A group of people at a party stand in their host’s kitchen looking at a puddle of water on the floor in front of the sink. While the puddle is a visible and clear problem, they realize immediately that it is neither the only problem nor the most important issue. Cleaning it up will not resolve their situation. Once tidied, the puddle will form again. They know the real problem is inside the kitchen cabinet. Once the cabinet doors are open, they may find a small drip or a stagnant pool damaging the interior of the cabinet or a hidden mold that can hurt anyone who comes near it. The systemic challenge and root issue (a leaky pipe) are concealed, completely out of sight in the cabinet. Before they can discover and address their predicament, they have to risk opening the door. There may be an unsightly mess, a harmful mold, a lengthy process to track the problem to its source, or an unexpected or costly solution that causes inconvenience. Still, to fix the problem permanently, those in the kitchen must open the cabinet. In the same manner, the process in this paper helps churches to open their “cabinet” doors and be prepared for what they find. Unlike kitchen cabinet doors, church doors are too often shut tight, resisting most efforts to open them.
Churches face “puddle” problems on a regular basis. These kinds of issues are visible and relatively understandable. The solutions are known, even if they are not easy. For instance, a pastor and a choir director have a conflict over the amount of time the worship service dedicates to sermons and to songs. It is a recognizable problem with an understandable solution: reallocate time. Unlike “puddle” problems, “cabinet” problems are not recognized easily. They may be intentionally hidden or ignored by both leadership and members. Often “cabinet” problems are not addressed directly, and they lead to observable “puddle” problems.