How to influence, Part one

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.

Personal motivation:

  • He must believe he can change
  • He must believe he wants to change (it is in his  self-interest to change)

Social motivation:

  • He must be led by leaders that model the desired behavior
  • He must see his peers engaging in this behavior

Structural motivation:

  • 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.

Personal motivation:

    • 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  minutes early.
  • 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.

Social motivation:

    • 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  quiet time.
  • 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?"

Structural motivation:

    • 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  people.

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 I think you  will be glad you did.