Determining Essential Ingredients

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Had a fascinating discussion over the weekend with a passionate devotee of the worship + ABF philosophy of ministry.  He was definitely passionate.  He was absolutely committed to the philosophy.  And he was in some amount of denial about why it is so difficult to find churches with contemporary worship, relevant teaching and a great selection of on-campus classes.  They do exist…but are increasingly hard to find.  Why?  It may have to do with what you’ll read below.

Whether you call them ABFs (Adult Bible Fellowships) or Sunday School classes, there are certain perceived advantages (and disadvantages) that are difficult for long-time participants to dispassionately evaluate.  In all fairness, long-time advocates of off-campus small groups have an equally difficult time evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of a group life strategy.  Why?  Sometimes long-term solutions that have been effective are the toughest to evaluate.  At the same time, winning solutions from the past often turn out to be the very things that prevent the best opportunities for future growth.

So, what’s the big deal?  Do we really need to understand and honestly evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of a given program or system?  Absolutely.  Why?  Unexamined assumptions do not lead to a good place.  Rather, unexamined assumptions are what ultimately lead to failure.

In When Growth Stalls, a recent article over at HBR, authors Olson, Van Bever, and Verry share some powerful ideas about the importance of examining your assumptions:

  • Assumptions held the longest or the most deeply are the most likely to be its undoing.
  • Leaders must bring the underlying assumptions that drive company strategy into line with the changes in the external environment.

Reading those two statements should cause us to pause and think about our own passion for a particular solution.  Think about it.  Whether you’ve been ultra committed to an ABF strategy or to a group life strategy…what if it turned out that it would prove to be your undoing?  Could it?  Have you thoroughly examined your underlying assumptions in order to bring your strategy in line with the external environment?  What does that have to do with today’s dilemma?

I want to suggest that an unexamined strategy (and unexamined assumptions) is a recipe for what could be your undoing.  How do you get to the bottom of the assumptions that drive what you believe and do?  Not as hard as you might think.  Here is the first step:

Start by assembling an assumption hunt team that includes some outsiders. It’s important to acknowledge that “the people who have a stake in the old…are never the ones to embrace the new…it’s always someone on the periphery, who hasn’t got anything to gain by the status quo, who is interested in changing it.”

In the next few posts I’ll be unpacking the assumption hunt idea.  Want more?  Be sure and sign up to get the updates.  You can do that right here.

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