Basic Tips for the Marketplace (not the workplace)
Here are some basic tips about starting conversations while shopping or at coffee shops or fast food restaurants:
The million dollar tracts make great conversation starters. As you walk around the grocery store pushing your cart, have a bundle of them in your hand, maybe with your shopping list. It helps to have them already out and ready to give to someone rather than having to fumble around in your pocket, missing the moment as a shopper walks by. Start to hand a few out without worrying about getting into a long conversation. Make direct eye contact, give them a big smile, say " excuse me" so there is no doubt you are addressing them, and say "I have something for you" or ask "Did you get one of these?" When they see that you have many of them in your hand, they will know that you aren't "singling them out" for some reason, this is just something you give to everyone. If they refuse to take one you can show them the stack and say "It's okay, I have tons of these". You might want to avoid a long line of people because people can be like sheep - they follow the leader and if the first person rejects the tract, the rest often do and that can really take the wind out of your sails. Don't let fear cause you to give in to the temptation to just place tracts where people might find them rather than handing them directly to people - these two activities require a completely different mindset and your goal here is to initiate a conversation. After you have given out a few of these you will find that it is much easier to talk to your fellow shoppers. Try to begin having longer conversations with people as you go. Move from just hoping they will take it to encouraging them to read it. Then try telling them about it and encourage them to read it. Finally, ask if they consider themselves to be a good person and begin a conversation. And here's something good to know - legally you don't have to actually shop for groceries to push a cart around the store! Pushing a cart lets you blend in with the rest of the shoppers and gives you the freedom to collect your wits and pray while you push the cart around the store. And don't wait for a sudden rush of boldness from the Holy Spirit like the disciples received on the Day of Pentecost - God has already given you everything you need to step out of your comfort zone by faith.
There are two things I do to get past the awkward first moments of a conversation where the person is most likely to reject talking with me. If I am using a million dollar bill tract, after a quick laugh about how they might spend it, how its a great collector's item - whatever - and before they start to walk away, I point out the question on the back about heaven, tell them there is a "good person test" and ask "are you a good person"? This way the first question isn't "do I want to talk about this" but "am I a good person" and the conversation has begun.
If I am just asking a person sitting somewhere or who otherwise looks like they have a little more time, I don't use a million dollar tract as a conversation starter. Instead I might say "Excuse me, I'm wondering if you might have a few minutes to answer some opinion questions." They might ask "what about?" or they might not, but either way I try to say something like "it's about your spiritual beliefs, like do you believe in a higher power?" I say these things together, quickly, because again, this bypasses the first question of whether they want to have this conversation and puts the focus on the second, so the conversation is more likely to start from there.
Either way, once the conversation starts I try to ask a lot of questions about the persons background and current beliefs. This shows that I care about them, helps me understand what I should emphasize when witnessing to them, and wins the right to be heard. Most people like to talk about themselves so if they have time they are willing to answer these questions. The majority of people I talk to are glad to talk once we get past those first few awkward moments and I believe most would agree that it was okay for me to be a bit pushy at first.