In the fall, the HVAC* service companies start reminding us about getting ready for the winter months. If we have a contract with a local service company, most of us get a card reminding us to make an appointment for our semi-annual HVAC check. If they do not hear from us, we get a second card and maybe a text. If we continue to ignore the reminders, we eventually get a call to schedule the semi-annual check. They warned us, so when they call, we are almost apologetic for not already scheduling the appointment. As the day of the appointment approaches, we get a reminder that they will be coming between certain hours. On the day of the check, we most likely get a text letting us know they are on their way. Once at our home, they knock on the door, tell us why they are here (as if we didn’t know), and enter with plastic booties covering their feet. They do their inspections, tell us if we need to take any other actions, give us an opportunity to ask questions, and are on their way. We may even receive a follow up text or email thanking us for the business.
We can learn some things from HVAC companies when it comes to reaching out to others.
- We need to remind others we are here. Over the summer, people tend to be on the go more than at other times. We see more folks taking vacations, participating in outdoor activities, and planning family outings. Our assumptions usually are they know where we are when they are back home and ready to settle down for a season. HVAC companies do not assume we know when to call them or that we know they are still in business. Instead, they remind us that we need them, and we should do the same. Keeping up with the people assigned to our Bible study group and guests is part of being a good shepherd.
- We need to go onsite. The HVAC companies do not expect us to dismantle our systems and take them in for review. Nor do they depend on a video app to walk us through how to check our system. They come to our house. We may think contacting someone in their home is old school, but research indicates the expectation of Sunday School leaders visiting people was introduced in the early 1920s. That time was filled with all kinds of challenges, including the aftermath of the Spanish Flu, with parallels to today (you can find out more about these parallels in the book listed in the article bio). Just like the 1920s, the post-COVID world requires us to go to people far from God if we want to reach them.
- We need to make appointments. We are thankful that HVAC technicians do not randomly show up at our front porches. They make appointments so they can use their time wisely and so we can remove stuff in front of the return air vent. We both win! The same is true when it comes to contacting someone face to face. We want to be good stewards of our time and allow them to make any preparations they may want to make.
The HVAC company usually sends a text as well to let us know they are about to be there, even though they already have an appointment. Doing so serves as a last-minute reminder to get ready for their arrival. When we are headed to a person’s residence who has been a guest or away for a few weeks, we can send a text to let them know we are on the way, even if we already have an appointment.
- We need to remember we are on their turf. The HVAC tech wears booties because he or she is on our turf. Most technicians would not wear those same booties in their home. When we stop by someone’s home, we need to remember that we are on their turf. The way we treat any pets they may have, the questions we ask, and the things that we point out about their home are important. Knowing the difference between asking why they display a picture versus inviting them to tell us the story behind that same photo matters.
- We need to do what we said we would do. Most of us know what to expect when the HVAC technician visits because they have told us on the cards and when making the appointment. Imagine the surprise most of us would express if the technician began testing each chair in our living room. We would be looking for another HVAC company. When we make an appointment to see someone face to face, we can explain why we are coming by and then be true to that explanation. One reason we may have for making an onsite visit is delivering the Bible study resources. This gives us a natural reason at least four times a year to visit everyone assigned to our Bible study group.
The HVAC tech wants to be thorough but knows we have other things to do once they move on. We need to follow that same practice when making a visit to a group member or guest.
- We need to follow up afterwards. Once the HVAC tech leaves, most of us get a summary of the inspection and some tips that may help our system last. They may also thank us for trusting them with the hope that we will continue using their service. After we visit someone face to face, we too can send a personal follow-up message, giving them a tip about the upcoming Bible study, how they might use the resource we dropped off, or information they requested. While this may seem like a small thing, a follow-up message communicates that we care.
Dwayne McCrary is the manager of adult ongoing Bible studies at Lifeway and teaches an ongoing Bible study as well. His most recent book is Farsighted: Fostering a Culture of Outreach in our Churches and Bible Study Groups (available at Lifeway.com/TrainingResources).
*HVAC – Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning