How did you feel last year when toilet paper became almost impossible to find? Some people expressed their anger on Facebook, targeting hoarders who must have been stocking full cases of the precious paper. Stores posted signs at the entrances to indicate whether they had any in stock. Remember how excited you were to find what, on every day prior to the crisis, was on a full aisle that you mundanely pushed your cart down because you were “getting low” in your home supply? If you were like us, we pulled out our phones and called one another, strategized how to go down separate check out lines so we could acquire more than one package, and made special space for extra packs in closets so we would have plenty during “the great toilet paper drought of 2020.”
Social psychologists have a name for what we all experienced: the principle of scarcity; and, if we can see it coming, we can plan ways to leverage it for the gospel. Simply put, it means we all put a higher value on things that are perceived as rare while devaluing things that are seen as common or abundant. i Scarcity pushes us to buy an item, to hunt for it. “Black Friday” items last only one day, on a first-come basis, with a limited supply, so people plan their shopping trips strategically, wait in lines outside of stores and even fight to get what is rapidly disappearing.
Carey Nieuhof addressed scarcity and how it affects the church’s future in a recent blog. ii People lose interest when there is an overabundance of something; preaching is one thing they can take or leave right now because it is everywhere – on Facebook, YouTube, television. There is an oversupply of recommendation information for churches, also. Blogs, emails, texts; it seems, to the pastor who is looking toward the future, everyone has an opinion. Preaching, as valuable as it is to the kingdom of God, will not necessarily be what draws people back to church. Subscribing to an author’s path of future prosperity has lost its appeal because there are so many authors with ideas.
What is the one thing people cannot get right now? What is more scarce than toilet paper was last year at the discount store? Fellowship. Relationships. Friendships. COVID has separated us unnaturally from one another and the need to connect will compel people to search out the places that can offer these “scarce” experiences as society begins to open up. Try thinking of ways your church can bring people together and how you can share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them as they gather. What could you change about your worship service or outreach ministries that would provide what people need; a place to meet and build real connection?