The Problem is in the Shopping Cart

To begin the year, I have been preaching a sermon series called “Making Change Stick” based on the book “Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard” by Chip and Dan HeathThey use the overarching image of a Rider on an Elephant heading down a Path. The Rider is our intellectual, rational side; the Elephant is our emotional, impulsive side; and the Path is the situation in which our Rider and Elephant operate. The book does a great job explaining how to get all three in alignment in order to give the best chance at making lasting change–in yourself, others, relationships, organizations, etc.

One of the most interesting steps is something they call scripting the critical moves. It requires you to do the hard work of determining the few important decisions that will make or break the trajectory of the change at the outset.

I particularly loved a passage about how “eat healthier” is an awful goal. This is the kind of goal that sounds good but gives the Rider no direction, the Elephant no motivation, and the Path no shape. So, a couple researchers set out to determine a single, defined move that would make an immediate sizeable difference. (I will summarize below, but you can read about this study two-thirds of the way down this sample from the book).

They determined that milk was the highest source of saturated fat in the diet of the average American. If they could simply ask consumers to purchase 1% milk instead of whole milk, the average American diet would fall back into the recommended levels of saturated fat intake.

This change is not only practical, but it teaches a valuable lesson. Our health, particularly our diet, has as much or more to do with what we put in our shopping cart than what we put in our mouths. If consumers make this connection, they can then extrapolate this critical move to more areas on their own.

This can obviously be applied to all areas of life, which is why I was so eager to share these concepts with my congregation. But being a pastor, I am particularly interested in the areas where the church misidentifies the location of the problem. How many churches think the problem is at the moment of consumption rather than realizing the problem is in the shopping cart? Some examples:

Clean something up.
The state of your facilities is very important. Especially if you want young families in your congregation, you should try to see the children’s area through the eyes of a visiting parent and not through the eyes of a person who knows that stain isn’t what it looks like. But, at the end of the day, there are plenty of clean buildings to sit in on a Sunday morning or Wednesday night–and some serve better coffee. You should absolutely clean things up if they need it, but if the problem remains, this was not your “shopping cart.”

Start a particular style of service or small group.
Electric guitars and pub nights are a popular way to attract young adults these days. However, it may be an awful decision if you invite them to a cool brewery and they realize that the conversation at the table next to them is far more interesting and impactful than the one you are trying to lead. Style without substance is like popcorn for dinner. It seems attractive, but it is ultimately unfulfilling.

Do these three things to a visitor to get them to come back.
You can read all kinds of literature and studies about how to make visitors feel welcome and increase their likelihood to come back. Give them things. Make a certain number of “touches” before they leave (creeeeeeepy…). Go to their house. Text them regularly until they ask you not to. Have them stand up to be recognized. DON’T have them stand up to be recognized. In reality, what feels welcoming to someone who has been involved in other churches may be mortifying to someone who just wanted to slip in the back hoping that God wouldn’t smite them for entering a sanctuary. I have found that hospitality is as much a style thing as your choice of music, and it also tends to fall along generational lines. The “shopping cart” issue may be in the understanding of generations or recognition of someone’s comfort with being there.

Header image by Flickr user r. nial bradshaw. Used under Creative Commons License. Edited from Original.

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