Core Values: If It Ain’t Broke, Break It

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“If It Ain’t Broken, Break It.” Does it hurt to hear, let alone say this phrase? Is this a “feel good” saying or does it grind against your very core? I believe, after you think about it, you will grasp the concept and apply it to your organization and also your life.

I teach an adult Sunday School class of about 50-60 members. The average age is probably 60+ years, with many retired and over 65 years of age. I led them in a brief impromptu discussion about what this statement means and how it can be used positively. Being from a generation that lived a life where change seldom happened and, when it did, took a long time, their first reaction was strongly negative.

Change to them is negative. If it works, leave it alone. This way of thinking is safe and may be alright if you are comfortable with the “status quo”. However, we are striving to reach a much different generation and culture that not only expects “change” but thrives in that environment. The younger generation experiences change so much faster and more often in one year than my generation may have seen in a lifetime.

The class caught on to the idea that “if it ain’t broke break it” really means you are to evaluate your methods of doing things. When was the last time your ministry evaluated the relative effectiveness of how you do things? Are you still doing things as you did them ten years ago? How about 15 or even 30 years ago? Harder still, when was the last time you evaluated your own personal life in the same manner? The class knew that what worked for them as they grew up does not work for the younger generation today. They started to soften up towards “breaking” some of the ways they thought things should be done for more generational, relevant methods.

Think with me how camp has changed since you were a young camper. I started attending camp while I was in the 4th grade. The routine stayed pretty much the same all the way through the 7th – 8th grade. The environment was very competitive between my church, as a group, and every other church group. Softball, volleyball, tetherball, Bible verse memorization, clean cabins, good behavior, and the list goes on. Being chosen the “camper of the week” was a real highlight for one model individual. The speaker was always a local pastor. The counselors were always adults from your own church. This worked well and I loved it (even though I was never chosen as “camper of the week”).

During the senior high days, this pattern continued with some added age-appropriate activities, such as staff vs. camper all-star softball and basketball games with the college-age counselors, and maybe a bit more free time. The biggest burden during those years was the worry of who you would ask to the “banquet” on Friday night. Sometimes it would work out, but most times it did not. This was an unneeded and unwanted stress that took away from the positive potential of camp.

These things may have worked for my generation. But can you see this style of camp working with today’s generation? I don’t think so. Lake Ann Camp uses the Core Value of “if it ain’t broke, break it” as a tool to strive for an age-appropriate, intentional program that will maximize the potential for campers to make life-changing decisions. This simply means that the staff and leadership are constantly, prayerfully evaluating how and why we do things the way we do. Does it always lead to change? Of course not! The goal is to stay effective and relevant with the existing generation. God gave us minds that are creative and I believe He intends for us to use them.

Think of how Jesus approached the culture during His earthly ministry. In a manner of speaking, He turned things upside down. He attacked the impersonal religious system of dos and don’ts (law) and ushered in grace. The change was not readily accepted by the religious leaders but was highly successful with the spiritually lost. In Matthew 5:21-48, Jesus repeatedly says “You have heard it said” (under the law) “but I say”. He gave new ways of dealing with anger, lust, divorce, oaths, retaliation, and loving your enemies. The religious leaders thought the system was working for them, but Jesus “broke it”.

The State of Michigan is looking at the possibility of closing roadside rest stops, even though they are useful and handy. They have worked for generations. However, fast food restaurants (with bathrooms), convenience stores, and other options at exits are doing a better more cost effective job. Therefore, “break it.”

I’ll use a simple analogy that you are probably familiar with. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” However, you can give him a salt lick and make him thirsty. This is what camp does. The programs, activities, chapels, staff, counselors, and the overall environment at Lake Ann Camp work together to help a camper realize that there is “a spiritual thirst” that only Jesus can satisfy. The goal is always for God to work in the life of the camper.

The leadership at Lake Ann Camp believes that, if you strive for a certain plateau, reach it, and then dwell there, you are in danger of losing ground. We have often scrapped a successful program, activity or event that was effective for years, yet “plateaued”, only to see God use a new and challenging option to be more effective. Change is “risky” and always comes with the potential of failure. So often change seems unnecessary and unwanted, but how do you know if you don’t evaluate it?

So, “If It Ain’t Broken, Break It” is a way of thinking that causes one to constantly evaluate. This is all done in the light of God’s Word and direction, with prayerful consideration and not with a destructive attitude that makes change for change’s sake. Stay within all of your core values as you consider just this one.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.”   -Proverbs 3:5-6


–Larry Porter

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