by Steve Kryger, guest contributor
Several years ago I set myself the goal of running non-stop for 30 minutes (or roughly 5 kilometres). While I wasn’t particularly unfit and had always enjoyed cycling, I was a terrible runner and wanted to improve. Nine weeks later I reached my humble goal, and the key to this achievement was the Couch to 5k running program.
It’s a simple concept – 3 sessions a week, combining walking and running, where over time the jogging component increases, and the walking component decreases. For example, the first session looks like this:
“Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes.”
This program is so popular and successful because it breaks down a big goal into very achievable chunks. Anyone can run for 60 seconds non-stop, and it’s encouraging to do this and know that you’ve not failed, but in fact achieved step 1 on your way to 1,800 seconds of running.
There is an important lesson here for ministry leaders:
“Help people to start slow by providing one easy first step.”
Some people do want to be challenged and pushed in the deep end so they can learn how to swim. But most people benefit from starting in the shallow end.
Here are a couple of examples:
- Come to just one prayer meeting this year.
- Come and be a helper at kid’s ministry for just one Sunday.
- Come and play with the band for just one week.
- Lead the Bible study in our group as a one-off next Tuesday.
There are two compelling reasons for this approach:
- Creates a low barrier to entry. Compare how people will hear these 2 messages: “We want you to come to four prayer meetings this year,” and “We want you to come to just one prayer meeting this year.” The people who were going to come to all the prayer meetings are unlikely to stop coming, but to come to just one prayer meeting is very achievable.
- Destroys misconceptions. I have heard church visitors say on numerous occasions, “Wow, this is not at all like my previous church experience.” By stepping through the door just once, their misconceptions have been removed. By just one week of involvement in a ministry, people who aren’t serving may feel much more comfortable to get involved. By coming to just one prayer meeting, the fear factor (“What on earth happens at a prayer meeting?”) is removed.
With a low barrier to entry that enables misconceptions to be destroyed, you’ve made it much more likely for that first step to lead to a second, and a third…