Listen carefully; and then listen some more.
No one likes to be preached to. As Christians we are naturally ready (or should be ready) to give an apologetical answer for every question that others may ask concerning Scripture, and its application to the real world. However, when seeking to build rapport with those in your community, you must suppress the urge to argue them into what you are proposing. The more you try to convince someone, if you have not developed an intimate and open relationship first, the more they may resist.
What we must remember is that people really do not want to hear what anyone else has to say. They may listen for a moment, but only so that when their turn comes they can talk about themselves. In fact, very often, while they are listening to someone else’s story they are eagerly waiting for their turn to tell a better story or relate a more exciting experience they had.
People love to share their experiences more than they like to listen to the experiences of others no matter how exciting they may be. And so before any one will listen to us we must first listen to them.
Convey vs Convince
Once an opportunity opens where you can actually get their attention do not try to convince your hearers of anything. Instead of laboring to change their mind via a convincing argument, simply convey pertinent information to them. Give your audience the necessary data to form an educated opinion. When you convey information to your hearers, you are equipping them to think in a particular way which hopefully results in a change of mind.
Be careful not to try to convince your hearer that your ideas are the best. Simply convey the facts, and the way those ideas can be implemented for a better community and then let God deal with the individual. Remember, Convey do not try to Convince. Present the Truth and then gauge the response.
The best way to make people feel more at ease is to ask them open ended questions allowing them to control the situation. Open ended questions make them fell as if they are controlling the discussion when in reality they are divulging their philosophical world and life views giving you an accurate idea of where they are coming from ideologically and theologically. Get them talking. You’d be surprised how people are apt to open up. This will determine whether or not the relationship is worth cultivating, or to want extent it is worth cultivating. Remember every relationship is important – some more than others.
Visibility, Availability & Consistency
Be available and be consistent. This strategy will not work if you do not make yourself available to the community. If you really want to make an impact in the culture you must be visible. Furthermore, your efforts must be consistent. If you find it difficult to make yourself visible then make it a point to frequently walk through the local Walmart just to look for opportunity to engage people you know or people you believe you need to know. If you wish to be a positive force in your community force you must be a visible force of availability and consistency.