We Need More Missional Experiments

From Seth Godin’s blog yesterday:

Seth Godin“Here’s what doesn’t work: hacking around and ignoring what doesn’t work.

“Here’s what also doesn’t work: doing your best with your work and then dismissing the elements that don’t work as experiments.

“The best experiments are experiments on purpose. They are done with rigor and intent. They are measured. They are designed to either fail or create an approach that can be scaled.

“Great experimenters measure their results. They probe. They fail on purpose. And when they find something that works, they hand the knowledge over to operators and executors who can scale their work.

“You don’t get to call it an experiment after it fails.”

Like a lot of what Seth Godin writes, I can immediately see applications of this to church work. Our measurements might be different, but measuring things is important.

But what about this notion of the experimenter not necessarily being the person should be the operator/executor, the one who scales things up? Sounds a lot like the wisdom that the church planter is not the person who can sustain and grow a new faith community over time.

And, if we agree that there is a great need for many more people forming new experimental missional communities, then let’s be intentional about that and call it that and get serious about that. Let’s stop calling all the things that don’t work “just an experiment” and start doing these things on purpose.

What do you think about Godin’s advice on experimentation and how it applies to missional community formation?

  • http://talesofunitycommunity.wordpress.com/ Rebecca Craver

    Just heard a story on NPR about Stuart Firestein’s book “Ignorance: How It Drives Science.” He talked about the value of ignorance in moving the scientific world to further discovery. He talked of the importance of good questions and the ways what scientists don’t know is the actual engine that leads them to “discover” and understand new things. He also talks about the misconception that science is all about answers. I think the church is in the same boat. We are “known” for our “answers but not for being groups of people with good questions. Jesus asked some pretty good questions…maybe we can try to live into that aspect of his person some and find the room for more experiments and learning.

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  • http://www.fteleaders.org Courtney Cowart

    This is exactly what we were experimenting with when we (at FTE) created the “E” in the C.A.R.E. practices: A framework for groups of church leaders to co-create prototypes of ideas – just enough of an experiment to see what in the idea works or doesn’t work. We’ve drawn on the design practices of IDEO in Silicon Valley whose creed is “fail often to succeed sooner.” There is something very exciting about applying these design practices to experiments in ministry. But there is also something pretty exciting about bringing our traditions’ wisdom to the creative process – which is that a deep dive through prayer, meditation, and dialogue with others – into listening for God’s still small voice as preparation for creating something new – produces pretty amazing outcomes. Who would have ever thought a few years back that science and religion could be in partnership and learning from each other in these ways? Amazing!


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