The size of your plates has more to do with success in weight loss than does the strength of your will power. If you want to lose want to lose weight, don’t depend on will power; get smaller plates. If you want to influence people to do almost anything, make it easer.

When we want to influence people, we almost never think of the physical environment, but the physical environment has a huge impact on people, as this amazing story illustrates.

Imagine you go the movies and they hand you a huge bucket of popcorn for free. Only problem is, it doesn’t taste very good. You find out later it was actually engineered to taste bad. For one thing, it is a week old. You hear the person next to you say it tastes like Styrofoam packing peanuts. You tend to agree. But, hey, it is free–and they gave you a huge container of it. A friend attends the movie with you. They get one too. Everyone gets a bucket of their own.

As you examine your friend’s bucket you notice it is larger than yours–significantly larger. No matter; you both have more than you can eat.

Question: do you think you would eat any more or less than your friend who received the larger bucket? Remember, you both have more than you can eat and the popcorn is terrible.

Turns out your friend would eat more than you–a lot more. Researchers conducted this test and found that people with the bigger buckets at 53% more popcorn. That is 173 more calories and 21 extra handfuls of popcorn–popcorn that was terrible.

Wansink says, “We have run other popcorn studies, and the results were always the same, however we tweaked the details. It didn’t matter if our movie goers were in Pennsylvania, Illinois, or Iowa, and it didn’t matter what kind of movie was showing; all our popcorn studies led to the same conclusion. People eat more when you give them a bigger container. Period.” (Heath and Heath, Switch, p. 2)

How would you influence people eating from extra large buckets of popcorn to eat less? Would you lecture them? Would you tell a touching story? Would you prepare a PowerPoint presentation. All these might help, although words are among the least effective forms of persuasion. Giving people smaller buckets is a better answer.

Jesus did this. He wanted to teach his disciples to balance work and rest–a lesson a few pastors I have worked with need to learn. He didn’t lecture with words. He got them away by themselves. Jesus knew that changing the environment influences the person.

How to influence people to read their Bibles

Let’s suppose you want to influence your people to read through the Bible in a year–a worthy goal. This is arguably the most critical behavior in creating disciples. How would you influence them? You could preach a sermon on the importance of being in the Word. There is a start. Think about manipulating the environment and the other influence strategies we have looked at. You might. . .

  • Buy One Year Bibles by the case and sell them at the church–perhaps at a discount. This way, people don’t have to go to the book store, they can pick them up at church. The easier you make it to do what you want people to do, the more likely they are to do it.
  • Leadership. Make sure you have buy-in from all the top level leaders at the church. Have the pastor not only preach a sermon on it, but mention things in his sermon that he is reading. He might actually hold the One Year Bible in his hand and read from it, saying something like, “On Tuesday, I was struck by this verse.”
  • Extend this leadership to group leaders. As they teach, encourage them to share what they have learned and model the behavior you are looking for.
  • Speaking of groups, you might provide an opportunity in each group time for people to share what they have learned. Group has produced a Study Guide for this purpose.
  • As leaders share, encourage them to share what they love about spending time in the Word and in prayer. Ask: what do you love about having a quiet time? I include these kinds of questions quite regularly in Good Questions Have Groups Talking. Prayers must become a Sweet Hour of Prayer or you are not praying very well. Emphasize the positive. You must come to love the Christian life or you will never come to live the Christian life.
  • Reading through the Bible in a year may not be the right place to start. You might do better to set the goal of getting everyone to read the Bible–defined as opening the book–at least five days a week. Convince them they can do this.

The point: when you seek to persuade, don’t depend on words alone; use all the influence strategies at our disposal.

How to persuade groups to invite every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month.

Let’s suppose you want to encourage your group to grow through hospitality. How do you do it? You could use words. You could invite me to come in and teach your adult and youth workers and Missy to come in and train your children and preschool workers. (Always a good idea.) But, if this is all you do, you probably won’t turn the ship. I recommend you add some influence strategies.

  • Leadership. Ask your pastor to do what Andy Stanley does–lead a group and stand before your people twice a year and say, “I am in a group that is doubling; I want you to be in a group that is doubling.” Bill Hybels talks about doing Matthew parties. Lead by example.
  • Peer pressure. Get your group leaders together every so often and have them swap stories about how hospitality helped their group.
  • Accountability. Publically display all the classes that had fellowships and all the classes that grew.
  • Make it easy. Provide baby sitting on the night of the fellowships.
  • Make it easy. Allow people to use paper plates, cups and napkins from the church, as well as borrow tables and chairs if need be. Minimize the red tape about getting this done
  • Make it easy. Reinforce the inviting that the class does with mailings from the church office. Have the church office manage the database and pay for the stamps.
  • Make it easy. Plan parties on the same night so that children, youth and adults all have parties on the same night–unless, or course these are family parties. A good idea to do both. Variety is the spice of life.
  • Make it easy. Allow classes to use the church van to take trips. Have the church pay for all (or most) of the gas.
  • Make it easy. Locate your church on a busy street with lots of drive by traffic. Churches on streets with lots of traffic are more likely to be growing rapidly and less likely to be declining. See


If you want to get more teachers, make it easier to teach.

One other application of this principle. If you want to grow your groups, start new groups. If you want to start groups, get teachers. If you need to get teachers, make it easier to teach.

I struggled with this when I was a Minister of Education. I could never get enough teachers. Then i started writing Good Questions That Have Groups Talking. I actually started writing them for myself at first, then I had requests from others to use my notes. Soon the whole church was using them. I never struggled to get teachers again.

It was too easy now. If you could read 20 questions, you could teach a lesson. Of course, there is more to teaching than just teaching. But, it is the teaching part that normally scares people. By making it easier to teach, I made it much easier on me to find teachers.

And, can I say? They just keep getting better. I recently got a Kindle and am now able to drop quotes from great trade books like Experiencing God, Prayer of Jabez and other best-selling Christian books.


I asked a Minister of Education of a fast growing Sunday School one time, “How are you able to grow this Sunday School and most people are not?”

His reply: “Chalk.”



“Chalk. Explain.”

I make sure every classroom has chalk ever week. I make sure they have every thing else the need. I pamper them, really. I want them to feel like everything is taken care of so that they can do what they do and do it well. I can’t teach for them. I can make sure they have everything the need to do their job effectively.

Do your teachers have chalk?