Getting past “A Mile Wide, and An Inch Deep”

To get 3 churches to be excellent together–we have to simplify just about everything.

So much church programming is a mile wide & an inch deep.

It comes from an understanding that the more choices, the more options you give people, the more entry options there are, the more likely people will come to, and join, your church.

Except, that understanding is wrong. The New York Times story on how too many choices actually reduces commitment or buying, is here.

It turns out that more choices don’t actually help– attract or keep people. For one thing, it makes a church lose focus– because newcomers can’t tell what’s really important.

Let’s see– yoga class, New U, adult discussion group, or a congregational meeting. I guess since they’re all getting equal space, they’re all equal.

No wonder newcomers are confused. And this is an epidemic among our churches. From the smallest fellowship to the largest churches– if you check their newsletter– so many programs, and not enough time.

And, when we’re spread too thin– excellence is unlikely. We have less coherence, we confuse newcomers, we won’t list a hierarchy of importance of what we do at church– we– frankly– fail to lead.

Larry Osborne, in his classic book, Sticky Church, says we can really only ask our people to go to two things for church.

If one of them is Sunday Worship, then what is that 2nd thing you want people to go to? (for us, it’s Growth Groups).

So, the general idea is to do fewer things, but go deeper. Needless to say, this frequently creates a political problem, which is one of the reasons it is so hard to implement,.

Our sermon series concentrates our programming. Sunday worksheets help us focus. And Growth Groups give the Sunday experience more depth.

What do you think about the idea of having 10 or fewer programs / ministries at your church?

And. While we’re at it– let’s not divorce the sanctuary service & religious education. Let’s make them the marriage they were meant to be.

Want to dig deeper into this concept? Check out this book.

4 thoughts on “Getting past “A Mile Wide, and An Inch Deep”

  1. Great post, Daniel. I really like the idea of our congregations getting onto the focus and excellence bus and off of the omnia omni-bus (all things to all people).

    I suspect that the destiny you point to and the road to get there may be, for some, unclear and potentially full of both real and imagined dangers. When I’ve mentioned such goals, I’ve heard concerns that what applies to other non-profits and businesses (as in the NYT article) doesn’t apply to churches. That undertaking such change would create an unacceptable level of anxiety and pain in the congregation.

    Might you have some success stories handy that show that the destination is indeed glorious and that the rewards in the end far outweigh the short-term pain and sacrifice?

    1. Well, I think I have an ’emerging’ success story, in terms of how we present information to newcomers. I’ll write about that in a future post. Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. So far at Thoreau, the Growth Groups have not taken off as quickly as I would wish. I agree that members, especially new members, should give priority to Growth Groups. It is a great way to bond with people on a deeper level. Having said that, I not sure that insisting that the people who presently meet periodically for book club would take kindly to banishing their book club with the plan that this would force more members to join Growth Groups.

    1. Yes, John, it’s more about where we shine the light than it is about getting rid of something that is meeting people’s needs 😉

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