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Using the physical environment to influence change.


When we think of influence, we usually think about words. We think about saying things to persuade people. Turns out, this is one of the least effective forms of persuasion.

One of the most effective forms of persuasion is social proof--what do my people do. This is why it is such a powerful thing to get unchurched people socially connected to our church. Social proof is vitally important, but it isn't the subject of today's article.

The power of the example of leadership is also really important. One of the reasons Sunday School works so well at Woodstock is the pastor attends Sunday School. I often have Ministers of Education ask me, "How can I get my people to give Friday Nights to Jesus?"  My answer lead by example. Not a bad idea for the staff to take every visitor out to lunch the week they visit. Leading by example is incredibly important, but it isn't the subject of today's article.

Today I want to talk about the effect of the environment. Check out this story and then let's look at some applications of this idea: 

One Saturday in 2000, some unsuspecting moviegoers showed up at a suburban theater in Chicago to catch a 1:05 p.m. matinee of Mel Gibson’s action flick Payback. They were handed a soft drink and a free bucket of popcorn and were asked to stick around after the movie to answer a few questions about the concession stand. These movie fans were unwitting participants in a study of irrational eating behavior.

There was something unusual about the popcorn they received. It was wretched. In fact, it had been carefully engineered to be wretched. It had been popped five days earlier and was so stale that it squeaked when you ate it. One moviegoer later compared it to Styrofoam packing peanuts, and two others, forgetting that they’d received the popcorn for free, demanded their money back.

Some of them got their free popcorn in a medium-size bucket, and others got a large bucket—the sort of huge tub that looks like it might once have been an above-ground swimming pool. Every person got a bucket so there’d be no need to share. The researchers responsible for the study were interested in a simple question: Would the people with bigger buckets eat more?

Both buckets were so big that none of the moviegoers could finish their individual portions. So the actual research question was a bit more specific: Would somebody with a larger inexhaustible supply of popcorn eat more than someone with a smaller inexhaustible supply?

The sneaky researchers weighed the buckets before and after the movie, so they were able to measure precisely how much popcorn each person ate. The results were stunning: People with the large buckets ate 53 percent more popcorn than people with the medium size. That’s the equivalent of 173 more calories and approximately 21 extra hand-dips into the bucket.

What are the applications of this for church world?

Suppose you are trying to get people to read the One Year Bible. Why not make them available at the church instead of asking people to go to the store and buy one.

Suppose you want to get people to memorize scripture. Why not print the verses on little cards people can carry with them?

Suppose you want your groups to invite every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month. Why not provide free baby sitting at the church? Make it easy for groups to pick up paper plates and cups. Simplify the process that they need to go through to use a van or a room at the church.

If you would influence people, don't depend on words alone. Use all the influence strategies at our disposal. Check out this series of articles on influence: http://www.joshhunt.com/InfluencerIndex.htm


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