Evangelizing Your Neighborhood Barista: a Guide.

The other day, a guy handed me a tract through the window at Starbucks. His intro line went something like, “do you like riddles? here ya go!” and he pulled the tract from behind the sun visor on his beige sedan.

After he had driven away, I pulled it out of my apron pocket, and the girl working with me said “Oh, that’s not a riddle. It’s a Jesus thing.” She made a face like she had taken a sip of curdled milk when she said “Jesus thing.”

Image Courtesy of Daquella manera

Literally within minutes, a lady came in, and struck up a conversation with the same girl while she made her drink. She gave about a 3 dollar tip, and casually mentioned that her and her friend would be praying in a few minutes, and asked if there was anything they could pray for her about. My coworker politely declined, but later after those women had met, prayed, cleaned up very well after themselves, and left, she said to me “That was really neat that she asked me how they could pray for me.”

That’s how you open the door to share your faith with a barista at Starbucks.

Both of those customers are regulars. We are going to see them again. In fact, today, the same girl was working with me when tract man came back through. When I mentioned that he didn’t follow up with me about the riddle, my coworker said “Oh, I don’t think he really cares. He just hands out those things to make himself feel better.” What penetrating insight from my non-believing coworker.

I’m not as harsh on the guy as she is. I think his heart’s in the right place. He really wants people to trust Jesus, and it’s scary initiating conversation with strangers. So a tract about a riddle is what he uses. And with a simple tweak to his intro line, I think he might become more effective in using the tract.

If instead of “do you like riddles?” he went with “Hey, here’s a message that changed my life, condensed into an admittedly cheesy riddle. I’d love to get your feedback on it. I put my email at the bottom of it. I know I’ll see you tomorrow when I get my coffee, maybe we could briefly talk then. Have a great day!” and put the tract inside of a 5 dollar tip, he’d have gotten my coworker’s attention without the soured-milk face.

I’m not some anti-tract guy. (Though some of them do absolutely no good for a postmodern-or-later context. Telling somebody that they are a sinner without any sort of definition of terms is pretty useless, in my estimation.) But the medium is already impersonal enough, don’t make it sound completely trivial with your intro.

And maybe it’s time to retire the riddle tract. Riddles are by definition questions that require intelligence, insight or ingenuity to answer. The gospel is news that a child can hear and understand. So, it’s almost the opposite of the answer to a riddle–it requires no extra intelligence, insight,or ingenuity to learn that Jesus died in my place.

The good news is good enough all by itself. No need to gimmick it up. Here’s my question for you (reader): how did you come to Christ (if you have) and was a tract involved? Comment below.

6 Replies to “Evangelizing Your Neighborhood Barista: a Guide.”

  1. Great post/insight. I came to Christ through a sermon delivered by someone who developed a relationship with me based on my own interests – no tract involved.

  2. Great article on evangelism from “the other side of the tract”. The key is truly caring – and letting the other person know you truly care – about them, and not trying to “trick” them into reading a tract (which, even if it says you care, says “I care, but I think you’re dumb enough to trick with this”, which is not a good opening line, spoken or unspoken.

    That’s what I saw in the example woman offering specifically to pray for your coworker, and in your “redirect” of the tract hand-off. But I notice in both cases you mention the dollar size of tip to accompany the delivery. I’ll agree that tipping is a way to say you care, but I wonder how you would wrap the delivery if not in a hefty tip?

    I am a former waitress. I am BIG on tipping. But I honestly can’t afford to spend $7 on a cup of coffee ($2 for the drip and $5 for the tip). I’m genuinely curious how you would suggest “wrapping” your faith sharing if not with green in a situation like this?

    1. Thanks for the insightful comment, Katherine. I’d say that, in the context of Barista/customer, money is just about the only thing that is going to communicate the right thing in terms of actual concern for the other person. Because we can’t leave the conversation (we’re being paid to have it) so it just changes things. Like you said, genuinely being concerned is what matters most.

      Obviously, cleaning up after yourself (you’d be astounded what one person can do to the condiment bar with one packet of raw sugar and a carafe full of half and half) and other attempts to help our job be easier show that concern, but not as effectively as money.

      It’s not necessary to give a big tip, but it literally puts your money where your mouth is. I just don’t think it’s going to be very fruitful to initiate a conversation in the context where one person is being paid to be there, without speaking in the “language” of money. Thoughts?

      1. I love this article. What it is really saying is that without love, what you do is worthless – even if it’s sharing the gospel. To someone who doesn’t know Christ, especially in a work environment, money speaks love loudest to them in a language they understand, just like food to the crowds Jesus spoke to in the Bible.

        If we are saying we love someone enough to share eternal love with them, but do not meet their immediate needs in our power to meet, there is a disconnect somewhere.

  3. Great post with great real-world examples of evangelism methods. The difference between evangelism and discipleship has been in my thoughts of late and your story here talks more of building the relationship than closing the deal. It also talks about who sets the agenda: it seems from your story that it must be the one we are “evangelising/discipling” who sets the agenda, at least at the beginning. Quite often we assume that somehow since we have the truth that we must guide the discussion. Food for thought. Thanks for this.

  4. Just rediscovered your blog after much time away. Think I enjoyed this the most. Good job. I struggle with my thoughts on tracts. Nice discussion.

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