The Power of Space


Kerry Patterson in the book Influencer lays out important ways that we can influence people to bring about change. The book is filled with interesting ideas and important ones for leaders. Reading the book you can’t help but wonder if our preaching, leading, and teaching would have greater impact if we learned how to better influence people. (How does one balance methods of influence with the reality that the Spirit is at work in people? Does the Spirit use such methods through us?)

One of the places that Patterson focuses on is the area of physical space. The power of space to influence behavior, to change attitudes, and to lower conflict is often overlooked, according to Patterson. He tells several stories in connection with this idea, but the prominent one comes in the days after WWII when there was a lot of conflict between restaurant cooks and waitresses. Their interactions were snarky and testy for a number of reasons. Rather than seeking to change attitudes a sociologist decided to change the environment. Waitresses would no longer shout their orders to the cook, instead they would write them down and place them on a spindle (have you ever seen the rotating wheel that waitresses put orders on?), the cook would take them one at a time and do the work. The result was a huge decrease in conflict.

Steelcase has a fun magazine (360) that takes this idea of the importance of space and brings it into the world of offices, but with ideas that can be translated for multiple venues (including churches). 360 looks at how we live and think in North America about space and what draws us to space, what gives health in spaces, and what beats us up. Issue 61 ( “Leveraging Complexity in an Interconnected World” gives a good introduction to creating a healthy environment. The two articles, “[email protected]” and “[email protected]” particularly get the thought process flowing on welcoming environments.

So when was the last time you looked at the environment your church is creating by its physical space? What creative things have you done to make it a healthy physical environment or more to the point, what makes for a healthy physical environment in a church building, in the school where you set up etc.? What creative things are you doing so your church office is reflects a healthy physical environment?

Our reality is that we are embodied creatures. As embodied creatures the physical matters, certainly that is clear by the creation that God has made. Are you paying attention to the physical space that God has entrusted you with?

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