As I write this, the world is divided. Especially the United States. People are divided along political lines, ideological lines, racial lines, religious lines. And there seems to be so much anger because of it. It feels like every day another friend says, “I’m quitting Facebook! People are just too mean.”

Why is that?

I think part of the reason is that we tend to see the world in black and white. We tend to see things as either-or. We tend to see things on a continuum where you have to choose a side.  

Either you’re liberal or you’re conservative.
Either you’re a Democrat or you’re a Republican.
Either you support immigrants or you don’t.
Either you support universal healthcare or you don’t.

But this is not an article about politics.  

I bring this up because here we see human nature at work. As human beings, it’s much easier to say something should be either this or that. Why? Because thinking beyond either-or scenarios takes a lot more effort and creativity.

Churches also tend to think in terms of either-or scenarios.

Either our church is traditional or it is contemporary (or it is “blended”).
Either our church is progressive or it is evangelical.
Either our church is attractional or it is missional.

But do we really need to be limited to either-or thinking? Is there another possibility?

Enter the 2×2 Matrix.

The 2×2 matrix is a problem-solving tool designed to help lead to deeper exploration of an issue. It is designed to get us beyond either-or thinking and into both-and thinking.  

The 2×2 matrix is intended to help us:

  • Think in terms of the tension between two possibilities, rather than the need to eliminate one or the other.
  • Recognize the importance of learning in the process of decision-making.
  • Reconsider problems, while vigorously challenging underlying assumptions.
  • See both sides of an issue.  
  • Discover deeper meaning and arrive at more informed choices.*

Here’s an example of a 2×2. You might hear someone ask, “Is you church attractional or missional?” The question assumes you can be only one or the other. But what if answering the question could be broadened to add the possibilities of being neither and both at the same time. Wouldn’t this offer deepened insight and fresh possibilities for your ministry?

A 2×2 matrix exploring this tension would look like this:

When you look at this you can see there are far more possibilities than simply being either attractional or missional. You may want to try this as an exercise:

  • What would your church look like if it were neither missional nor attractional (bottom left quadrant)? If this were the case, I imagine your church might be dead or nearly dead!
  • What would your church look like if it were high attractional, but low missional? Perhaps great worship services, but little ministry to the neighborhood.
  • Or low attractional, but high missional? Maybe there would be great neighborhood ministry, but dull and lifeless worship services.
  • And, finally…  What would your church look like if it emphasized being both attractional and missional?

Can you see how this can help you see beyond standard categories and open up new possibilities? The 2×2 matrix can free your organization from getting stuck and arguing about a binary choice, when the option of being both attractional and missional is now a possibility.

The 2×2 can be used for all sorts of purposes. It can help you evaluate your programming and budgeting in light of each category. It can help identify what you’re looking for in the next staff person to hire for your team. It can help you explore the multi-faceted hopes and needs of your community, resulting in ministries that better connect with your neighborhood.

If you and your leadership team can begin to make 2×2 thinking a regular part of your decision-making process, you may discover possibilities for ministry you’ve never considered before!

* Lowy, Alex, and Phil Hood.  The Power of the 2×2 Matrix:  Using 2×2 Thinking to Solve Business Problems and Make Better Decisions, p. 3.


Markus Watson
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