Problem or Opportunity? The Choice is Yours

When your plans change, how do you respond?

As a leader in your church, you are responsible for the planning and execution of a large number of events or activities on a regular, recurring basis. On some occasions, you may be planning a very large, once-a-year type of event. Hundreds of hours of planning and work by dozens of volunteers lead up to the big day – but things don’t go as planned.

What happens next?

Even though all leaders intellectually know that things often don’t go as planned, they are typically not ready until that possibility becomes a reality.

Solution – Reframe apparent problems as God-given opportunities

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Reframe, by Mona Patel

Too many people feel stuck when things don’t go as planned. 

They have ideas that could really disrupt the market and help their companies create beautiful, innovative, game-changing products and services, but a host of reasons hold them back.

Those who are disappointed by the stagnation that plagues companies trying to be innovative will find fun and highly effective ways to remove mental, cultural, and organizational barriers and bring out (and condition) each employee’s creative muscle

Reframe offers a technique to help people unlock their creativity and generate brilliant ideas. Motivate Design CEO, Mona Patel, shares her recipe for the first time, along with the compelling story of how she got there, on how to spark innovation and creativity anywhere, anytime.

The goal of Reframe is to help you see the difference between facts and beliefs, impossible and possible, and problems and opportunities. The shift in how you see things changes everything.



When faced with a sticky situation – in spite of planning and preparation – many leaders see only the black and white: the choice must be A or B. It’s an easy decision, simpler, and gets things done more quickly.

The problem with this line of thinking is that you are focusing on what you win or lose, instead of coming up with alternative ideas. Focusing on just A or B leads you to ignore the wide range of other options that could be just the one you are looking for.

Why not approach a decision with a creative mindset that encourages you to think in the “gray space” – the space between black and white, choice A or choice B?

The real problem is that you have been seeing problems as problems, not as creative opportunities.

When you feel like you’ve hit a wall, don’t waste your time complaining or trying to turn around. Instead, figure out how to build a door. Designing a new frame around the same circumstances allows new perspectives and ideas to emerge.

The concept of “Reframe-work” consists of a set of eight steps that you can choose from depending on the type of problem you have and the answers you need.

Step 1: The Real Problem – First things first, spend some time on identifying and gaining clarity around the true problem. People often think they are articulating a problem, but really they are just discussing their limiting factors or the baggage they bring to the table.

Step 2: A Different Lens – Great designs start with the user’s problem. Explore all the facets of the user’s world so that you see things from the user’s perspective. It allows you to immerse yourself in what’s known and to understand what the user needs.

Step 3: Ask What If – Ask open questions that inspire ideas to naturally emerge. The only rule in this step is Don’t Judge. Don’t judge others, their ideas, or even yourself. The point is to release your self from the usual rules and belief and to open your mind to think creatively.

Step 4: Funnel Vision – Ideas that make it through a series of activities that help sort out ideas that will solve the problem your organization is facing effectively.

Step 5: Identify the Themes – In looking at the ideas your team has selected as favorites, groups or themes will start to emerge. Bringing the ideas back up into themes helps to focus on the broad ways in which you can solve the problem rather than the specifics of one particular idea.

Step 6: BS Excuse Personas – The next step is to manage the fear that often prevents your ideas from taking shape. The goal is to help each person address and talk out their tension points and beliefs before moving forward.

Step 7: Rapid Refine – Once the excuses are handled, go back to each theme and give you team a constructive opportunity to voices their concerns about the idea that has emerged for each them. This step forces you to think through what you would add, what you would take away, and how you would pivot if asked to do so.

Step 8: Execute – Ideas are nothing without execution. Begin the execution part of the process by helping people figure out one next step to move from idea to implementation.

Mona Patel, Reframe


When things don’t go exactly as you planned, your immediate reaction is usually to make another choice without thinking it through. Instead of reacting, why not spend time exploring, ideating, and creating options to help you move forward?

Dedicate time at your next leadership team meeting to walking through the eight steps listed above. Copy and distribute this SUMS Remix to your team.

Identify a recent situation in which an action or activity that your team planned did not go off as you intended. Write it on a chart tablet or whiteboard.

Lead your team though each of the eight steps, reframing the original problem in terms of the steps. Write key words or phrases on the tablet.

After you have completed the steps, review your work. Discuss which of the steps are most helpful in producing creative, alternative plans to your original problem.

As a closing exercise, project this process forward to the planning of future events. Discuss how seeing things with a new frame allows all problems to feel solvable and become opportunities for creative problem solving.


When your plans change and you are looking for help in dealing with the need for a sudden shift in direction, consider reframe apparent problems as God-given opportunities.

Taken from SUMS Remix 24-2, published September 2015

This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

> Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<

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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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