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From the mundane and everyday to the extraordinary and once-in-a-lifetime, all of us have puzzles we are trying to solve. Sometimes a single new perspective is all that’s needed to solve a difficult puzzle. I love Alan Kay’s wisdom that “perspective is worth 80 IQ points.”

The thing is, I don’t know what your puzzle is—I don’t have a clue. Well, to tell you the truth, I can kind of guess what some of them might be. And here’s the best part: I think one or more of these five powerful ideas could help you solve the puzzle. They’ve helped me over and over. I’ll bet if you try them on for size, it’ll be like adding 80 IQ points.

Try these five ideas:

1. There is no problem-free. This simple idea, when inserted into a discussion about the best way to do anything, is an extremely powerful idea. The truth is there are no problem-free ways of doing anything. Every strategy—every solution—comes with its own set of problems. Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have. (See also "The Pursuit of Problem-Free.")

2. Next steps for everyone and first steps for their friends. This is a kind of mashup of a key practice from Andy Stanley’s 7 Practices of Effective Ministry (that we need to be thinking steps, not programs) and Rick Warren’s concentric circle metaphor. Doesn’t it just make sense to design in steps for everyone who is already part of your church (from the crowd to the core) and first steps for their friends? (See also "Think Steps, Not Programs" and "Clue #2 When Designing Your Small Group System.")

3. “If you want to reach people no one else is reaching, you have to do things no one else is doing.” Some things are just self-evident. I think this great line from Craig Groeschel is one of those things. It really makes sense, doesn’t it? It’s a version of Einstein’s great observation that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing again and again and expect different results. Groeschel’s observation? If you want to reach different people, you’ll need to do a different thing. My take on it is that the well-worn path never arrives at a new destination. (See also "How to Connect People No One Else Is Connecting.")

4. Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing. Again, some ideas are jaw-droppingly self-evident. Clue phone: The reason the strategy isn’t working has nothing to do with the weather. It can’t be blamed on a full moon. It’s not the economy. So what’s the bottom line? It’s the way your ministry is designed. If you want different results, you’ve got to change the design. (See also "10 Ideas That Have Shaped My Philosophy of Ministry.")

5. Great questions are the foundation for great answers. Want to make great ministry decisions? Make a commitment to spend the first part of your meeting ensuring you are asking the right questions. Albert Einstein said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” (See also "Supercharge Your Ministry Impact With These 5 Questions.")

Mark Howell is the founder of, committed to helping churches launch, build, and sustain healthy small group ministries. He’s also the pastor of discipleship communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church. You can read Mark’s blog at or follow him on Twitter.

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