Break-a-habit-front (Custom)

Greatest Management Principle in the World. Great read. If you want it in a sentence, here it is: whatever gets rewarded gets done. Or, as we are saying it here: whatever gets rewarded gets repeated.

It is true in management: what gets rewarded gets repeated. It is true in parenting: what we reward our kids for doing they tend to repeat. It is true for us personally. If we want to break a nasty habit, and make it stick, we need to find a way to reward ourselves.

I reward myself by logging to a site called Map My Ride. It is rewarding to me to see the number of miles I have ridden, calories I have burned, and other details about my ride. The site posts this information to Facebook so that my friends will sometimes say to me, “Good job on the ride!”

My friend Steve Reynolds rewards people through his Losing to Live program. There is a contest along the lines of The Biggest Loser and a rally-style atmosphere that rewards those who lost the most weight.

Nelson Searcy uses rewards to get people into the habit of inviting people to church. Notice how Nelson has made a habit of shaping the habit of others through rewards:

And when that neighbor shows up, celebrate! Psychologists tell us that what gets rewarded gets repeated. When someone brings a guest, celebrate with him. If you know about it right away, thank him after the service. Share evangelism stories. Highlight the value that you place on people who bring people. One way to do that is to offer an immediate reward incentive. Every summer at The Journey, we do a series called “God on Film.” The week before the kickoff, I always tell people that if they bring a guest to church the next week, I will give both them and their guest a free movie ticket. And we always have a lot of guests! Of course you can’t do that all the time, but once or twice a year gives people a little extra push to make the big ask of their friends. When evangelism is appreciated and celebrated, people want to be a part of it.

In the spirit of this celebration, I make a habit of sending handwritten thank-you notes to people who bring a friend to a service with them. Each week I get the names of those who invited our first-time guests. I pull these from the “How did you hear about The Journey?” question on our Connection Cards and from pastors and staff who happened to meet first-time guests and the friend who brought them. Then I write a note, thanking that person for living out their faith by inviting a friend to church. Usually I include a $10 Starbucks card and encourage the person to grab a cup of coffee with the friend to get a sense of what they thought of the experience. Our people appreciate knowing that we are not only paying attention but also rewarding them for their willingness to reach out.

Rewards are big business in the travel industry. I fly American Airlines because they reward me for my loyalty. I stay at Holiday Inn or Hampton Inn because they have good rewards program. They have learned the lesson: what gets rewarded gets repeated.

If you would motivate yourself to break a habit or start a habit, you would do well to include a reward. Promise yourself a little gift or night out if you reach certain benchmarks.

The Bible and rewards

The Bible is big on rewards. Hebrews 11.6 is one of my all-time favorite verses. It says we cannot come to God unless we believe that God exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. We cannot come to God unless we believe that God is a rewarder.

I don’t think this is saying that God would prevent access if we don’t believe some magical thing. It is just stating the nature of things. We will not pursue God unless we believe that God is a rewarder. We will not pursue God unless we believe that we will be rewarded. We naturally pursue what we believe to be is in our best interest. If we don’t believe it is in our best interest to follow God, we won’t follow God.

Jesus had a lot to say about this. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns us not to do our good works with the motive of wanting to be seen by men. He gives us this motivation: if we have the motivation of wanting to be seen by men, we will receive the reward of being seen by men. Jesus says to hold out for the big reward: the reward that will come from God. Jesus said to let your giving be done in secret and your Father will reward you. Hold out for that big reward. Don’t settle for the little reward. Jesus taught that most of our prayer life should be private, and if we live that way, we will receive a greater reward.

I have heard both Nelson Searcy and Andy Stanley say this. I want to give credit where credit is due. I really don’t know who originated this statement.

Henson, J. D., & Searcy, N. (2009). Ignite: How To Spark Immediate Growth In Your Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.


Josh Hunt