Deficit Model or Strengths-based?

I just heard a terrific presentation by Rob Hatch about the TouchPoints Initiative he’s getting to roll out across the state.

One of the speakers on a video said that the Western model is a deficit model:

  • What’s wrong? and
  • how can we fix it?

The Touchpoints approach is strengths based approach to helping parents:

  • what is the the family doing correctly?
  • what are they doing well?

During his talk, I had an epiphany. Really. I finally realized why people are so weirded out by the grace and mercy and joy and fun we experience at the Vineyard Church of Waterville.

Most everything in Western life is based on a deficit model: medicine, pyschiatry, education, counseling. Even church. Especially church?

Think about it. When do you tend to go to the doctor? When you’re sick. When do you tend to go to the counselor? When you’re “broken” and want something fixed. What do you focus on in school? What answers you got wrong.

In church, we protestants have made the deficit model an art form. You’re life is a mess whether you know it or not. It’s that way because of sin. Come to church to fix that problem.

That’s good to a point. But a steady dose of that 52-weeks a year?

You start realizing what a schmoe you really are. You don’t evangelize enough. Pray enough. Fast enough. Go to enough conferences and small groups and healing times and clasess.

No wonder people aren’t flocking to Jesus. If that’s what we’re projecting, would you be attracted?

Today, I realized what we’re doing at VCW is a strengths based approach. Yes, life sucks at times. It’s hard, even when you’re “in the middle of God’s will.” Yep, we’re not living a holy and sinless life.

So let’s move on.

At VCW, we tend to ask questions like:

  • Where are you seeing God move in your life?
  • What do you just love doing?
  • What gives you joy?
  • How have you been aware of the Holy Spirit’s involvement in your life?

At one kinship a few months ago, one person was talking about how she knew God was inviting her to pray for healing for a family member. But she totally balked. What if God really did heal? What would she do? So she chickened out.

Another group member launched into deficit-based answers: Yep, that’s how it is. You let fear in and fear ruled you. God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear.

You get the idea. Can you feel the oppression? This guy meant well. And he was simply responding as he’d been trained after decades of church going.

I jumped in and interrupted him. I was actually kind of rude in shutting him down. “Stop. No, really, stop. We’re not going there. We’re here to celebrate, to celebrate our growing awareness of God’s involvement in our life.”

Then I turned to the original speaker and said, “Did you hear how you started? ‘I sensed God’s invitation…’ THAT’S HUGE! You heard God! And you recognized it was Him! Bet you weren’t doing that a few years ago!! That’s something to celebrate!”

Yes, we want to grow in obedience to His invitations. But I seriously doubt we’ll grow in obedience if we keep focusing on disobedience.

Strengths based. It’s a much more fulfilling take on life in the Kingdom. It’s the kind of church I’d want to go to!

Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman helps leaders lead their teams with more effectiveness and less stress. The author of "Ask Without Fear!®," he is the founder of The Concord Leadership Group and He's also the executive director of and an Advisory Panel member of Rogare, a prestigious international fundraising think tank. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook. To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Rahab

    That is an awesome post. It is so much more important to focus on what God is doing and what we can perceive of him than what isn’t happening for us. We have to pursue what He’s doing, not what He’s not.

  2. Marc

    Thanks Rahab!

    I love your line:

    “You find yourself being stretched in ways you never knew you could stretch. In the circus, they call you a contortionist. In the church, they call you Pastor.” 😉

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