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Moving to "We Can"

By Todd Adkins

As church leaders, we must keep our teams optimistic, flexible, and focused on essential ministry. We must emphasize a “make it work” approach rather than derailing ministry by why it can’t work. About one third of your people are likely still responding to this season with a “We can’t do this essential ministry because …” reason. This is why we must help our teams shift to a “We can if …” approach. 

This approach is adapted from the book A Beautiful Constraint and helps keepers of the status quo see problems and solutions in a new light. As you examine each “We can if …” statement, don’t immediately implement the first strategic idea you find as a solution. Examine all statements, as each issue you’re encountering in this season likely has multiple layers to solve to come up with a solid solution. 

Here are 8 considerations for “We can’t because …” situations. 

  1. “We can if we resource it by …” This approach finds strategic trade-offs, shifting current resources or potentially utilizing new resources. 
  2. “We can if we substitute x for y …” Keep in mind that “y” is in the “we can’t because …” category. For example, maybe you can’t have an in-person worship service because your local government currently prohibits it. But you can have a worship service if you offer it digitally. 
  3. “We can if we remove … to allow us to …” Again this is about simplicity. What you stop doing is often more important than what you start doing at a time like this.  Now is a chance for you to simplify a process or remove steps that may be causing friction. 
  4. “We can if we introduce …” This approach is usually about introducing a new element to something that already exists, replacing something that is not effective right now, or creating something new all together. 
  5. “We can if we think of it as …” Remember how Jesus taught His disciples through the power of story and metaphor that breaks a pattern of thinking?  Metaphor is a powerful tool to shift our minds to experience breakthroughs.
  6. “We can if we use other people to …” You have a tremendous opportunity to build an army of volunteers and leaders, not just an audience of spectators, during times of crisis. There are more people ready to volunteer and serve in a time like this. 
  7. “We can if we mix together …” This formula is all about combining things in a new way. You should naturally look for strategic overlaps of groups or purpose here. 
  8. “We can if we fund it by …” This is getting down to the nitty-gritty of funding sources and may include budget reallocation, a strategic campaign, extending a line of credit, liquidating an asset, or refinancing debt. Get creative and think about how you might leverage the non-traditional assets you have at your disposal. 

By starting each sentence with “We can if …” you keep your team focused on how it might be possible, not if it is possible. Framing it this way forces people to find more solutions rather than to find more problems, which keeps your team more optimistic.

To help your church move toward a new normal in response to COVID-19, Ministry Grid has created a free course, including this “We can if …” exercise. This course includes 9 videos and 15 documents to establish clarity in the midst of chaos, think through who you’re serving, create financial and ministry contingency plans, shift focus and resource the right things, and emerge from this season stronger than before.


Todd Adkins

Todd Adkins (@ToddAdkins) is the Director of Leadership at LifeWay. Prior to LifeWay, Todd served as an executive pastor at McLean Bible Church. He has a background in launching strategic initiatives and scalable campus models to provide immediate growth while remaining financially solvent. During his time at LifeWay, Todd has introduced customizable, web-based leadership development through MinistryGrid.com. He is passionate about helping churches build a Leadership Pipeline and develop Training Pathways for every role in the church.


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