by Britt Kitchen
As people who are planning and pulling off events and leading ministries, we are constantly asking ourselves: “What is the most strategic thing we can do to accomplish a goal?” Now, that goal might be: better understanding of the gospel for our students, best song to close a talk, or determining what is the best game to play at camp. Over the past few years we’ve tried a number of different approaches to creative meetings to get these best ideas. However, the one we’ve had the most success with is defining the problem.
Einstein said it this way: “If I were given one hour to save the world, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute solving it.”
We like to stop and make sure we really understand the problem we are trying to solve. We’ll ask ourselves a lot of questions to get the best understanding of the problem we can get.
Are we looking for a song? A fast song? Does it need a particular message? Can our band guys pull it off?
Do we need a game? Can it be messy? How many people are in the room? Does the room have enough space to move them around? Is there sound equipment we can use? Or a video screen?
For a lesson, we might ask: What did they hear last week? Last month? What is going on in the lives of a student at this time? Are there small groups after the message? If so, is it easier for students in group to look at a narrative or a verse from an epistle?
The best example of “a well defined problem is half an answer,” is Double Dog Dare-a-thon. For years, we tried large outreach events on Saturday night in hopes students would invite their friends, have them spend the night, and come back the next day. These large themed parties had varying levels of success but we felt we hadn’t cracked the code. So, we spend a long meeting just defining the problem. We asked things like: How do we make sure the student spends the night with their friend? How can we make them want to come to church the next day? What limitations do we need to work around?
Now, Double Dog Dare-a-thon is our big outreach event of the year. We use our website to post dares (e.g., take a picture of someone in the smallest place possible). Students have their friends spend the night at their house and complete these photo dares with them. They email them to our staff and then, the next day in our Sunday program, we will show the winning photos and give prizes. That program is wrapped up with a gospel message.
Here are the key details that defining the problem gave us: We didn’t have to bring everyone together Saturday night; we needed the event to last so late into the night that it wouldn’t be worth it for the friend to go home; we needed a carryover element to our regular Sunday environment to make all the students want to come.
So, the next time you are stuck and need to make a decision on a program or element remember to stop and define the problem.
Britt has worked on the North Point middle school staff for ten years as the director of Buckhead Church Xtreme and currently as the multi-campus creative director. He loves managing the tension between the creative process and logistics of programming, and gets excited about helping students pursue a faith of their own in the middle school years. As a husband and dad of three, he is proud of his ability to carry on conversations about football, monster trucks and musicals.