Be Effective in Your Ministry
1 The sky darkens, and an eerie sound increases in volume to a deafening roar. A smokelike cloud descends. What is it? An army of millions of locusts coming to bring complete desolation on the land! This scene described by the prophet Joel has a fulfillment today in the preaching work of God’s anointed servants and their companions, the great crowd.
2 The Watchtower of May 1, 1998, page 11, paragraph 19, noted: “God’s modern-day locust army has given a thorough witness in ‘the city’ of Christendom. (Joel 2:9) . . . They are still climbing over all obstacles, entering millions of homes, approaching people on the street, speaking to them over the phone, and contacting them in any way possible as they declare Jehovah’s message.” Is it not a grand privilege to share in this God-ordained work?
3 Unlike literal locusts, whose only objective is to feed themselves, we as Jehovah’s servants have great concern for the lives of those to whom we preach. We want to help others to learn the glorious truths contained in God’s Word and to be moved to take steps that will lead to their everlasting salvation. (John 17:3; 1 Tim. 4:16) Hence, we want to be effective in the way we carry out our ministry. Whatever avenue of preaching is employed, we should consider whether we are carrying it out in a manner and at a time that will yield the best results. Since “the scene of this world is changing,” we do well to analyze our methods and our approach to ensure that we are meeting the challenge of being as productive as possible.—1 Cor. 7:31.
4 While we endeavor to contact people in many ways, the house-to-house work is still the mainstay of our ministry. Do you find that people often are not at home or are sleeping when you call? How frustrating, since you are not able to share the message of the good news with them! How can you meet this challenge?
5 Be Flexible and Reasonable: In first-century Israel, fishermen did their fishing at night. Why at night? Though this was not the most convenient time for them, it was the best time to catch the most fish. It was the most productive time. In commenting on this practice, The Watchtower of June 15, 1992, stated: “We too should study our territory so that we go fishing, as it were, when the majority of people are at home and receptive.” Careful observation of social habits has shown that in many suburban communities and residential areas, people are perhaps at home when we call early on Saturday and Sunday mornings but are not generally receptive to our visits at that time. If this is the case in your area, could you adjust the timing of your calls to later in the morning or even to the afternoon? This is a fine way to increase the effectiveness of our ministry as well as to show consideration for our neighbors, which is an evidence of true Christian love.—Matt. 7:12.
6 At Philippians 4:5, the apostle Paul reminds us that we should ‘let our reasonableness become known to all men.’ In harmony with this inspired direction, we want to be balanced and reasonable in our methods as we carry out our preaching assignment with zeal and enthusiasm. We do not want to ‘hold back from teaching publicly and from house to house,’ but we want to make sure that we carry out our house-to-house ministry at times that are reasonable and productive. (Acts 20:20) Like those fishermen in first-century Israel, we are concerned with ‘fishing’ at times when we can be most productive, not at times we find most convenient to ourselves.
7 What adjustments could be made? Most often, meetings for field service are held at 9:00 or 9:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, after which the group proceeds immediately to the door-to-door work in the territory. However, some bodies of elders have arranged for the group to share in other forms of the ministry, such as street witnessing, business territory, or return visits, before going door to door in residential areas. Other congregations have set the meeting times for field service later in the morning—at 10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., or 12:00 noon. Afterward, the group goes directly into the door-to-door work and stays out in the service until early afternoon. In some territories, the early afternoon, rather than the morning, may be the best time to meet for field service. Such adjustments may well contribute to increased productivity in the door-to-door work.
8 Be Discerning and Tactful: As we contact people from door to door, we encounter a variety of reactions to our message. Some householders are receptive, others are indifferent, and a few may be argumentative or belligerent. In the case of the latter, on page 7 of Reasoning From the Scriptures, we are reminded that we are not seeking to “‘win arguments’ with people who show no respect for the truth.” If the householder is hostile, it is best for us to take our leave. We should never antagonize people by insisting that they talk with us or accept our point of view. We do not force our message on people. That would not be reasonable and could cause problems for other Witnesses and for the work in general.
9 Before starting to work in a territory, it is wise to check the territory card for notations of addresses where the residents have told us not to call. If there are such addresses, each publisher working that street should be told where not to call. No one should take it upon himself to call on these homes without the service overseer’s direction to do so.—See the June 1994 Our Kingdom Ministry, Question Box.
10 We can increase our effectiveness by being discerning as we work from house to house. Be observant as you approach a home. Are all the curtains or blinds closed? Is there no sound of activity? This may indicate that the occupants are sleeping. Likely, we will have a more productive conversation with the householder if we call back later. Perhaps it would be best to pass by this home for the time being, making note of the house number. You could check the house again before leaving the territory or make a note to call again at a later hour.
11 Situations may still arise in which we inadvertently awaken someone or otherwise disturb him. He may even appear to be irritated or angry. How should we react? Proverbs 17:27 counsels: “A man of discernment is cool of spirit.” While we do not apologize for our ministry, we can certainly express how sorry we are that we have called at an inconvenient time. We can politely ask if another time would be more convenient and offer to return. A sincere expression of personal concern in a mild voice often serves to relax such a person. (Prov. 15:1) If a householder informs us that he regularly works a night shift, a note could be included with the territory card so that future calls may be made at an appropriate time.
12 Discernment is also appropriate as we endeavor to work our territory thoroughly. Since many people are not at home when we first call, we need to make additional efforts to contact them to share the message of salvation with them. (Rom. 10:13) Reports indicate that sometimes publishers call at the same home several times in one day to try to find the people at home. This does not escape the attention of the neighbors. An unfavorable impression may be created that Jehovah’s Witnesses are ‘always calling’ on their street. How can this be avoided?
13 Use discernment. When calling again on a not-at-home, are there indications that someone is home now? If mail or fliers are sticking out of the mailbox, it is likely that the person is still not at home and a further call at the door would not be productive at this time. If the person cannot be contacted after a few attempts made at different times of day, such as in the evening, it may be possible to contact the householder by telephone. If not, a tract or handbill can be discreetly left in the door, especially if the territory is covered reasonably often. It may well be that the person can be contacted the next time the territory is worked.
14 We should avoid extended conversations at the door when the householder is exposed to inclement weather. When invited inside, be careful not to soil the floors. Use good judgment when challenged by a barking dog. When working in apartment buildings, speak softly and avoid making noise that disturbs tenants and announces your presence.
15 Be Orderly and Dignified: With good organization we can avoid forming large, highly visible groups that congregate in the territory. Some householders may feel threatened when several cars and vans arrive in front of their house with a large group of publishers. We do not want to give the impression that we are “invading” residential areas. Arrangements for working the territory are best made at the meeting for field service. Small groups of publishers, such as a family, are far less intimidating to the householders and need less reorganization as the territory is worked.
16 Orderliness requires that parents carefully supervise the conduct of their children while working in the territory. Children should be well behaved when accompanying adults to the door. Youngsters should not be allowed to play or to wander freely, attracting undue attention from residents or passersby.
17 Balance is needed, too, in the matter of coffee breaks. Our Kingdom Ministry, June 1995, page 3, stated: “When we are out in field service, we can lose valuable time on coffee breaks. However, when weather conditions are severe, a break will refresh us and help us to keep going. Many, though, prefer to keep busy witnessing to people and forgo socializing with the brothers on coffee breaks during the time that has been set aside for the ministry.” Although stopping for refreshments is a personal decision, it has been noted that at times, large groups of brothers and sisters meet at a coffee shop or a restaurant. Besides the amount of time taken to be served, the presence of a crowd can be intimidating to other patrons. Sometimes, experiences of the morning’s field service are loudly discussed, and this can detract from the dignity of our ministry and impair its effectiveness. With discernment, publishers can avoid overcrowding an establishment and taking unnecessary time from the ministry.
18 Many have experienced fine results by approaching people wherever they may be found—on streets, in parking lots, and in other public places. Here, too, we want to give a fine witness, not only by our words but also by our reasonableness. Publishers in each congregation should be sure to respect their territory boundaries so that they are not overwhelming pedestrians in commercial areas and subway entrances or employees in businesses, such as gas stations, that are open 24 hours. To ensure that we carry out our ministry in an orderly, dignified manner, we would work only within our own territory assignment unless some specific arrangements have been made through the Congregation Service Committee of another congregation, to provide them with some assistance.—Compare 2 Corinthians 10:13-15.
19 Some congregations with many areas where public witnessing is possible have organized these areas into territories. A territory card is then issued to an individual publisher or a group. This facilitates more effective coverage and guards against too many publishers working in the same area at the same time, in harmony with the principle at 1 Corinthians 14:40: “Let all things take place decently and by arrangement.”
20 Our personal appearance should always be dignified and representative of ministers bearing Jehovah’s name. The same is true of the equipment we use. Worn-out book bags and dog-eared or soiled Bibles detract from the Kingdom message. It has been said that dress and grooming “are a social shorthand that gives the surrounding population information about who and what you are and where you fit in the order of things.” Hence, our appearance should be neither slovenly nor unkempt, neither flashy nor extravagant, but always “worthy of the good news.”—Phil. 1:27; compare 1 Timothy 2:9, 10.
21 At 1 Corinthians 9:26, the apostle Paul states: “The way I am running is not uncertainly; the way I am directing my blows is so as not to be striking the air.” In imitation of Paul, we are determined to have an effective, productive ministry. As we have a zealous share in the witnessing work as part of Jehovah’s “locust army” today, may we use Christian reasonableness and discernment in taking the message of salvation to all in our territory.