Leaders Who Launch Change Script the Critical Moves

Kara Powell | Sep 19, 2013

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, thanks to our new Sticky Faith Launch Kit and my new Adolescent Faith Longevity class at Fuller Seminary, I’ve been immersed in thinking about how to bring about change in ministries and congregations.

I have appreciated the great research and insights of brothers Chip and Dan Heath. That appreciation only increased when I had the chance to have breakfast with Chip Heath when we were both speaking at the Catalyst Conference in southern California this past spring. (Chip’s church was in our Sticky Faith Cohort and thanks to their youth pastor, Matthew Humphreys, I was able to connect with Chip.) The Heaths’ book, Switch, is one of my recent top books in the area of change management.

One of the Heaths’ key change principles is that if you want people to change, you need to shape their path. In other words, you need to help them identify the next steps they need to take to make the change.

The Heaths tell the story of two researchers, Steve Booth-Butterfield and Bill Reger, at West Virginia University. Their goal was to persuade people to eat a healthier diet. Past research told them that information wasn’t enough.

They knew they needed to identify feasible, specific changes. So they focused on milk. Milk is one of the largest sources of saturated fat in the typical American diet.

How on earth were they going to get folks to drink low-fat milk? They had to start by getting it into their refrigerators. The change wasn’t about changing drinking behavior, but purchasing behavior.

The point of intervention wasn’t at the fridge; it was at the grocery store.

So they created an advertising campaign showing that one glass of whole milk has the saturated fat equivalent to five strips of bacon. Their message was: Next time, buy a different kind of milk.

As a result, the market share of low-fat milk jumped from 18% to 35%.

The lesson for us: We’re more likely to see change if we can give people specific, feasible steps to take.

Questions for you to consider:

  1. As you think about a change you’d like others to make (such as students or families connected with your ministry), what are some first steps they could take?
  2. When is the pivotal time for them to make those decisions?
  3. What resources can you provide that will help folks take those first steps?
Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.

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