I was asked recently, “How do I start a conversation with an unchurched person? Should I just ask about their church home or whether or not they go to church?”
Let’s think about this. If you ask an unchurched person whether or not they go to church, you’re effectively cutting off further conversation because their guard will go up … probably WAY up … while their comfort level goes down … probably WAY down!
Let’s say you’ve decided to “hang out” at the high school ball game and you’ve wisely sat yourself down with the parents in the Booster Club. If you need an ice breaker, you can ask about their student: “Is your child playing tonight?” If not, they’ll tell you why they’re there anyway. Then you can follow up with, “So, what keeps you busy during the week?” That’s better than asking what they do for a living, since it skirts the possibility that they’re unemployed, plus it has the advantage that you might get to hear their passion “I coach my kid’s sports teams” or “I’m researching my genealogy.” Then ask questions about their job/passion or their kid.
When they ask you what you do (if they do), then you can say something about the church … but by then, you’ve shown interest in them rather than in them as possible future tithers and church members (which is one of the things they’ll likely perceive if you start off with the church question.)
A couple other ice breakers for different situations
- I see you’re wearing a Notre Dame t-shirt. Did you go there?
- I see you’re reading Quantum Physics for Dummies. Is that a good introduction to the science? (You can ask a similar question for any book they’re reading, right up to just plain, “Is it a good book?”)
- And there’s always, “Do you come here often?”