In 1984, George and Nancy Barna set aside their spare bedroom as the headquarters for the newly founded Barna Research Group. Both the culture and the company have undergone seismic changes over the course of three decades, but the driving vision of Barna Group remains the same: to provide Church and cultural leaders with knowledge to navigate a changing world. To celebrate the occasion, George and current Barna president and owner David Kinnaman sat down to share what they’ve learned about leading, staying on mission and speaking the truth even when it’s painful or unpopular.
On what motivated him in to push beyond the early obstacles, Barna says, “As I looked at the state of the church across the country, I could see enormous potential that wasn’t even being pursued. I thought, ‘There is so much room for growth, so much opportunity for churches to impact people’s lives! If we can bring this information to them in a way they can understand, the church will be so much better off.’ That’s what kept me excited.”
Speaking about his approach to leadership, he continues, “Find great people and turn them loose. David is a great example of somebody who came in and really got [the vision] and ran with it—and then ran past me. And that was great. You always want people to be doing better stuff than you can do. Because it’s not about you.”
The two veteran researchers also commiserate on the pros and cons of the company’s mission. Kinnaman says, “You have to be honest. You have to say what the data are telling you.” Agreeing, Barna adds, “So much of what we do is to contradict the prevailing wisdom. Our job is to tell people, ‘You may feel that way, but that’s not how reality is. Whether we like it or not, this is what the data seem to say.’ And a lot of times, that gets you into hot water.”
Reflecting on what excites and concerns him about the future, Kinnaman says, “A concern I have is how well we will use information—use good wisdom and good discernment to make sense of our opportunities as leaders. But I’m also very hopeful, because I see great leaders who are trying to wrestle with this, who are trying to get their arms around what’s happening in our culture.”
Watch their full conversation, including a few of Kinnaman’s favorite memories of his two decades at Barna Group, above.
About Barna Group
Barna Group (which includes its research division, Barna Research Group) is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
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© Barna Group, 2014
Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.
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