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Solving the Wrong Problems

by Jon Vaughan


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.” Why is that? Because the real problem isn’t always obvious. More often than not, we address symptoms of problems and end up with incomplete solutions. In fact, people, governments, businesses, and churches have been solving the wrong problems for centuries.

Case in point: Business owners sometimes think that having a sale will increase revenue. Often this simply retrains people to buy at a cheaper price, which in the long run hurts revenue.

When confronting a problem, take the time to really focus on it and view it from new perspectives. The result will be an “ah-ha” moment when the dots finally connect and a unique solution emerges.

Jesus was great at this. He helped people identify their real problems by looking at their lives from a new and different perspective. “But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Jesus demonstrated that the real problem isn’t physical thirst, and the solution isn’t H2O.

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Whatever challenges you face, here are some helpful steps in identifying the real problem.

  • Get the right people in a room. And remember: Identifying the real problem takes time, so don’t rush it.
  • Identify who you want to reach. Be very specific in how you define the people in your community you want to reach. Example: Single Christian moms who are worried that their kids spend too much time with devices and not enough time in relationships.
  • Then talk about their problem. We often think we’re solving their problems when we’re actually trying to solve our own. So take the time to look at what your target audience is doing. Study their behavioral trends. Remember that past behavior usually predicts future behavior. And rather than trying to change their behavior, come alongside them. Meet them where they are.
  • Identify the emotions surrounding the problem. If a problem is fear-based, then the solution must help people overcome that fear.

If you approach problem-solving in a new way, you’ll start to see that problems are really just opportunities in disguise.

For more every-day applications to help solve the problems pastors face on a daily basis, check out the ‘Practical Stuff For Pastors‘ series. Topics range from Dealing with Conflict to Leading Change to Managing People.

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Solving the Wrong Problems

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