In a recent post I shared my top ten favorite quotes from The Power of Moments, the newest book from the Heath brothers. I’m revisiting that book today…and let’s be honest for a moment, I will probably revisit it several times here on the blog, because it’s just that good.
The authors point to an interesting experiment that was designed to find out how much people remember about a certain experience.
“When people assess an experience, they tend to forget or ignore its length – a phenomenon called ‘duration neglect.’ Instead, they seem to rate the experience based on two key moments: (1) the best or worst moment, known as the ‘peak’; and (2) the ending. Psychologists call it the ‘peak-end rule.'”
Using the illustration that accompanied this research, Chip and Dan observed that when we look back at a Disney trip, we will often remember the high point and the end point. In other words: the fun that our entire family had on Space Mountain, plus the Mickey ears we purchased when we were leaving the park. Those are the moments we recount to our friends when they ask about the trip. Sure, there were long lines and dropped Mouseketeer Bars and Florida humidity and a hundred other things – good and bad – that we experienced, but our brains tend to pick out the peak moment and the end moment.
Here’s the application point I’m chewing on today: when it comes to a guest’s first weekend at our church, what is their peak? And how does it end?
Our “peak” could be different things, depending on the tastes of the guest, their previous experience with church, and what they are expecting:
- The surprise and delight of an unexpected first time guest tent.
- An environment for their kids that their kids actually love (and don’t want to leave).
- Church coffee that doesn’t taste like church coffee.
- A friendly person who made an effort to talk to them even though they weren’t an official greeter.
- A stirring worship song that engaged mind, heart, and soul.
- A message that helped them see Jesus in a way they’d never considered him before.
- A real encounter with the gospel, which may immediately lead to a relationship with Jesus (or at least starts that journey).
The peak is part of what they’ll remember on Monday when a co-worker asks about their weekend. It’s what they’ll reflect on the following Saturday when they’re deciding whether to return. In all of the artifacts of their memory, the peak makes up roughly half of what they look back to.
But according to the research, there’s another half of the experience, and that’s the end.
So how do we end? Well, in too many of our churches, there’s the bad ending:
- A few fumbled announcements and a hasty, “You’re dismissed.”
- A rushed volunteer team trying to clean and flip the auditorium for the next service.
- A guest seeking answers to a question they have, but finding an information table with no information.
- Clumps of cliques all over the auditorium, with no one making room for a new guest who needs a friend.
But the good news is, there’s also the good ending:
- A cohesive “last two minutes” of the service that points back to the sermon and looks ahead to how it applies in real lives this week.
- An immediate next step for guests who want to connect deeper and find out more.
- A team of greeters that didn’t just say hello when guests came in, but they’re in position to say goodbye (and invite them back) as guests go out.
- A new friend they met beforehand seeks them out, remembers their name, and invites them to lunch.
Have you thought about your guests’ “peak-end experience”? Have you reflected on the things they’ll reflect on? How can we partner with the work of the Holy Spirit in our guests’ lives and give them tangible moments they’ll be able to process long after they leave your presence?
What happens after we say “Goodbye”?