So far, we have looked at two things:

  • Paul said, “I try to persuade men.” We should try to persuade men too, using the best persuasion and influence tools available. If you missed this article, click here
  • Amazing influence is possible. Imagine a 3 foot worm living inside you. Eventually it secretes some acid and bores out of your skin, causing excruciating pain for a month or more. In 1986, this is how 120 million people lived. This worm had been paralyzing continents for 3500 years. There is no cure, but thanks to the influence of Dr. Donald Hopkins, the worm in nearly extinct. Amazing things can happen through influence. If you missed this article, click here.

This week we will look at the first step in an effective influence strategy–the prerequisite to amazing influence.

“Before you can influence change, you have to decide what you want to change.” (p. 23 Influencer)

“All influence geniuses focus on behaviors. They’re inflexible on this point.” (p. 26 Influencer)

Leaders have a nasty temptation of focusing on outcomes, not behaviors:

  • I want to influence my people to love God passionately. (Good, but what do you want them to do?)
  • I want to influence my people to double their classes every two years or less. (Yes, but how? Hint: I have a book by that title; maybe you could start by asking them to read it.)
  • I want to influence my people to be more missional. (There is a cool buzz word. How exactly do you do missional?)

We do better to focus on behavior. Influence geniuses are inflexible on this point. If want people to love God more, perhaps you could focus on the behavior of starting their day with their Bible on the lap. Get them to work through God Sightings: The One Year Bible NLT (One Year Bible: Nltse) this year. If you want to influence your people to double their classes, seek to influence them to invite every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month.

Jesus knew this. He had a lot to teach his men, but he stated with one simple behavioral request: follow me. This vital strategy–following Jesus, would lead to all the rest.

Dr. Hopkins eliminated the guinea worm by focusing on two vital behaviors: having people strain water through a thin cloth like a woman’s skirt, and keeping people who were infected away from the public water supply. Focusing on these two vital behaviors has nearly irradiated the worm.

Resist like crazy the temptation to use primarily words to influence. Words are among the least persuasive forms of influence and when used alone almost never work. Suppose you want your people to start their day with their Bible on their lap using the God Sightingsedition of the One Year Bible. Try to employ as many influence strategies as you can, such as:

  • Buy God Sightings by the case and make it easy for you people to purchase at church. Subsidize the cost if you can. (More on this in article eleven.)
  • Create accountability groups. (Article nine.)
  • Have the pastor share insights from the pulpit or preach sermons that correspond with the weekly readings. (Article eight.)
  • Have people share testimonies about how wonderful it is to spend time in the Word each day. (Article five.)

This may seem like overkill, but it is not. “This is the core principle principle demonstrated by virtually all the change masters we studied. No single strategy explained their success.” Change masters over determine success. They use more strategies than they think will be necessary to accomplish the desired results. They are realist who know that life does not work out as well in the real world as we imagine. They don’t think the list above is too long; they think it is too short.

In contrast, my experience teaches me that most churches underdetermine success. They think that by asking or telling or talking change will come. It will not. Amazing influence is possible, but you have to use more than words.

Imagine you want your teachers to teach a good enough lesson so that the group can grow (“half-way decent lesson each and every week, nothing less will do”). You can ask. You can tell. Or, you can give your groups Good Questions That Have Groups Talking. A question and answer approach is much easier to insure half-way decent teaching each and every week.

Imagine you want your groups to double every two years or less. You have read where inviting every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month can help. You decide the vital behavior is for each group to have a party once a month. You develop a talk on this and expect that to be enough. It won’t. You invite me to come and and give a talk. That can help, but alone it won’t be enough. Here are some additional steps you might take:

  • Work on your people skills. Ask: do people like you? There are vital behaviors that can predict this. Work on them. Smile. Look people in the eye. Show an interest in their lives. Find common ground. People are rarely influenced to follow people they do not like. More on this in the next article — article 4.)
  • Present these parties as a fun thing. One of the things I try to emphasize in my seminars is that the idea is not to dream up something that might be interesting to outsiders. Rather, a more effective strategy is to start with what you enjoy doing and build on that. I talk about the thrill people will feel when they see people’s lives changed through hospitality and they know that they had a part. I talk about the idea that growing churches and growing classes are having more fun. Talk about these truths often. (Article 5.)
  • Leaders lead. People will never engage in hospitality until the pastors do. Titus 1.8 says the elder must “enjoy having guests in his home.” (NLT) (Article 8.) Lead by example.
  • Perhaps you could offer a reward–how about a free dinner–for the class that has the most parties, or invited the most people or grew the most. Do this carefully, or it can backfire, as the latest research indicates. (We will talk about this in article 10.)

The question arises–what are vital behaviors? What behaviors predictably result in the outcome we want? Does having a quiet time predictably create spiritually vibrant people? Does having parties predict a group growing? How do we know? Patterson and his colleagues offer four steps:

  • Study the best. On a church level, a great deal of research has been done on this by Barna and Stetzer and Rainer. Studying growing churches is a great way to find the vital behaviors that lead to growth.
  • Search for positive deviance. We know that most churches are plateaued or declining. Many are not. Study them. Most of your groups are not growing. One or two are. What are they doing that the rest are not? I did a survey of 1000+ group leaders to discover what are the vital behaviors that lead to a group growing. The results will be revealed in a book to be released June 2010 by Group Publishers. Hint: parties do, in fact, work.Dr. Hopkins discovered the vital behaviors, he didn’t invent them. He found villages that should have had the guinea worm but didn’t. What were they doing differently? Straining water through a thin cloth and keeping infected people away from the water supply.
  • Search for recovery behaviors. No one adopts the new vital behaviors perfectly or instantly. We have to find a way to get folks back on the wagon.
  • Test your results. If we have found the right vital behaviors, they will show predictable results when others try them. God has created a predictable universe of sowing and reaping. Certain behavior get certain results every single time.

What exactly do you want to influence your people to do? Don’t think about outcomes; think about behaviors. Isolate a handful (think: short list) of vital behaviors that you want to influence. Then over determine these using as many influence strategies as you can bring to bear on these strategies.