The American mall has replaced the main street of yesteryear. There was a time in our past that shopping consisted of walking the streets of downtown. This is where we get the term window shopping. For the Christian of that day, it allowed them to exercise freedom of speech and communicate the gospel on street corners through one-to-one conversations, public proclamation, and the passing of tracts. While these opportunities still exist in many places, the public streets are typically dead, and the malls are now alive.
So how can we evangelize our new main streets inside the private mall? There are still many ways to communicate the gospel within our malls even though the new streets are considered private property with restricted free speech rights.
1. Speaking to people individually:
There is no law against speaking to people. As long as you’re friendly and polite and leave them if asked to, you will find few problems from mall security and operators.
2. Request a public access table:
In some states like California, you can get an evangelism table just by requesting one. There may be rules you have to abide by. Some of these rules may include having to wait for someone to come to talk to you. For some more tips on this aspect, please refer to Greg Moss’ article on booths and tables by clicking here.
3. Leaving tracts:
I like leaving tracts on benches, tables or even in-store product. In some cases, you may even get away with handing out gospel tracts outside the mall’s doors. But be prepared to be stopped by mall security. If you like to begin conversations using tracts as an icebreaker, you may want to think twice about it. If security sees you handing out a tract they do have the right to tell you to stop or even leave. I like to end my conversation with a tract instead. I’ll say, “Can I give you something?” then I leave it with them and explain how it recaps our conversation on the back. I have not experienced a problem doing it in this order.
This brings up another question. What is the proper response if you are stopped by security? Here are a few tips.
1. If you are a part of a team, discuss prior who will speak to authorities if stopped. Do not crowd around security. This will make them feel uncomfortable and create a poor condition.
2. Be very polite. Make an effort to shake their hand before leaving and smile during the entire time. On-lookers will get the impression that they are only speaking to you and that nothing is wrong. This creates a good witness.
3. Stop immediately what you are doing and do not argue.
4. Ask the security officer where the free speech area is and who to speak to about gaining access. This may be fruitless at first but will help establish whether they are discriminating against you because it’s Christian material that you have. You can also ask if there is a place you can get the written copy of the mall rules.
One thing you will notice if you are ever stopped handing out gospel tracts is they will say you are soliciting. This, however, is incorrect. Soliciting refers to a business activity where there is a presumption of potential compensation. The handing out of Gospel material is a free speech activity called leafleting which has been held up as a protected free speech right. That said, most times this free speech right does not extend into malls.
If you have had some lessons learned in evangelizing malls, please share it with us.