By Todd Adkins
As church leaders, we must keep our teams optimistic, flexible, and focus on those essential ministries right now that absolutely have to happen. We need to help them shift their mind to a “we’ve got to make this work” approach rather than derailing themselves and others by why it can’t work. That’s not everybody, but about a third of your people are likely responding to this crisis with “we can’t do this essential ministry because … .” We need to help them shift their minds to see: we can if we do it in another way.
This is another tool from A Beautiful Constraint by Morgan & Barden, and it’s a great way to help even the most cantankerous keeper of the status quo on your team see problems and their solutions in a new light. As I walk you around the tool, don’t fall in love with the first strategic idea that comes along. Be sure to walk all the way around this map. Also note that many of these issues you are trying to solve will likely have multiple layers that you won’t just go around once. You will likely need to go around the map a time or two to solve each layer of the problem and end up with that solid solution you are looking for.
You want to start with your chosen “we can’t because…” premise. Put it in your mind and let’s see if we can shake out a solution. Given our last session, I think I see a great place for us to start here: “we can if we resource it by …” This is all about us making strategic trade offs and shifting resources that we currently have freed up from our last experience together. It’s also about potentially tapping into new resources as well.
When we move to the next one, “we can if we substitute x for y,” keep in mind that the y right here is that “we can’t because …” We can’t have a worship service because our federal, state, or local government prohibits it is one we’ve dealt with recently. But we can if we do it digitally. And so many churches did or have. We used that one unknowingly. But I would encourage you not just to use that for your worship service or your groups, but pushing that further down into your church as well.
Next, “we can if we remove … to allow us to …” Again, this is about simplicity and simplicity is so important at this time. What you stop doing is way more important than what you start doing at a time like this. This also is a chance for you to simplify a process or remove steps from a process that may be causing friction at this time.
The next one is, “we can if we introduce a …” This is usually about introducing a new element to something that already exists. Perhaps it’s replacing something that’s just not effective given the crisis that we are in right now. It could be creating something new altogether, but I want to give you a word of caution here. Keep in mind, don’t do something just because the cool church down the road is doing a new thing and is doing it in this way. Make sure that it is meeting an important and essential need of your church, or don’t do it.
Next, let’s take a look at “we can if we think of it as …” Remember how Jesus taught His disciples? He did that through the power of story and metaphor because metaphor breaks down your pattern of thinking and makes you see it in a new light. We talked about the Great Commandment earlier, we all know what it is, “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Do you remember Jesus’ response to “who is my neighbor?” We get the story of the good Samaritan which is a metaphor, a very powerful tool in breaking down our understanding of how to live out the gospel. And metaphor is that powerful tool to help us experience breakthrough, both spiritually and personally, and it can also be used in this instance as well.
“We can if we use other people to …” You have a tremendous opportunity in your church to build an army, not just an audience during this crisis. Remember that at a time like this, more people are ready to volunteer and serve and step up. And you can also upskill your staff and congregation to meet the needs of these essential ministries as we uncover them and do so in short order, especially with a tool like the one you are on right now.
The next one is, “we can if we mix together … and …” This formula is all about combining two things together in a new way and you should naturally look for strategic overlaps of groups of people or purpose here. Parents and children may normally be served by two different areas of the church, but you want to combine those at this time. Or a purpose like discipleship that runs across every age, stage, and level of your church may be one you want to look at during this time too.
Next, “we can if we fund it by …” This is getting down to the nitty-gritty of locating new resources and funding. This is anything from budget allocation to strategic campaign to getting lines of credit to liquidating assets to refinancing debt. You may even be able to barter for it. Get creative and think about how you might leverage non-traditional assets you have at your disposal as well. Also note we have a whole session coming up on contingency budgets and reopening plans and reallocation. It includes several templates for you to customize for your church.
If you haven’t already created a task force that is walking through this whole course, I would suggest that you at least do a working group on this session and walk through this “we can if …” framework like we just did. I get that you or some of your leaders may not need a tool like this because of your frame of mind or your posture right now, but using this tool and framework is so amazingly simple, and dare I say, quite savvy in it’s approach. You may not have noticed this, but by starting each sentence with “we can if …” you keep the group focused and focused on how it might be possible, not whether or not it’s possible. Framing it in this way forces people to find more solutions and move forward, rather than to find more problems, which keeps a lead team more optimistic. Also, using this framework and the tool connected with it is probably going to result in upsetting your apple cart a bit, if yours hasn’t been upset already, so now is a great time to talk about aligning some of these strategies and maybe even restructuring your staff to get those apples back in the cart.
Check out our FREE course A Complete COVID-19 Guide: Lead Your Church Toward a New Normal on Ministry Grid for a a step-by-step process to help your church realign, restructure, and reopen. Click here for more info.