Marginal Gains

Periodically I get a desire in church life to throw all the balls up in the air and start again from scratch with a completely blank sheet of paper. To mix my metaphors. I guess most of us do at some point or other. To make the thing fit for purpose by revolution rather than evolution.

Most of the time I am fairly good at realising that this is simply my particular temperament and personality type talking, rather than the Lord!

Which is why I was very taken by the interview with the head coach (or performance director or something or other) or British Cycling last week. He talked about improving performance - and what performance! - through having a secret squirrel club and by making marginal gains.

The idea behind marginal gains seemed to be that if you examine every area of performance and make a 1% improvement (or persistent 1% improvements), they add up to a big improvement and big change over a period if, for example, you are doing it in 20 areas. Where making a 20% change in a single area might prove impossible or explosive, progressive (deliberate, intentional, continual) small but important changes might prove just as effective (or more if you get perpetual improvement into the mindset).

Of course that isn't true if what needs to change is the whole way people understand church. Or might it be? Working with a small number who do to develop small changes in demography over a period might do it. After all the membership of churches does change over time. If it becomes harder for someone to join as a passenger but easy to join if you are fully signed up for mission it might not be too long before some simple, small changes in membership models produces a disproportionately large effective on demography and mindset. 

Let's not forget that as little as 12 years ago we won 1 gold medal for cycling in Sydney. 4 years later it was only 2 in Athens. Marginal gains seems to have added up to a whole lot of progress (but, presumably, only if the coaches are permitted to make the necessary changes)