people mistake you for someone else and then think that you're trying to deceive them. Wear your tag loud and proud and don't be afraid to let a contact know that you're a missionary for the Church. Remember your purpose. Share that with them. They may be interested, or they may not and wish to stop talking to you. Whatever happens, what's important is that you let them know who you are and who you represent.
IMPROVE THEIR LIFE
Let me give you a real life example of this. Last week I went to go get a smoothie. As I was deciding the flavor I wanted, the girl taking my order complimented me on my outfit. Who doesn't feel great when someone says that to you? She asked me where I bought my shirt and I replied. We kept talking and by the end of the conversation she and I had both made a connection and felt closer and happier. It was one of the highlights of my day.
This part of SPARC is to do exactly what the smoothie girl did. When contacting someone, make their day! Compliment them on something they're wearing! Ask them about the book they're reading! Show interest in them! Make them feel important! IMPROVE THEIR LIFE! Enough said.
LEARN ABOUT THEM
Let's face it, we all love talking about ourselves. When talking to people, let them tell you about themselves! Ask them questions. After complimenting them on their shoes, ask them where they bought them! Ask them about their friends and families. Ask them about their backgrounds, where they're from, etc. Ask them about the area, and what the best sites to visit are. Let them know that you think they are special and that you are genuinely interested in them. Try your best to connect with and relate to them. Let them know that though you are a missionary, you are still a person who has interests too. The more you know someone, the more you love them. So get to know them!
Because you are a representative of Jesus Christ, you should always be testifying of Him. It is His Gospel that you are teaching and therefore EVERYTHING should be about Him. Never leave a conversation without sharing that you are His servant, that you are teaching His Gospel, and that you believe in Him. When you testify of Christ you invite the Spirit. So whether or not the person you are contacting wants to learn more, the least you can do is leave them feeling the Spirit with your testimony. They will feel it, and remember it.
So that's the SPARC.
I hope I've explained it so that it all makes sense, because honestly it's one of the best tools for the mission. These steps don't need to be in exact order. You can get to know someone first before you tell them your purpose as a missionary. However, you should ALWAYS start with a smile and ALWAYS end with testifying of Christ.
Another great thing about the SPARC is that it doesn't have to be used during just contacting! It can be used on members or investigators you already know! Always be striving to strengthen your relationship with them. Get to know them more than you already do. Make them cookies! Do some service for them! Then leave them with your testimony of Christ. SPARC.
So, try it out, have fun, and let me know how it works! I'd love to hear any stories of when you've used it and what's happened as a result!
Enjoy a picture of me and my much improved smile.