Six years ago, Eric Geiger and I wrote Simple Church. We were both surprised at the response to the book. It became one of the bestselling church ministry books ever. Indeed, Eric and I today talk about how unprepared we were for the reaction to our book, and wish we had done more to help churches implement our thesis.
Eric and I never expected to work together, but now we serve alongside each other on the executive team at LifeWay. One of our challenges is to make our complex organization simpler, so that those we serve can better understand how our resources will help them and their churches.
The Great Demand
The information age has ushered in information overload. Each new technological offering has the potential to add to our confusion with a plethora of new buttons and gadgets. A Google search begins as a simple act, but the choices for each search add to the complexity.
The world is crying out for simplicity, but most organizations are ignoring the cries. But those organizations that do get it, like Amazon or Google or Apple, will dominate markets and serve constituents well. It’s really hard to believe that Amazon did not exist before 1994; and Google did not exist before 1998. It seems like those behemoth companies have been around forever. They gave us simple and haven’t looked back.
The Dearth of Simple Leaders
Eric and I took the concept of simple and applied it to churches. But every organization needs leaders who can provide simplicity. The complex organizations of today are the dying organizations of tomorrow.
Let’s look at some keys to simple thinking for leaders. My list is not exhaustive, but it may prove to be a worthy starting point. I think it applies to pastors, CEOs, managers, and almost anyone else in a leadership position.
Five “Think” Starting Points
- Think “why?” Why does your organization do what it does? Can you communicate clearly in one or two sentences the purpose behind each of your activities? Have those processes or activities become ends instead of the means in which they were originally established?
- Think of the end user. Sometimes we lead our organizations to do things because we our comfortable with our processes, systems, or programs. But we need to get ourselves in the minds of the end users. How do they perceive those things we do? As one small example, I am constantly correcting our employees when they use one of our never-ending acronyms. That’s insider language. We need to think about the outsider.
- Think “no.” Simple leadership means you are willing to say no to many things. There are countless good things your organization can do. But good is the enemy of great. And complexity is the enemy of success. Do fewer things better.
- Think “simpler.” Constantly evaluate and re-evaluate everything your organization does. Those processes or programs that began simple may be moving toward complexity. Indeed, most anything left alone will naturally move toward greater complexity.
- Think outside the box. Sometimes moving to simple is as easy as tweaking existing processes. But other times the change needs to be radical. Think of new paradigms and new approaches. And be prepared for the naysayers on most leadership teams who will insist that change is not necessary.
The Simple Revolution
Not too long ago, we accepted complexity. We acquiesced to the car repair shop that kept our car for over a week. We sighed with surrender when we had to spend several weeks researching a topic as we delved through myriads of print volumes. And we even accepted the complexity of computers early in the technology revolution.
Simplicity is here to stay. Neglecting it will hurt or destroy your organization. Embracing it will bring you victories you never dreamed possible.
What is your organization doing that is complex and confusing? Is your organization too busy for its own good? What “good” can you eliminate so that you are focused on great?
The world is demanding simple leadership.
Posted on May 7, 2012
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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