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Revisit the ‘Hedgehog Concept’

By Sam S. Rainer III

One of the blessings of leading a church is equipping the saints and watching God work through them. One of the challenges of leading a church is knowing when to redirect a passionate church member’s ideas. Some ideas are easy to recognize as less than ideal—like the time I heard from someone who wanted to buy a multimillion dollar golf course for sports ministry. It just wasn’t for us.

Most of the time, however, discernment is more difficult when passionate church members have bold and grand plans for new ministries. No church can do everything—and the best do a few things well—which means leaders must say noa lot. After re-reading Jim Collin’s seminal work, Good to Great, I’m even more sold on his Hedgehog Concept. It’s one of the best filters to help leaders figure out what ideas fit.

Collins bases his Hedgehog Concept on Isaiah Berlin’s essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox.” The basic thrust of the work is that the world is divided into two broad categories: hedgehogs and foxes. Foxes pursue many complex things at the same time, while hedgehogs do one big, simple thing.

How do you determine what your one big, simple thing is? Collins offers a three-part filter: What are you passionate about? What can you be the best in the world at? What drives your economic engine? When all three intersect, that’s when you’ve got a Hedgehog Concept.

Collins’ book was about corporations. I recently shaped the concept again for my staff (all good ideas are borrowed from somewhere, right?). I challenged them to use this filter for placing people in ministry positions or moving forward with a ministry plan. When all three intersect, you have a fit.

Sam S. Rainer III is the president of Rainer Research and senior pastor of First Baptist Church Murray, Murray, KY. [www.rainerresearch.com] [www.fbcmurray.org]

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2 Comments for “Revisit the ‘Hedgehog Concept’”

  1. Sam, I could not agree more. While on Association staff in CA we carried our staff through Good to Great and reshaped the association’s drive. My next book (due out early 2012) for avoiding and reversing decline in the church references Jim Collins work several times. Good to Great & How the Mighty Fall are good re-reads every year or two.

  2. You’ll need to explain more. No church I know of has a single ministry. If we only do Missions how do we do evangelism, or discipleship? How do we worship or fellowship?
    Help me out here.

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