In his book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, positive psychologist Adam Grant offers his thoughts on how to champion new ideas. (If you haven’t read the book, I recommend it. He backs up his suggestions with engaging stories and with hard data.) In one of his illustrations, he talks about one CEO’s approach to helping his company get unstuck: telling his executives to brainstorm ideas for putting the company out of business. For two hours these leaders named all the paths to shuttering the doors, their energy building all the while. And when the executives were out of ways to kill the company, the CEO turned the tables and asked the gathered body to come up with ways to insure against these realities. Now understanding that it would be lethal not to take risks, the executives felt the urgency of innovation.
I wonder if congregational leaders would benefit from a similar exercise: “how could we kill this church?” Get all the options out on the table. (Maybe even think about which ones the church is already – or has considered – doing and what the loss would be to the community if your congregation closed.) Then consider what the opposite approach to each might be.
The goal would not necessarily be to take on all of those opposite approaches – they would need to be weighed against the energy and purpose of the congregation – but to move from a mindset of “we can’t afford to change” to “we can’t afford not to change, and we have some ways forward.” This exercise could help communicate the need for urgency to the participants’ minds and hearts and could illuminate some of the opportunities in challenge, two of John Kotter’s strategies for moving people out of complacency.
Consider using this approach, then, next time a visioning process for an individual ministry or the congregation as a whole yields the standard answers. I’d love to hear what ideas are gleaned and what shifts are made.