How Can I Lead My Team to Believe “Less is More” in a “More is More” World?

Every day, ministry leaders spend too much time, managing too much church “stuff,” for too little life-change. It is safe to say that the church in North America is over-programming her calendar and under-discipling her people.

Behind this reality is a stark irony: The effectiveness of our gospel work is limited, not by a lack of ministry effort but by an excess of ministry action.

The gospel-centered, transformational impact of your church sits as a malnourished beggar beside an every-growing buffet of church ministry programs.

We get too little discipleship precisely because we have too much church stuff

Church stuff is the whole of the ministry activities that make up your church calendar. Programming that ranges from weekly worship and groups, to monthly programming or quarterly training opportunities.

Church Stuff = Any event service, meeting, class, or group that your church offers this year.

It’s time to make better decisions.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Simple Rulesby Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt

Complexity surrounds us. We have too much email, juggle multiple remotes, and hack through thickets of regulations from phone contracts to health plans. But complexity isn’t destiny. Sull and Eisenhardt argue there’s a better way. By developing a few simple yet effective rules, people can best even the most complex problems.

In Simple Rules, Sull and Eisenhardt masterfully challenge how we think about complexity and offer a new lens on how to cope. They take us on a surprising tour of what simple rules are, where they come from, and why they work. The authors illustrate the six kinds of rules that really matter – for helping artists find creativity and the Federal Reserve set interest rates, for keeping birds on track and Zipcar members organized, and for how insomniacs can sleep and mountain climbers stay safe.

Whether you’re struggling with information overload, pursuing opportunities with limited resources, or just trying to change your bad habits, Simple Rules provides powerful insight into how and why simplicity tames complexity.


How often do you attempt to address complex problems with complex solutions? An extreme example that must of us are familiar with is the operations of governments – local, state, or federal. It seems that in every case, governments both create and attempt to solve complexity by creating regulations to cover every imaginable scenario.

In reality, trying to “solve” complex situations with more complexity almost always creates more confusion than it resolves. Again, a governmental example comes to mind: the U.S. income tax law. Every April taxpayers struggle to understand the new regulations that have been enacted since the previous year. In the meantime, the bureaucracy grows larger while the “answers” it provides are often contradictory and confusing.

While applying complicated solutions to complex problems may be an understandable approach, it is flawed. Complicated solutions quickly overwhelm people.

What if, instead of looking to complicated solutions for complex problems, we turned to simple rules?

Simple rules are shortcut strategies that save time and effort by focusing our attention and simplifying the way we process information.

Simple rules work because they do three things very well:

  • They confer the flexibility to pursue new opportunities while maintaining some consistency.
  • They produce better decisions.
  • They allow members of a community to synchronize their activities with one another on the fly.

We’ll start with boundary rules, the most basic variety of simple decision rules. Boundary rules can help you decide between two mutually exclusive alternatives. Boundary rules also help you to pick which opportunities to pursue and which to reject when faced with a large number of alternatives.

  • Boundary rules narrow down the alternatives, helping people decide which opportunities to pursue in the face of an overwhelming number of choices.
  • Boundary rules can also help pick the most promising opportunities when money is the binding constraint.
  • Boundary rules can translate statistical findings into easy-to-use decision aids.
  • Boundary rules can also translate broad policies into practical guidelines.

Boundary rules guide the choice of what to do (and not do) without requiring a lot of time, analysis, or information. Boundary rules work well for categorical choices, like those with a yes-or-no decision. These rules also come in handy when time, convenience, and cost matter. Boundary rules cover the basics of what to do.

Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt, Simple Rules


Since we are talking about focus, again, select five to ten ideas (current or future) that you consider may have potential for ministry action.

On a chart tablet, number the ideas and write them on the top row of a matrix. Write the following concepts on the left column: money, knowledge, skills, scale, and time. These concepts will form the framework of your simple rules.

Together with your team, define how much money, the type of knowledge, the type of skills, scale (how much and how far), and the time necessary to develop each idea. Write a description of each concept in the matrix.

Add a last row at the end of the matrix and write down a realistic check-up of your own resources per idea.

Highlight in red where you lack resources, and reflect on our team whether you can find ways to acquire them, or if the idea should be shelved.

Choose the idea with the least amount of red highlights.

After completing this exercise, discuss with your team if this simple rules framework will work in your regular ministry planning. Revise any areas that need tweaking.

Distribute the simple rules framework to your team with instructions for use on future ideas.

You can make better disciples with less church activity. You and your church can see and act on the beauty of a less-is-more approach by making better decisions.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 42-3, published June 2016.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.

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Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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