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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I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
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