Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I had a friend who use to say, “Don’t just stand there, do something…even if it’s wrong!” I am not in agreement with the latter part of this statement, but I would agree that doing something is better than doing nothing.

Most leaders want to involve their churches in doing something. They want to move their people from where they are to where they need to be. They have a deep hunger to motivate their congregations in an “outside the building walls” mentality. In most cases leaders do not desire to do ministry as usual. They don’t want to just stand there!

This passion for effectiveness burning within leaders often results in moving too quickly. The thought is that the needed change must be done all at once. The congregation is challenged and expected to go into territory that is so foreign to them they collectively pull back. They view this BIG change as averse to their congregational well being. All too often adversity causes retrenching into old patterns. So what might be done to move a congregation from standing there to doing something?

1. Scale down the goal. Robert Maurer of UCLA’s School of Medicine in his book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life, delineates between stretch goals and whisker goals. Stretch goals are ambition teasers. They are the BHAG’s (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) Collins refers to in Good to Great. A whisker goal is an achievement that is a tiny step from the existing reality. An example would be the person who has seldom, if ever, exercised choosing to walk five minutes a day. Whisker goals help congregations get over the initial fear that can keep them from moving. It is better to achieve something small than nothing at all.

2. Improve what you do with the resources you have. During WWII the government needed to increase industrial production as some of the most talented industrial minds were being called away to fight. People were trained to “Look for improvements on existing jobs with your present equipment” (Fast Company, March 2009, Time to Aim Lower, p46). What resources do you have at your disposal? What are you currently doing? Present productivity can be leveraged for future potential.

3. Focus on your strengths. Change is not always doing something different. Change can be simply recommitting to what is done well. Change can be finding different ways of delivering what is done well. “Southwest [airline] officials admit they’ll never win over business travels who value first-class seating and other high-end services many large airlines offer” (USA Today, Southwest amps up its strategy, 12.26.08, 2B). This being the case they simply continue to offer what they do better and better. What does the congregation do well? How can this be improved? Do what you do very well and build off of it.

4. Start now. When you set a timer you have to begin the work. Set your congregational timer. Have some whisker goals. Begin to implement the small steps. Use the resources available. Improve on your strengths.

A snowball is simply an accumulation of tiny snowflakes. When small steps are implemented a large amount of progress is made. Gather the snowflakes. In the end you will have a snowball.

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