Home Small Group Leaders Articles for Small Group Leaders Determining What to Do … and What Not to Do

Determining What to Do … and What Not to Do

How do you determine what to do … and what not to do?

How do you determine which next steps to include? And which to eliminate?

How do you determine which menu items to add? And which to remove?

I have used the term “the preferred future” to describe where we dream of arriving. The preferred future is what we dream our small group ministry looks like. It is what a small group leader or coach is becoming. It is what a disciple is becoming.

And in order to arrive anywhere you must choose the path carefully. Not every path leads to the preferred future. There may be more than one way to get there, but there are many that lead elsewhere.

In order to become anything you must choose your physical or mental regimen carefully. Not every activity or routine leads to the preferred future. There may be more than one way to get there, but there are many that lead elsewhere.

According to Michael Porter, the father of modern strategy, “the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”

If you’ve been in on very much of this conversation, you are probably becoming very familiar with this diagram. I use it for all kinds of discussions (you’ll see many of them right here), but we’ve rarely talked about choosing what not to do.

Choosing what not to do is very near the heart of identifying your preferred future. If you study the diagram for a moment, you’ll see that the preferred future is actually a subset of three areas:

• The Probable Future: I think of this as a way of describing the way things will be in your ministry or organization if nothing changes. You pick the timeline, five years, 10 years, 20 years, it doesn’t matter. The probable future is what things will look like if you’re doing the same things. See also, Start With the End in Mind.

• The Possible Future: This is actually all of the known or imagined possibilities for the future. For example, you might have a meeting where you brainstorm as many possibilities for connecting people as you can. See also, Where Do You Want to Go With Your Small Group Ministry?

• The Adjacent Possible: This section isn’t labeled in the diagram, but if you look closely in the preferred future section, you’ll notice that it includes some of what is actually beyond the possible future. See that? The white space. I think of the adjacent possible as the Ephesians 3:20-21 aspect of the preferred future. See also, Grouplife Agnostics and the Adjacent Possible.

Calling out the preferred future is really a three step process:

1. identifying the gold of what you are currently doing

2. imagining all of the possibilities beyond what you are currently doing

3. choosing what not to do trims out the extra that may very well be good but not great.

What do you think? Have a question? Want to argue? You can click here to jump into the conversation.  

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Mark Howell serves as Pastor of Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, NV. He founded SmallGroupResources.net, offering consulting and coaching services to help churches across North America launch, build and sustain healthy small group ministries. He spent four years on the consulting staff at Lifetogether and often contributes to ministry periodicals such as the Pastor's Ministry Toolbox and ChurchCentral.com.