Are you involved in church leadership? As in, does any of your ministry involve overseeing, teaching or helping other church leaders?
If so, have you ever been frustrated by the inability of some small churches to utilize your ideas? No doubt you have.
Here’s a simple illustration that will show you why that happens a lot. And how we can help each other get better at this.
Responsive Design In Church Leadership
What size of a screen are you reading right now?
If it’s a phone, the screen looks very different than if you’re reading it from a laptop or a tablet.
That’s the result of something called responsive design and it’s an accepted standard for websites.
Responsive design is programming that automatically reformats what you see based on the size of the screen you’re reading.
Bigger screen? You’ll see more options like a sidebar, floating social media buttons, and so on. Small screen? You’re probably only seeing a few paragraphs of text and you’ll have to hit a drop-down to get other options.
This week, news came out that Hertz (the car rental company) is suing Accenture (a tech company) for 32 million dollars. According to the lawsuit, Accenture didn’t deliver a new website as requested. One of their biggest failures, says Hertz, is that they didn’t include responsive design in their programming. In other words, the website doesn’t adapt to the size of screen the customer is using.
So what does this have to do with church leadership?
Do Your Church Leadership Principles Adapt For Size?
In the last 20-30 years, some very creative people have been producing a lot of new tools for everything from discipleship to worship to small groups.
Most of these innovations are very helpful. If you have a large screen church.
But, just like most of you are reading this article on your phone right now, most of our churches aren’t big screen churches, we’re small screen churches.
If you’re a leader in church growth or church health, take a look at your principles, your programs, your ideas and your innovations. Can they be adapted for churches from 2,000 to 200 to 20? If not, you’re behind the times. And you need to catch up.
Responsive design isn’t an option anymore, it’s a requirement.
The good news is, like responsive design for different sizes of devices, responsive design for different church sizes is more possible than ever before.
All we need is the foresight to see it and the will to do it.
Don’t Know How To Adapt? Find Out
Was your idea birthed in a big church context? That’s great. Most mobile apps were designed on a big screen desktop computer. But they aren’t limited to the device they were designed on.
We need to do the same in church leadership. Go ahead and create a great new idea in your big church context. Then think through how to program a responsive size design into it.
We can’t blame small churches for not being able to adapt big church ideas to their context any more than a web designer can blame a user for not being able to adapt their laptop design for use on a cell phone.
Adapting big church concepts into a small church context shouldn’t be the exclusive responsibility of the end user – in this case, the small church pastor.
Of course, we know our specific congregation has unique characteristics that we have to transpose for. But there’s a lot you can do to meet us half way. Like website designers, the primary responsibility for the usability of what you’re making and selling lies in the hands of the design team, not the pastors you’re supposed to be designing it for.
So how does that process begin, especially if you’ve never worked in a small church context?
Here’s a starter list.
5 Steps To Start Building Responsive Design Into Your Material
1. Ask small church leaders for input about what they need
Sit down with some small church pastors. Ask them what works for them and what doesn’t. What is universal and what isn’t. What can be adapted for different sizes and what can’t.
Then keep what works for bigger churches, but reformat those options so they can be used in other sizes of churches.
2. Put people with a small church background on the design/writing team
But be sure their small church experience is recent. If they haven’t been in a small church in a decade, a lot has changed since then.
3. Ask small churches to test it
There are so many congregations that would love to do this and give you helpful feedback!
4. Label it accurately
If your materials or ideas have dynamic responsiveness built in, let us know. If not, let us know that, too. Something as simple as putting “Field-tested to work in churches under 250”, or “Works best in churches over 200” on the package will help us all make wiser decisions.
5. Price it accordingly
A sliding price scale for church size will help a lot.
If you already offer discounted or free materials for smaller congregations, make that information more readily known.
We Need Each Other
Small churches aren’t lesser versions of big churches any more than a cell phone is a lesser version of a laptop. We’re something else entirely.
We can and want to learn from each other. If you have a great new idea, program or system, we want to use it. But it needs to fit our screen.
If you build it, we’ll use it.
And if you don’t know how to get there, we’ll help.
Just ask. We’re in this together.
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