Patching Yesterday’s Garment

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When you think about how you’re spending your time, would you say that you’re patching yesterday’s garment?  Or designing tomorrow’s pattern?

Need definitions?  Patching yesterday’s garment would be “making incremental changes to try and improve less-than-optimal results.”  Designing tomorrow’s pattern would be creating customized steps that lead to what you’ve clarified as a win.”

So what do you think?  If you were totally honest, are you spending more time patching yesterday’s garment or designing tomorrow’s pattern?  By the way, I got this question from Peter Drucker’s great line:

“It is dangerously tempting to keep on patching yesterday’s garment rather than work on designing tomorrow’s pattern (p. 11, Managing for Results).”

By the way, this is a very biblical concept.  Jesus talked about this in Matthew 9:16-17 when He said, “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Truthfully, there are times when we feel stuck.  We look ahead at the challenges of going back to the drawing board, starting with the tabula rasa, and we decide to tweak instead of start over.  Other times we’re just tired.  Ministry is hard.  Sunday’s always just 7 days away.  And honestly, sometimes it’s just too easy to put it off until a later date.

Can I encourage you?  Don’t give in to stuck.  Get renewed and ready for the next run and then jump in.  Don’t give in to the temptation of just patching yesterday’s garment when what’s really needed is a new pattern.

Here are Three Steps You Can Take:

  1. Pull together your own team of future travelers. They might be already on your team as a small group leader or coach.  Equally, they might be from another church in the area (One good way to find some folks to make the journey with is to use the Small Group Network’s list of local networks).
  2. Go on an assumption hunt. I’ve written about this a number of times.  You can learn how to do an assumption hunt in Determining Essential Ingredients,  The Danger of Unexamined Assumptions, and  Ready to Go on an Assumption Hunt? The essence of the idea is that the ideas that have long anchored your assumptions may very well be based on cultural implications that are no longer true (for example, Sunday as an all day affair was based on the fact that it made sense to drive the wagon into town and spend the day before returning home).
  3. Have an Andy Grove retreat.  Andy Stanley (and others) tell a great story of a conversation between Gordon Moore (Intel Chairman and CEO at the time) and Andy Grove (his successor).  In 1985, with Intel’s computer memory business in major trouble, Grove said to Moore, “If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what would he do?  Why shouldn’t we walk out, come back in and do it ourselves?”  That’s more than a great quote.  It is the main ingredient for a new pattern moment.  Getting away and asking that profound question might be the inflection point for your ministry.  For a little more on this, see my StrategyCentral post that includes Andy Stanley’s thoughts on this topic.

Can I add a 4th idea?  I love spending time with leadership teams helping them reconsider the design of their ministry.  You can find out how it works right here.

What do you think?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

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  1. J. Gregory Gillum on May 11, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Great ideas, Mark. I was involved in a small groups pastor network meeting yesterday in Louisville at Southeast Christian (6 of us total), and I think all of us walked away renewed and inspired. There is definitely something magic about listening to others with empathy, and having your own story heard by someone walking in your own shoes.

  2. Anonymous on May 11, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Yes! Good for you Gregory! Connecting with a group of fellow travelers who are walking alongside makes a big difference. Awesome!