For some reason when I was in college I signed up for an elective called “Marketing 101”. One of the marketing concepts that we discussed was the “innovation adoption lifecycle” (are you impressed?) which breaks down customers into different categories based on when, in a product/innovation’s lifecycle, customers choose to adopt it.
Innovators adopt a new product at the very beginning. They’re the first in line, and they don’t wait to read reviews. Not very many people fall into this category.
Early adopters wait a little while to make sure the new product is dependable and then they quickly jump on it. There are more early adopters than there are innovators.
The early majority is just what it sounds like. The largest bloc of customers who adopt a product fall into this category. They get in on something just before it’s no longer new.
The late adopters aren’t too far behind. They didn’t need to prove anything and they knew how to control their impulses. This considerable population of consumers waits until the novelty wears off.
The last category of people have the unfortunate title of “laggards“. They’re the ones who are just now buying a cell phone and it’s 2014.
OK, so why all the marketing talk from a worship leader who majored in Psychology? Because I think far too many worship leaders can fall into the first couple of categories listed above.
Too many worship leaders try (or think they have to try) to be innovators or early adopters. Up on all the new fads. Incorporating all the new songs. Buying new equipment or new keyboard patches or new software or new albums. It’s a never-ending hunt for novelty which significantly increases the risk that they’ll unknowingly adopt a product or an innovation which has significant weaknesses.
There is wisdom is waiting. There is something to be said for taking a deep breath, taking a step back, gaining perspective, analyzing something, considering its integrity, and thinking carefully before adopting something new. It’s better to wait and see whether or not a new song is really worth singing, or if a new piece equipment is really the one your church needs to buy, or if that new church member who’s an awesome bass player is really committed to your church before putting them on the platform.
It’s not that being an innovator or an early adopter is always bad. The problem is when your quest is to always be an innovator or always be an early adopter, so much so that you can’t make yourself wait, discern, and consider whether you’re making the right decision or not. Novelty often covers up weakness. So wait until the novelty wears off.
But just like it’s unwise to be an impulsive, knee-jerk innovator who will find himself having adopted a new product full of problems, it’s also unwise to be a laggard. Laggards miss out, plain and simple. They bury their heads in the sands of security and miss out on opportunity after opportunity to participate in the life going on all around them.
Worship leaders shouldn’t miss out on the life, the songs, the movements, and the innovations that God is stirring up around them. Use whatever you can, whenever you can, for the glory of God. But worship leaders shouldn’t rush to always be the first in line to adopt what’s being stirred up. Some of what’s being stirred up is good, and some of it is weak.
So just wait a minute and learn a lesson from Marketing 101: it’s better to wait and be happy then to rush and regret it.