The Church for Today

Not Yet

Do you have a ‘growth mindset’?

by Richard Hong


I’m seeing a lot of decisions made at all levels of the denomination, as we struggle with negative overall trends. What distresses me about the decisions are that so many of them seem to presume that continued decline is inevitable.

I don’t believe this has to be true. Many churches are thriving. Certainly this isn’t the norm, but finding a growing church isn’t exactly like finding a unicorn either. So my question is: are you making decisions that presume that your ministry will not grow in the foreseeable future?

What you presume about your future will tend to become a reality. One of the “hot” topics in education is the development of what is called a “growth mindset.” Pioneered by the work of Stanford professor Carol Dweck, a “growth mindset” is the belief that your basic abilities can be developed. People have a “growth mindset” or a “fixed mindset.” A “fixed mindset” is when you believe that your basic abilities are fixed – such as the belief that you’re just no good at math, or you’re a poor writer.

People – and organizations – with a “growth mindset” develop perseverance and resilience, because they believe that they can become better than they are.

The Power of ‘Not Yet’


Professor Dweck speaks of a high school in Chicago, where students are required to pass a certain number of courses to graduate, encouraged students who failed to retake the class and subsequently graduate by making one simple change: instead of labeling an unsatisfactory grade as “failure”, they renamed the grade to “not yet.” They were not failures; they simply had “not yet” passed.

A “growth mindset” isn’t about being unrealistic. It doesn’t change the amount of work it takes to succeed. It doesn’t make everything possible – my mindset isn’t the reason I’m not a professional baseball player. Just because you adopt a “growth mindset” that will not mean that the strategies of the 1980s (or even the 1950s) will work in 2018. We will still have to work hard, work smart, and accept change.

But it means that we believe that we can get better results. We can develop our skills and achieve our goals. We don’t have to settle for decline. Does your church make decisions from a “growth mindset” or a “fixed mindset”? The answer may determine your future.

We need to become a denomination where the only answers to the question: “Is your ministry thriving?” are “Yes, thanks be to God”, or “Not yet, God willing.”

The Rev. Richard Hong is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Englewood, New Jersey. He is excited to be blogging about his passion for the church for Presbyterians Today. Hong’s areas of interest are church technology, leadership and church growth. If there’s a particular topic you’d like to for him to address, contact him at