by Bryan Rose
We’re all familiar with the classic definition of insanity:
Doing the same thing over again, yet expecting different results.
In the church world, this type of insanity (let’s call it “Type 1 Church Insanity”) certainly exists. We program the same ministry calendars, maybe with a little more ministry budget, and hope things will improve next year. It’s easy to shift into maintenance mode and unintentionally fuel this “Type 1 Church Insanity.” What’s harder is to recognize three distinct variants that have emerged over the last three decades.
First, Type 2 Church Insanity: “Doing what someone else is doing and expecting their results.” While best practices and peer conversations are important, it’s likely that that ministry context is far different from yours. One may only look through a lens of location, demographics, or conviction to see that what works for their church likely won’t produce the same result for yours. Getting past podcast personas and author expertise takes a ruthless self-awareness of your unique ministry context.
Additionally, Type 3 Church Insanity exists: “Doing what we’ve always done, just with a new logo and expecting different results.” Refreshing your external marketing and internal furnishing will always be a worthwhile effort. However, changing outward appearances without changing (think stopping or starting things) inward practices will only produce short-term benefits, if any. Slow down and peel the onion a layer deeper to look thoughtfully at your church culture.
Finally, Type 4 Church Insanity sprung out of the global pandemic of 2020. This variant looks like “Doing what we did 10 years ago and expecting the results we got 20 years ago.” The world and our culture have changed, but many of our programs for engaging people and methods for discipling people have not. It seems the farther back we reach, the fewer results we see.
As every pastoral leader begins to shift their thinking from 2023 (as most of the questions about this year are no longer pressing), it’s important to insanity-proof your thinking for 2024. We cannot repeat the assumptions and actions of this year with an expectation of impact in the next. Here are 10 questions to “insanity-proof” your new year:
- What should we have stopped doing in 2019 that we are still doing 5 years later?
- How are our leaders measuring the effectiveness of worship services and bible studies?
- How will we ensure these measurements are an accurate gauge of disciple-making maturity?
- How would someone looking for belonging at my church quickly and naturally find a place to be known?
- What would I stop doing next week if I knew nobody would get mad and leave the church?
- Is there someone on the team for whom I am making excuses related to performance or personality?
- Why haven’t I developed or released this person yet?
- If we could picture a huge “Celebration Sunday” in December 2024, what one thing would we be thankfully praising God for?
- What’s the first action to take in January 2024 that will move us toward this celebration moment?
- How are we consistently challenging our congregation to grow and impact those who are far from Christ but close to them?
It’s easy to slip into well-trod paths of practice and program that produce feelings of movement yet mask stagnation. Before heading into another year with another set of unmeetable expectations, consider these critical actions for 2024:
- Pray 5 minutes more each day for wisdom.
- Read 2 of Paul’s letters to the early church.
- Ask 1 person to take a step of courage with you to lead toward His better future.
The team at Auxano stands ready to resource, serve, and cheer you on in 2024! If a conversation would help get you moving with fresh fire, you can start one here.