Set Aside What You Think Is True to Learn What Is Actually True

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I quoted a line from Gary Hamel in a recent post.  A great line, very thought-provoking, and one that ought to be downright terrifying for many church leaders.  Hamel wrote:

“Organizations lose their relevance when the rate of internal change lags the pace of external change. And that’s the problem that besets many churches today (Gary Hamel, Organized Religion’s ‘Management Problem’).”

My post drew the following email from a reader:

I read your recent blog and you have touched on a trend that has become more prevalent in our church.  People either go to worship or to small group but not both.  We are seeing this trend on Sunday mornings (especially among younger families).  Getting them to commit to both is becoming more problematic.  Are you suggesting that if we lift up the standard of expecting attendance at both a group time and a worship service that we run the risk becoming irrelevant?

I responded and my response drew the following question:

I guess what struck me about your comment was where do you draw the line in terms of the expectations you have for people that are members of your church.  Do you give into in to it and just say that is the direction of the culture?  Or do you hold the expectation up and ask that they alter their lives?

Upon further review

I really think my reader is asking the wrong questions.  Instead of asking whether we should just give into cultural shifts or hold onto higher expectations, I think we ought to be wondering why younger families are choosing between worship and small group?  We ought to be asking ourselves, “What latent, unexpressed need is going unmet?”  We might need to wonder whether there is something missing in the design of the worship experience.

More to chew on: 

In a section of Creative Confidence (on my Christmas 2013 Reading List) on the subject of learning to empathize with the end user, authors David and Tom Kelley note that “empathy means challenging your preconceived ideas and setting aside your sense of what you think is true to learn what actually is true.”  They go on to cite a great Mark Twain line that “It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t so.”


Instead of allowing our attention to become locked on what our members and attendees should be doing or what we believe they need, we’d best develop genuine empathy and set out to design ministry that meets their latent, often unexpressed needs.

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

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