by Ryan Stigile
Recently, I helped a church staff evaluate the early blueprints for a new building project. I noticed a coffee bar was located in a very tight spot in the far corner of the lobby. When I asked the purpose of the coffee bar, know one on the team was entirely sure about it. They had seen one in a few other churches and figured it must be worth having. From there, we discussed how coffee bars are generally intended to foster community. The tight location of theirs would not allow for that. The team had come very close to falling into a trap that every church leader risks when they adopt someone else’s idea.
Replicating proven methods from other churches is not inherently wrong. In fact, it is nearly essential to innovation and relevance. However, when we transfer a method after only a surface-level observation, we fail to understand the strategic purpose behind the idea. Like puzzle pieces that don’t fit, these mismatched approaches can quickly limit the ministry they were meant to empower.
The next time you consider copying a method from another organization, ask yourself the following the three questions…
1. Why do they do this? Successful churches do everything with a strategic purpose. There is a reason they serve coffee, use intelligent lights, build everything on small groups, etc. Do not settle for an understanding of the method. Dig deeper to find the true reason for it. My experience is that most church leaders are very willing to answer this question if you are willing to ask.
2. Does this purpose fit our vision and strategy? Every church operates from a different vision and strategy. These should serve as filters to the methods you employ. Once you understand the strategic purpose behind another church’s method, you can determine if it is right for your organization. Saying “no” to successful methods that are not a good fit can be just as valuable as implementing the ones that are.
3. What is the best way for us to fulfill that purpose? Though a strategic purpose may align with your vision and strategy, total adoption of a method may not be best for your situation. With an understanding of purpose, you have the freedom to build the right method for your organization. Figure out how you can best accomplish the strategic purpose. Get creative. Consider your unique strengths and resources and develop a method that best fits your church.
When we evaluate the methods of other organizations, we should filter them by purpose, not by someone else’s success. The next time you visit another great church, read a good book, or attend a conference, look beyond methods to find the strategic purpose behind every idea you encounter.