Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Importance of Innovation

During a workshop today, participants began to question whether it was practical to take the time to initiate a new approach to leadership development in the church. Their concern was, “How can we attempt something new when we are dealing with basic survival in the church?” I shared my belief that a spirit of experimentation and innovation is key to the health of churches in the 21st century. We must move beyond maintenance to dreaming and planning for future opportunities.

Afterward, I commented to one person that every church should have a Department of Research and Development. The church should always be trying new things. Of course, doing this is not easy. When things are going well in the church, people say, “Why bother to try something new?” When things are not going well, the response is, “We don’t have the time and resources to try something new.”

Now I do not mean that we need a literal department with the name “Research and Development,” but every church should be stretching itself by trying at least one new thing every year. This will institutionalize a spirit of innovation and anticipation. Perhaps it will be a new approach to leadership development such as Disciple Development Coaching© or a training program for a Sunday school leaders. The innovation may be a new Bible study class that deals with contemporary issues or a spiritual formation group that encourages the practice of spiritual disciplines. I am not talking about big emphases that seek to involve all members of the congregation like Forty Days of Purpose. I am suggesting small, experimental initiatives that have the opportunity to nudge congregations in new directions without major changes in schedules, disruption of established programs, or a large allocation of financial resources.

This is “seed planting.” Some of the seeds will prosper and yield new fruit. Some will wither and die. In any event, these innovations can generate new learning and a fresh appreciation for the church’s ability to grow and adapt to meet the needs of the 21st century.

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