We Are Our Mental Models
By: Bill Easum
Have you ever wondered why some people see things differently than you do or they appear to be impervious to what’s obvious to you? There’s a reason... their mental models get in the way of them seeing the reality of the situation.
Mental models are the unwritten assumptions, rules, and prejudices that govern how we respond to the world around us. They are based on our experiences. The older we get, the stronger our preconceived notions become about what will or will not work. Differences in our mental models explain why two people can observe the same event and describe it differently; they are listening to different mental models. And, here’s the kicker...lasting change in our attitude or actions cannot happen without changing our mental models, and most of us aren’t conscious of having them.
So, I thought I would share five of the mental models I sense are harming the spread of the gospel and how these models are changing in thriving churches all over the world.
1. The machine mental model is being replaced by the organic mental model.
Where I see this model the most is at worship in established churches. The service is a combination of many pieces, each standing by itself, not having much to do with the other pieces. We act out this piece, then we do this piece, and then we take part in this piece. There is seldom an overarching theme that ties it all together.
The organic model is based on related living beings that require regular nurturing. Health is based on a long-term view. The relationship between the organism and the environment is crucial. Organic beings have to adapt ahead of the changing environment. The whole is far more than the sum of the parts because of the many changing relationships between the organism and the environment. People in this model think holistically and envision systems and processes that go far beyond the whole.
The spiritual mental model is concerned with carrying out the mission at all costs and living out the DNA in all that it does. These churches live to introduce the world about Jesus Christ. Anything that no longer does this is discontinued for something that will. The goal is to share Jesus and to make disciples who share Jesus. Healthy churches are not concerned with the continuity of programming or with protecting a heritage that no longer carries out the DNA. Present ministries that do not carry out the DNA are discontinued.
3. The committee mental model of delegation is being replaced by the team mental model of empowerment.
The team mental model believes that laity are empowered when they are equipped to serve others. Laity is encouraged to follow their gifts not the organizational needs of the institution. Autonomous teams carry out the mission of the church without interference from the top. In this model, accountability is more important than control.
4. The entitled model or leadership is being replaced by a servant model of leadership.
The servant mental model of leadership believes that everyone can be a leader because of their spiritual gifts. Spiritual leadership is a given to each person. Staff’s primary role is to make disciples who are equipped to make disciples. The stronger the leadership, the more empowered the laity. Staff exists to equip laity to do ministry.
5. The problem solver mental model of local and regional denominational leadership is being replaced by a consultant mental model.
New Mental Models Can Be Created
• Recognize that we have them and that they may be the reason we aren’t as effective as we’d like to be.
If you are contemplating messing with your mental models, I strongly suggest that you invite a mentor to join you in the journey. Your efforts are usually more productive. That’s why I spend most of my ministry coaching people to change. For more information, go to www.nextlevelcoachingnetwork.com.
Bill Easum is president of 21st Century Strategies, Inc. a full-service church consulting group since 1987 whose mission is to equip Christian for global impact, www.churchconsultations.com.