For the last 10 weekends in a row, I’ve been hosting a party on the second floor fire escape platform on the side of my apartment building.
And I’d like to make a confession: I’ve been a little disappointed with the turnout.
Its been more than a little confusing! I mean, I’ve thrown parties in a lot of different locations—poolside BBQ's, living room luncheons, backyard bonfires, huge blowout bashes. I know how to throw a party. I know whats involved: the planing, the purchasing of food and beverage, the invitations. And yet, 10 weeks in a row the turnout has been mediocre. Only a handful of people have come through my front door to hang out on the fire escape.
What’s made the party more painful is that when I look down at the street below I can see all kinds of people walking by. Even people that I’ve invited to my fire-escape festivals! What’s the deal? Why don’t they join us? Why don’t they come on up!?
At least those are the questions I had been asking, until an answer came from a friend who also throws fire-escape festivities. She asked me, "Have you lowered the ladder down to the street?"
My first thought was, I shouldn’t have to lower the ladder, they can just come the normal way—through the front door of my building. Just buzz my apartment (I'll answer through the intercom, listen carefully because its outdated and a little difficult to hear). I’ll unlock the door and tell you which flight of stairs to take (the elevator is broken, and to be honest, it has been broken for a while). I’ll tell you which door on the second floor is mine (nothing is labeled, so its hard to tell). Then, you can come through my apartment to the party!
After a long pause, my friend asked me why I cared so much about HOW people got to the party: “Do you care more about how people get here or about getting people here?”
So this week, I took her advice, I lowered the ladder. Over 3000 people visited the party! Over 100 said they enjoyed it and would probably come back. It was a whirlwind. Some stayed for a while, some only popped in to see what all the fire-scape fuss was about. Some were around for what felt like a millisecond and others stayed the whole time. I don’t know who will come back, but I hope more do.
Someone wise once said, we should not make it difficult for those who want to attend apartment-side fire escape festivities (Acts 15:19). In other words: lower the ladder.
So that's what I’m doing. I’m not changing my party throwing standards, I still want to pay attention to the details and throw the best party I can. But I’m making it easier to access. I want to care more about getting people to the party, than about how they get there. Besides, my old route was broken anyway.
I don’t know what that means for you, but I’ll tell you what its meant for me. Its meant learning. A lot of learning. Not so much about the point of the party, but about how to help people access it. Its meant being open to change. The mission is still the same, but the methods need to change. And lets be honest, they’ve needed to change for a while.
And its meant a lot of trial and error...almost like a scientific experiment: making observations, testing hypotheses, collecting results, applying what we learned, and adjusting as we go.
Finally it has meant a change in me. Its easy for me to get married to a model for how people should attend parties, rather than the mission of throwing parties for people. And I’m working on that change. Its tough though. I basically have a masters degree in front doors and broken elevators, so here's to my continuing education.
And here’s to your ladder lowering experiments, whatever they may be. I’m cheering for you!