Change for Change’s Sake
Vol: 79 Issue: 25 Friday, April 25, 2008
There is an old saying to the effect that ‘a change is as good as a rest.’ And of course, there is an element of truth to it, or it wouldn’t be an old saying. Many years ago, I worked on an automobile engine assembly line — easily the most boring job I can think of.
Allow me to describe one of the jobs on ‘The Line’ — the Hangar Bracket Guy. One thousand and fifty times per shift, a new engine would come into the Hangar Bracket Guy’s space. He’d grab a hangar bracket out of a box (looked a bit like brass knuckles for a guy with two fat fingers) and two 1/2″ hex nuts.
Hangar Bracket Guy (his name was Rob) would mount the hangar bracket on two long bolts sticking out of the manifold, spin on the two hex nuts, tighten them down with an air wrench, repeating the operation every forty seconds or so, 1,050 times per shift.
Day in and day out, The Line would move forward, inexorably, as everybody waited for the bell that signaled an engine had slipped by somebody’s station without having the appropriate bolt tightened, or something.
The Line would stop for a few seconds while a “Floater Guy” would run down The Line and fix it. That gave everybody else up and down The Line a chance to stop, light a cigarette (this was the 70s’) and take a few-second break.
The “Floater Guy” job was called “Absentee Allowance”. He had to know every job on The Line, since his job was to fill in for whoever called in sick that day.
The “Absentee Allowance Floater Guy’ job was the most coveted job on The Line — because it was a different job every day. Those rare days when everybody showed up were the best days for the ‘Floater Guy.’
On those days, he would go up and down The Line relieving the various stations for their break — he got a different job every fifteen minutes.
Everybody else on The Line would show up for work with the same expression of resigned boredom. . . but me. As the ‘Floater Guy’ I never knew what I would be doing until I got there.
Some of the jobs were nasty, but I was never stuck on any one of them long enough to experience that crushing sense of boredom.
Back then, I was pretty much immune to politics and didn’t know a conservative from a liberal, but somebody once told me that the difference was that conservatives didn’t like change, so I concluded that I must be a liberal.
Of course, I didn’t have a clue what kind of ‘change’ conservatives were allergic to, and being young, I figured conservatism was something like gray hair or a pot-belly — it was something you had to be over thirty-five to ‘get’.
By the mid-1980’s however, I ‘got’ it. There had been enough ‘change’ for me to figure out the old saying — a change may be as good as a rest, but there is a point where you stop resting and go back to what you were doing. ‘Change’ meant you went back and did something else.
I decided then that I was more conservative than I was liberal, because I didn’t see much that was changing for the better.
I’m a product of the Sixties and Seventies, so I guess I can’t help myself — I don’t like things I can’t control to change, but I can’t seem to stop tinkering with the things that I do.
I try and keep the OL as dynamic as possible — I’m always looking for new features to attract new members and to keep our existing membership happy, engaged and involved.
For the last five months, Frank and I have dedicated pretty much every waking moment to finding ways to change the OL in such a way as to make it more interesting for our membership, and more attractive to potential members.
About all I’ve succeeded in doing so far is making Frank old before his time and eating up time I should be using to minister playing CEO.
We’ve made some changes, most of which are invisible to the readers, but I’ve been pushing for some visible changes. I had a whole list of things; improving the website design and layout, changing the member’s forums to something a bit more modern-looking, improving the archive search features and so forth.
The results of yesterday’s poll question regarding your Omega Letter was, therefore a bit like a two-by-four between the running lights.
Two percent of you said the archives were what you valued most about the OL. Four percent said the fellowship forums. Only one percent found the featured commentary section the most valuable, and NOBODY seemed particularly concerned about the website design and layout.
A whopping 93% said the Omega Letter Daily Briefing was the feature you value most about your Omega Letter membership.
So, I’ve had the focus exactly backwards. I’ve been cracking the whip over the web design and archives — but YOU want me to focus on the OL Brief. (What was I thinking?)
We’ve been working on the OL now for five months; in many areas, it’s been a case of three steps back for each step forward. The stress level (on me personally) has been crippling, and, if I’m reading your responses correctly, at least partly unnecessary.
The Omega Letter is in it’s seventh year of daily publication. Since we opened the doors on October 14, 2001 more than 14,857 folks have signed up for trial membership.
Of those 14,857 trial members, we have retained, as of today, 742 paying subscribers.
We’ve never topped 750 — enough to pay for a webmaster, meet our day-to-day operating expenses, but not enough to pay what it would take to adequately staff it, even if we were able to put into place all the changes I had envisioned last December.
So it is difficult for me to judge whether or not the Omega Letter, as I originally designed it, is a success or a failure. As a ‘business model’– judging from my 401K (at 55, I don’t have one) I have to conclude that it is a failure.
There are 300 million or more internet users out there – a large portion of them Christians. We’ve managed to attract 742 members — out of the uncounted thousands who’ve visited and the 14,587 who took the trouble to sign up for a trial.
But the Omega Letter isn’t a business — it’s a ministry.
And as a ministry, I cannot see the Omega Letter as anything less than successful. We’ve seen many, many, come to Christ as a result of our efforts, and many of those who came to scoff, remained to pray.
Our forums are filled with testimonies about how the Omega Letter has touched lives for the good — well beyond our wildest expectations when we started out.
When I agreed with the Lord, all those years ago, to enter full-time ministry, the Lord led me to a passage in Proverbs that would define my ministry.
It leapt from the pages of Scripture at me, there was no doubt in my mind that it was the Lord’s choice. You need only read the prayer expressed in Proverbs 30:7-9 through once to know I would have chosen differently:
“Two things have I required of Thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny Thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the Name of my God in vain.”
God has been faithful. From that day to this, we’ve always had enough to keep things going. ‘Enough’ was all God ever promised me, and He has kept His promise, reminding me which one of us is God. I’ve lost sight of the note I’ve pinned to my bedroom mirror that says, “Dear God: Remind me again that You can make it through this day without my help.”
The pressures of the past five months have taken a real toll on me, physically, mentally and spiritually, and no doubt a greater toll on Frank. I confess to having lost sight of the defining principles of the ministry God gave me, trying to re-define it to meet the world’s definition of ‘success’ by effecting change for change’s sake.
That is NOT to say that we’re not going to continue to work on improving your OL, but we are going to redefine what constitutes an ‘improvement.’
We’re going to continue with the new blog, and we’re going to continue to move forward with design changes, but with an eye towards improving what we have for our existing members.
I’m going to leave the poll up for a few more days — less than a third of you have voted and I want to give everyone a chance to weigh in.
But it has done its job — our priorities are back where I believe that they should be. If this is to be a ministry, rather than a business, then attracting new members is God’s job. My job is to minister to those whom God has placed in my charge.
Thanks for reminding me.