One of the most common questions I am asked is, “I know the
hospitality-based strategy will work. How do I motivate my people to
do it?” I am asked this by laymen wanting to know how to motivate
their groups, as well as pastors who want to motivate their people.
I just read a great book on this topic: Influencer,
by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron
McMillan, and Al Switzler. It is a great book. If you are interested
in how to influence people, run, don’t walk, to get this book.
If I were a pastor, I would be studying this book with my staff.
If I were a Minister of Education, I would put this on the schedule
to study with my teachers. . . soon. I love this book so much I
bought the book and the audio. I will likely listen to the audio
more than once.
Here is a story that illustrates the power of using the
principles in this book.
Imagine it is your job to fight a disease that
has plagued humanity for over 3000 years. This disease has the
capacity to ruin lives, deepen poverty, incapacitate entire
villages. More than 3.5 million people in Asia and Africa alone are
infected and there is no cure.
Meet the Carter Center’s Dr. Donald Hopkins, one
of the influence masters studies in the research for
Influencer. For the past twenty years, Dr. Hopkins has
waged a war against the guinea worm–the world’s largest and most
noxious human parasite. In years past, the worm would infect 20% –
60% of a villages population. It involves three foot long worms that
people get by drinking microscopic forms of the worms in open
sources of drinking water. A year later, this three foot long
worm–about the width of a strand of spaghetti emerge through the
skin on any part of the body. (You can actually see one of the
little critters in an online video at
The worm incapacitates a person for periods averaging two to three
months. People may have more than one worm.
There is no cure for this disease. The only hope
is to influence how whole villages behave. Dr. Hopkins has been able
to do just that. He and his team have been able to completely
eliminate the worm in more than half of the previously suffering
countries. When the Carter Center began working on this in 1986
there were an estimated 3.5 million people infected around the
world. By the end of 2005, we are down to just over 10,000 cases,
and it trends continue, within a few years, the last guinea will be
eradicated, making the disease and the worm extinct.
All this was accomplished, not with a shot or
vaccine or pill, but by influencing the behavior of people spread
across thousand of remote villages.
The power of influence has conquered many other similarly
daunting problems like drug addiction and the spread of AIDS. I’d
like to summarize the six influencer principles, then apply them to
the idea of
influencing people to double classes using hospitality as an
means. If we would encourage people to double their classes, six
things must happen.
- He must believe he can change
- He must believe he wants to change (it is in his
self-interest to change)
- He must be led by leaders that model the desired behavior
- He must see his peers engaging in this behavior
- He must be rewarded by the system
- He must be empowered by the system.
This change is all about a vital behavior. Influence always
starts here. It starts by defining behavior that we want people to
engage in or refrain from. In the guinea worm example above, the
vital behaviors included straining water and staying out of public
water supplies when infected.
If you would influence people to double a class every two years
or less the vital behavior is this: get people in the habit of
inviting every member and every prospect to every fellowship every
month. I have seen it happen more times than I can count; you get
them to the party and would not be able to keep them from class. It
doesn’t happen every single time–there are plenty of
exceptions–but it does happen often enough to double every two
years or less.
If you want to make disciples, one vital behavior is influencing
people to read their Bibles and pray daily. It is a fundamental
discipline of the Christian life. Let’s examine how we might
influence a church to read their Bibles daily.
As you look at this list, you might think it is a bit over the
top. You might think it is over-kill. This is one key of every
master-influencer. They over-determine success. They apply more
sources of influence than might be absolutely necessary to insure
the change. They make change inevitable by what might look like to
some as over doing it.
Motivating people to read their bibles
Let’s apply these six principles to a basic discipline of the
Christian life: having a daily quiet time.
- He must believe he can be disciplined in reading his Bible. This
is why the Navigators talk about seven minutes with God. It is
not to limit our time to seven minutes; it is to make it
something he can do. Many people see themselves as just
basically undisciplined. The research does not bear this out.
There is not a discipline gene. It is about learning skills that
support our discipline. Here is one: set your alarm seven
- He must believe he wants to change. It is in his
self-interest to change. He must come to love the Christian
life, or he he will never come to live the Christian life. Quiet
time becomes a sweet hour of prayer, or he is not praying very
well. The thing is, it really is a wonderful life. The Bible
teaches that God is a rewarder or those who seek Him. He really
is. Some of the sweetest times in my life have been times alone
with God. You must come to believe this, or you will never be
consistent in your time alone with God. Discipline is over-rated
in a lot of Christian teaching. There is a place for discipline,
but if you live your whole life trying to make yourself do
what you basically don’t like doing, you are going to struggle.
You must come to love Bible reading and prayer, or you will
never do it consistently.
- He must be led by leaders that model the desired behavior.
Most people do well to be in a discipleship group, at least for
a time. Most of us need to be in a group that is led by a leader
that will set the pace for us. The leader must embody the
vision. When I was a Minister of Education, I led several of
these groups, and trained others to lead these groups. One group
was not working well. I investigated why. Word on the street was
this. The leader would ask the people how they were doing in
their time alone with God. Predictably, they would be struggling
establishing the discipline in the early days of the group. The
leader responded, “It is OK, I didn’t have a good week with my
quiet time either.” The group actually reinforced the wrong
behavior. If you would influence your group to spend time alone
with God, you must model it. The leader must embody the vision.
If you do embody the vision, it will just come up from time to
time. “This week, I was reading in my quiet time and God spoke
to me. . . ” has more influence than an occasional lecture on
- He must see his peers engaging in this behavior. It is one
thing to see the leaders engaging in desired behavior; it is
another to see my peers. When my pastor has a quiet time and
tells about it, that is good, but I sorta expected that. When my
friends are all having quiet times, I feel I need to step up. I
think we ought to talk about this regularly in Sunday School. I
think we ought to talk about how we are doing in terms of our
time alone with God in our groups on a regular basis. At least
once a month we ought to ask, “What are you reading these days?
What is it meaning to you?”
- He must be rewarded by the system. It is easy to imagine how
this can work with kids. Bible drill is a classic example. Kids
are challenged to learn Bible verses and then they compete on
how well they know them. (They don’t actually compete against
each other. They compete against themselves and the standard.
Everyone can be a winner.) With a little creativity, this same
principle can be applied tastefully with adults. What if you had
an emphasis next year to encourage everyone to read through the
Bible. Everyone who does it is invited to a steak dinner with
the pastor. Perhaps we give everyone a Bible or a gift
certificate to a Lifeway store if they successfully read through
the whole Bible in a year.
- He must be empowered by the system. The system can reward,
but it can also empower. When I was a Minister of Education, I
supplied everyone who wanted them with the Daily Walk–a daily
devotional guide that helped people read through the Bible in a
year. There are a number of similar products available. Perhaps
you could subsidize the cost of the One Year Bible for all your
These same six principles can motivate people to double their
classes every two years or less and use hospitality to grow their
groups. But, this article is a little long. Let’s get into that next
week. In the mean time, you might pick up a copy of
Influencer. For an MP3 version, see
www.audible.com I think you
will be glad you did.