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Finding Solutions through Positive Deviance

This collection explores the power of positive devicance within a church. Learn the sociology behind positive deviance, along with how it can positively shape your congregation.


2 Resources
Applying Positive Deviance
This article tells the story of seven congregations in Indiana that used positive deviance to...
The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World's Toughest Problems
This YouTube video describes key principles of positive deviance and tells stories of how...


Tim Shapiro

Tim Shapiro is the Indianapolis Center’s president. He began serving the Center in 2003 after 18 years in pastoral ministry. For 14 years, Tim served Westminster Presbyterian Church in Xenia, Ohio. Prior to his pastorate at Westminster, he was pastor of Bethlehem Presbyterian Church in Logansport, Indiana. He holds degrees from Purdue University and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Tim’s interest in how congregations learn to do new things is represented in his book How Your Congregation LearnsAfter his extensive work on the Center’s Sacred Space initiative, Tim co-authored the book Holy Places: Matching Sacred Space with Mission and MessageHe has also authored several articles, including Applying Positive Deviance and The Congregation of Theological Coherence.

Power Of Positive Deviance

Congregations of all types have likely found themselves going through a lot of changes in the past few years. If members of a congregation are noticing changes taking place in their group, then they are certainly not alone. It can be good, however, for these groups to keep up with these changes so that they can make sure that their congregation is able to remain intact as the modern era continues to unfold. One of the topics that has received a lot of attention recently is called “positive deviance.” But what exactly is positive deviance, and what kind of role does it play in congregations and religious communities today?

In general, positive deviance refers to a change that takes place, breaking from traditional norms. For example, this might involve a church that does things a little bit differently than other churches in the local community do. And although some people might not like the fact that changes are taking place, there may be situations in which these changes can actually result in positive changes in the community, even if they are not expected.

For those who are looking at the power of positive deviance summary, it may be useful to note that many of these changes can be applied directly to the religious community. Positive deviance can be a powerful mindset for congregations, because it often encourages everyone in the congregation to think critically, allowing their beliefs and thoughts to evolve as the religious community continues to change. When people are actively exploring ways to improve their local community through positive change, positive deviance can prove to be a key mindset for a religious organization to have as a whole.

At the same time, however, whether or not the change is a positive one can often be largely subjective. Therefore, it can be good for everyone to take some time to delve a little bit deeper into positive deviance, the role it has in the religious community, and what it can mean for the future, as society continues to go forward.

What Is Positive Deviance?

For those who may be wondering, “what is positive deviance?”, this refers to a break from traditional norms which ultimately results in a positive change. And while this positive deviance definition may vary slightly from industry to industry, this is the definition that is often used in the religious community.

There are a lot of traditions, rules, and ceremonies that take place in just about every religion. It is no secret that a lot of religious organizations value these traditions deeply, and can therefore sometimes be skeptical of changes that take place. At the same time, though, there are a lot of congregations that have already successfully been able to embrace positive changes, such as modern technology. Decades ago, people could probably not have imagined that there would be rock bands standing at the front of a church building blaring speakers, flashing lights, and using projectors to augment the sermon. On the other hand, this is exactly what has happened, and this can serve as a prime example of positive deviance.

Therefore, it can be helpful for religious leaders to do everything they can to foster positive deviance, as this can help create a positive difference in the way that they run their congregation. Even though there are situations in which it can be a good idea for religious leaders to stick to tradition, it can also be helpful for them to seek the outside perspective of people who are not necessarily closely tied to the religious community. That way, they can then possibly provide others with an opportunity to explore positive deviance and the impact it might have on the congregation as a whole. In particular, positive deviance can be used to help solve a lot of problems that the congregation might find itself facing today. For instance, if the group is having difficulty in connecting with the younger generation, it might be helpful to see whether positive deviance can help them to do that. And while it might be true that connecting with the younger generation may force religious leaders to step outside of their comfort zone, it can also lead to an unexpected positive consequence, as more younger individuals may then want to join the congregation.

Positive Deviance Sociology

It might be considered only natural for a lot of people in the congregation to be a little bit skeptical of positive deviance. Therefore, it could be helpful to take a closer look at how positive deviance has been able to make a difference in society in the past. To do this, it might be necessary to take a step outside of the traditional religious realm.

For one positive deviance sociology example, it might be a good idea to take a look at a positive deviance essay regarding the subject of computers. As one of the top positive deviance sociology examples, a lot of people were initially skeptical of the role of computers. Because people were staring at modern technology for the first time, they were perhaps unable to exactly understand how the computer worked just yet. And because people could not fully understand how a computer functioned, they did not want to place so much power into its hands. Back then, it’s possible that people could not have possibly imagined that, one day, there would be a computer present in just about every home. Nowadays, however, not only do we have computers present at home and in the workplace, but many children are often using computers in school, as well.

This can also serve as one of the top positive deviance examples in education. Even though a lot of schools have had a computer lab for a long time, a lot of schools can now be seen giving their students laptops which they can take with them to and from school. A lot of educators and parents were initially concerned that students would spend their entire time surfing the internet, and while this can be something that has to be patrolled, the advent of laptops for children at school has ultimately served to bring about numerous positive changes, helping to open up new doors for students which had been previously closed and granting them access to a more well-rounded education. And naturally, the role of computers and the internet in education is expected to only continue to grow in the future.

Positive Effects of Positive Deviance

When it comes to the positive effects of deviance, it can be useful to compare this to negative deviance examples and take a closer look at positive deviance examples in family. There can be a lot of challenging problems that numerous congregations may find themselves facing today. In some cases, this might refer to problems that are taking place in individual families, and in others, there may be financial issues facing the congregation. Regardless, positive deviance can potentially play a significant role in helping the congregation to improve, because positive deviance can help encourage members of the community to become closer. Furthermore, positive deviance can also help improve relationships with strangers.

For those who are interested in learning more about positive deviance, it might be helpful to take a closer look at the article on positive deviance that was published by Tim Shapiro, who is the president of the Indianapolis Center for Congregations. With an unparalleled level of experience, it may be possible for any religious leader out there to get a lot of fresh ideas from here, regarding how they can apply positive deviance to their own congregation. That way, their conversation may be able to come closer together and address some of the challenges they are facing.

Positive Deviance Articles

Ultimately, it can prove to be a good idea for everyone who is a member of a religious leadership group to read a few positive deviance articles on a regular basis. That way, they can learn about the difference between positive and negative deviance. Moreover, deviance essay topics can also extend to examples of positive deviance in the workplace. Today, the economic environment might be seen as one that is changing quickly, and the companies that are going to be successful might be those that are able to quickly adapt to these changing conditions and remain one step ahead of the competition. With this in mind, although it might be difficult for employees to step outside of their comfort zone, positive deviance can be helpful, much like how businesses are able to endeavor to stay one step ahead of others in their industry.

By researching positive deviance on a regular basis, it may be possible for leaders to help encourage positive changes. At the same time, though, these positive changes are likely only going to take place if they are able to create an environment that is encouraging, welcoming, and inviting of these changes. This can include not only the congregation, but also schools, businesses, and other organizations which exist outside of the religious realm.

Positive Deviance Examples

Finally, it might also be helpful to take a look at a few positive and negative deviance examples. When it comes to positive deviance examples, one big subject to consider may be the use of a band to perform worship music. At first, a lot of people were hesitant to explore the role of a live rock band in the congregation. It turns out that this has perhaps been one of the best interventions, because it has been able to help make the congregation more appealing to a wider number of people. This may have even helped a congregation to grow.

Another example of positive deviance within a congregation could be the role of youth ministry. Youth ministry could perhaps have been considered a lower priority, or reserved to simply teaching traditional stories and messages in a classroom setting. Today’s youth ministries have become more relaxed and social, ensuring that it is a more welcoming environment to a larger number of visitors.

Congregations should use the resources curated by the CRG to enable the use of positive deviance to make a difference in the way they operate.

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