Rick Warren made Discipleship a Habit in His New Church

It might be odd to highlight a protestant pastor and church in a Catholic blog. Not really so odd when we use what in happened in Saddleback California as a case study

Before we get to the Power of Habit in organizations, there is one more powerful concept worth noting, the Keystone habit.

For specific information regarding keystone habits, check out this great podcast with author and Pastor Andy Stanely and Charles Duhigg, author of the Power of Habit. Listen here

A keystone habit is that habit that has a disproportionate impact on a person or the culture of an organization. For example, exercise is a keystone habit. People that begin an exercise regimen of some sort will experience positive changes in other areas of their life. Regular exercisers (even as little as one time a week!) notice a combination of the following: their eating habits and cravings change, they eat less bad food, they spend less on credit cards, they feel better about themselves, they are happier, less stressed and are less hostile. All these benefits are a result of adding one good habit. This is what makes this habit a keystone habit.

Keystone habits exist for organizations as well. Paul O’Neill, new chief executive for Alcoa Aluminum made Alcoa one of the safest places in the world to work with a capitalization of 27 billion while he ran the company. Within one year of running the company Alcoa’s income hit a record high. Read the whole story here. O’Neill accomplished all this by focusing on one thing, safety. Safety became Alcoa’s keystone habit. With laser like focus throughout the company safety was priority #1. And the results speak for themselves. Do read the whole story for context.

Likewise, in 1979 a young pastor began a church in the Saddleback Valley of California. Over the years of growth Pastor Rick Warren discovered he and his pastors could not properly attend a congregation of 20,000 parishioners and set forth to build people in small groups. To avoid small groups becoming nothing more than coffee clubs he created a curriculum teaching parishioners new habits.

“If you want to have Christ-like character, then you just develop the habits that Christ had," one of Saddleback's course manuals reads. "All of us are simply a bundle of habits. … Our goal is to help you replace some bad habits with some good habits that will help you grow in Christ's likeness." Every Saddleback member is asked to sign a "maturity covenant card" promising to adhere to three habits: daily quiet time for reflection and prayer, tithing 10 percent of their income, and membership in a small group. Giving everyone new habits has become a focus of the church.

"Once we do that, the responsibility for spiritual growth is no longer with me, it's with you. We've given you a recipe," Warren told me. "We don't have to guide you, because you're guiding yourself. These habits become a new self-identity, and, at that point, we just need to support you and get out of your way."

There are two key concepts presented here. One, keystone habits have deep effects in the life of an organization. Two, churches can harness the power of keystone habits to help parishioners become disciples.

In the next article we tie all of what we have learned together to help you make your parish a place where your friends and neighbors fall in love with Jesus.

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