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Micro-Interactions: It's a Big Thing

In a time when status updates, tweets and text messages dominate our cultural communications ethos, the intentionality of small but purposeful interactions – micro-interactions – have cumulative impact.

You’ve heard the saying “a little bit goes a long way” or “little things matter.” We know it to be true, but we forgo the simple opportunity to look for small and probably mundane ways to create positive impact.

One of the strangest interactions happens when people, passing by each other, say “How ya doing?” or “How’s it going?” as they continue to walk on by. Since when did a personal question become a nonchalant gesture? It’s better to say “hello” or “hi” as you walk past someone so that you at least acknowledge their presence. This is a micro-interaction. A fake greeting? Not so okay.

Look someone in the eye today and smile at them. Not a maniacal, dial-911 kind of smile, but a genuine smile of encouragement and peace. This is a micro-interaction.

Go and have a brief face-to-face, in-real-life conversation with someone who can do nothing for you professionally. For example, while in line somewhere, ask the person serving you how they are doing today. Then ask them to share a simple joy from this past week. You’ll be surprised at how often they’ll brighten up, smile and even share something you’d think was more than a stranger would divulge. This is a micro-interaction.

Micro-interactions are simple and normally require only a small moment of time. They’re easy, but they require intentionality.

At our local churches, we have these opportunities every weekend, but we’ll often leave these kinds of things up to the greeters or ushers. Are the people around you human? Then intentionally create micro-interactions. Empower yourself and your staff to purposefully engage with helpful and encouraging micro-interactions dozens of times. Most will take a few seconds; others, a few minutes.

Your time is less important for you to control and more important for you to share when it comes to being an intentionally friendly church. You can always excuse yourself from conversations as people will understand you have things to do, but chances are most of the time they’ll just be glad someone noticed them  – or hopefully that LOTS of someones noticed them.

Empower your volunteer leaders and staff to find people to randomly bless before and after each service.

Here are a few examples of blessing someone with a micro-interaction:

  • Walking up and buying their pastry or latte.
  • Randomly choosing three people to receive a $5 Starbucks gift card.
  • Handing them a free book or a coupon good for any book from a local bookstore.
  • Giving out $20 worth of date-night movie passes to a young couple.
  • Once a month, have a couple from your staff randomly take a single-parent family to lunch after church.
The key to micro-interactions is the intentionality of seeing and possibly connecting with each person. The blessings are above-and-beyond the micro-interactions, and serve to reinforce the heart of generosity and graciousness of Jesus. Find what works for your church culture and apply it by making these kinds of micro-interactions caught more than they’re taught. Your volunteers will see the consistent example and follow your leadership, making the cumulative affect of micro-interactions a big thing.
How can your church create these purposeful micro-interactions in your local culture and context?
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Anthony has worked in the secular world of A/V, the ministry world of church staff and the para-church ministry of three companies that serve the church space (Auxano, Fellowship Technologies and Worlds of Wow!). Today, his consultancy focuses on helping churches and para-church ministries leverage appropriate systems, processes and technologies for more effective ministry. Anthony leads out of his strengths of effectively caring for people, efficiently managing resources and enabling scalable growth. He has been consulting, teaching, writing and speaking to church and business leaders for nearly 20 years.