Friday, May 29, 2015

Because we are people of habit

A curious sight to the eyes of American tourists in the Holy Land is the Bedouin tent-dwellers. The dirty, worn tents with holes near the top for ventilation stand determinedly in the stark, arid desert. Usually a woman tending a small herd of sheep and goats will be nearby.
It seems that a number of years earlier the government decided to improve the lot of these wanderers. They built and furnished nice apartment houses for the Bedouins, and officials assisted them in moving into their new homes—the height of luxury in comparison with their battered tents. Everyone was pleased with the way the nomads had been helped to improve their way of living.
Several days later the officials went back to check on the Bedouins and see how they were doing. To their surprise, the apartments were full of animals. Where were the Bedouins? Back in their tents, living exactly as they had for centuries. They refused to give up their old ways for a better life. But they did decide that the apartments would make good pens for their sheep and goats.
This story illustrates the resistance to change that seems to be built into human nature—in every culture. Consider how many people sit in the same pew every Sunday at church and become visibly upset if a visitor happens to make the terrible mistake of sitting in their place. And how many of us drive exactly the same route to and from work every day, not varying our path by even one turn?
Because we are people of habit, successfully moving a church to a new location presents some of the greatest challenges in communicating effectively. Certainly there are many opportunities for excitement and elation, but there are also numerous chances for misunderstanding and conflict.

Wanda Vassallo, Church Communications Handbook: A Complete Guide to Developing a Strategy, Using Technology, Writing Effectively, Reaching the Unchurched (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Resources, 1998), 141.

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