As you peruse Facebook, you’re bound to see the list challenges that appear with titles like, “Top 50 Books Everyone Should Read, How Many Have You Read?” Or, “The Bucket List Challenge, How Many of the Activities Have You Completed?” While it’s not popped up on my feed, I can imagine the list of items on the church challenge list.

  • Handed out last week’s bulletins for worship
  • Led a mission project with fewer volunteers than it required
  • Crashed the church van
  • Left the microphone on while in the restroom
  • Prayed with the wrong person in the hospital
  • Had an infant spit up on my stoles
  • Angered an entire committee during my first week
  • Called a church member by the wrong name

This list of challenges that you may face in the church is endless. The truth is that your church is either resolving a challenge or creating one. With God at work in your church, it’s a constant ebb and flow of challenges in the life of the church. While many of us face the next challenge with anxiety, we should be anticipating the next challenge with joy.

To do so, let’s consider the approach that is taken. Often, we take the next good idea from the top of the stack on our desk and move to implementing that latest and greatest idea. Sometimes, this will work for a season, but it rarely addresses the underlying problems. You may hear that new visitors don’t return to your church because they went unnoticed during their visit. Rather than reviewing how they are greeted or welcomed, the church might move straight to develop a new member class that build connections with church staff and leaders. While that might provide great value, it still has not addressed how visitors are greeted, welcomed, contacted, and followed-up with after their first day at the church.  The good idea is… well… good, but it’s really the third step in addressing a challenge.

There are three crucial steps every church should take when addressing the challenges, the church is facing.

  1. Assess – Take time to ask questions and listen to responses. As James suggests, we move quickly to listening to those who are impacted by the challenges in the church. We listen for what they love about the church and why this challenge is frustrating to them. It’s in this stage that we truly discover the root of problem we face. Like a doctor would suggest, if your hip hurts the problem may lie in your hip, knee, or ankle.
  2. Blueprint – Using all that you have learned while assessing (listening) the ministry or challenge area, it’s time to draft a new blueprint for the ministry area. You’re building a new plan to achieve new results and speak joy into the ministry. It’s in this phase that new plans are created, new ideas explored, and imagining what it might look like if we moved the ministry in this direction.
  3. Implement – It’s now time to put the next good idea in place. However, only the ideas that help to achieve the new results we desire should be included. If it won’t provide the new results that we want to produce, keep it in your “good idea” stack for another time and focus your energy on the blueprint that’s been designed to achieve those new outcomes from the ministry.

It’s tempting to jump straight to designing a new blueprint or even implementing new ideas without first address the underlying problem. However, it’s unlikely to build the momentum you deeply want to see. Take time to listen to your church, before moving into action.

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