In my line of work, we call them the ‘pain points’. They are the often unspoken, yet overwhelming reasons why people don’t do something.

Whether it’s a simple online transaction, completing a survey, finishing an assignment or responding to email – everything from tasks of the daily grind to the really important, life-critical stuff (like visiting your dying grandmother), the reasons why we don’t get to it are usually because there’s a pain point somewhere.

At some point in the decision-making process, there’s a minute crisis point that causes such a level of discomfort or pain that we cannot continue past it.

I spend lots of time thinking about how to connect users with products. I think about how to move people from one interaction to another seamlessly, with as little drop off as possible. It’s because I’m trying to convince people of the value of my product, and trying to win them over to my cause. I’m trying to convert them to purchase, to book or to come back again, so I can have another chance at converting them. There’s a parallel, right – to how we try and convince people of the evangelical message?

We tend to invest all our energy in trying to get people to complete the main task, without spending energy solving the little problems along the way. The easiest way to do help people move along the process is to remove the pain points. The little obstacles that give people reason to pause and reconsider the next step.

So, let me throw out something a little controversial. Imagine that our programmes, groups, church activity is a product or service and people we are trying to connect to are your users.

In fact, it’s not hard to imagine this at all – the evangelical movement has been commercialising their product for years. We’ve perfected making it look good, sleek, flash, successful and we’ve carefully crafted marketing messages.

But we’ve failed. Just look at the latest NZ census results – after 30 years of what we call ‘successful youth ministry’, the numbers should reflect this growing number of youthful converts progressing to adult believers – but they don’t, the church is still in decline. Along the way, there are obstacles that people can’t overcome. So how do we change it?

One of the keys

The most efficient and effective way to do this is to …..Stop trying to solve the big problem. Trying to sell the Big Story is always going to feel like mass-marketing. Instead, focus your energy on trying to solve the little stuff. The idea of an all encompassing Gospel that welcomes all comers cannot be considered a valid option for someone who feels unwelcome or unheard at your events, services and meetings. That’s a minute problem – a discrete opportunity.

Pain points make themselves evident all the time – with verbal and non-verbal cues. Jake might say to you “I just never feel like there’s space for me to say what I think” or, when group discussions start – he might shut down and retreat into a corner.

You don’t need to solve this pain point for the whole group. In fact, it’s probably not an issue at all people in your community. You don’t need to run a talk on listening and respecting each other. You just need to help Jake feel heard, or simply make space for him in the discussion by asking him to contribute and affirming his answer.

Little pain points often feel really big, but actually have relatively small, easy to execute solutions. They don’t often require massive cultural or social change – as much as they just need one person to pay attention to another.

You can only really discover the pain points by listening and paying attention to the Users. They are the most important people. The most important part of the process. Mass-marketing solutions feel impersonal and push the user away from the centre of the process.

Likewise – solving world hunger in one go may not be the most convincing proposition for people. There are a world of pain points they’ll see in that. But presenting them with proven, effective opportunities to make contributions that make a difference? Participating in that is easy. Obstacle overcome.

Stop trying to solve the Big Problem. Solve somebody’s pain point by listening to users – the people.

“Ask me what is most important, and I will tell you – it is people, it is people, it is people, the breath of life.” – Maori proverb.