Get Buy-In With Experiments

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Often when I launch a new ministry I use the word “experiment” in the name.

The last class I taught as a pastor was called, “The Discipleship Experiment.” When you use the word experiment, people expect for there to be some things that don’t work out (and there always are). It seems to be the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down, and it primes people to be more adaptive.

When you call something a program people sometimes buy into the method rather than the vision. Let me explain. Let’s say you have a vision to see your church get financially free. So you try Crown Financial’s material, and create deeper discipleship using their methods. After going through the program once, you like the stuff, but decide that Financial Peace University has a model more suited to your church. You might have a hard time making the switch, because some people will inevitably fall in love with the old program’s methods. Those are easy concepts to separate for church leaders, but not so much for the congregation. It feels to them like you are giving up on the original vision, and they have been sold a bill of goods.

Calling something an experiment instead allows you to axe something with very little push back, because people will be expecting the methods to change. In the example above, I would say something like, “I have a vision to see financial freedom in our church. Let’s experiment with Crown’s material to see if it is right for us.” That way if things don’t work out I can say, “We tried it and the experiment didn’t work for us, but we are still going after our vision. Let’s try something else.”

Your people will be expecting you to make changes, and that buys you a lot of grace. Also, every improvement seems to be celebrated a bit more. I don’t know exactly why this is. It could be that the word “experiment” implies risk, and that entices people to root for you.

Lastly, experiments are easier sells to your staff and board. When a team has to pass a measure, it usually takes unanimity of approval. Why? Because a decision’s impact could last for several years and needs to reflect the DNA of everyone. However, the best ideas your church has will be killed if you have to wait for everyone to agree. So how can you move forward?

Suggest to the team that you be allowed to conduct a small experiment. When you call something an experiment it does several things. First, it keeps the team from fighting so much. Those who think it will work get a chance to try it out. Those who disagree can say they think it will fail in a week or two, but at least they will give it a chance. It just makes everyone more comfortable.

Which one would make you more likely to adopt an idea: “I want to start a new program,” or “I want to try an experiment for a few weeks, see if it works, and get your feedback?”

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