A Leadership Experiment – The Little Things Matter

In making a first impression the little things matter.

When a visitor shows up on one of our church campuses for the first time the little things matter. When a parent decides to trust us with the care of their children the little things matter. In the way we follow up with guests the little things matter.

Most leaders and pastors believe this, but we often don’t pay attention to the little things. As a pastor, over the years, even as a very non-detailed, extremely big picture person, I started to notice the little things.

In one of of the first churches where I served as pastor, I felt I needed more buy-in from them in helping to lead the church. They were a great group of people who were passionate about reaching the lost, but they had begun to neglect some of the little things to keep a church operating. I wanted to encourage them to be more observant about what needed to be done.

I conducted an experiment. I placed a Sunday bulletin on the floor of the men’s bathroom right in front of the urinal. You couldn’t “go” without stepping on it or over it.

It stayed there through two Sundays and no one picked it up or threw it away. At the following Wednesday night leadership meeting, I brought the bulletin with me. I asked, “Does anyone recognize this?” (It was before I was a big a germaphobe as I am today.) Apparently, by the look on some faces, most of the men had seen it previously.

I wasn’t trying to be cruel, but it was a tangible reminder to them about making a first impression – the little things matter – and, more importantly, each leader plays a role in this. We were a small church. We didn’t have a custodial staff for the building we rented. We were the custodial staff. If the bulletin was to be picked up, one of us needed to do it.

They instantly recognized every man visiting our church in the last couple weeks had probably seen the bulletin on the floor of the men’s room. We only had one urinal – and we had very good coffee. Although it was a minor thing, just a bulletin on the floor, it had the potential to leave a larger impression. Imagine if the same visitor returned the next week to find the same bulletin still on the floor. (Of course, in a church plant, by the second week you may be plugged in enough to be picking bulletins off the bathroom floor.)

I’m not saying it was brilliant. It may not even have been nice. But the experiment made some impact. 

From this point, some of the men became more observant about the little things which needed attention. They started to take ownership in their roles as church leaders. I felt I had more participation in leading the church.

The point of this post is we must find ways to illustrate the importance of this principle – Little things matter.

By the way, I have always been curious if this same experiment would have worked in the women’s bathroom or would someone have picked it up?

Pastor, feel free to try this experiment at your own church. Or not, but little things do matter.

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Ron Edmondson

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  • Keith says:

    Way back, a hundred years or so ago in a former life, we had the chance to spend some time with Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines. His quotes have been well documented and dispersed but one part of the conversation went something like this: "I firmly believe that if you sat down and your tray table had coffee stains on it you would wonder what was going on with the engines".

    That was a lightning bolt to me considering what I was working on at the time.

  • Patrick Nolen says:

    Ok so I feel better now. I've done it and wondered later if it was a mean way to get the churches attention.

  • Most women would have picked it up, not just to be neat and tidy, but because it would be disrespectful to leave the church bulletin on the floor. I find it interesting that the men overlooked it as something someone else would take care of when it truly had more meaning than litter, something to be disposed of and forgotten.

  • @BruceSallan says:

    Love what you did Pastor Ron. I think the gals would've picked it up. If what you placed on the floor had a pretty woman on it, one of the men would have stuffed it in his pocket or taken his business to the toilet stall for reading!

    It is the "little things" that matter and impact our lives regularly – much more than the bigger things like writing a check as a donation (not that that isn't important).

    An example in my life is that I often see housekeepers walking to the bus – a long walk – after a hard day's work. I always offer them a ride. The look of gratitude AND surprise is both humbling and sad, to me, 'cause it's obvious my gesture is a rare occurrence.

    This is the way we do "Tikkun Olam" which in Judaism means "to Repair the World." Also, as a Dad, I'm showing my boys how to be men, how to do those "little things" and how we all can make a positive difference!

  • dave says:

    I did something similar a number of years ago as a youth pastor with a small crumpled piece of paper right up front near the keyboard – it was there 3 Sundays before I picked it up and brought it to the senior pastor with my observations and a proposal. The outside contracted cleaning crew was fired and the youth took on the duties of cleaning the church. The church paid into the youth ministry fund each month the equivalent of what they had been paying the contractors.

  • While I can not speak to the women's bathroom, I can say this is an excellent test for us – in any organization. This could also be extended to little things when dealing with people. In particular, brief, personal interactions with team members is important. It's so vital, and yet often overlooked, that organizational leaders make the time for unplanned or casual communications with employees. This is often the only way leaders identify employees that have a program at their urinal in need of removal.

    Great post. Thanks for sharing Ron.
    Twitter: BLichtenwalner

  • alszambrano says:

    Not sure in the women's bathroom. We'd be torn between the desire to pick it up, and the gross knowledge that public bathroom floors are some of the dirtiest, germiest places we encounter on a daily basis!

    I'd probably have picked it up and then dived into my purse for the hand sanitizer! I'm guessing most women would be the same, if not for the sake of neatness, then to keep our kiddos from picking it up.

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