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Monday, November 26, 2012

The IKEA Effect.

I know I'm going "off topic" compared to what I've written in the last few months.  I think I've gotten to the end of that string.  It's time to use this space for other work.

Michael I. Norton, Dan Ariely, and Daniel Mochon call it the "IKEA affect."  These behavioral economists describe the increased value attribution people make when we invest our time and effort into something or someone.  In their studies, they asked research participants to put together IKEA boxes, origami sculptures and Lego projects.  In controlled circumstances they then asked people to put objective (monetary) values on their creations.  The sheer act of investing effort into the projects increased the value the subjects attributed to the projects.

This isn't surprising to us, but it runs counter to the assumptions of classical economics.  Classical economics assumes that we value things based on what we get out of them--not based on what we put into them.  Anyone, however, who has tried to sell a house knows that this is just mistaken.  My house--the building into which I have poured years of care, construction and cost--that building is always worth more to me than to any prospective buyer.

That is not a rational calculation.  It is, however, a real calculation.  The more we invest in a person, a relationship, a possession, a job, or a community, the greater will be the value of that entity to us.

Jesus says, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  We think about this in the church many times primarily in terms of financial offerings.  What if we were to think about this first and foremost in terms of emotional investment--value attribution.  I suspect that is what Jesus really means here.

So attempts in many congregations to make for "easy entry" are quite wrong-headed.  As we lower the bar for commitment and involvement, we assist people in decreasing their value attribution.  As we make church life less demanding in the name of convenience or grace or whatever, we encourage people to believe that church life is less valuable than the other, more demanding, parts of their lives. I suspect that average church giving reflects this lowering of expectations.

I am not suggesting that simply making church life harder will increase engagement, commitment and giving.  I am suggesting that we church folks need to allow our newer members to build something new in the church they have chosen.  I am suggesting that every new member should be given the opportunity to experience the IKEA effect as they join a congregation.  That might be a specified project such as a "new member flower garden" or something similar.  I suspect, however, that we need to sit with new people and customize projects that will assist them in building attributed value.

If we present the church to new folks as a finished project, then we deprive them of the chance to be co-creators of value.  They will never develop the connection to the congregation that long-time members have.  Think about the passion people have when they have been part of forming a new congregation.  We need to find ways to capture a bit of that passion whenever new people join.  I believe that will transmit to some degree into increased giving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What else is there...

After two years, I've said enough.  I am a fortunate man.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I'm Thankful Today...

I have appreciated all the gratitude posts on Facebook and other social media in this month of Thanksgiving.  What I observe, however, is that nearly all of them are expressions of gratitude for positive goods.  "I am grateful for health, wealth, home, family, job, etc."  These are fine things for which to be grateful, but that's the easy part.

I strive today to be grateful for the adversity that has been part of the journey so far.  By this time precisely two years ago, I had been awakened by a phone call from the hospital.  Anne, my first wife, had become unresponsive.  By now I had gone to the hospital and realized that my life as I had known it was over.  By now I had called our children, her family, my siblings and my pastor with the news.  By now I was beginning to think about what would come next and how we would get through this.

I am not grateful for the pain, the death, the grief and all the dislocated chaos.  I am grateful for what God has brought out of the tragedy.  I am grateful for the new life Jesus has built in the midst of the wreckage.  I do, in fact, trust that in all things God is working for good for those who love God and trust in God's mercy.

I am grateful that I get to learn to be content in all things.  I give thanks for all the goodness in my life today: for Brenda, for our children and family, for our puppy, Bella, for our work and our community and our home.  Those are all marvelous gifts from our gracious and generous God.  And I give thanks even more that those gifts have come in the midst of all the death and destruction that the Evil One could fire in our direction.

I wish that none of the terrible things had happened to Anne or to any of us.  But happen they did.  And in the midst of that awful stuff, God gives new life and hope and joy.  Nothing good from this life is lost.  And nothing terrible can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

At our wedding, we played the Rascal Flats song, "God Bless the Broken Road."  I continue to hear that song often in my heart.  The broken places are not God's doing.  But the fact that there is a road forward, a path through the darkness, a chance to live and learn and grow from the pain--that is God's doing and it is marvelous indeed.

I am grateful for the adversity.