This will never work," Bob said as he threw the leaders guide on
his desk. "Where's that author coming from? Mars? That'll never
work -- anywhere!"
At this very moment there are thousands of Bobs snorting about the
ministry resources they've received from various Christian
publishers. They're all convinced those writers' hairbrained ideas
will never work -- anywhere, any time, anyhow. The Bobs know their
people and they know their history. They've never done it that way
Sadly, the Bobs are right some of the time. Some well-intentioned
Christian writers sit at their desks or kitchen tables and dream up
lessons, Bible studies, and activities that sound really good-on
paper. They hope their readers will become willing test pilots of
their newborn creations. But the Bobs have learned that being
somebody's test pilot is a risky business.
TRIED, TRUE, AND TESTED
Here at Group Publishing, the creators of this magazine and
hundreds of ministry resources, we work with lots of writers. And
we're involved in our own local churches. We know how Bob feels.
It's frustrating, time-consuming, and risky to wade through
That's why we're passionate about field-testing the ministry
resources we produce at Group. We still need "guinea pigs," but we
make the trial runs before the resources are published, not after.
We can't speak for others, but at Group, we research, pretest, and
field-test our ministry concepts to make sure they work before Bob
ever sees them.
For example, consider Group's Vacation Bible School programs.
Every lesson, craft, snack, game, song, and activity is
meticulously tested and retested with real kids and real leaders.
The published versions of these ideas work. The guesswork is
The unique organizational structure of Group's VBS has also been
thoroughly tested and proven. For instance, we recommend using
multiage small groups. Once in a while we hear people say, "Mixing
first-graders with third-graders and fifth-graders is asking for
trouble. It'll never work." Well, it does work and has worked with
hundreds of thousands of kids. Those who've used the VBS as
directed have seen their children grow, learn, and retain the
biblical truths-without the usual discipline problems found in
closely graded classrooms.
Group's VBS also recommends allowing groups of children to prepare
the daily snacks. Occasionally people say, "That'll never work."
Well, again, this concept has been extensively tested and proven to
work marvelously. The kids do a fine job and their acts of service
become part of the learning.
Our Group Workcamps for youth offer another example of our
dedication to research and testing. The camp's programs and
activities receive repeated field-testing before the participants
ever arrive at the summer camps. This may be one of the reasons our
Group Workcamps ministry has grown to be the largest of its
kind-with more than 18,000 participants this summer alone.
In the area of adult education, Group's HomeBuilders Couples
Series® works effectively with hundreds of thousands of couples.
Some of the interactive experiences in these lessons may seem out
of the ordinary for some, but they work very well. From time to
time, some people say, "That would never work." But, again, their
worries are unfounded. Careful testing has already proven the
concepts and worked out the bugs.
We're thankful that thousands of church leaders have come to trust
the Group Publishing name, knowing that the guesswork has been
taken out of our resources. We often hear, "If it's from Group, I
know it'll work."
IN A RUT?
Do you have a Bob in your church?
Perhaps you've heard him say, "We're not going to do what's
written. I just know it'll never work." If so, you may have a
couple of problems.
First, if Bob throws out what has already proved successful, your
people may miss out on a good ministry outcome. And if Bob dreams
up his own substitution, your people will then become Bob's guinea
pigs for untested approaches.
Now we're not discouraging Bob or anyone else from adapting solid
resources to local circumstances. Good leaders often adapt for size
of group, room setting, or other limitations. Adapting is not the
same as throwing something out completely because "it'll never
Sometimes when Bob says, "It'll never work," he really means,
"I've never done it that way before." This suggests Bob's in a rut.
He's unwilling to try new approaches, even if they've been shown to
be more effective than his old ways. Bob's stuck. He's not growing.
And that diminishes your ministry.
If that's the case, it may be time to help your church become a
learning church -- one that's willing to look beyond the past,
consider new ideas, and embrace change. Be bold. Allow
the Holy Spirit to work within you-and Bob-to bring fresh winds of
ministry to our fast-changing world.
Thom Schultz is founder and president of Group Publishing,
Inc. Joani Schultz is chief creative officer.