Work Backwards

Many of us go to conference, have dreams or envision a future that’s different from the present.  That’s normal, and frankly, admirable.  Life is better when we try to make progress. And God designed us to help usher in a better reality than the one sin envisions.

Last week at the Orange Conference, I got asked a great question: faced with a lot of changes that need to be made, how do I decide which ones to make?

I love that question.  A simple answer: work backwards.

Here’s what that means.  Imagine where you want to be down the road.   Then work backwards to figure out what changes you need to make that future reality.  Ask yourself: if I really want to be that kind of person/church/leader, what do I need to change to get there?

I know that sounds simple, but it’s important because normally that’s not how change works.  Often, we come away with ten fresh ideas or changes we want to make.  But rather than make sure all our changes are leading toward the same end or goal, we just randomly implement good ideas unaware that they may even be working at crossed purposes.  And because the changes we implement aren’t leading anywhere in particular, they frustrated everyone involved (including those of us who initially thought the change was a good idea).

Got a change you want to make?  First, plot out a mental picture of where you want to be one, two or five years down the road.  Then work backwards to figure out whether the change you’re proposing makes sense given your goal.


  1. Sue Lohr on May 4, 2011 at 10:23 am

    I was priviledged to be a volunteer for your breakout session Friday at Orange. Even better, I was able to come into the room and hear most of your presentation. My church is calling a new pastor (the vote is May 15) and I anticipate much change.

    I hope to take your presentation to the leadership of the church to help transition to our next phase of growth. Thank you so much for your transparency and sharing great information. I’ll be following your blog from now on!

    • Carey on May 4, 2011 at 4:03 pm

      Sue…Thanks for the feedback. Man, sounds like you are going to be navigating a lot of change. I hope it makes an incredible difference in your community. Stay in touch!

  2. Ryan S. on May 2, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Great insight! I had a Director’s meeting, strategically scheduled for the Sunday after Orange, and began all over.

    The move backwards was inviting the team to journey with me, instead of assuming that they should follow.

    I apologized for making preemptive moves too soon, introduced the framework of God’s vision, and invited them into His narrative He’s telling through our ministry.

    This is the first real progress I’ve seen in too long. So the adventure begins!

    • Carey on May 2, 2011 at 6:32 pm

      Ryan that just sounds like great leadership all around. Well done!

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