Andy Stanley, the pastor of North Point Church in Georgia- one of the nation’s largest churches, observes that one of the primary strengths of new and large churches is that, contrary to many’s presumptions, they actually do LESS than established and smaller churches. ‘The less you say and do as a church the more you’re actually able to communicate and accomplish’ Stanley says.
It’s true that many established congregations, precisely because they’re established and thus have a history, are frantic with busyness, engaged with a variety of programs.
It’s also true that many of those congregations are weighed down by many programs that were, at some point, someone’s good idea that no longer serves its original purpose or does so only minimally.
Such congregations- and, I would argue, denominations- are weighed down by outdated or ineffective programs because churches, as a rule, are bad at saying no; they’re bad at giving ministries, which aren’t contributing to the overall mission or are no longer effective, a good funeral.
In other words, the mission of the church to make disciples is often the victim of busyness.
Tony Jones argues churches and denominations can learn a lesson from companies like Facebook and Apple, who are constantly make incremental changes, giving poor performing endeavors a quick funeral without stopping to worry about how people will react or who such decisions might upset:
In your latest update to Apple’s free program, iTunes, Ping is gone. It’s disappeared. What is Ping?, you ask. (Well, you should be asking, What was Ping?) Ping was an attempt by Apple to get into the social media game by allowing people to easily share what songs they were listening to, liking, etc.
You know how people are always using Spotify or Pandora to share with you on Facebook the song that they’re listening to at the moment? Well, Apple was hoping that since over 300 million people use iTunes, they could get a piece of the action.
But it didn’t work. Ping had a low adoption rate — at least by Apple’s standards — so they killed the program. They didn’t keep it going for the millions of people who used it. They didn’t apologize. They just euthanized it and moved on.
Google Wave was an online, real-time collaboration tool. I liked it, a lot, and I used it. But not enough people did. When asked about the death of Google Wave, CEO Eric Schmidt said,
“We try things. Remember, we celebrate our failures. This is a company where it’s absolutely okay to try something that’s very hard, have it not be successful, and take the learning from that.”
In my contribution to the (free!) ebook, Renew 52: 50+ Ideas to Revitalize Your Congregation from Leaders Under 50, I argued that a significant reason for Facebook’s success is constant, incremental change. Unlike MySpace, which didn’t change anything for a long time and then changed everything, wholesale, all at once, Facebook is changing stuff all the time.
– Facebook doesn’t take a vote about whether you want them to change something.
– Facebook makes a change, explains it, and then sits back and listens to reactions.
The church needs to behave more like this. Some will argue that these are for-profit companies and they are attempting to please their investors. But the changes I’m talking about affect the user — who get to use these platforms for free. They’re not looking to please consumers, they’re looking to better the user interface.
So the church can learn a couple things from companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook:
– When programs don’t work, euthanize them.
- Socialize your users so that they expect constant change.
With these two simple but profound changes, I think that many American mainline churches could reverse their impending demise.
Here’s the link to Tony’s post.