Choices and Your Announcements

In an earlier post I referenced Barry Schwartz’s work The Paradox of Choice, which advocates that too many choices leads to regret because we are never confident we made the right choice. While I pointed out that this regret is really a result of our sinful hearts seeking satisfaction in things other than Christ, I do agree with Schwartz’s hypothesis that too many choices leads to “decision paralysis.”

In a talk at the well-known TED conference, Schwartz gave an illustration of Vanguard financial services, which conducts voluntary retirement programs at companies for more than 1 million employees. These voluntary retirement programs include matching funds from employers, meaning they are deeply beneficial and advantageous to the employee. According to Schwartz, participation in the retirement program drops 2 percent for every 10 options presented to employees. If 50 fund options are presented, participation drops 10 percent.

The employees are overwhelmed by the number of options, walk away from free matching money, and go home thinking they will sign up another day. The plethora of choices leads to “decision paralysis.”

After consulting with a lot of churches, I am convinced the same thing happens each week for them. The number of things that are presented as “next steps” or “opportunities for involvement” are too many and lead to paralysis. It is often hard to keep up with the barrage of announcements unloaded in a 3-4 minute time frame. Calling the person giving the monologue an MC or tour guide (yes, I have seen that happen) or putting together a great video will not solve the problem of too many announcements.

A better way is to say less. We really do say more by saying less.

What is the magic number of announcements? I am not sure. I have seen some churches effectively bundle three announcements to feel like one because everything was deeply woven together and connected to an overarching direction. At the same time, I have seen others make one announcement feel like ten because the details were so confusing.

The point is that too many choices results in paralysis. Consider helping your people benefit from the great ministry your church is offering by pushing less options.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

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