categories: church, leadership
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September 22nd, 2008

by Bobby Gruenewald

8 comments (+ Add)

What the Church should learn from Google (2 of many)

2. Incremental Improvements Matter

Google hit the scene just over 10 years ago in a business environment that was highly competitive.  There were already very strong and well-funded search competitors like Yahoo, Lycos, and Alta Vista.  Contrary to modern-day perception, Google did not invent the search engine; instead they perfected it.  BUT, have they actually perfected search?  The answer: they are constantly perfecting it and it’s never been complete.

Even though they have the largest search engine market share (more than three times their nearest competitor)…even though they are highly profitable…even though many people would argue that Google’s search results are the best…Google doesn’t think they have it right yet.  They consistently try incremental improvements, measure how people respond, make changes, and then try to improve it again.  They are evaluating every detail: color, font size, spacing, click rates, etc.  People change and so Google will need to continue changing if they want to continue to be the best at search.

Though there are definitely exceptions within the Church, I’ve found that many leaders are content with the mindset of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  Why go through the effort to improve something that no one is complaining about?  Because, by the time someone complains…it’s too late.  This doesn’t mean you should change just for the sake of change, but it does mean you should change.

I believe that we, as leaders, should adopt an attitude or posture that acknowledges that the methods we use (HOW) to connect with people MUST be incrementally improved if we desire to continue connecting with this ever-changing world.

What are some practical ways that you have be able to make and test incremental improvements at your church?  If you haven’t made any improvements in a while, what is the next improvement that you need to try?


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  1. Sep 22, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    This is a great reminder. When I was a youth pastor, I’d actually aim at improving things 25% and holding it each year (improvement is easy, holding it is the hard part). That might not seem like much, but it means that in four years, the ministry is 100% better, and holding — which is sustainable. I’ve found that biting off more than 25% is near impossible to hold, and that losing ground you thought you gained is actually harder to get back the second time.

    Anyways, those are my thoughts. Prompted by yours, Craig. Thanks.

  2. Sep 22, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Great article, especially encouraging to church planters who feel they may not have all it takes to reach and keep people when other churches are so established. One advantage of being small and new is that everyone is willing to help and feedback comes easy. The challenge is to keep asking for it as we grow and implement systems run by staff. Web survey and small group questions have worked well. The best feedback still comes from making time to meet with people over coffee or a meal and ask what they like and don’t like.

  3. 3Lily
    Sep 22, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    We recently had a group meeting where we listened to a teaching on “Clarifying the Win”. (I’m not going to try to give credit to the speaker in case I’m wrong.) 1. Sum up the Win in a simple phrase. 2. Keep the Win as specific as possible. 3. Restate the Win frequently and creatively. 4. Meet to clarify the Win at every level. Since that time I have been rethinking a lot of things I do, not just in ministry, but also my personal life. I believe the best way to know what needs improvement is by making sure the target is clear and then continually adjusting our aim as needed.

  4. 4Barry Armstrong
    Sep 22, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    I tend to labour over our set designs, special music, drama etc. I often hear the voice from others or within saying, “it’s good enough.” but I keep working and reworking until I honestly feel like I have it (or I’ve simply run out of time.)” I used to apologize to people for the way I work. I get a vision but am not sure how exactly it will turn out so i just keep adding subtracting rearranging redoing etc. until I have it. I thought that “real artists” know what they want and do it. Then I read an article about Michealangelo. He would go through the same process! I am no Michaelangelo, but I felt better about my persistence in trying something new until I was truly satisfied. Everyone says, “it’s great! It’s novel!” etc. but that’s because I can’t just throw something together.
    I do find, however, in the music or drama, that I occasionally have to compromise my vision a little bit as I am dealing with people who are more important than the plan, but even when I do, I try to cast vision that we will continue to push the envelop and come up higher in the future. Excellence is not a destination at which you arrive and can just camp there. It’s a moving target which must constantly and be pursued afresh each day.

  5. Sep 23, 2008 at 9:01 am

    My wife and I moved out west and began attending a neighborhood church. At a small group meeting last December, I asked our mid-30’s - early 40’s friends, “What kind of outreach do you do for Christmas?”

    One of the people, who is a leadership position, replied, “What do you mean by ‘outreach’?”

    This baffled my wife and I. We had just moved from a heavily missions-minded church.

    This incident became an indicator that this church was internally focused — building campaign, Christian education, etc.

    I am praying to see some improvement here. God has allowed me to have growing relationships with other church leaders, so the groundwork for influence is being laid.

  6. Sep 27, 2008 at 11:26 am

    [...] Gruenewald - posted What the Church can Learn from Google Pt. 2 - incremental improvements matter. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Things to Check [...]

  7. Oct 10, 2008 at 9:06 am

    [...] series on ‘What the Church should learn from Google,‘  Bobby Gruenewald’s begs the question: There were already very strong and well-funded search competitors like Yahoo, Lycos, and Alta [...]

  8. Oct 10, 2008 at 9:13 am

    [...] series on ‘What the Church should learn from Google,‘  Bobby Gruenewald’s begs the question: There were already very strong and well-funded search competitors like Yahoo, Lycos, and Alta [...]