Sticky Ideas

I heard about this book on NPR a few weeks ago and kept waiting for it to show up at my local Borders. I got a gift card for Borders and this seemed like the thing to spend it on. The authors discuss ideas that survive and ideas that don’t. They use as an example an internet rumor about a ring of kidney thieves. I remember this one. When we first got e-mail in the Air Force a squadron commander forwarded a version of that rumor that took place in Las Vegas. That idea “stuck”, it lasted. Next they quote a vision statement from a non-profit agency or something. It is as technical and dull as you can image but accurate and good. So why does one stick that isn’t true and the true one not stick? The introduction is worth a read.

The brother researched this and came up with six principles that make ideas sticky. They’re listed on the back cover of the book if you want a quick summary, but don’t miss reading the book. They make it fun and interesting avoiding the non-stickiness they skewer in the process.

The reason it grabbed my attention was two-fold. First, when we preach we need to help people remember what is being taught. We certainly don’t want to resort to being cute or clever in our preaching but we do want Biblical truth to stick. Also, when leading a church plant you need to help your people catch the vision and remember the vision. One way is to repeat it over and over; but consider what the Heath boys say about that:

And, finally, there’s the most common refrain in the realm of communication advice: Use repetition, repetition, repetition.

All of this advice has obvious merit, except, perhaps, for the emphasis on repetition. (If you have to tell someone the same thing ten times, the idea probably wasn’t very well designed. No urban legend has to be repeated ten times.)

There is wisdom here but it is incomplete. Repeating a bland vision statement might be the only way you’re going to get people to remember it. But repeating a “sticky” vision statement might not be what it takes to make it stick, but it can help people understand that this is something very important. I think of John Piper’s motto: We exist to spread a passion for supremacy of God in all things, for the joy of all peoples in Jesus Christ. That is somewhat sticky and easily remembered but John says it all the time. It is important to him. So don’t rely on repetition but don’t abandon it either.

I’m not very far in the book yet. It is recreational reading right now but what I’ve read so far is good and helpful. This is one I think other church planters should take a look at.

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