Need a little nudge?

The New York Times yesterday published a story on how nudging is saving the United Kingdom.

Okay, a bit of an overstatement. The story is actually about a group of British officials who fan out across the country

“to job centers, schools and local government offices and tweaks bureaucratic processes to better suit human nature. The goal is to see if small interventions that don’t cost much can change behavior in large ways that serve both individuals and society. …

The unit has been nudging people to pay taxes on time, insulate their attics, sign up for organ donation, stop smoking during pregnancy and give to charity — and has saved taxpayers tens of millions of pounds in the process, said David Halpern, its director. Every civil servant in Britain is now being trained in behavioral science. The nudge unit has a waiting list of government departments eager to work with it, and other countries, from Denmark to Australia, have expressed interest.

“At the core of nudging,” writes Katrin Bennhold, “is the belief that people do not always act in their own self-interest. We can be undone by anxiety and swayed by our desire to fit in. We have biases and habits, and we can be lazy: Faced with a choice, we are more likely than not to go with a default option, be that a mobile ringtone or a pension plan.

The results of the nudging campaign, while modest, seem promising.

The story got me wondering if it would be possible to nudge people in the church toward behaviors that might help re-energize our congregations. Got any ideas for a little gentle ecclesiological engineering?

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