Recently, my daughter and I had the following exchange after she returned home from school one day:
Me: “How was your day?”
My daughter: “Okay.”
Me: “Did you have fun? Learn anything?”
My daughter: “No.”
After this thrilling dialogue, I thought to myself: Should I just go about my day? Accept her evasive answers and assume she was okay?
After some serious thought and prayer, I decided to sit down next to her and ask again, “How was your day? Really ok?” She finally answered, “I’m struggling with two classes…I have low air pressure in one of my tires…I’m overwhelmed by too much homework.”
Wow! With that, I realized that I sometimes quit far too early when asking questions. Too often, I’m good with the standard “okay” response because it’s so much easier. In that moment with my daughter though, it became evident that depth, clarity, and real solutions can only be found when I’m willing to dig deeper.
Working at Aspen Group, I’ve found the same rings true in construction projects. We recently participated in a two-day discovery retreat with one of our church clients. Together, we dug deep and asked myriad questions to uncover the issues that were creating a barrier to growth for this church, and we worked hard to explore potential solutions.
In the meeting, we experienced a wide range of emotions, many of which were totally unexpected. There was laughter. There were tears. There was everything in between. Our discovery meetings can be an exhausting process. Because we take intentional steps to cut through casual talk and patterned answers, every ounce of energy goes into digging down into the church’s past and discovering where it may be heading.
It’s not easy. In fact, this church said our discovery process was “scary and terrifying” for them because it revealed barriers that, if left unaddressed, would have become major roadblocks.
It was a difficult process for them. But hard is not always bad. And if a church wants to move forward with a new ministry plan or expansion, it must get to know itself—its own DNA—in order to achieve unity through the process.
In the end, the leaders of this church described it with words like: emerging, unified, budding, restated, cleansing, scared, spiritually reinventing, and finally, “God’s got this.” Descriptive phrases they discovered along the way.
Too often, I think we settle for the first and easiest answer. Digging in requires some real work and can lead to scary places. But think about it, can you really find out what someone is thinking, dreaming, or hoping for without thoughtful conversations? Is it feasible to think that we can truly discern needs through statistical analysis? Can a church say it should expand because attendance appears to be growing and seats are relatively full in one service?
After my daughter shared her frustrations and fears, we were able to have a real, meaningful conversation. I even got a hug afterwards—a parent’s dream! What response might you get from your church body if you put in the work to discover your story?
Bob Gray and Graham Richards, senior minister at Central Christian Church in Carmel, IN, will present “Discover Your Church’s Story” at this year’s Alignment Conference. Register today!