Familiarity blindness is a malady that infects us all. It happens when we become so familiar with something that we no longer consciously see it.
In fact, the brain does this all the time so it doesn’t have to work as hard. If you drive to church or work the same route each time, you no longer pay attention to familiar buildings, signs and other landmarks along the way. Although our eyes still see them, they’ve become so familiar that the brain doesn’t pay conscious attention to them.
However, when something is out of place on your drive, a detour, for example, you immediately pay attention. Familiarity blindness is common in many churches today. In this post I give seven ways to cure it.
Familiarity blindness afflicts many church ministries. We get accustomed to doing things a certain way, become so familiar with our surroundings or slip into a ministry rut that we become oblivious to their staleness or their need for change.
It happens in marriage, as well. We can become so familiar with our spouses that we can take then for granted and not treat them as kindly as we once did.
Jesus described this phenomenon in his response to people who knew Mary and Joseph and couldn’t believe that he was a carpenter’s son. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown” (Luke 4:24). Those from his hometown had become so familiar with him that they missed seeing him as the Messiah.
Since this problem easily carries into our ministries, how can we cure it? Consider these ideas.
1. Invite someone with fresh eyes to visit your church service.
Perhaps a fellow pastor, a consultant or a neighbor. Afterward, ask them to give you honest feedback about their experience, both good and bad.
2. Evaluate the order in which you present the various parts of your worship service.
Do you do the same thing in the same order each week? Could someone who has gone to your church for a while tell you the order without even thinking about it? If so, you may want to consider changing up the order. Surprise and novelty helps people pay better attention.
3. Go and visit another church.
What do you experience that feels disconcerting, unclear or unnecessary? Do you see similar barriers in your own church? Go back to your church with the same evaluative eyes and make necessary changes.
4. Spend time with new people in your church.
Ask them what they liked. Ask them what they would change. Ask them to be honest. Pay attention to what you learn. Build on the good. Modify the not-so-good.
5. Evaluate your annual church calendar.
Does your church or its ministries do the exact same events and ministries year after year? Certainly, repeating events that work is good. But, do you do some events just because you’ve always done them? Do they have the same spiritual impact they once did? Do you need to drop or modify them?
6. Create a leadership culture that invites honest feedback and evaluation about your ministry.
Do you regularly evaluate ministry initiatives and events? Or, is the planning process over when the event is over? Learning cultures will ruthlessly evaluate what they do so they can do better next time.
Though last in this list, it is not least. Ask the Lord to show you what you’ve become blind to.
What would you add to this list to help cure familiarity blindness in a church?
Charles Stone is the senior pastor of West Park Church in London, Ontario, Canada, the founder of StoneWell Ministries and the author of several books, including most recently Brain-Savvy Leaders: The Science of Significant Ministry. This post was originally published on CharlesStone.com.