Meeting in a local high school for church isn’t easy—especially for children’s ministry. Many of the rooms and equipment appear dangerous and not age-appropriate to parents concerned for their child’s safety. So, when we just couldn’t get parents to leave their preschoolers in our care, we started to make a few small changes that we thought might help the situation. We didn’t change rooms, but the first month we enclosed our meeting space with simple drapes that hid the desks and computer equipment. And we sprayed the room with a lavender-scented air freshener right before parents and little ones arrived. Parents weren’t as hesitant when they peeked in the room. Slowly, more and more families began to leave their preschoolers in our care. Although not an easy recruiting task, we stressed the importance to have the same volunteers at each service every week. Those familiar faces made both kids and parents feel more at ease. Consistent attendance began to grow in our preschool ministry areas. We were still meeting at the high school and doing the same programming—we just made small tweaks that our parents began to embrace, and word spread that our ministry was welcoming and safe for kids.
This week, we’ll take a look at chapters four and five of the book, The Tipping Point. In these chapters, Gladwell’s concept of The Power of Context is introduced and why it can play a critical role as to whether or not something becomes an epidemic in society. Let’s take a look at some of the key points in these chapters:
- The Broken Windows Theory – Criminologists found that if a neighborhood was in disrepair, such as a lot of broken windows, people concluded that the neighborhood was dangerous; no one cared and no one was in charge. When the community began to replace broken windows and rid the area of graffiti, crime rapidly decreased. Likewise, when we covered up the equipment that was not age-appropriate and sprayed a room with the calming and comforting scent of lavender, parents and kids felt more relaxed and confident in participating in our preschool ministry. These small but influential changes made an impact in ministry and influenced growth in our ministry. This concept helps explain The Power of Context that is highlighted in the book. An epidemic can be tipped (or reversed) by making small changes to the immediate environment.
- Influential Tweaks – People will quickly adapt to whatever you’re trying to promote or sell if they believe it fits the context or situation they presently find themselves in. For example, when children’s ministry Small Groups got to a maximum number of children, the group was closed and we began placing kids in a different group. This sense of urgency—as if there wouldn’t be enough room in Small Groups—created a bit of a frenzy and parents started dropping their kids off earlier (Which you know, means “on time” in ministry language!) because they felt a sense of urgency and popularity with the program. They didn’t want their kids to be disappointed so they made sure they got to church early. Kids were never turned away, but the concept of closing Small Groups made people feel like our ministry was the place for kids to be on Sunday mornings.
- The Place to Be – Our teens would meet on Sunday evenings so it wasn’t uncommon for students to head to school the next day talking about what happened at our youth gathering the night before. This chatter spoke to other kids in a way that was a bit unexpected—our youth gathering was “the” place to be if you wanted to fit into conversation on Monday morning. Our students helped create an epidemic merely by bringing up what was discussed or experienced the night before at church.
Think On This
Why are people easily influenced by their environment? What areas in your ministry need a boost? How can you make small changes that will influence the big picture in those areas? How can you implement The Power of Context In your specific ministry area?