The B-17 & the 8:15 Service

How do you design a better bomber, or a better church?

In WWII, allied airplane manufacturers used to send their design engineers to the runways to examine the wounded planes which limped back after action. Often a bomber would have a gapping hole in its wing or fuselage or even an entire section of its tail missing. The engineers would carefully note where each of these damages were, and then go back and design reinforcements for future aircraft. This is similar to the process that good church leaders use when evaluating programs and designing the church for change.


The counterintuitive trick, though, was that they did not reinforce where they had seen damage, but rather where the planes were untouched. The logic was that the all the planes they looked at were survivors, who in spite of their extensive damage, made it back because they had not been hit in a vital spot. One can assume that the planes that didn’t make it back were hit in other places. Those other places are what need reinforcement. By reinforcing where the surviving planes were untouched, the designers were taking into account the silent witness of those planes which didn’t make it back because they were mortally wounded. So the counter-intuitive rule was, “fix what you don’t see broken, because what you do see broken isn’t vital.


Innovative church leaders are always trying to fix what isn’t broken.


This past week, I heard a pastor invite his 8:15 congregation to stay after worship and give feedback on the service. The church leadership was trying to decide what needed done with this time-slot. The problem was, they were seeking input from those who already utilized the service. If they want to save new souls, they need to ask those who don’t attend. The people who are choose this service like its time, music, and casual feel. If they have any complaints, it will be about things that don’t prevent others from coming. Don’t poll the survivors, poll the lost.