Seth Godin offers three pointers on making a small business succeed his blog. Looking them over, I think apply equally well to small church success:
Small business success
Three things you need:
1) the ability to abandon a plan when it doesn’t work,
2) the confidence to do the right thing even when it costs you money in the short run, and
3) enough belief in other people that you don’t try to do everything yourself.
Quick thoughts on how each of these points can apply to churches:
1) Knowing when to abandon a plan: I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, and I feel that part of knowing when to abandon plans that don’t work is having good data so that you can have some objectivity when judging a plan. Two examples: (a) A year and a half ago, we changed our advertising plan, cutting our ads in the big daily newspaper from weekly to every other week, and putting more resources into smaller weekly papers and shoppers, and the Web. Lots of complaints about the reduced number of ads from current members, but we noticed that the number of visitors doubled, so instead of abandoning our new plan we stayed the course — because we could prove that we were getting results. (b) We have an explicit goal of increasing worship attendance, and so we began to tweak our Sunday morning worship service to make it more celebratory and more fun. The worship service felt pretty good but attendance numbers didn’t budge, so we knew that we had to tweak some more. Then suddenly beginning last May we started to see our numbers rising by 20-30% — now maybe we’re headed in the right direction.
2) Do the right thing in spite of short-term cost: From my experience, I’d say the biggest example of this point in churches is — deferred maintenance. Any examples from your experience?
3) Believe in others so you don’t do everything:Given the rate of volunteer burnout in small churches, this last point may be a bigger problem than I had thought. Could it be that part of the reason small churches don’t grow is that we don’t put enough trust in potential new leaders? I’ll have to think about that….
Thanks to Carol for pointing out the Seth Godin post.