The Real Church Growth Barriers

The Real Church Growth Barriers

Most books, articles, and podcasts addressing growth barriers deal with visible and tactical issues.

You’ll read about changing worship style to attract a younger generation.

You’ll read about adding service times when you’re 80% full.

And while worship style, aging facility, service times, parking lot and website are important issues, these are probably not the reasons churches don’t grow.

These are visible issues, but there are more important things behind the scenes.  When you understand the foundational issues, the tactical decisions will become more obvious.

What are those real church growth barriers?

#1 – People

The church is about Jesus and people – and helping people follow Jesus.  As simple as that is, it’s amazing how easy it is to forget the people part of ministry.

  • Church isn’t about a building.
  • Church isn’t dependent on events and programs.
  • Church isn’t even about sermons and music.

Ultimately, what we do is meant to help people follow Jesus.

Pastors and church leaders are always looking to reach more people, going into all the world and make disciples.

And while evangelism, outreach, and inviting people to church should always be part of our strategy, from a leadership and stewardship perspective, it is wise to start with the people you already have.

There are already people connected to your church.

There are already leaders.

There are already volunteers.

Don’t let the quest for more cause you to be a good steward of what God has already given you.  You may have 1, 5, or 10 talents, but God wants you to be responsible for what He’s provided.

You may not have enough leaders, but you have some leaders.

You may not have a big enough staff, but there is someone (even if it’s just you).

You may need more volunteers, but there are a handful of people who care deeply about the church.

Start there.

Start with who you do have in your circles before we draw bigger circles.

Just like companies say people are their most important asset, churches must embrace this principle.

Your people are really important.

Let’s dive a little deeper into the people you already have and how to best lead them.

First, there are staff.

Whether you have a big staff, a small staff, or volunteers acting as staff, the people in paid positions are really important to the health and growth of your church.

Whenever I think about church staff (and needing more people to do the work of the ministry), I am reminded of a message from Bishop T.D. Jakes.  In a way that only he can say it, he talks about how all Moses had was a staff.  God used that staff to perform a miracle.

He says, “The staff in your hand is enough.”

He just says it way cooler than how you’re reading it in your head.

You might have a small staff, a young staff, or an older staff, but God can use a church staff to do amazing things in your community.

You might need more of them, but let’s commit to develop the people who are already there.

If someone is on staff, make sure they are trained, appreciated, and truly a part of the team.  Developing your staff is one of your best opportunities to lead your church to growth.

The people in paid positions should be some of the most effective ministers in your church.  But too many times, people in these roles coast by.  We think because they are good Christians or good parents that automatically translates into being good employees.

The secret is not better people, it’s better development.

Before we delegate, we need to develop.

Before we entrust more responsibility, we need to develop.

Before we try to start something new, we need to develop.

In order for this to happen, leadership development conversations and meetings need to actually make it to our calendar. We can’t let the fact that leadership development doesn’t feel urgent turn into a lack of importance.

We have two resources that can help you put this into action.

First, here are some ways to make your next staff meeting more engaging, more productive, and even more enjoyable.  It’s a free resource called 7 Staff Meeting Ideas.

Second, every pastor who joins Church Fuel gets instant access to our leadership development curriculum. This carefully-researched material will help you walk your staff through 12 key skills to help them lead themselves, lead others, and lead projects.  You can teach this in a staff meeting, at a leadership retreat, or simply send the resources to your team.

As important as it is to have a called, committed, and caring staff to oversee the work of the ministry, you’re never going to be able to hire people to do all of the ministry in your church.  That’s why you need lay leaders and volunteers.

When it comes to leaders and volunteers, I’m afraid we’ve made this too complicated.

There’s a time to create pipelines and programs, but you can also start where you are.

There are a few people in your church who are almost ready to lead…they just need you to invest in them.  There are people in your church who are ready to volunteer…they just need you to personally ask and train them.

The Volunteer System we teach at Church Fuel is simple but powerful.  It consists of three parts.

  1. Recruit. You need a calendar-based approach to inviting new volunteers to step up and serve. This isn’t about announcements or pleas for help…we’ve got an intentional strategy you can follow.
  2. Train. Once you have people express interest, you need to train them. But adults don’t learn the way most churches try to train.  There’s a much better way.
  3. Pastor. This is the most important part of the system. Your volunteers should be the happiest and healthiest group of people in your church, not those teetering on the edge of burnout.  We will show you exactly what to do to make sure they are cared for and appreciated.

This volunteer system really works.  And we’ll teach it to you once you join Church Fuel.

Staff, leaders, and volunteers…these three groups of people in your church can do more ministry than you can do alone.

With intentionality and good systems, you can break through the people barrier.


#2 – Systems

I think Life Church and North Point will thrive after Craig Groeschel and Andy Stanley are gone because both churches embrace team teaching, develop leaders and establish healthy systems. Many large churches lack all three. – Tony Morgan

A system is a documented process that leads to a clear outcome. Anytime you do something on a regular basis, you need a written process.

Before you write off systems and processes, recognize there are several examples in the Bible of God working through systems.

Exodus 18 describes how Jethro helped Moses create and implement a system for hearing people’s cases. His system allowed him to better serve the people he was called to lead.  Luke 10 describes how 72 people were sent ahead of Jesus to help prepare the places he was going to visit.  Acts 6 describes the choosing of the seven…the results of this system and process is the gospel went further because the widows were fed.  A system solved the immediate problem and enabled ministry.

I don’t believe systems are unspiritual. Instead, they are part of God’s created order. Ultimately, systems help us.  They are for our benefit, not God’s.

God can do whatever He wants, but human beings benefit fro good systems.  And when you have good systems in your church, good things will happen.

  • Good systems solve problems.
  • Good systems save money. This is when the church planters start paying attention.
  • Good systems promote consistency.

A lot of the problems churches face are systems problems.

They are disguised as people problems, but in reality, they are systems problems.  It’s a broken system or a bad structure or a process that’s missing key steps that is leading to breakdown.

And here’s the deal with systems problems…

You can’t solve them with more preaching.  I’ve seen this happen so many times:  Church finances aren’t going well and the church is getting behind in budget.  The Finance Team or the Pastor decide to preach a message on generosity to right the ship.  So an “emergency sermon” gets preached that temporarily solves the cash-flow issue.

But a few weeks later, it’s back to reality.

That’s because low giving in a church is a systems problem, and it’s not going to be solved with an amazing message.

You also can’t solve systems problems with more vision.  Too many pastors think casting vision for the future is a silver bullet that solves all problems.  “If people just understood what we’re tying to do, they would give more or volunteer or invite or whatever,” is what pastors think.

But casting more vision isn’t likely to change your culture or solve your issues.  Because it’s likely a systems problem.

Structural issues require structural solutions. Systems problems can only be solved by creating effective systems.

Here are the seven systems every church needs in order to grow healthy.

  1. The Leadership System
  2. The Stewardship System
  3. The Follow Up System
  4. The Preaching System
  5. The Connections System
  6. The Volunteer System
  7. The Communications System

You need to design and implement systems that will sustain growth in the future.  In other words, you need to structure your church not for the size you are now, but for the size you want to be.

Work on each of these systems, plus get practical training and templates, in the Systems Course.  It’s included for everyone who joins Church Fuel.


#3 – Culture 

The third driver of church growth is culture.  It’s often ethereal and hard to define, but culture is the overall environment of your church.

Just like you can’t grow tomatoes in the desert or corn in a rain forest, culture often dictates what you can and can’t do in a church.

Many churches struggle to attract new people because they don’t have a welcoming culture.  It’s not one thing, it’s a combination of all the things that subtly communicate the church isn’t really set up for new people to fit in.  If your church has a culture that values existing members far more than new people, you’re going to struggle to grow, no matter what kind of Facebook ad you run or sermon series you preach.

Some churches struggle to reach the next generation because they don’t have a culture that values the next generation.  There’s no silver bullet solution, but rather a host of structural, system and leadership changes that need to be made before the next generation will thrive in the church.

Culture is not something you can download, purchase, or upgrade instantly.  It takes a lot of intentional work, hard conversations, and great leadership.

But there are things you can do to shift the culture from what you have to what might be more desirable.  Even though culture is more esoteric, here are five tangible things you can use to create culture

  • Values

    – Your defined core values are a good place to start. Values define what is important to you.  They can be descriptive but some can be aspirational.  Once you define them, you can call them out when you see them lived out or broken.  In this way, USING your values is almost more important than defining them.

  • Language

    – Language is one of the most important culture-creators and too many churches don’t recognize this. You need to give words to things you think are important.  “You know how we always say…” followed by a carefully worded statement is a powerful way to create culture.

  • Behavior

    – The actions you take on a daily basis, whether intentional or allowed, create culture in your church.

  • People

    – The people you have in leadership, whether paid or volunteer, create culture.  Just like an employee with poor behavior brings down a culture and drives away good people, intentional behaviors that reflect who you want to become will create a healthy culture.  Celebrate behaviors that reflect your values.  Gently correct behaviors that detract.

  • Budget

    – Perhaps your biggest culture creator is your budget.  Show me your budget and I’ll show you what you truly value.  A lot of churches say they value the next generation but their budget doesn’t show it – which is why too many youth pastors are reduced to professional fundraisers.


#4 – Strategy 

Ministry without strategy can be a waste of time.  Your selection of ministries must be strategic, not random. Your ministries should be on purpose, not merely at the whim of anyone’s ideas.  Ministry is your heart and passion. – Dan Reiland

Even though your church is much more than a business, this business-y kind of thing can help you grow.

There are parts of your church that would really benefit from good planning and strategy.

The problem is most ministry plans take a lot of work and produce few results.

An expensive consultant dazzles you with terminology and you’re drawn into a comprehensive process, peppered with promises of change. But in the end, a fancy report is shared briefly in a meeting then ends up in a computer folder somewhere.

Nothing really happens.  Nothing really changes.

You might pull it out next year to see just how much you DIDN’T do.

It’s a double fail: Tons of work and minimal impact.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

And you don’t need an expensive consultant to guide you through the process.  You can achieve fresh clarity the Church Fuel way, with a simple two-page worksheet and an insanely practical course that will show you exactly what to do.

The Two Page Plan is our insanely practical tool that will help you clarify what’s truly important in your church.

Don’t decide to start a new ministry, hire a staff member, raise money, hold a leadership retreat, or make a ministry decision without first forcing this kind of clarity and alignment.

Get it right and it will solve so many problems.

  • More Ministry.

    It’s likely you have ministry dreams and want to make a bigger impact in your community. What would your church do with more leaders or healthier leaders? What would it look like if every ministry and program was “fully staffed.”  A solid ministry plan is a great next step.

  • More Leaders.

    The difference between an army and a mob is a plan. That’s why throwing more people at a problem doesn’t make it better.  In fact, it will likely make things worse (and run off potential leaders in the process).  The Two Page Plan will help you get all of your leaders, whether they are staff or volunteers, on the same page.

  • Greater Confidence.

    A great ministry plan does not diminish the need for the Holy Spirit or God’s blessing. The Church belongs to God and He can do whatever he wants.  However, a solid ministry plan, and a team that understands it, is one of the biggest keys to confidence in ministry. You can trust God, rest in your calling, and believe that you’re working on the right things.

Here are the things we will help you clarify on your Two Page Plan.

  • You’ve probably already got this, but we’ll help you make it clearer and show you were to use it.
  • This will likely be one of your biggest AHA moments.  It can be a game-changer.
  • We’ll demystify this term for you and show you how it all fits together.
  • More than just fancy words, we’ll help you clarify and actually use your values to make actual ministry decisions.
  • Big plans will never be accomplished without a corresponding strategy.
  • Who are you really trying to reach? Spoiler: The answer can’t be “everyone” and we’ll show you why.
  • What makes you truly unique?
  • Keystone Ministries. What are the most important ministries in your church? And yes, this means some things you do aren’t really important.
  • Annual Events. What are the big church-wide events that need everyone dialed in?
  • Key Metrics. What numbers are most important for you to measure.  Every church is a little different but every church needs to be crystal clear.
  • Key Processes. There are a handful of systems and processes in your church that will help you solve problems once and for all.
  • Annual Goals. Goals inspire us toward a better future, and there’s a way to set them so people are inspired not annoyed.
  • Three Year Outlook. Imagine what your church will look like and feel like three years from now.

We helped a church in Littleton, Colorado create a ministry strategy.  Their pastor, Cody, emailed to say this:

We finalized our ministry plan after chipping away at it for the last few months. Our leadership meeting yesterday featured the right amount of contentious and harmonious conversation 🙂 Thank you once again for helping us get unstuck! We started this process with one group of leaders, and we actually changed out about a third of our leadership in January, and we were able to generate buy-in and receive meaningful ideas from the new group very quickly.

A thoughtful, written strategic plan can help your church experience healthy growth.  Planning isn’t just a task to be done by an organized person who loves spreadsheets, it’s a powerful ministry tool that should be embraced by all church leaders.


#5 – Spiritual 

Church planting, church revitalization, and church growth are inherently spiritual endeavors.

Strategy, culture, and leadership can make a huge difference and drive growth, but ultimately that growth is up to God.  The church is not a business.  The church is more than an organization.

You can do all the right things and not experience growth.  And many churches experience growth despite problems with leadership.

Think about how these spiritual traits intersect with the organized ministry of a church.

  • Faith – Pastors must trust God, not their own plans or skills. And losing faith is a terrible thing and can be a growth barrier in your church.
  • Prayer – No church growth strategy should exist apart from prayer.
  • Gospel – A real and deep understanding of the Gospel can not only refocus a church, it can re-energize a community. Churches that lose sight of the gospel are facing spiritual growth barriers and spiritual breakthrough is required
  • Loving Others – The greatest commandment is to love God and part two is to love others. Churches who forget this will face barriers to growth that no tactic will help overcome.

Your church might be facing systems barriers, leadership challenges, and tactical obstacles, but you also are fighting a spiritual battle.


Three Kinds of Church Growth

Three Kinds of Church Growth

Karl Vaters, author of The Grasshopper Myth and an author/advocate for small churches, says, “Church growth should always be a part of every pastor’s prayers, passion and strategy.”

Pastors should want their churches to reach more people. But that’s not the only kind of church growth in the Bible.

Here are three kinds of growth you can look for in your church:

#1 – Numerical Church Growth

Numerical growth happens when churches reach more people and grows in size.

It’s simple to track numerical growth and the result is the church gets bigger. The Outreach 100 Fastest Growing Churches list is based exclusively on this type of growth.

The 10 Fastest Growing Churches (according to Outreach Magazine)

  1. Bayside Church in Roseville, California
  2. Rock City Church in Columbus, Ohio
  3. Northview Church in Indianapolis, Indiana
  4. Radiant Church in Tampa, Florida
  5. The House Forth Worth in Forth Worth, Texas
  6. Christ Church in Gilbert, Arizona
  7. Coastal Community Church in Parkland, Florida
  8. Action Church in Winter Park, Florida
  9. NewSound Church in Wellington, Florida
  10. Journey Church in Winter Park, Florida

Read profiles of some of these churches here.

This kind of growth was reported in the early church and recorded in the book of acts. Despite persecution, a lack of buildings, and little formal training, the early church grew as people shared the gospel with friends and neighbors. Luke tells us people were added to the church on a daily basis. That’s church growth.

The desire churches have to reach more people for Christ should come from God’s heart for the world and understanding Jesus’ mission to seek and save the lost. Churches that want to grow in numbers should do out of a desire to live out the great commission.


#2 – Spiritual Church Growth

Spiritual growth happens when the people in the church come to love and follow Jesus.

People in church should grow to love the Lord with all their heart, mind, soul and strength and take intentional steps to obey his commands. That’s discipleship.

This kind of growth is also reported in the book of Acts, as you find new believers gathered in homes for community and prayer. As the church grew in size, it also grew spiritually. The early church wasn’t content to make converts, they wanted to make disciples.

Spiritual growth is much harder to measure, and there’s no Top 100 list. But when we talk about church growth, we must not limit our discussion to attendance and budgets. There’s something far deeper at work.


#3 – Kingdom Church Growth

Kingdom growth happens when there is both spiritual and numerical growth.

When individual churches grow numerically and spiritually, there is a great opportunity for Kingdom growth.

The Bible says the Church grew through multiplication. For example, the church at Antioch prayed, fasted and sent leaders out to start new churches (Acts 13:1-5). This intentional decision to get smaller resulted in the Church getting larger.

Ironically, it was the persecution of the early church that led some of the first Christians to spread throughout the world, taking their faith with them and building the Kingdom in the process.


Overcoming Church Growth Barriers

Overcoming Church Growth Barriers

Mention the phrase “church growth” and you’ll hear a variety of opinions.

On one hand, you’ll find people who promise seven simple steps to explode growth now or organizations that will reveal the secret to growth for three easy payments of $97.

And on the other hand, there are writers who use words like abomination and say the church growth movement usurps the Holy Spirit.

These are two very different opinions from two very different camps: The spiritualists and the pragmatists.

Spiritualists are quick to point out the words “church growth” do not appear in the Bible. They remind us that because the church belongs to Jesus, church growth is something only God can do. Jesus said, “I will build my church.”

The focus is on discipleship, prayer and following Jesus while leaving the results up to God. Spiritualists don’t want any part tactics taken from the business world or tactics that push God into the margins.

Pragmatists, on the other hand, love to talk about church growth plans and strategies. They remind us that while church growth is up to God, He uses people and systems and technology to accomplish His purposes.

The focus is on leadership, engaging culture and executing at a high level, while asking God to bless everything.

So what is the right approach?

A Biblical Metaphor for Church Growth

Here’s what Jesus said in Mark 4:26-29:

“This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

Jesus used a farming analogy to explain how the kingdom of God grows.

Once the farmer plants the seed, it grows by itself. The farmer isn’t in control of that process, and doesn’t even fully understand it.  The farmer is involved, but the farmer is not in control.

Growth happens naturally, but only after the farmer did the hard work of preparing the soil.

And that’s how church growth works.

It’s a combination of the blessings of God and the stewardship of man. God-given results somehow teamed with human endeavors. A combination of divine intervention and human leadership.

Paul makes a similar statement in 1 Corinthians 3:6. He says he planted churches, Apollos came along and watered the seed, but it was God who gave the increase.

Spiritualists focus on how God gives the increase. Pragmatists point out that Paul planted and Apollos watered.

Yes, church growth was all up to God. But two humans both played a part in the process.

So the pragmatists are right.

And so are the spiritualists.

Church growth is up to God because the church belongs to Him.  But he chooses to use us in the process, giving us the opportunity to be great stewards.


Five Quick Tips for Planning Christmas

Five Quick Tips for Planning Christmas

Christmas is supposed to be the most wonderful time of year. But often as a Pastor or Church Staff member, it can feel more like chaos than calm.  

By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.
– Benjamin Franklin

On average, Pastor’s spend 10 ½ hours preparing each message. It is an arduous journey, especially when the sermon topic is exactly the same year over year. By preparing in advance, you ensure that one of the biggest boulders on your plate is finished so you can focus on your team and your congregation. 

Planning isn’t just about good ideas or fail-safes, it’s good stewardship. If a church is planning more than 3 mths in advance, they are way more likely to be a growing church. 

The plans of the diligent lead to profit.
– Proverbs 21:5 

5 Key Principles to Planning Christmas Services

While it’s not the easiest of seasons for Church Leaders, there are 5 key principles to making this season not only less exhausting but also more effective. 

1. Start talking about Christmas earlier than you’re used to.

The music industry is releasing music about 2 weeks earlier than usual because they know people are ready for it.  Start talking about Christmas in October in your church.


2. Prepare your sermon series at least a month in advance.

This takes a lot of mental energy, and is often the bottleneck for things like series design and invite cards.


3. Plan for online and in-person and recognize that these may be two different programs.

In this case, you might not just want to stream an in-person service; you might want to create content exclusively for an online audience.  


4. Narrow your asks.

Really understand what you’re asking people to do, and make sure you aren’t spreading your CTA’s (Call To Action’s) too thin. Consider the constraint of two CTA’s; a CTA for a church member and a CTA for a non-church member.


5. Make Christmas more about your community and less about your church.

How can you tell your city about the Christmas Story? Provide invitational resources through Facebook posts, invite cards, and online events. 


Free Resource for Planning Christmas

We’re going to dive deeper into these ideas and help you create a complete Christmas plan in a free training on September 30.  Join more than 1,000 other pastors already registered and sign up here.

On the training, we’re going to talk about…

→ How to communicate to your community
→ How to prepare for guests, whether in-person or online
→ What you should focus on and what you should let go of
→ How to encourage your people to invite and spread the word

The training is free and you can reserve your spot here.


How to Change Minds – Book Notes from The Catalyst

How to Change Minds – Book Notes from The Catalyst

This month in the Pastor’s Book Club, we are breaking down The Catalyst.  In addition to a breakdown and discussion guide you can use with your team, there’s a video with ministry insights.  Learn more about The Pastor’s Book Club here.

Imagine how hard it is for a hostage negotiator to get someone to change their mind.  The stakes are high there.  

Even though it’s not usually that dramatic, people don’t want to change. Isaac Newton famously noted that an object in motion tends to stay in motion, while an object at rest tends to stay at rest.  Inertia is real.  

Some people think that if you just push people, give more information, more facts, more reasons and arguments, or more force, people will change. But people are resistant to change 

They push back.

Whether you’re working on a sermon, trying to convince people to join a small group, or writing the church newsletter, there are some principles in this book are really going to help you.

In chemistry, chemists use catalysts, special substances that speed up chemical reactions. They do this not by increasing heat or pressure, but by providing an alternate route. In other words, faster change with less energy.

Being the catalyst is equally powerful in the social world. It’s not about trying to be a better persuader or be more convincing. It’s about changing minds by removing barriers.

Push people and they will snap. Tell them what to do and they probably won’t listen.

Catalysts start with this basic question: “Why hasn’t the person changed already? What’s blocking them?”


Berger starts with story of Chuck Wolfe, who was asked to get teens to stop smoking in Florida.  The recommendations and the warnings weren’t working.  In fact, many times when we tell people to STOP doing something, they start doing it more.  That’s what happened when TIDE asked people to stop eating TIDE pods.  Even Rob Gronkowski getting involved couldn’t make people listen.

Chuck Wolfe took a different approach.  Instead of trying to persuade people he let people persuade themselves.  They stopped telling kids what to do and just started laying out the facts, particularly the ones about how the cigarette manufacturers were manipulating and influencing politics, TV, movies, and teenagers themselves.  

“Here’s what the industry is doing…you decide what you want to do about it,” was their message.  They trusted people to make their own decisions.

And it worked.  

People have an anti persuasion radar, and they’re constantly scanning for influence attempts. If they find one, they set up countermeasures, such as avoidance and ignoring the message.

Pushing, telling, even encouraging people to do something often backfires. They need to see their behavior as freely driven, as their idea.

No one likes feeling someone is trying to influence them. After all, when’s the last time you changed your mind because someone told you to?


Even though new things are better, people will still cling to the old.  For example, many people use their old phones even though they know new ones will work much better.  The hassle to change, even if there’s a promise of improvement, just isn’t worth the effort.

Change is hard because people tend to overvalue what they have, what they already own, or what they are already doing.

Duke University students were willing to pay around $200 for Final Four tickets, but students who already had tickets wanted $2,000 to sell them.  What we have is worth more to us.

Research suggest the potential gains of doing something have to be 2.6 times larger than the potential losses to get people to take action

When things aren’t terrible, or if they are just okay but not great, it’s hard to get people to budge.  In most of our churches, services are filled with people who are doing okay.  That’s a challenge for any preacher.

To combat this, we have to convince people of the cost of doing nothing. 

Cortez had to burn the ships.

The IT department has to say, “we’re not supporting the old system after this date.”

Inaction has to be removed from the table.


If you already believe X, the truth about Y probably won’t convince you.

That’s why one person’s truth is another’s fake news. 

And exposure to the truth doesn’t always help because of confirmation bias.  In fact, studies show that exposure to the truth can often lead to increased misperception.

It’s why two sets of fans who watch the same football game will have a different perspective on play, no matter the outcome.  

Making a moderate appeal and going after the middle may be a better approach.  That’s what worked in Oklahoma when they were deciding whether to re-legalize alcohol after Prohibition.  As you’re preaching, what action step would appeal to most of the people?

Another approach you could take is finding the subset of people most likely to embrace or support your position.  You may not need to convince everyone, just the subgroup that needs it most.   If you’re trying to lead a big change in your church, getting a small group of the right people involved may be the wise, first step.

You could also ask for less.  Instead of pushing people to do something they don’t want to do, you could ask them to agree to a small, related ask that moves them in the right direction.  That puts the final task within the zone of acceptance.  

“When trying to change minds, the tendance is to go big.  We want to shift people’s perspective right away.  We’re looking for that silver bullet pitch that will immediately get someone to quit drinking soda or switch political parties overnight.  But look closer at big changes, and they’re rarely that abrupt.  Instead, they’re often more of a process.  A slow and steady shift with many stages along the way.” – The Catalyst, Page 112


We devalue things that are uncertain.

People hate uncertainty. It’s worse than known negatives.

The more ambiguity there is around a product, service, or idea, the less valuable that thing becomes.

Uncertainty is good for maintaining the status quo, but terrible for changing minds.  It acts like a pause button in the decision-making process. 

How to combat uncertainty:

  • Trialability: How easy to experiment with something?  Can you imagine buying a car without test-driving it?  What about joining a small group?
  • Freemium: This was the approach Dropbox took when launching.  Can people start using right away and take more steps when they are ready?
  • Reduce up-front cost: Zappos was among the first to offer free shipping.  How might this apply to something like mission-trip participation?

The real barrier isn’t money, but uncertainty.

Corroborating Evidence

People don’t have strong feelings about pine trees, prime numbers, or serif fonts. Those are weakly held attitudes.  You’ve got an opinion, but it’s probably not that important and it’s relatively easy to change. 

Politics or your favorite sports team…that’s a different story.

Are we talking about pebbles or boulders?

If an opinion is important to you, it takes more evidence to change. We discount info that we disagree with, so more proof is required for more certainty.

You are more likely to accept an opinion from “Another you” someone who is like you, in terms of likes/dislikes, concerns/values.  This is why you laugh more when you’re with people who are like you are also laughing. 

Actions, even ones like donations, are shaped by social influence.  People are more likely to donate if they know someone who has already done so.  

Pastor's Book Club

To read the full breakdown of The Catalyst, check out the Pastor’s Book Club.  Each month, you’ll get a book breakdown of an important business book and a ministry insight video you can share with all of your leaders.