The ‘Why’ Shapes the ‘Way’

start with why

In Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, he suggests that we give more time to considering why we do, not just what we do. I’m increasingly convinced that this way of looking at things is crucial in our service of others. Consider the following two examples:

At ChristChurch, Somewheresville, the folks on the set-up rota wake early. They’d rather not get up early and go do setup but it’s their turn. They arrive as late as they can get away with, throw up the signs, put a couple of toys out in the creche, and randomly chuck some leaflets on the welcome table (nobody reads that stuff anyway). While the service is in progress they nip out to take in the signs – no point wasting time later. Ten minutes after the service is finished the info table is packed swiftly away, and the banners are taken down – if people get knocked with their coffee it’s their fault – they shouldn’t be in the way. They’re sure to pack down as loudly as possible so that everyone gets the hint. Someone asks about homegroup info. ‘Too late mate, sorry, already packed away – we’ve got homes to go to you know.’ They pack down in record time and pat each other on the back as they’re going to get home earlier than ever – result, job done!

At GraceChuch, Little Wheresit, the team wake early. They arrive on time and start putting everything out. They arrange things to be neat, easy to find, and pleasing to the eye – they want people to find a warm, welcoming, tidy environment as they come. After the service they enjoy some mingle time and then begin to subtly suss out whether anything can begin to go away. They want to make sure people have access to info up to the last minute. Signs come in, chairs begin to be tidied. Once most have left the building and things are winding down, they then begin to finish clear up. They leave a little later than usual, but that’s because someone spent five minutes helping a visitor find some information they were interested in. They leave patting each other on the back as they’ve done a good job helping others – result, job done!

The difference between the two? The ‘why’ has shaped the ‘way.’ In the first example the team take the path of least resistance. The aim is to get the job done as fast as possible. The ‘why’ is answered, ‘because someone’s got to do it, and I got lumped with the rota.’

The second team go out of their way to do a good job. Their aim is to provide an environment that helps and serves others. The ‘why’ is answered, ‘because people matter to God, so they matter to us, and we want to make sure everybody gets what they need, and so may come back.’

The ‘why’ shapes the ‘way’. It’s a simple mantra, but one that I suspect requires regular reminders to put into practise. Why not try it as a training exercise with some of your team members or volunteers. Spend time clarifying the ‘why’ and see how it shapes the ‘way’ things get done.

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