My mind has been spinning for the last week on a recent Seth Godin post, “The Lab or the Factory”. I have been contemplating what this distinction could reveal about the way we do church. It has also given me a new paradigm to freshly examine my own experiences.
The lab or the factory.
You work at one, or the other.
At the lab, the pressure is to keep searching for a breakthrough, a new way to do things. And it’s accepted that the cost of this insight is failure, finding out what doesn’t work on your way to figuring out what does. The lab doesn’t worry so much about exploiting all the value of what it produces–they’re too busy working on the next thing.
The factory, on the other hand, prizes reliability and productivity. The factory wants no surprises, it wants what it did yesterday, but faster and cheaper.
Some personalities are more lab technician, others are more factory worker.
Churches are also either labs or factories: partly because of the personality of our leaders and partly because of the philosophy of ministry.
Some leaders prefer an assembly line approach where they are in control of the methods and results. They prize efficiency in the execution of their ideas. For some people, this approach works really well. My wife is one of them. She would say: tell me what to do, show me how you want me to do it, and I will work really hard to improve efficiency and maximize the return.
Other leaders prefer a lab approach where the organized chaos leads to innovation. They prize learning with each individual creating additional value. They are trendsetters in new ministry methods and experiences. Others often come later and improve on the things they’ve pioneered. This is where I come in. I like to question things. If it’s not broken, let’s break it and see if we can make it better. I would say: tell me what you want to accomplish, the problem you want to solve, and I’ll help you figure out how to do it. Then I’ll move to the next problem.
With these very different styles, it would be valuable to understand both the kind of ministry we serve in and our natural bias.