Figuring Out What Ideas Fit

Sam Rainer

December 4, 2009

One of the blessings of leading a church is equipping the saints and watching God work through them. One of the challenges of leading a church is knowing when to redirect a passionate church member’s ideas. Some ideas are easy to recognize as flops—like the time I heard from someone who wanted to buy a multi-million dollar golf course for sports ministry. It just wasn’t for us.

Most of the time, however, discernment is more difficult when passionate church members have bold and grand plans for a new ministry. No church can do everything—and the best do a few things well—which means leaders must say “no” a lot. After re-reading Jim Collin’s seminal work, Good to Great (for the third time), I’m even more sold on his Hedgehog Concept. It’s one of the best filters to help leaders figure out what ideas fit.

Collins based his Hedgehog Concept on Isaiah Berlin’s essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox.” The basic thrust of the work is that the world is divided into two broad categories: hedgehogs and foxes. Foxes pursue many complex things at the same time, while hedgehogs do one big, simple thing.

How do you determine what your one big, simple thing is? Collins offers a three-part filter: what are you passionate about? What can you be the best in the world at? What drives your economic engine? When all three intersect, that’s when you’ve got a Hedgehog Concept.

Collins’ book was about corporations. My father shaped the same concept for churches in his book, Breakout Churches. He called it the VIP—Vision Intersection Profile. His three-part filter included these questions: What are the passion and gifts of the congregation? What’s the driving vision of the leaders of the church? And what are the community needs?

I recently shaped the concept again for my staff (all good ideas are borrowed from somewhere, right?). I challenged them to use the below filter for placing people in ministry positions or moving forward with a ministry plan.

It’s a simple idea. It’s not perfect, nor is it novel. But it’s something I often forget because I can easily get swept into passionate ideas. And passion is critically important, but it’s only one component of figuring out what ideas fit.

3 comments on “Figuring Out What Ideas Fit”

  1. Wally Johns says:

    Knowing when to redirect a passionate church member’s ideas can be challenging, but knowing how to redirect them can be equally imposing. The very presence of passion in the person for a possible new ministry is a pastor’s first sign to “handle with care.” In fact, God may use just such a person to help a pastor think outside his own box of “how to’s.” A genuine appreciation (or lack of) for the church member’s passion can be easily recognized by them, and can open the door for coming along side them to help them revise their vision to something more like what the church is called to do.

    Gaining a strategic view for an individual church’s work is also an interesting challenge. The concept in “Breakout Churches” reminds me of a similar idea in “Kingdom Principles for Church Growth” by Gene Mims. He suggests one of the first steps in learning God’s direction for a particular church is to discover the “spiritual giftedness of its members. We know God gives gifts as He chooses, and we believe He brings servants to a specific location for ministry. Therefore, the gifts we have in our church should direct us straight to God’s plan for ministry.

    With giftedness in mind, the church can then begin to formulate its “strategic priorities.” Mims says, “This step… is the heart of the strategic planning process” and “Guides the church in determining which area of its work will receive top priority. Once the priorities are established the church can determine the actions to take with regards to the five functions of the church: evangelism, discipleship, ministry, fellowship, and worship.

    Additionally, God’s provision can be seen as the tithes and offerings a church receives. Though the amount may vary from week to week, it should still be seen as what God expects the church to work with (parable of the talents). By working through a strategic planning process before designing a budget or establishing a calendar of events, the church can be more precise in applying available resources to carry out the work God has called it to do.

  2. Sam Rainer says:

    Great stuff Wally! I connect with your comments about passion. Pastors should certainly consider passionate members–you never know how God will work. I know I’ve “revised” my vision a couple of times because of the people God sent.

  3. Sam, I feel guilty!!! I’m the member who is passionate about starting new things! As a matter of fact, God has recently directed me to ASK the ministers what they NEED instead of creating something I want! I think it is going to work out very well!

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