The Law of 10,000 Hours in Vision Adoption

The law of 10,000 hours in contemporary culture is either known through Malcom Gladwell’s writings or through country music. For churches and pastors there is a more significant meaning.  The law of 10,000 hours in church revitalization has to do with how much time it takes a Revitalization Pastor (RP) to cast and communicate a vision for leading the church from a place of decline and decay to a place of renewal and revitalization.

A friend in ministry who led his church through the 6 step Refocus vision casting process declared after working for months with his team to develop a clear and compelling vision, “We have just given birth!” He was so excited and relieved and thought he could breath deep and rest. The next day he called me exhausted and overwhelmed saying, “I woke up today and realized, yesterday I gave birth to the vision and today I realized I have a marathon to run to see it implemented.”

Vision casting can strain the imagination and creative energies of a pastor, but vision adoption will strain a pastor’s perseverance and endurance. Most pastors think when the vision is cast that the hard work is over. The exact opposite is true, the hard work has just begun. Vision adoption in a church is usually a journey that takes 10,000 hours. You can do the math but at 60 hours a week of ministry and church activity this is a little over 3 years. No matter how you try to compress it, 10,000 is a long time and a lot of work.

Geoffrey Moore in Crossing the Chasm discusses how new ideas are adopted. His study reveals 2.5% of people are Innovators. Innovators are people who create new ideas. 13.5% of people are early adopters. These people are not afraid of what is new. 35% of people are middle adopters. They like to see something work before they embrace it. 35% are late adopters. They have to argue about the strengths and weaknesses of an idea before they embrace it. 15% are laggards. These people are the dreaded never adopters and will resist to the very end.

Most of the people working on a vision with a pastor will be innovators. They access and accept new things readily. Most pastors love working with innovators. They are exciting to talk to, see things quickly and adopt new ideas regularly. However, most people in declining churches are not innovators.

Most people in churches are not even early adopters. Early adopters will hear a new vision for revitalization and over the first year will learn the vision and begin to live out the vision. This first year is an exciting time in the vision casting process especially for the pastor. What most pastors are not ready for are years 2 and 3 in the vision adoption process.

In year two the pastor will seek to win the middle adopters, but this usually comes with a high price tag. The pastor has to have a lot of conversations trying to convince people of the benefits of moving forward onto God vision in faith and obedience. Most pastors will spend more time than they ever imagined in conversation communicating the benefits and assuaging the fears of the church adopting the vision.

Yet, there is another group waiting for the pastor in the vision adoption process – the late adopters. The late adopters have another price tag on their approval – conflict.  The late adopter usually has to have a significant emotional or spiritual experience with the vision in order to lend their approval.  This requires the pastor to “gird up the loins” for the battle the late adopter needs to have in order for them to become convinced the vision is worthy of being adopted.  I do not mean to position the pastor against the late adopter.  The late adopter will adopt the vision, they just need intensity and opportunity to “get them there” related to the vision.

So RP (Revitalization Pastor) work hard and creatively to craft a clear and compelling vision for revitalization and then, prepare for the 3 year implementation and execution phase where culture shifts and church members learn, lead, and live the new vision over 10,000 hours together!

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