Looking for a creative way to share Christ? Today Rich and Charlene Sevcik talk about “God Talk”, the ministry they started that uses volunteers at the mall to share the Good News of salvation with others.
Looking for a creative way to share Christ? Today Rich and Charlene Sevcik talk about “God Talk”, the ministry they started that uses volunteers at the mall to share the Good News of salvation with others.
Bob: A couple of times a year Rich Sevcik and some of his friends get together and rent a kiosk at their local mall. They are not there to sell anything; they are there to share about Jesus. They recruit volunteers and train them. What they find is the volunteers wind up loving the work.
Rich: We have had many, many volunteers who have said to us, “I don’t like doing this, but I am going to try it.” After they have tried it—after they have been in the mall for two or three hours and they have talked to a few people, they love it! They realize that this is what Jesus wants. This is not difficult. It is a great personal, rewarding experience for me as the person who is sharing the Gospel.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, December 17th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey; and I'm Bob Lepine. Rich and Charlene Sevcik join us today to talk about their experience sharing Jesus at a kiosk in a mall. They will explain how you can do it, too.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. There is a story I have to hear. We have been talking—you should introduce our guests and tell what we have been talking about; but there is a story in what we have been talking about that I really want to hear.
Dennis: You actually just want to pronounce Rich and Charlene’s last name because you think you can do it with the proper Czechoslovakian enunciation.
Bob: You say [Sevick], right?
Bob: But you were telling me before that in the [with an accent]“Old Country” they would have said [Sevchick], right?
Rich: That is right. My dad was an immigrant; so properly pronounced, that is it.
Bob: [with an accent] [Sevchick].
Dennis: Rich and Charlene live in the Bay area. They have been married for 22 years. Rich was an executive with Hewlett Packard in Xilinx in the Semiconductor business for more than 20 years. He put his engineering to use not long after he retired and began to pray that God would use you—that He would give you a mission, right?
Dennis: It wasn’t long after you prayed that God answered that prayer and gave you some direction.
Bob: Well, pointed you in the direction of the mall. Here is the story I am looking for. I want to know about the meeting you had with the mall management office where you said, “Yes, we would like to open up a kiosk here in the mall. We are not going to sell anything; we are just going to tell people about Jesus.” I just want to know how the mall manager—what did he do when you told him that?
Rich: Actually, we had one of their sales managers and we had the general manager there. When we told them what we were going to do, they kind of looked at us in a kind of perplexing way; but they were very professional. Of course, they are used to running kiosks and stores and things like that. They continued with the conversation, but they did ask us a little bit more detail of what we were going to be doing in the mall. Since we hadn’t yet been in the mall, we weren’t exactly sure.
Dennis: The idea had not yet been fully baked, right?
Rich: Right. Actually, another funny story—We were basically led by one of pastors that if we were going to do something like this, we should have a pastoral steering committee. We should have a group of people praying for us. We actually formed a pastoral steering committee, and we had five pastors on it from different churches.
We presented the idea to these guys. One of them—his name was John. John looked at us several times at these meetings and said, “You are crazy. You can’t go into a mall. You can’t win. This isn’t going to work. Nobody is going to be interested. This is crazy.”
Charlene: It is Old School.
Rich: Yes. He told us we were a bunch of Old School couples—you know, we were older.
Anyway, the other pastors thought it might be a good idea. Everybody said, “Hey, it is worth a try.”
To finish the story: We got in the mall. The very first day we were opening the very first kiosk, we had another lady working with us—one of the volunteers. Charlene and I were busy cleaning the kiosk, polishing it and setting up our Bibles, our books, and all this kind of stuff.
I noticed out of the corner of my eye—the other lady—the volunteer—she was talking to a shopper. They were having this great positive, animated conversation. I thought the shopper was a friend of hers who just happened to be walking by, right? About 15 minutes later, the volunteer comes up to Charlene and me and says, “You might want to come over here and pray. This lady is accepting Jesus as her Lord and Savior.”
Bob: You are setting up shop...
Rich: Right. Yes, we are setting up shop on the very first morning, ever. Almost the first person walking by the kiosk is this lady shopper and she accepts Jesus. That evening we got on email—actually that day we had three more salvations that day. We got on email and I told our steering committee pastor group that we had had four salvations that day, including the very first hour of the morning.
John—he is a great guy, by the way, and has a sense of humor. John replies to my email about, “God is blessing us.” Right? “This is great.” John replies back and he says, “Well, it just goes to prove that God can use any stupid idea.”
He was kidding, right.
Bob: Let me just clarify for listeners. This is a kiosk in a mall where you are not selling anything. You have literature that you hand out. The sign says, “God Talk”; and you just invite people to come over and have a conversation about faith, right?
Dennis: And you do it a couple of months a year. It is not in the mall every month.
Bob: I was curious about this because you don’t do it at Christmas time.
Bob: Tell me about why.
Rich: The way malls operate—they are a retail operation. They are privately owned, and they want to make profits. During Christmas, all the stores are filled and all the kiosks are booked out. For a typical renter of a kiosk, the mall does not only charge rent but they also get a percentage of their revenue.
Bob: And you aren’t making any revenue.
Rich: We don’t make any revenue. We purposely give away Bibles, and we give away a lot of things; but we don’t make any revenue. So in terms of the totem pole—they are not going to let us in during the Christmas season.
Bob: I would also think during the Christmas shopping season, that wouldn’t be the ideal time to stop and have a conversation about Jesus. But at Easter time, or back to school, there is a little more margin in people’s lives.
Charlene: Right. The first part of the week—it is very slow. People have spent the weekend in the mall--they are going to the movies; they are eating out; they are shopping; or just hanging around in the mall. Monday through Wednesday afternoon late or Thursday, the mall is somewhat quiet. We have found, though, that during those quiet times, people are really sometimes more open to stopping and talking.
The weekends when it is busy—Thursday afternoons through Sunday—it can be a mob scene in there. We usually try to keep the kiosks having at least three, sometimes four volunteers for those busy moments. We usually have three-hour time slots that volunteers come in the mall and share their faith in the mall. A lot of times we have so many people will say, “Can I come again? Can I volunteer again?” Of course, we are very thrilled.
When we go in the mall and we do work with other churches, we go to their churches and we do training for them—getting them prepared—just doing a little hour training that tells them what the mall rules are so that we are being able to go back again. We can’t go against any of their rules. We also do training on giving a few little techniques that we have learned to try to entice people to come and share.
Dennis: That was going to be my question. How many of the conversations occur with you stepping out like you did—you mentioned earlier—where you talked to a gang member and told him, “God has something to say to you” ? I mean, that is pretty pro-active. How often do they just come up and ask you a question?
Rich: Very rarely actually—when they just walk up to us, unsolicited at all. What we do in our mini-training for volunteers is we train people—as shoppers are walking by the kiosk—we are right there in the traffic area—as people are walking by, we hand out free things.
As people walk by, for example, we will hand out free Decision magazines from Billy Graham or we will hand out a church invitation. Around Easter time, most churches will have a special Easter program. We will hand out a church invitation. As people walk by, in the course of a month, we will hand out 10,000 church invitations, for example.
As people are walking by—shoppers are coming by—we train the volunteers to smile, extend your arm, and say, “Would you like to have a free Billy Graham magazine?” or “...a free Men for More invitation to a website?” We are always giving things away in the mall.
As people accept the free gift—we then train our volunteers—we trained ourselves—you know, we’ve learned this over the years—the easiest question to ask is, “Are you going to a good church right now?” Sometimes people will stop and answer your question. Sometimes they will keep walking, right?
If they stop and they answer your question, then we lead that conversation into, “Hey, we are having a spiritual survey,” or “We are having a raffle,”—for the teenagers, we talk about a raffle. We will have a daily raffle for two movie tickets and a box of popcorn. For an adult, we will say, “Would you like to take our spiritual survey?” That way we get the person to stop and at least take a minute or two to fill out this little spiritual survey—it only has four questions on it.
As they are filling out the spiritual survey, we train ourselves and our volunteers to engage in a conversation. “Are you going to a good church?” “Yes.” “What church are you going to?” They almost always say, “Oooh, I don’t remember.”
Bob: The name of it!
Rich: “It was two years ago...”
Dennis: You did mention earlier that like 93 percent of folks in the Bay Area don’t go to church.
Rich: Do not go to church. Right.
Dennis: The question is almost a setup for that kind of answer you are talking about.
Rich: Yes. We have learned a lot by being in the mall all of these years. By the way, everything we have learned, we put into our training. Our training materials are available on the internet at our website Godtalkinthemall.com. Any church, anybody listening to this broadcast—you can go to our website—you can get a hold of all the information—everything we have learned and everything we do—all of our free handouts—we have pictures of it up on the website.
Bob: We have a link at our website FamilyLifeToday.com to your website. So if folks want to stop by, they can just link over and find the information you are looking for.
Dennis: One of the things that you equip people to do that I have found fascinating—by the way, I really agree with this—just equip them to share their own story of how they came to faith in Christ.
Dennis: People are interested in other people’s stories, especially around spiritual matters.
Charlene: That is my favorite way to talk with people—find out where they are in their lives and trying to draw something from myself that I can share with them of how God has really worked in my life over the years—how He has been there for me—how He has not failed me—how He is our best friend—our Hope, and our Source. I tell them, “It is not the next job or the next relationship,” I said, “Jesus Christ is your Source. You need to look to Him.”
People are looking in all other directions. I talk to young people, and they will have a new pair of tennis shoes, a new bag, dress, or something. I say, “That is going to make you happy for the next two or three weeks. Then pretty soon it is going to be called, ‘that old bag or those old shoes,’” I said, “But Jesus Christ is going to be with you forever. You can know that He is there in the middle of the night when nobody else is there. You can call on Him and talk with Him.”
So much of this that we share in the mall is our own personal experiences where we have been and just showing how God has been with us over all these years—over 60-some years God has been there with us and will take us all the way to heaven. That is what I like to tell the young people. We are not just talking about today. God loves you right now, but He wants you to go all the way to heaven with Him.
I talk about the hair on the heads—these kids have a ton of hair—I’ll say, “God knows every hair on your head. He knows everything about you. He knows the good; He knows the bad; and He knows the ugly about us. He loves us and He loves you just the way you are.” It is just a great blessing to share with the people.
Dennis: The thing I want our listeners to capture out of what you are saying, Charlene, this next generation of young people—although they may not look anything like what we looked like when we were that age—they have a soul. They have a deep, profound need to know God. Are you finding these young people really do want somebody to reach out to them in a meaningful way and express the love of God?
Charlene: I am amazed at the kids who are so open to this. They will listen to us. We thought, “Why would these young people want to stop and talk with us older folks?” We have volunteers in the mall who are in their 80’s. They are some of the best people to share about Christ with these young people. I don’t know how they are drawn to them. They have told us, “It is the Holy Spirit at work.”
Rich: It is the godly thing.
Charlene: It is a godly thing. They are just gorgeous. I said, “We just need to sit back and just watch you two work in the mall and do your volunteering.”
Rich: I think part of what we have learned from the teenagers, in particular, is unfortunately their parents are not there for them. When they see older folks like us willing to talk with them, they are actually drawn to us. We have had some awesome conversations with these teenagers. It is kind of shocking sometimes what they are going to tell you is going on in their lives, but they are looking for some parental guidance. Yes. We can be there, help them, and steer them in the right direction, right?
Bob: I am trying to imagine going to my local mall office and saying, “I would like to set up a kiosk. We are going to call it God Talk. We are going to share about Jesus with shoppers.” I would think there would be some mall offices that would say, “That is not really what we want happening at our mall.”
Rich: A few years ago we did get an article in the Decision magazine about God Talk. As a result of that Billy Graham article, there were about 14 different churches across the United States that attempted to launch a mall ministry. A few of them we are in contact with.
For example, in Syracuse, New York, there is an operating God Talk in the mall. They do it every August and every March as well—just like we do. We share best practices and all that kind of good stuff.
There was an attempt in Naperville, Illinois. That church went to a local mall; and the local mall management, once they understood what they wanted to do, said, “No way. You are not coming into our mall, and we are not going to do this.” Yes, it does depend on the local mall management.
One of the things that I think God has made really clear to us in the last five years that this is a godly thing, right? We have to be in prayer. In our area and with other people we are in contact with across the United States, we are always telling people, “Be in prayer. Be in prayer before you talk to the mall management. Be in prayer before you go in the mall. Be in prayer while you are in the mall.” It is all about praying that God will move and that the Holy Spirit will be empowered in our lives, right?
Yes. It is very clear that some mall management does not want this going on. They own the mall, right? They are in charge, and that is private property. We have to respect that.
Dennis: It would seem to me that the mall management would be interested in anything that called these young people to morality, to walking with Christ, the Ten Commandments. Let’s face it, we have a generation of young people who are getting their cues from the world.
Bob: And a lot of them hanging out at the mall wherethe mall management might go, “You know, if you can help us with this, we will pay you.”
Rich: Exactly right. That is exactly what has happened. After we have been in the mall for a couple of years, the same Oakridge Mall, the mall management actually realized that the theft rate inside the mall had dropped significantly. It turns out
that most of the theft is done by teenagers. We are there telling teenagers right from wrong, right?
Dennis: You are busting up the gangs right there.
Rich: That is right. Yes. Actually the mall management—for example, the story about Jay and the drug gang—the mall general manager knew about that gang and knew that it was later disappearing. He knew about that.
Honestly, we are in the mall talking about Jesus. Every month we are in there, there will be one or two shoppers who will complain to mall management about having let us be in there. My personal opinion is one of the reasons why the mall management lets us come back all the time so far is a God thing; but they are aware of the fact that we are making a difference in the culture in the mall.
Dennis: Yes. I’ll never forget the question that Bill Bright, the Founder and President of Campus Crusade for Christ, used to ask people. He would say, “What is the greatest thing that has ever happened to you in your entire life?” Charlene, how would you answer the question?
Charlene: I would think coming to Jesus Christ and walking with Him, and Him accepting me with the good, the bad, and the ugly, and knowing that I have eternity in my future...
Dennis: You got it right. He would ask a second question, “What then is the most important thing we could do for someone else?”
Dennis: To introduce them to Jesus Christ.
Dennis: I actually was thinking about introducing you guys and having you take off your shoes; but it is radio so it wouldn’t make any difference to our listeners. I just thought about this passage in Romans 10. It says, “And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Good News.’”
Dennis: You have beautiful feet.
I am praying that this broadcast is going to cause some people to look down at their feet and go, “Are my feet beautiful?”
Bob: I need a pedicure; I need a Gospel pedicure.
Dennis: Seriously, I am kind of making light of this; but in all seriousness, I really believe this is the time for people in the church—individuals, singles, marrieds, single-parents, divorced people, grandparents—to engage this next generation and to take the Good News to them in relevant, fresh ways.
FamilyLife has been re-tooling everything we are all about here—addressing the needs of the next generation through some video events and curriculum to reach out to young couples. You are designing an idea and have launched an idea that needs to be rolled out by dozens of churches in dozens of cities across the country.
Dennis: I pray that will happen.
Bob: This could be the hot new mall franchise right here.
Dennis: There you go!
Rich: God Talk, right? Let me add a couple of other thoughts. Getting into a mall, you have to deal with management and you have to organize—and it is best if you have a few churches—it does take some overhead to get going.
I think Charlene mentioned earlier, you can go into a flea market. You can get a table for one day in a flea market. One Christian person, one individual, can go do that in a flea market for a day; or you can go into the Farmer’s Market for a day. There are a lot of ways of starting.
Another thing I would like to add is that we spent a lot of time recruiting volunteers. Most of the time when you approach a Christian individual and you ask them if they would like to share their faith and you offer an opportunity, their quick human reaction is, “No.” They get anxious. There is fear. There is worry.
One of the things I want to share: This really is very basic theology, first of all. You don’t have to be a theologian. You just have to know about Jesus. Charlene loves to do, “You share your personal relationship with Christ with these individual shoppers.” This is not theologically-challenging.
Actually, after you have talked with a couple of people, we have had many, many volunteers who have said to us, “I don’t like doing this, but I am going to try it.” After they have tried it—after they have been in the mall for two or three hours and they have talked to a few people, they love it! They realize that this is what Jesus wants. This is not difficult.
We are always being friendly. We never argue with anyone. You don’t ever want to argue with anybody about Christ. You are always friendly. You are always loving. You always stay on the positive track. When you do that, it is a great experience. It is a great personal, rewarding experience for me as the person who is sharing the Gospel.
There is nothing to be anxious about. I actually think it is the Devil at work—the Devil is putting garbage in our brain cells and telling us that this is going to be scary and telling us that this is difficult. It is not!
Most important of all, Jesus said, “Go and be My witnesses and I will be with you.” We are not out there on our own. We have Jesus and the Holy Spirit with us.
Dennis: And He promised to put the words in our mouth. If He put us before kings, He will tell us what to say.
Bob: And you guys have done a great job on your website helping people who hear the idea and think, “Boy, we could do that.” They have a desire to do that—you can help them with whatever they need to know so that they can execute it in their city, wherever their local mall is. We have a link on our website FamilyLifeToday.com to your website.
I hope we get a lot of folks who click on and learn more about it—see how easy it is and then round up your small group from church, get a couple of churches together, or make a project out of this. Do it at Easter time, do it at back-to-school time, or pick a time that is right for everybody who is going to be involved.
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. You can click on the link that is there. It will take you to Rich and Charlene’s website. That will answer any questions you might have about doing something like this. If you do it, drop us a note and tell us how it went. We would love to hear hundreds of stories of people heading out to the mall to share the Gospel. Let us know how it works for you. We will be anxious to hear your story.
Next week will be Christmas Eve. Then two weeks from now it will be New Year’s Eve. Before you know it, it will be 2011. We have just a couple of weeks left before the end of the year and a couple of weeks to take advantage of the matching gift opportunity that has been presented to us here at FamilyLife.
Some very generous friends came to us and said, “How can we encourage FamilyLife Today listeners to step up and help support the program?” They came up with a little more than $2 million in a matching-gift fund that they have agreed to use to match every donation we receive during the month of December on a dollar-for-dollar basis. So if you make a donation, your donation is doubled; we get to take double advantage of your generosity.
So we are asking listeners to either go online at FamilyLifeToday.com or to call us at
1-800-FLTODAY. You need to do it in the next two weeks. If you can do it today, that would be great.
Call 1-800-FLTODAY. Make a donation over the phone, or go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and you can make your donation online.
Either way, I just want to say, “Thanks,” in advance for whatever you are able to do in support of this ministry. All of here at FamilyLife appreciate it, and we are grateful for your partnership with us here in this ministry.
With that, we have to wrap things up for today. Hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend. I hope you can join us back on Monday. We are going to introduce you to a young man who took a step of faith and invited a homeless man to move in with him. You will meet Chris Plekenpol on Monday and hear his story. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back on Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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