Efficient vs. Effective

Prior to entering the ministry full time I worked in the computer industry.  I remember one meeting about 12 years ago in which my boss spent a significant amount of time explaining the difference between two words – efficient and effective.  I can honestly say that that meeting was a life changing moment for me.

Here’s the difference: Efficient means “doing things right” while effective means “doing the right things.”  Although initially that could sound like the same thing, it most certainly is not.  Here’s how it was explained to me – Imagine that you’re in a boat on a lake and the boat starts leaking.  If you’re efficient, you might grab a bucket and start bailing water.  In fact, you could get a whole team of people with special, ergonomically designed buckets that are all very efficiently bailing water on the boat.  With the right kind of training and leadership they could easily be the most efficient water bailers on the planet.  While all this efficiency is going on, an effective person would just plug the hole in the boat.  Bailing water is okay, but plugging the hole is smarter.

You can be very efficient without being effective.  I think that one of the reasons we are seeing so many rural churches in decline is because they are not being effective.  They can be very efficient at what they do without being effective at all.  How can we make sure that we are being effective?  Here are some suggestions:

1) Pray.  I know that this may seem trite, but the fact of the matter is that God still communicates to His people today.  He wants our churches to be very effective in reaching the lost.  We all know James 1:5, putting it into practice is the biggest step towards being an effective church

2) Never say “we’ve always done it this way.”  If you keep doing what you’ve always done you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.  The message of the Gospel never changes, but the methods we use to proclaim that message must change.

3) Be careful when reading books and attending seminars.  Don’t get me wrong, I love books and seminars, but the temptation for many is to think that if they just did everything the author or speaker did, then they will get the same results.  The bottom line is that what works in one community does not necessarily work in another.  We should glean the best ideas and adapt them to our community

4) Don’t be afraid of failure.  If you try something and it doesn’t work, then stop doing it and try something else.  If you don’t make the attempt, you’ll never know how effective it will be.

Can you think of anything else we can do to insure we are being as effective as possible?  What is currently working in your community? Leave a comment below

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4 Comments on “Efficient vs. Effective”

  1. Terry Reed Says:

    You are right on! I know many small churches that are as efficient as any mega church at what they do, but they are not effectively reaching their communities with the gospel. Thanks for the article–I had not thought of it this way.
    Terry Reed
    Small Church Tools


  2. […] called me to do, however insecurity often rears it’s ugly head in my life.  When it does my effectiveness and motivation takes a serious nose dive.  If this insecurity is not quickly overcome, it can […]


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