What is one of the most dangerous things you can do in ministry?
An assumption is taking something for granted. It’s supposing something to be a fact.
Why? Because many of our assumptions are wrong.
I was having lunch recently with my friend Perry Noble, pastor of NewSpring Church. He shared how he and his staff worked through some of their assumptions and came to realize they were making three huge ones – and each was wrong.
First, they were assuming that people were going to show. This meant that they were assuming that once people became part of the church family, they would show up every week.
In reality, a frequent attender probably averages twice a month, if that.
Second, they were assuming that people were going to know. This meant that they were assuming that people who attended the church knew the church’s basic vision, mission and values.
They often don’t.
Third, they were assuming that people were going to grow. This meant that they were assuming that people were going to take the message and use it as a springboard to pursue personal development and increased intimacy with Christ on their own.
Most stopped thinking about the message by the time Sunday lunch was over and they had settled in for the kick-off of the football game.
Perry and his team are smart, and as a result, developed strategies and processes, next steps and bridges, to help people really show, know and grow - as opposed to believing the assumption that they were just going to do it on their own.
What are you assuming? Here are a few to consider:
*your members and attenders are actually inviting their friends and family to attend
*your weekend service would engage an unchurched person
*people will take “next steps” based on making that step known through an announcement
*most people are comfortable joining a small group
*the most effective means of worship is singing, and people want to sing for long periods of time
*the people listening to you believe in the Bible’s accuracy on the principles it teaches
*an hour on Sunday, by itself, transforms the other 167 hours of the week
*that most people who say that they are Christians actually are Christians
These are just a few of the assumptions made by thousands of leaders. Just my two-cents, but I would argue that for the typical church, and for the typical person, each one is false.
And you will be a wiser leader, and build a healthier church, if you own that they’re false, too. Then you’ll roll up your sleeves and do what’s needed in leading, developing and teaching for each assumption to be a safe one.
James Emery White
For a more fulsome list of “assumptions,” specifically related to church growth, see chapter 14 in What They Didn’t Teach You In Seminary (Baker, 2011).
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About Dr. James Emery White
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Serious Times, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture (www.serioustimes.org); and ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture on the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. White holds the B.S., M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees, along with additional work at Vanderbilt University and Oxford University. He is the author of over a dozen books.
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