Stop Wasting Time by Prematurely Optimizing

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One of the reasons most church programs fail is because they prematurely optimize. In web design there is a saying that goes “Premature optimization is the root of all evil.” There are two levels of design. The first is making the site functional. That means you are making sure the site does everything it needs to do. If you want to sell products that means adding a store. If you want to capture emails that means adding a form. When you add something to a site, the other parts have to shift to make room for it.

Optimization is tweaking or redesigning the site so that it’s maximally effective. For example, when you take a site that is fully functional but gets only 5 sign ups for every 100 visitors, and redesign it so that you get 30 per 100, that is optimization.

Premature Optimization is when you try to optimize before making sure the site is doing everything it needs to do. Why is that a problem? It takes a lot of time and energy to optimize something. When you have to add a new function, a lot of that time and energy is wasted because everything has to shift. “Oh, we forgot to add an email capture to our home page. This site’s main purpose is to capture emails. Now we have to resign the home page. We can’t use the graphic we originally chose now, and that took twenty hours to make.”

This happens in the church when we want to launch a ministry. I have seen teams that were starting a seeker ministry take months working on the graphic design, and training volunteers. They delayed it several times just to get it right. When they launched, no one came.

So how can you tell if you are building to optimize or building for function?

The question that drives optimization is “How do we make this the best?” The question that drives functionality is, “How do we get this to work?”

Optimizing before launching a ministry is foolish. You don’t know if a ministry is doing what it’s supposed to be doing until you have run that ministry for a while. Over time you’ll discover gaps, and the solutions to those problems will become clearer over time. You optimize by implementing solutions to real world problems.

The best way to build a functional ministry is to plan is by asking, “What would it take to pull this off only once?” Allow yourself to think no farther.

For example, don’t think about how to launch a homeless ministry. That requires meetings, reading books, recruiting, training, calendaring, and a visit to the eldership board. Think, “What would it take to give away 10 blankets?” That takes ten minutes of planning, a trip to the thrift store, and an afternoon. While you are out, simply ask the homeless what their greatest needs are. Get ten more blankets and repeat the process for 4-5 more times. Always focus on just doing it once, nothing more. At the end you will have a better picture of what they really need if God is calling you to launch something.

If you are an apostolic leader, you need to master the art of doing it once. That way you can start any ministry God lays on your heart fairly quickly. It is by placing a temporary limit on your thinking that you will find the most successful ways to begin. Once you start, those with a calling to that area will begin to gravitate toward your efforts. Then when you find the person called to lead the ministry, you can mentor them and hand it off.

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