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Good Ideas Don’t Last Forever

I am willing to believe that every component of your church began with a good idea. Each program and system was created to meet a need in a way that was relevant to its context at that given time. I am a little hesitant, however, to believe that each of those ideas is still just as good today. Good ideas don’t last forever in a quickly changing world. And whether we have noticed it or not, many of us are executing plans that are well beyond their expiration date.

As the shelf life of ideas becomes shorter and shorter, an occasional assessment of programs and systems is valuable for any church, regardless of its age. The following three questions provide a basic “sniff test” to help determine if each once-good idea is still the best solution for today.

1. Why was this a good idea?

Good ideas were developed to meet a specific need within a specific context.  Identifying both can explain the reasoning behind even the strangest of programs and systems. Rather than making quick judgments without full understanding, take the time to investigate the beginnings of ideas. Find out why that one discipleship class was scheduled at a different time than all the rest. Ask why the website was organized the way it is. Research and discover the reasons why an idea developed.

2.  Do all the reasons still exist?

Sometimes the need for an idea no longer exists. Other times, the context has changed and the idea is no longer relevant, leaving the need to remain unmet. To spot the ideas that have expired from the ones that are still fresh, compare the reasons behind their development to the needs and context in which they presently reside. Does each past idea still fit in the present?

3.  What adjustments must be made?

Once an expired idea is identified, one of three options should be pursued:  elimination, replacement, or adjustment. If the program or system is no longer needed, it should carefully be eliminated. If the need does remain but the context has changed, consider replacing or adjusting the method. Adjustments may look like changes in time and location to meet busier schedules, rebranding to engage your current demographic, the integration of technology to simplify a process, or another of many possible changes.

Good ideas don’t last forever. But good organizations can withstand time by regularly evaluating the relevance of their methods. What do these three questions reveal about your current worship service, discipleship program, connection system, and other ministry components? What do they say about the future of paper bulletins, physical offering plates, and in-person classes?  All of these were good ideas at the time of their beginning. It is up to you to determine if they continue to meet the needs of your community within its ever-changing context.  

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Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.