When I was an executive pastor we needed to design a spiritual gift discovery course. We spent staff meeting after staff meeting, for months on end, discussing the details. Everyone had a different opinion. At the end of one meeting I thought to myself, “I would rather be hit in the head with a hammer than go through this again.”
So, I went home and took four hours, wrote what I thought the ideal course would be, and brought it with me to the next meeting. The team read it and gave me twenty minutes worth of comments. We were done.
That day I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my life when it comes to productivity in the church. It’s hard for people to work together on problems they can’t see. You can’t tell if another person is on the same page because you can’t read their mind. The secret is to make the solution to a problem visible by building a prototype. It’s a rough, first try of you idea. It’s not perfect but it doesn’t have to be. Why do it? You will be able to see what is in each person’s mind because it will be sitting right in front of them.
Secondly, when you build a prototype you begin to discover what the real problems are. Before you start a project, some of the things that you think are really simple could turn out to be huge obstacles. You’ll never know it until you begin. Also, some things that look really hard on the front end turn out not to be. There is no way to know which is which until you start.
Building a prototype is especially effective when you want to change a church’s culture. I was in a church where people were afraid of the supernatural. Our team preached on it, but no one’s opinion really changed. So I built a small group, gathered the hungry and started doing the stuff. It was a prototype of what I thought the entire church should be like. I would bring one or two of the skeptics to the group and they would leave changed. Over time, the DNA of what I started began to spread through the entire church.
You don’t change bad culture to good culture by pointing out what is wrong and “proposing” that people do it your way. You change it by creating good culture, and inviting people to come and see. The seed for cultural change is planted when you build a prototype.