No one ever agrees on everything.

Everyone has an opinion. I’ve heard it said that opinions are like armpits. Everyone has a couple and most of them stink.

I’ve found the we can exert a significant amount of time arguing and fighting over details that matter less than we think. Sometimes we come into a situation with an idea and we’re met with immediate push-back. Someone doesn’t like the idea. Maybe someone doesn’t understand how your idea helps with the desired outcome. Whatever the case, you’re getting nowhere.

Sometimes the best course of action is to stop. Take a breath and start over. This time though, start with the irreducible minimums.

What does that mean? Let’d spell it out.

Irreducible Minimum (definition): incapable of being reduced, diminished, or further simplified

I know of a church going through some significant changes. Some people who have been around for a long time are frustrated by the changes. Their church isn’t like it was 5 or 10 years ago. They’re starting to ask the question, “what’s in it for me?” The answer by one of the leaders was this. “We’re inviting you to be a part of reaching thousands of people for the cause of Christ.”

Yes, the service times were changed.
Yes, the format of the services were changed.
Yes, the weekly ministries were overhauled.

People don’t always understand why. But when you take it back to the simplest and most direct answer, you’re far more likely to find common ground.

The next time you’re leading change and you are experiencing resistance or you anticipate that you’re going to experience resistance, be sure to take it back to the irreducible minimum. At the core, what’s the reason for the change. What’s the most direct and simple reason. Usually that is the place to begin and you’ll get little to no resistance on that point. Build from there.

I once served at church where the children’s ministry was called “Timberland.” The person in my position before me tried to change it. He tried to push it through and the volunteers/leaders nearly killed him. I heard that he literally had to be escorted to his car after the meeting. He was a new guy that hadn’t earned trust with the volunteers. Oh, and the volunteers loved their cute and long-standing name for their ministry.

A year later, I was in the same position as him. I started the meeting casting vision.

I reminded them that we wanted to reach lost kids.

Everyone agreed.

I reminded them that we wanted to create relevant environments for every age group.

Everyone agreed.

I reminded them that we wanted to have the kind of ministry where kids wanted to invite their friends.

Everyone agreed.

I then expressed a concern.

I was concerned about our oldest kids, the 3rd-5th graders. These kids are growing up so fast. What worked for 5th graders 5 years ago wouldn’t work anymore. I told them that I wanted to do whatever we needed to do to be a ministry where our 5th graders loved coming to church.

Everyone agreed.

I then made a comment.

I know our brand is well-loved, but I’m concerned that it might be lost on our oldest kids. I’m afraid that the name “timberland” and the stick-figure logo would actually work against us.

Without hesitation, there were nods across the room. Within that moment, we made the decision to rebrand our ministry to something that would work better to reach all kids.

Why did it work for me and not the other guy?

Irreducible minimums. The volunteers really did care about reaching kids – even more than a silly name and logo. They just had to be reminded of what mattered and once we agreed on that, we were able to go somewhere together.

The next time you find yourself saying something like this:

  • My pastor doesn’t really support me.
  • My church just doesn’t get how important children’s ministry is.
  • These volunteers just don’t care as much as they should

Go back to the basics. Find common ground. Once you get to the irreducible minimums, you’re ready to go somewhere together.