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Change is difficult. Change when we think it’s a permanent change is even more difficult. Fortunately, thanks primarily to the companies that develop software and web solutions, we’ve all come to know and embrace the role of the beta version. The beta version allows us to test drive a solution and make sure it does what we intended it to do. In addition to that, there’s an understanding and expectation that there’s going to be a revised version that will be even better.

The church, of course, has a rich tradition of avoiding change. In fact, we’re rather religious about it. One way we can combat that nature of our organizations is to embrace the freedom to deliver a beta version and test drive new ideas.

Here are some advantages of “test driving” new ideas:

  1. You deliver solutions faster. Rather than waiting for the solution to be perfect, you can move forward more quickly knowing the solution will ultimately be improved over time.
  2. You can take advantage of feedback from your users. People who engage the solution will let you know what worked and what didn’t work. That will help you make better improvements because you won’t be guessing about what the end-user needs.
  3. It keeps solutions simple. When we think it needs to be perfect, our tendency is to overwork a solution and load it up with features. That usually leads to more complicated solutions that generally are less effective and more difficult to maintain.
  4. It encourages the freedom to fail. You don’t have to make any permanent changes. It’s just a test drive. If it doesn’t work, you can unplug it.
  5. It makes it easier to undo a change. Because everyone goes into the beta version knowing it’s only a test period, it’s easier to undo a change and revert back to the old solution or try something different.

How might this play out in church world:

  • Wondering if different service times might be beneficial? Test drive it.
  • Curious to know if a new outreach effort will impact your community? Test drive it.
  • Deciding whether or not your new discipleship strategy will help people grow spiritually? Test drive it.
  • Think you may need to shift the style of your service to reach a different demographic? Launch a new service and test drive it.

In the church, we have a tendency to overcook solutions. We study. We pray. We talk about it. We have meetings. We pull together committees. We pray some more. We check to see if another church has done it. We take votes. We do a lot of things to avoid the solutions that might actually help us fulfill God’s vision for our ministries. Rather than do all of that, let’s get a little bit more action-oriented. If you sense that God’s leading you in a new direction, test it out before making a permanent change.

When was the last time you rolled out the “beta version” of something at your church? What did you learn? If given the freedom, what would you consider test-driving in the future?

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