Cultivate Identity Before the HOST Ask

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You never really know where the next idea will come from.  If you’ve got your eyes open…they really can come from almost any source.   My latest ideas come from Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (Chip and Dan Heath’s most recent book).  You really need a little set-up to catch this one…so follow along.

One of the core tactics of the HOST strategy is to build in a series of messages that precede the launch of the church-wide campaign by 4 to 6 weeks.  In that series of messages there is a weekly ask, an intentionally designed invitation, for everyone who has a heart for unconnected people, and is willing to open up their home for 6 weeks, serve a few refreshments and tell a few friends to step up to be a host for the upcoming church-wide campaign.  With me so far?  Pretty standard stuff to here.

It’s my belief that when the ask is made correctly, virtually everyone ought to have a little bit of a pull toward responding.  Not everyone will…but almost everyone should have a pull toward saying yes.  After all, almost everyone knows a few people they could invite.  Still with me?  If you are, then you know what’s next.  More often than not, a really strong response is about 10 to 15% of the average adult attendance.  The average is more like 5%.  In other words, if you’re averaging 350 adults on Sunday, you ought to be getting host commitments from 17 to 52 of your adults.

So here’s the question…what if there was a way to set up a stronger response?  I think there is.  I think there’s a simple step that could be done first to cultivate a better response.  And I got this idea from Switch.

Here’s the Idea:

In a fascinating study cited in Switch, a researcher went door to door in an upscale neighborhood in Palo Alto, CA, asking residents if they’d allow a billboard reading “Drive Carefully” to be installed on their lawns.  Further, they were shown a picture of a large, unsightly billboard so “crudely constructed and so enormous that it obscured much of the front of their house.”

83% of the residents said “no.”  And no one is surprised.

Here’s where the study gets interesting.  In another upscale neighborhood the residents were asked to place a tiny “Be a Save Driver” sign in their window.  A little sign…”less than half the size of a postcard.”  As you would expect, a large number of homeowners said, “yes.”  And no one is surprised.

What is surprising is that 2 weeks later the researchers returned and ask those same homeowners to put up the large, unsightly billboard…and 76% accepted it!  Why?  They had already begun to cultivate an identity.  The postcard size sign helped them answer three identity questions, “Who am I?  What kind of situation is this?  What would a person like me do in this situation?”

Here’s what I’m thinking.  You know and I know that the people in our congregations should have a heart for unconnected people.  That is a no-brainer.  Not only do we know that, we believe that most of them do have a heart…they’re just not quite ready to be the one who says yes.

What if we helped them by painting the picture first and asking for something smaller?  For example, what if we used an insert for 2 or 3 weeks with space for names of people they would commit to be praying for, maybe with a tear-off commitment to pray for their friends.

Easy to do.  Easy to say yes to.  Your congregation wants to see themselves as people who care about their neighbor.  You can start by cultivating that identity.

What if it led to the host ask 3 weeks later.  Think it might influence the response?

This is the 1st of several posts with ideas from Switch.  If you want to be sure and catch them all, be sure and sign up to get the update right here.

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