10 Ways Your “Curse of Knowledge” is Impacting Your Guests (part 1)
In their best-selling book Made to Stick, authors Chip and Dan Heath popularized the term “curse of knowledge” … when we know something, it’s hard to imagine that someone else doesn’t know that same thing.
They cite a 1990 study where researchers divided a group into “tappers” and “listeners.” The “tappers” were given a sheet of 25 well-known songs and assigned to tap out the rhythm. The “listener,” meanwhile, was to try and guess the song. In this study, only a meager 2.5% of listeners correctly guessed songs like “Happy Birthday” or “The Star Spangled Banner.”
The point? Just because it’s clear to us doesn’t mean it’s clear to them.
In our churches we face the same conundrum: because we’re so deep in the weeds and so comfortable on the inside, we have a hard time imagining that our guests don’t know what our guests don’t know.
I think there are at least 10 ways our own “curse of knowledge” leaves our guests at a disadvantage. How many of these are you guilty of?
1. Your facility
Layout, traffic flow, oddly-named rooms and spaces (what on earth is a narthex?!?), that mystery door that never seems to be unlocked…they’re all familiar to you, so much so that you don’t think about it. But try telling a guest that the Pastor’s Afterglow is located in the old wing of the Education Building, just past the Narthex, in the Effie Burns Memorial Tea Closet, and if you see the double doors that lead to the Handbell Suite you’ve gone too far.
[related post: All Signs Point To…What?]
2. Your service elements
Pick a church…any church…and you’ll find traditions that are particular to that theological stripe, denomination, or geographical region. Now layer in things like baptism, communion, the passing of the peace, taking up offering, elder commissioning…you name it, and you have a recipe for confusion.
[related post: Explain Yourself]
3. Insider language
Church people love acronyms and catchy ministry names. And that’s fine, so long as you take time to explain it for the uninitiated. I’ll never forget the time a guest asked me what was meant by “small groups” in the announcements. What seemed obvious to so many on our staff (“Well…it’s a group that’s smaller than this large one!”) was patently confusing to the new guy.
4. Inside jokes or stories
It’s happened to all of us: we’re visiting a new church and the pastor tells a story that 99% of the crowd resonates with. But we’re the 1% that doesn’t. Or in a small group, where long-time friends are tossing out names in prayer requests, and we don’t know if Brandy is an aunt or a pet or a beverage. So make your outsiders insiders: don’t jettison the familiar stories, but find a way to quickly catch guests up to where you are.
[related post: Wedding Crashers and Weekend Services]
5. Your history
How can you best help a guest figure out your place in the bigger picture? What is your church’s background, affiliations, partnerships, high points, and low points? Certainly this is not something that deserves a spotlight every weekend, but as a part of your newcomers class, it might be worth taking a few minutes to bring them up to speed.
[related post: Corporate Chronology: Moving Your Church Past “Us” vs. “Them.”]