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May 31, 2022

Mental Models


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Today we come to session 5 of a 6-session series on “Your Church as a Learning Organization.”

At Luminex, we believe that for churches to flourish in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous times, church leaders must be intentional to guide their congregations to become Learning Organizations that embrace five core disciplines: systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, shared vision, and team learning.
And so today our focus is on mental models. And let’s start by asking, “What exactly is a mental model and why does it matter?”

Peter Senge, in his landmark book The Fifth Discipline, described Mental Models as “assumptions, generalizations, pictures and images which are deeply-rooted in our minds and have the ability to influence how we understand the world.”

In other words, Mental models represent ways of thinking and understanding that are so ingrained in us that we don’t even think about them, and that inform how we see the world.

This is important – critically important – because when it comes to leading change – not surface level change but transformative, impactful, sustainable change – mental models really are the lynchpin.

Why? Because existing mental models are the single biggest obstacle to change, and – conversely – changing our mental models represents the best pathway to deep change.

But changing mental models doesn’t come easy, and if it comes at all, it doesn’t happen quickly. Not only that, but the gravitational pull to go back to what we know – or at least what we THINK we know – should not to be underestimated.

Think about this:
After three years of being with Jesus, and after 40 days of being with the resurrected Jesus, his disciples asked Him if He would finally restore the kingdom to Israel!

Now, we know that in short order they received the gift of the Holy Spirit and came to a proper understanding. But in that moment, their mental model of the Messiah’s call and charter was so strong that even they, His closest followers, could not move beyond it – at least not yet.

And of course we have our own mental models, as do our congregants and churches.

For example, a question that gets asked in a thousand different ways when a new pastor comes to a declining or plateauing church is, “Will you now at this time restore our church to prominence?” The mental model of “If we only had the ‘RIGHT’ pastor, our church would be vibrant and overflowing with people” remains very, very prevalent

So too is the mental model of “If we change our worship style, more people will come” … or, “If we change our worship style, we’ll lose some people, and we can’t have that.”

But is worship TRULY the priority in either of these scenarios? Or is it more about numerical growth, or keeping people in place, or keeping people comfortable, or maybe even keeping OURSELVES comfortable as leaders?

There are bunches of other common mental models we could point out, but in the interest of time and focus, I’ll leave you with this: That while changing mental models is difficult, it is not impossible.

It starts with honesty and transparency. Which is why I recommend that leaders invest time as a team to consider and reflect on the essential “one another’s” in scripture – to share thoughts on what it truly means to “love one another as Jesus loves us?” To talk about what it might look like to regularly encourage one another, serve one another, be patient with one another, confess our sins to one another, be kind to one another, and pray for one another?

None of these are original thoughts, but I would dare say that ALL can be hindered in ways we may not even realize by the limitations of our own mental models.

It may not seem like much, but if leaders are courageous to wrestle with the “one another’s” in scripture, the door to changing mental models will begin to open.

But, as always, leaders need to go first.

And, as always, if you’re interested in knowing how the Luminex Group can help, let us know!

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