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What Everyone Needs to Know About Tripping Over the Truth

tripping over the truth transforming mission

Why is change so hard for leaders to implement?

We do a lot of telling instead of tripping over the truth. What do I mean?

Tripping over the truth is one type of moment of insight that “delivers realizations and transformations in people’s lives.”¹  While this may sound harsh, a moment of insight is “a low point that holds the promise of a better future path.”²

Lead By Discovery

I remember facilitating a conversation with a group of leaders, attempting to help them discover the reality that their local church had been in decline for decades. The emotional connection to the conversation was palpable.

These folks loved their church. They knew the church was dying. But, no one wanted to say it.

You’ve been there, right? Emotionally charged moments that lead to life-changing decisions.

Many of them had been a part of the congregation for decades. But they were lamenting the fact that there were very few young people and young families in the church. (If you’re experiencing something similar, it is worth exploring info about Generation Z, the youngest generation in the United States. See the Resources below.)

Expecting things to be the same as they were when they came to the church 30, 40, and 50 years ago was not realistic. But it was a truth they had a hard time accepting.  Instead of telling a group of leaders their hard truth, I helped them trip over it.

Anticipate Emotionally Intense Moments

Honestly, it was more painful than I anticipated.

I asked about their mission, or purpose. They looked at one another blankly, until someone stated, “to have more kids.” I confess it took everything in me not to scream, “that’s not your mission.”

I put it on the whiteboard anyway.

I asked again, “What is your mission?”

We finally came to a place where we had a focus on disciple-making and transformation. Leaders, if you’re not sure what your mission is, please go read Matthew 28, Luke 10, or any of the sending passages in Scripture.

Our discussion revealed that they viewed the children attending the preschool as separate. We got up from the room, walked through the building and I asked over and over again, “What happens here?” “And here?”

When we arrived back at the meeting room, I asked how many places were touched by children on a given day. One of them said, 12. The church building had 14 rooms. The only places the kids did not enter every day was the pastor’s office and the sanctuary.

Then someone said, “We have over 100 children in 12/14 rooms, five days a week.” <—-There’s the truth. They tripped over it on our little adventure through the building.

Then I asked, “What does church look like for 100 children attending preschool and their parents?” They tripped over the deeper truth that they were not building relationships with the very people who were in their building.

What do you need to create a moment of insight? Especially, a moment where people trip over the truth?

Three Ingredients

There are three essential ingredients to “trip over the truth”.

1. Clear insight

You’re not looking to accomplish a 5 step plan. A clear insight comes from being laser-focused on one thing. The question is “what one insight can we glean from this experience?”

2. Compressed in time

Tripping over the truth uses a compressed time frame as an advantage. Rather than research the seven ways other people have identified the needs in the community, you hit the sidewalk and start asking people.

Send five pairs of people out to ask people two questions. Give them 45 minutes.

See what truth you trip over with two questions like this: What do you love about the community? What needs to change? Are you willing to help?  I’m willing to bet, you’ll uncover the truth.

3. Discovered by the audience itself³

Notice in the above example, I did not offer a demographic study about the social status and emerging challenges of the community. People were sent out to ask and discover for themselves the needs in the community.

All three ingredients are needed to trip over the truth.

What I Changed

I noted above that we developed the Missional GAP Assessment to illicit moments of insight, specifically to help people trip over the truth. As a result of what I learned about the power of moments, I had to change how I viewed the process of the Missional GAP Assessment.

What I realized is I was expecting the entire process to be focused on tripping over the truth.

The reality is, the discussion and debrief is the time to trip.

This helped me to see not everything should or can be a moment. Sometimes it is just a task.

The breakthrough moments of learning and transformation happen in a compressed time. Don’t let the tension that is building during these discussions be released from the room. Use the tension to point to insights, learning, and evoke transformation. When someone names the truth you already recognized, you’ll know it is a moment of tripping over the truth.

6 Questions to Ask

Here are six questions to consider as you invite people on a journey of tripping over the truth. These questions are broad for application to multiple contexts.

  1. What is your goal or purpose?
  2. Explore current reality. How do the current activities, agendas, programs, and processes align with your goal? Where are you spending a majority of your time? Is there alignment?
  3. What dramatization can happen to point to the problem? Do you need to go for a walk, get in the car, pull up records, go to a storage room, look at pictures, a roster, or other data?
  4. What realization has occurred?
  5. What needs to change?
  6. When will you implement the change?

Final Reminder

Here’s the thing about tripping over the truth: as a leader, you may know exactly what you want people to do. Your role is to help the people you’re leading discover that truth.

As a coach, I can help you facilitate these discussions. Often, if the team gets frustrated with someone, it’s me. And when I leave, the team remains intact. Let me know how I can help your team trip over the truth.

Complete this sentence in the comments below, “If only my team understood…” Guess what you just discovered? The truth you need to help your team trip over.

Here’s a free worksheet to help you design a moment of insight. Click the button below to help your team “trip over the truth.”

ps – Just wondering, did you finish post your completed sentence in the comments below?


Generation Z: Digital Babylon

The Power of Moments

Contact me for coaching


  1. Chip and Dan Heath, The Power of Moments, 95.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid, 105.