Malcolm Gladwell popularized the so-called 10,000-hour rule in his bestselling book Outliers. In a nutshell, if you have talent, and put in 10,000 hours of practice in a specific area, you’ll acquire expertise and become successful in that field. Computer programming, Rock-n-Roll, preaching … you name it.
Obviously a “rule” like this was meant to be broken, challenged, contradicted, scoffed at. And of course I’m not the first, or even the hundredth, to say “ignore this rule”.
INNOVATORS NEED NOT APPLY
I once knew of a group of pastors who were looking for a church planter. They were deeply influenced by the 10,000-hour rule, and applied it to church planter candidates. They mixed this rule with the traditional professional qualification template: “at least 10 years of church planting experience and 2 successful church plants desired blah blah blah”.
Their main objective was to mitigate risk and to not fail.
What was interesting about this case was that when the experienced church planter they recruited went to make his church planting pitch, he ended up lifting whole sentences verbatim from the writing of a young church planting hopeful with approximately 0/10,0000ths of the requisite hours experience.
Another observer of this search committee noted that their 10,000-hour expertise criteria would exclude a vast number of noted, “successful” church planters from their search—in his reckoning, the best church planters of our time.
THE WORLD CAN’T WAIT
What’s the point? I think it’s this:
The whole idea of entrepreneurship is that 10,000 hours is too long for the world to wait for the thing that you want to make. 10 years of doing things in predictable, industry standard ways, carefully observing “best practices” and bowing deferentially to gatekeepers is intolerable to the woman or man with a calling to make something disruptively innovative and bring it to market now.
If you want a manager, ask for 10,000 hours.
If you are looking for a surgeon, the 10,000 hour expert is your guy.
If you’re in the market for a wealth manager, put your fat cash in the nimble hands of a gal who’s put in her 10,000 hours and made millionaires into billionaires.
But if you’re looking for a 10,000 hour fella to plant a church, you need to realize that the church that results—if it survives—is going to look a lot like the churches you’re used to seeing. Is that really what you want? What our communities need?
WHAT YOU NEED INSTEAD OF 10,000 HOURS
And most importantly, if you are an aspiring church planter, never let anybody use the 10,000 hour rule as a pseudo-scientific way to tell you to sit down and shut up.
You need a mentor to keep you aware of all that you don’t know. You need a coach who will keep you accountable for what you do know. You need elders to come alongside you and tell you when you’re talking churchplanterese.
But you do NOT need 10,000 hours of experience in church planting to do something that lies outside typical expectations of church. In fact, 10,000 hours might be exactly the thing that keeps your church from becoming an outlier.
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