One of the beliefs my organization is promoting these days is this…
We must humbly and deliberately evaluate our tools, methods and schools in light of the results we desire.
This is truly important! Without evaluation we get stuck in old ways of doing things and patterns of behavior that don’t lead to fruit. We need to evaluate all that we do and make it a priority to take the time to regularly do this. We must be willing to look at what we do and then willing to change if what we are doing isn’t working!
At the same time, we need to be careful not to change what we do too often or we lose the momentum that comes from repetition and consistency of approach. In the midst of evaluating, we must avoid the temptation to constantly change and tweak what we do. Doing this becomes confusing, especially for the grassroots people we are training.
When we have many different versions of a tool that are all slightly different, people can easily go back to their default of more traditional methods and tools because those are less confusing to them.
We need to balance evaluation and tweaking, with having consistent, clearly explained, and repeatedly used tools and methods. Sometimes the benefit of having the same tool is higher than the benefit of having a slightly better tool. Familiarity helps reduce stress. Constantly introducing new tools or remaking the tools we have causes stress and wastes a lot of valuable time when we have to retrain people we have already trained in one skill or with one tool. Having consistency also helps a lot when we are using various different trainers to train or when we are having people advance from one level to another.
One of the biggest keys I have found to moving things steadily forward toward movements and growth has been to keep the message and method clear, consistent and simple. Some years ago in our organization, we tried an options based approach. We had lots of options we offered people. Westerners and people who are highly educated appreciate and enjoy this. It affirms their freedom, individuality and ability to choose. It was an approach where we said, for example, “Here are 5 different ways you can present the gospel. Choose the one that is best for you and your context.” This works well for Westerners and well educated people who have a more individualist world view. They like it even better when we say, “create your own approach. You know your situation and context best.”
Experience has taught me that this options based, create your own approach simply doesn’t work well with grassroots indigenous people. In fact, it significantly hinders multiplication. It is much more fruitful to simply give only one option (even if it isn’t the absolutely best one that could ever be created). Then, train them how to use that particular approach or skill and use it well. Repeat, repeat, repeat until they can do it in their sleep…until it becomes natural for them and they can train others. This builds confidence, capacity and results in reproducibility. It reduces confusion and the energy drain that it takes to “choose” or “create.” It enables grassroots people and very new believers to immediately become effective and empowered.
Some people have wondered why I don’t welcome lots of outside speakers or cpm/dmm programs that bring similar principles but teach them in slightly different ways. Some people have even gotten quite angry with me about not welcoming them to come and teach or bring their program. Its not that I haven’t tried this. I have. I have found, however, that these slightly different and new approaches that are not in sync and consistent with the things we are already training people in…they are just not that effective. It’s not because they aren’t good methods or trainings. Its just that consistency, simplicity, and only training people in one main method with the same tools over and over builds the momentum that yields much more fruit.
We also have to be careful not to say something doesn’t work just because it didn’t work once in one context. Sometimes it just needs more repetition and more momentum to take off. It was like that with T4T for us. We find that people need to be trained in it, the same way, three times, before it really sinks in and they “get it.” But, repetition wins the game. And once they get it…wow! The fruit is quite amazing.
This creates a bit of a quandry and a dynamic tension. We need to evaluate regularly, faithfully and I would even say ruthlessly. We can’t have any “holy cows” in our methods, tools, etc. We can’t afford to be so loyal or committed to something that we won’t change it even though its not effectively yielding fruit. At the same time, let’s be careful about how (and how often) we evaluate and tweak so we keep a consistent and clear approach that is easily reproduced and isn’t confusing for grassroots people. They are the ones who will really cause the rapid multiplication we desire.