On Light the World (a social media campaign encouraging people to help others and hashtag about it during the holiday season), these are my thoughts.

To get people to help others, research shows that sermons are useless. That is, preaching at people that they should help makes no difference in whether they do.

Even preparing a sermon on the Good Samaritan was useless in the observational testing. Having people prepare a sermon on the Good Samaritan in divinity school makes no statistical difference on whether they stop to help someone in need on their way to deliver a practice sermon.

Some things made a huge difference:

Having time. Those students preparing sermons who, as they left to deliver them were told their time slot had moved fifteen minutes or more were much more likely to stop and help. People who plan time to help others are much more likely to help.

Having a social model (having helping part of the social norm) helps. Is socially it is expected and everyone is doing it, you are more likely to help others.

Have a real or practice model (having someone else show you how it is done). Tangible examples give people a handle on service. Both practicing helping and seeing the specifics of what someone else has done makes it more likely you will help.

You want kindness and outreach?

Then you need socialization—making it an observed norm (something you know everyone is doing and expects). With examples (of how it is done).

Light the world creates socialization and examples of things people can do.

It is actually an excellent tool to get people to do things that help others.

And, at the same time it really doesn’t do more than look quaint to people on the true outside. So it doesn’t seem to be advertising for outsiders so much as guidance for those doing it.

But it does give lots of opportunities to …. (Rorschach ink blot goes here).

Reactions to it are truly a Rorschach ink blot test.

Thanks to Lindsay Hansen Park for making me think.


Do you think Christ meant it when he said:

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

How would you encourage people to be kinder?

Is there a better season to try to teach people to be more Christlike?