Ever since I read Freakonomics [Revised and Expanded]: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything I have been a fan of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. I listen to their Freakonomics podcast when I'm traveling, and I just finished their book Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain. What I enjoy about what they do is that they challenge the way we often think about common occurrences and they encourage us to think about things we probably would not think about. After all, any book with a chapter title of "What Do King Solomon and David Lee Roth Have in Common?" is probably asking you to think about something you've never considered!
In Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain they explain how Takeru Kobayashi was able to not only win the hot dog eating championship at Coney Island but to blast the previous record. The record at that time was 25 1/8 hot dogs and buns; Kobayashi ate 50! He merely changed the way he thought about how to eat the hot dogs. He asked different questions which gave him a different approach to the contest. You'll have to read the book to find out more.
Too many churches are still approaching today's challenges with yesterday's thinking. We think we know the answer because those answers worked once upon a time. We try harder. We cast blame. Finally, we give up and congratulate ourselves for being the faithful remnant.
Maybe we need to ask different questions. Instead of asking why fewer people attend church today perhaps we should be asking what barriers have we created that make it hard for people to attend worship services. Rather than complaining about the decline in giving we should ask how can we help people better manage their money so they would be in a position to give more. Maybe we need to stop trying to figure out a way to make an old program work better and admit that it may be time to discard that program for a new ministry.
By the way, there's a chapter in the book on that as well. It's called "The Upside of Quitting." One section of that chapter is "You cannot solve tomorrow's problem if you won't abandon today's dud." I think this chapter, and the whole book, should be required reading for church leaders.
As you prepare your church for 2016 what questions should you be asking? Make sure they are the right questions that will lead you to answers that will make a difference in the lives of those you serve.