It’s not a stretch to figure out why people aren’t coming to church anymore.
Many are quick to blame the depressed economy / increasing access to technology / the culture of death / consumerism / materialism / relativism or just about any other rationalism they can come up with. But the bottom-line is pretty basic… although a bit painful: We’re just not offering a quality product anymore.
There are a whole lot of other easier / funner / more entertaining / make-you-feel-good options out there on a weekend than plopping your butt in a pew and listening to the recycled homily that sounds the same ever since you can remember. I get why that is… priests are busy and stressed and plain tired.
Go BIG… or go home.
That’s why we need to stop believing that incremental change is the solution… that a little tweaking here and there is going to produce better results. It isn’t. We need to get used to the idea that we’re going to have to do something radically different… or there will be fewer and fewer people coming at all.
John Kotter is a business-professor-guru at Harvard Business School… and Ron Heifetz is a leadership-genius at Harvard University… both world-renowned for their books on creating lasting change. It’s a simple concept… read on:
Technical Change: I go to the doctor because I have an earache. The doctor says, “Yep, you’ve got a good infection going on in there. Let me give you a prescription for antibiotic drops and that should clear it right up.”
Technical/Adaptive Change: I go to the doctor because I’m not feeling well. The doctor says, “Oh no… your blood pressure is sky-high, your cholesterol is way over the limit and you’ve got to start exercising! You’re going to have to make some lifestyle changes. Here’s some prescriptions. Come back in a month.” I’ve got some technical change to do (take medicine) and also some adaptive changes to make (diet and exercise).
Adaptive Change: I go to the doctor because I know something is really wrong. The doctor says, “I’m so sorry… you have cancer. There’s nothing we can do. Get your affairs in order and start saying goodbye to the people you love.” My whole life has turned upside-down… but you know what? You’ve definitely got my attention now.
The time is gone for incremental change in church.
The whole church experience is mediocre at best these days. Unless it becomes REMARKABLE …something to remark about… it won’t be long before average attendance drops to 15% or lower. (Today we’re at 22% and falling.)
We will never get to remarkable with incremental or technical change.
We need some profound, sweeping, adaptive change in the way we “do church.” Plain and simple. This will require new models of leadership. Creative ways to reach people without making them always come to the church building. Engaging, vibrant, entertaining (yes! entertaining) liturgies. Ministry opportunities that are relevant to people who live in this post-modern world. And it most definitely will involve technology.
Why should a priest even worry about creating adaptive change? Let me ask you… Are you satisfied with the results you’re getting?
If I were CEO of a major corporation and 3/4 of my customers stopped buying from me, I would want to know why.