In today’s world we’re bombarded with information overload. One author coined this problem infobesity (Pearrow, 2012) to describe this data overload. When we get too much data our thinking brain shuts down to new information. British psychologist Dr. David Lewis coined a term to describe what happens from infobesity as ‘Information Fatigue Syndrome.’ Symptoms include burnout, a compulsion to constantly check email or the web, poor concentration, hostility (Elwart, 2013), and anxiety caused by over stimulating our brain’s emotional centers. Sometimes churches can be guilty of infobesity. Is yours?
In 2012 this amount of information was produced every single minute and it grows each year (Elwart, 2013).
- 72 hours of video posts
- 347 blog posts
- 700,000 Facebook entries
- 30,000 tweets
- 2 million e-mails sent
- 12 million text messages
Unfortunately the church can be guilty of overloading people with information as well. What might indicate that your church is guilty of infobesity? Consider these 5 indicators.
- You pack your Sunday bulletin with so many inserts about activities that the inserts get dropped all over the floor after the service.
- Your announcements last longer than 3 minutes.
- Your announcements include more than 3 items.
- At your staff meetings you get dizzy thinking about all the stuff that “needs” to be communicated.
- You send out more than one weekly email to church members about church events.
So if you think your church is guilty, what can you do to address it?
- Clarify your church’s vision and don’t do stuff that doesn’t reinforce it.
- Learn to say no to marginal events and ministries.
- Prioritize what’s most important and make sure those priorities get priority communication.
- Align all your communication venues (announcements, bulletin, enews, other printed collateral) so that they all reinforce your priorities.
- Develop an annual calendar so you can see what events might compete with each other.
How have you dealt with infobesity in your church?
“I just learned how to deal with infobesity in my church.”(tweet this quote by clicking here).
Elwart, S. (2013) Information overload making your head explode? [Internet]. Available from: <http://www.wnd.com/2013/01/information-overload-making-your-head-explode/> [Accessed 24 April 2013].
Pearrow, M. (2012) Infobesity: Cognitive and Physical Impacts of Information Overcomsumption. Available from: <http://distworkshop.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/dist2012_submission_8.pdf>.
Familiarity blindness is a malady that infects us all. It happens when we become so familiar with something that we no longer consciously see it. In fact, the brain does this all the time so it doesn’t have to work as hard. If you drive to church or work the same route each time, you no longer pay attention to familiar buildings, signs, and other landmarks along the way. Although our eyes still see them, they’ve become so familiar that the brain doesn’t pay conscious attention to them. However, when something is out of place on your drive, a detour, for example, you immediately pay attention. Familiarity blindness is common in many churches today. In this post I give 7 ways to cure it.
Familiarity blindness afflicts many church ministries. We get accustomed to doing things a certain way, become so familiar with our surroundings, or slip into a ministry rut that we become oblivious to their staleness or their need for change. It happens in marriage as well. We can become so familiar with our spouses that we can take then for granted and not treat them as kindly as we once did.
Jesus described this phenomenon in his response to people who knew Mary and Joseph and couldn’t believe that He was a carpenter’s son. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” (Luke 4.24, NIV) Those from His hometown had become so familiar with Him that they missed seeing Him as the Messiah.
Since this problem easily carries into our ministries, how can we cure it? Consider these ideas.
- Invite someone with fresh eyes to visit your church service. Perhaps a fellow pastor, a consultant, or a neighbor. Afterwards ask them to give you honest feedback about their experience, both good and bad.
- Evaluate the order in which you present the various parts of your worship service. Do you do the same thing in the same order each week? Could someone who has gone to your church for a while tell you the order without even thinking about it? If so, you may want to consider changing up the order. Surprise and novelty helps people pay better attention.
- Go and visit another church. What do you experience that feels disconcerting, unclear, or unnecessary? Do you see similar barriers in your own church? Go back to your church with the same evaluative eyes and make necessary changes.
- Spend time with new people in your church. Ask them what they liked. Ask them what they would change. Ask them to be honest. Pay attention to what you learn. Build on the good. Modify the not-so-good.
- Evaluate your annual church calendar. Does your church or its ministries do the exact same events and ministries year after year? Certainly repeating events that work is good. But, do you do some events just because you’ve always done them? Do they have the same spiritual impact they once did? Do you need to drop or modify them?
- Does your leadership culture invite honest feedback and evaluation about your ministry? Do you regularly evaluate ministry initiatives and events? Or, is the planning process over when the event is over? Learning cultures will ruthlessly evaluate what they do so they can do better next time.
- Pray. Though last in this list it is not least. Ask the Lord to show you what you’ve become blind to.
What would you add to this list to help cure familiarity blindness in a church?
“I just learned 7 helpful ways to cure familiarity blindness in my church.” (to tweet this quote click here)
Every year I attend the Willow Creek Leadership Summit at a local video venue with over 50 of our leaders. This year did not disappoint. It was probably the best Summit for my team and me. In this post I list the top 13 quotes from the speakers. If you’ve not been to a Summit, make plans to attend one. It’s a great investment in leaders.
Top GLS quotes:
- The next generation’s good ideas seldom come from the previous generation.
- Replace ‘how’ with ‘wow.’ (He’s referring to encouraging people with their ideas rather than discouraging them with, “So how in the world could we do that?”)
- My greatest contribution to the world may not be what I do but who I raise.
Lazlo Bock, senior advisor Google:
Juliet Funt, CEO Whitespace at Work:
- We all need white spaces which are strategic pauses between activities
- The four thieves of productivity are drive that leads to compulsion, excellence that leads to perfection, information overload, and activity that leads to frenzy.
- 4 crucial whitespace simplification questions:
- Is there anything I can let go of?
- Where is good enough, good enough?
- What do I truly need to know?
- What deserves my attention?
Markus Buckingham, author and consultant:
- The two biggest areas that motivate employees:
- At work I know what is expected of me.
- At work I have a chance to use my strengths.
Sam Adeyemi, senior pastor Daystar Christian Center, Nigeria
- Great leaders change other people’s view of themselves.
- Leaders don’t attract people they want but people like them.
Angela Duckworth, author of GRIT
- The Definition of GRIT: sustained passion and perseverance for long-term goals.
- Two key indicators you have grit: you are a hard worker and you finish what you begin.
Gary Haugen, CEO International Justice Mission
- Be careful of being more impressed with bad men that our good God. (He’s referring to the temptation to get caught up in all the bad things happening around us while forgetting that God is bigger.)
If you went to the summit, what were your biggest take-aways?
Ministry initiatives in the church often fail. A simple planning tool called the pre-mortem, however, can minimize ministry failure. In my last post I suggested 7 good reasons to conduct the pre-mortem, a tool credited to Dr. Gary Klein. A pre-mortem is an exercise that assumes your plan spectacularly fails and considers beforehand what might go wrong. It helps teams plan ahead to avoid potential pitfalls. In this post I explain how to do a pre-mortem.
To get started, you’ll want to schedule a pre-mortem session with your team and include these steps when you convene them.
- Brief your team about the proposed plan.
- Describe the imaginary failure in colorful terms. Imagine it as a spectacular fiasco.
- Ask your team to write down everything they believe could have possibly gone wrong.
After these steps, consider these questions.
- What did you miss that contributed to the failure?
- What went wrong as you implemented your imaginary plan?
- Who messed up and why?
- Had you known these pitfalls, what would you have done differently?
- After completing your pre-mortem session, what do you need to change about your proposed plan to avoid potential failure?
- Who needs to know these changes?
Here’s a helpful guide that describes in more detail how to do a pre-mortem.
Have you ever conducted a pre-mortem? If so, what additional questions would you include?
“I just learned how to conduct a ministry plan pre-mortem to help avoid failure.” (tweet this quote by clicking here)
Brainstorming sessions have become standard fare for ministry teams that seek solutions to problems. The two key rules are to generate as many ideas as possible and don’t criticize the ideas. These concepts came from Alex Osborne’s book Your Creative Power published in 1948. Since then it’s been common practice to avoid criticizing the ideas in brainstorming sessions. The underlying assumption was that people won’t speak up if they fear criticism. There’s only problem with this kind of brainstorming is this: it simply doesn’t work. In this post I explain why it doesn’t and give 5 ways to make brainstorming more creative.
Multiple studies have shown that groups who use standard brainstorming rules generate less ideas than do individuals (Lehrer, 2012). In other words, when posed with the same problem, individuals consistently generate more possible solutions to a problem than do groups. When I learned this I was shocked because I’ve always applied these two basic rules in brainstorming sessions with my teams.
So based on the latest research, I’ve listed below 5 ways we stifle creativity and the antidote to each.
- Stiflling…Discourage dissent. Don’t allow anyone to debate or criticize an idea in a brainstorming session.
- Antidote: encourage friendly debate and healthy criticism. Set up rules beforehand, though, such as don’t personally attack people, clarify before criticizing, use phrases like I have a different view, etc.
- Stiflling…Make the group an all boys club.
- Antidote: include women because they, in general, have greater empathy skills and emotional intelligence and can offer unique perspectives.
- Stiflling…Only includes your BFF’s (best friends forever).
- Antidote: include in your brainstorming team both people with longstanding relationships and newbies. One study found that the creative teams behind the most successful Broadway musicals included people who had known each other a long time and newbies (Ellenberg, 2012).
- Stiflling…If you are the leader, telegraph your views at the beginning of your brainstorming session.
- Antidote: if you’re leading the session, be as neutral as possible or you may hinder some people from sharing a good idea because it may conflict with yours. And, most people don’t like to disagree with their leader.
- Stiflling…Make the brainstorming session a serious, linear, logical experience.
- Antidote: make the session fun, out of the box, and as rule free as possible. Encourage individual idea generation, counter intuitive ideas, and mind wandering. Mind wandering often produces some of our greatest insights (Christoff et al., 2009).
What have you discovered that encourages creativity in your team in brainstorming sessions?
Christoff, K., Gordon, A.M., Smallwood, J., Smith, R. & Schooler, J.W. (2009) Experience sampling during fMRI reveals default network and executive system contributions to mind wandering. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106 (21), pp.8719-8724.
Ellenberg, J. (2012) Six Degrees of Innovation. Slate. Available from: [Accessed 9 May 2013].
Lehrer, J. (2012) Groupthink. The New Yorker. Available from: [Accessed 25 February 2013].