How Greenpeace Changed the Way I Serve Families

08 May

Speaking of Greenpeace…

I had a fascinating experience walking out of Trader Joe’s this afternoon.

Members from Greenpeace were outside of the store, trying to strike up conversations with people as they walked to their cars. There are times when I truly feel for the volunteers who get talked into doing this sort of job, so I offered to hear their pitch. The young man who approached me was very understanding and allowed me to put our kids in the car, unload our groceries and turn the air conditioner on before starting into his monologue.
(I’ll be honest, I figured turning the a/c on would encourage him to talk faster… a car sitting in a parking space with it’s engine running has to fluster anyone from Greenpeace, right?)

I had two considerable take-aways from our conversation.
And, to answer before you ask, I’m not going to go hug a tree… that was not one of the things I learned.

The Power to Choose

“I respect your time,” said the young man as I returned from starting my car. “Do you like Oceans or Forests?”
You see, Greenpeace had given this guy a script where he needed to tell me about the ways that people are destroying the Earth and he was supposed to talk through the various ways we’re polluting and over-harvesting all of our natural resources. However, recognizing that I didn’t have 20 minutes to hear a speech, my Trader Joe’s friend let me choose the thing that interested me the most. This was a simple decision, because the ocean freaks me out. Seriously. Swimming pool = Awesome. Ocean = Terrifying.
After selecting Forests as my option of choice, I heard about the ways that Greenpeace has successfully lobbied our government to ban some of the most harmful tactics that companies were using to harvest trees in places like the Amazon and Indonesia. I also heard about how Greenpeace has successfully petitioned major US based companies to stop using ingredients in their products that come from our planet’s rain forests.
By finding out what I was interested in, and pursuing a conversation from there, this Greenpeace activist was able to get me to remember what he said.
Score 1 for Greenpeace.

Baby Steps

So, the pitch is over, we’re 4 minutes into the conversation, and I ask what the next step is.
“By simply filling out the form, you can join Greenpeace and our global efforts to save our planet from destruction.”
Well, he probably didn’t say it just like that… I honestly don’t know exactly what he said because I was so overwhelmed by the size of his form. In no way was I going to write out all of my contact information and credit card info (as a member, you can choose to donate $20, $50, $80 or $100 monthly and have it automatically withdrawn from your account) on a piece of paper some guy was holding outside of the grocery store.
There are times in life when I do stupid things, today was not going to be one of those times.
The disconnect, for me, was jumping straight into membership and donating large chunks of money to a cause that I’d heard about for 4 minutes.
At that point, I pretty much turned off my ears and began thinking of my exit strategy.

How Greenpeace Changed the Way I Serve Families

As a church, I think we need to care about the environment… but, that’s not where I’m going with this.
When serving families at our church, we need to be willing to give up our 20 minute sales pitches. We need to find out what individuals actually care about and decide if that’s a need we can meet or not. I tell my team all of the time that we need to make sure that what we offer is answering the questions people are asking. I should care about forests AND the ocean. But, the ocean gives me nightmares… so, I’m kind of heartless in that area. Greenpeace Joe was smart enough to find out my interest and start from there. We can learn a lot from that.
However, I also learned, first hand, the importance of baby steps. I love the Bill Murray movie, What About Bob? and the concept of baby steps. I’m not going to attempt to summarize the movie – just know that it’s awesome.
Where Greenpeace failed, and I do this too, is when the next step they offered was a giant leap. Do I care about the environment? Sure, I watched Ferngully as a kid. Trees are good… evil-pollution-spewing-tractors are bad. I get it. Do I want to become a member of an organization who’s brand is fairly polarizing and then give them all of my money?

And… am I talking about Greenpeace or the Church?

You see, hurting people walk into churches every week and are given the impression that the next step is a giant leap into associating with an organization that some people hate and giving them all of their money.
I need to be better about communicating next steps for families in a way that doesn’t make them turn off their ears.
I enjoyed my conversation with Greenpeace Joe. At the end of the day, he’s probably not someone I’d choose to just hang out with – but, I’m glad that I took some time to talk with him. I suggested to him that the next step he was offering was a little too much for me and asked if there were other ways I could support the Earth without jumping fully onto the Greenpeace boat. It was then that he let down his guard and told me about how he got involved in Greenpeace. I learned his story… and it didn’t start with a guy holding a clipboard outside of the grocery store.
Isn’t that almost always the case?


Posted by on May 8, 2010 in Los Angeles


Tags: , , , ,

3 responses to “How Greenpeace Changed the Way I Serve Families

  1. Wayne Stocks

    May 8, 2010 at 7:57 am

    I love it! Great article. Anytime you can combine Greenpeace and What About Bob (one of the greatest comedies ever) in one article, you’ve got a winner.

    Seriously though, I’m always amazed how God can work through seemingly unrelated circumstances and events (like a chance encounter with a Greenpeace spokesman) to teach us about our own lives and ministries.

    Take care!


  2. Adam

    May 8, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Great, GREAT thought.

    Is this some sort of radical new therapy? 🙂



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