Flights provide a great opportunity to talk about spiritual topics with people you never met. Conversation opens up naturally as people share their travel plans. Still, making the transition to a spiritual topic during the flight can seem intimidating.
I want to suggest 10 things Christians should do on every flight in order to naturally open up spiritual conversation. As I go through the list, I’ll share a story of my interactions with a woman scientist I sat next to on my last flight. I don’t share my story to brag, but I share it to show how these things can work in real-life situations.
1. Pray for opportunities to have spiritual conversations
Praying before the flight allows you to turn your trust over to God, no matter what happens over the course of the flight. Before my flight, I prayed for God to use me however he wanted to, even when I felt tired. At the very least, the prayer helped me to focus more on obedience rather than on my feelings.
2. Make room in your flight plans for a long conversation
People often plan out what they’re going to do on flights, whether it’s watching a movie or doing business work. For my flight, I was planning to read a book for a Seminary class, but I didn’t set a hard schedule. Once the conversation with the scientist began, I put full attention on the conversation.
3. Stay open to conversation for at least some of the flight
On a flight, it can be easy to “tune out” potential conversation by putting on headphones or staying busy some other way. In my flight, I was reading a book and didn’t seem highly approachable as a result. But I did put the book down a few times during the flight so that there was at least potential for a conversation to start up.
4. Pay attention to what the people around you are doing
If you interrupt someone when they’re deeply focused on something, it can come across as rude and annoying. At the beginning of my flight, I didn’t start a conversation with the scientist because she was focused on her phone, studying something intently. When the flight attendant came around and asked what people wanted to drink, the scientist put down her phone and seemed more open and relaxed. At that point, I felt comfortable to move to the next thing on the list.
5. Ask a basic question to the person next to you
It’s easy to ask a basic question on a flight – a question like “what are you traveling for?” opens up instant conversation. When entering my flight, I noticed the scientist was wearing a shirt with a logo that appeared to be work-related. I pointed out this observation to her and asked – “Did you travel for something related to your job?” Conversation opened up from there.
6. Bring up your faith at some point in the conversation
Bringing up your faith opens up opportunity for others to ask about it if they want to know more. In my case, it was easy to bring up my faith because I was traveling to attend a Christian conference. But it may be harder to bring up if you’re not traveling to a Christian event. In those cases, you can still mention some Christian-related activity you do and see where the conversation goes from there.
7. Guide the conversation in a spiritual direction if it seems appropriate to do so
It may be appropriate to guide the conversation in a spiritual direction if the person you’re talking to takes interest in you bringing up your faith. That was the case with the scientist, as she eventually asked me, “Do you want to be a pastor?” After explaining my answer and noticing her interest in my response, I asked her, “What do you think about all that spiritual stuff?”
8. Accept the results of a conversation
The results of these conversations are ultimately in God’s control – you don’t need to feel pressure to keep a conversation going the entire flight. The scientist and I talked for about an hour, focusing on the fact that she and her husband have been on very different spiritual paths. When our conversation ended, we went back to our individual tasks for the final half hour of the flight. I didn’t feel pressure to continue the conversation – I was simply thankful for the conversation we did have.
9. Bring something to give out if the situation calls for it
This “something” could a contact card, a book, a tract – anything that gives someone an opportunity to think or to reconnect after the flight. I gave a contact card for my group Twin Cities Apologetics to the scientist since she took interest in digging into deep spiritual topics. The card gives her opportunity to follow up and talk more if she chooses to do so.
10. Extend a thank you to the people you talk to
Thanking the people you talk to shows your appreciation for their time and your care for them. It also leaves them with a good impression of your interaction. I thanked the scientist just as we were about to leave the plane, and I could tell she was appreciative of the conversation we had.
I don’t know what sort of impact this conversation had, if any. Maybe I will find out months or years down the line. But whether I have that knowledge or not, I leave the result of the conversation to God.