Don’t Miss the Upside of a Good Problem, Crisis, or Constraint

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doorwayDon't Miss the Upside of a Good Problem, Crisis, or Constraint

I've written extensively about there being no problem-free solution, strategy, or model. If you've read much here you know the next line is that wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they'd rather have.


I don't talk about it as much, but it's also true that we should never waste a good problem. A problem can lead to delay, frustration, or even despair. But it doesn't have to. It can lead to some of the best thinking you will ever do. A good problem can force or help you to try out a new perspective and "perspective is worth 80 IQ points (Alan Kay)."

Before you simply chalk up what's happening as a problem, spend some time analyzing the problem itself. Ask, "How might this problem actually help us rethink the solution?" See also, 4 Foundational Questions for Small Group Ministries.


In a slight modernization of Machiavelli*, Winston Churchill said, "Never let a good crisis go to waste." The essence of his thinking? Crises afford opportunities to do things you wouldn't do (or be able to do) in the absence of a crisis.

The next time a crisis develops in your ministry, spend some time evaluating what opportunities the crisis might be affording. See also, Avoid These 4 Realities at Your Own Peril.


Constraints (budget, volunteers, the attention span of your senior pastor, etc.) can feel like deal breakers. Constraints can feel like impassible barriers.

But they don't have to. Jason Fried, a co-founder of Basecamp, has pointed out that, “Instead of freaking out about these constraints, embrace them. Let them guide you. Constraints drive innovation and force focus. Instead of trying to remove them, use them to your advantage.”

The essence of Fried's thinking? Simple. When confronted by a constraint, focus your thinking and action on what you can do. See also, Diagnosing Your Discipleship Strategy.


Don't miss the upside of a good problem, crisis, or constraint. They each offer a doorway to great opportunity.

*“Never waste the opportunity offered by a good crisis.” Niccolo Machiavelli

Image by Joanna Paterson

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