Sometimes when I’m away from the house all day, I’ll come through the door and think, “Boy, does that cat stink.” The problem isn’t with the cat. The problem is with me needing to change the litter box. Yet if I’m home all day, I don’t notice it. What is it about going away that makes the cat’s box stink more. No matter how bad something is, we get used to it if we live with it. Things can be pretty bad in a local church, and often are, and the regular attenders won’t notice.
In the church, people who can look at a familiar situation with new eyes are a God-sent gift. Any committee that is involved with bringing about change in the church, needs to have a few people put on it just because they are new to the congregation. This rule applies to the church council -- nothing new ever happens in churches that don’t have at least one person on the board who has recently become a member. This also applies to the committee that oversees pastor and staff relationships. Things can stink pretty badly in the church office, but nobody will change the proverbial cat’s litter unless they come in from the outside. This is especially true of the groups that are charged with setting vision or goal-setting for the church.
Twenty percent of any visioning group needs to be composed of people who have just started coming to the church in last eighteen months. If we don’t take intentional steps to listen to those with a different perspective, we will find ourselves reinforcing our misconceptions.
Good church leadership involves stepping back from time to time and asking, “If I was an outsider here, what would I see?” We may assume that what we experienced week after week is normal, when in fact it is dangerously unhealthy.
When we set goal or strategic plans, our first objective is not to fill a sheet of paper with good ideas. Instead, we should quietly discern God’s grace and purpose. God often uses those whom we have not listened to in the past to provide us with new understandings about our current reality and future objectives.