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Use a little drama when you teach


One of the things I talk about in the Disciplemaking Teachers seminar is the need to get and keep your group's attention as you teach. If you don't get and keep their attention, you can't make disciples.

The number one problem in American Sunday School classes is: boredom. We don't fail to reach our world through lack of effective methods. In many cases, we have bored them.

There are a number of tools you can use to get and keep attention: humor, a startling statistic, a touching story, and drama.

I have done this a number of times over the years. I remember passing out rocks one time when teaching on the story of the people who wanted to stone a woman. Another time I dressed up in full costume and did a first person sermon, telling the story of the 10 plagues from Moses' perspective. There are a million ways you can use drama to get and teach people's attention.

Here is a great example of the power of drama to get a point across. It is not a Christian story, but a great story about how to communicate:

Jon Stegner believed the company he worked for, a large manufacturer, was wasting vast sums of money. “I thought we had an opportunity to drive down purchasing costs not by 2 percent but by something on the order of $1 billion over the next five years,” said Stegner, who is quoted in John Kotter and Dan Cohen’s essential book The Heart of Change.

To reap these savings, a big process shift would be required, and for that shift to occur, Stegner knew that he’d have to convince his bosses. He also knew that they’d never embrace such a big shift unless they believed in the opportunity, and for the most part, they didn’t.

Seeking a compelling example of the company’s poor purchasing habits, Stegner assigned a summer student intern to investigate a single item—work gloves, which workers in most of the company’s factories wore. The student embarked on a mission to identify all the types of gloves used in all the company’s factories and then trace back what the company was paying for them.

The intrepid intern soon reported that the factories were purchasing 424 different kinds of gloves! Furthermore, they were using different glove suppliers, and they were all negotiating their own prices. The same pair of gloves that cost $5 at one factory might cost $17 at another.

At Stegner’s request, the student collected a specimen of every one of the 424 different types of gloves and tagged each with the price paid. Then all the gloves were gathered up, brought to the boardroom, and piled up on the conference table. Stegner invited all the division presidents to come visit the Glove Shrine. He recalled the scene:

What they saw was a large expensive table, normally clean or with a few papers, now stacked high with gloves. Each of our executives stared at this display for a minute. Then each said something like, “We really buy all these different kinds of gloves?” Well, as a matter of fact, yes we do. “Really?” Yes, really. Then they walked around the table…. They could see the prices. They looked at two gloves that seemed exactly alike, yet one was marked $3.22 and the other $10.55. It’s a rare event when these people don’t have anything to say. But that day, they just stood with their mouths gaping.

The gloves exhibit soon became a traveling road show, visiting dozens of plants. The reaction was visceral: This is crazy. We’re crazy. And we’ve got to make sure this stops happening. Soon Stegner had exactly the mandate for change that he’d sought. The company changed its purchasing process and saved a great deal of money. This was exactly the happy ending everyone wanted (except, of course, for the glove salesmen who’d managed to sell the $5 gloves for $17).  - Switch, Heath and Heath


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