What is Real Innovation?
The innovative congregation is one that will do new things because it is the right thing to do. It innovates with purpose and intentionality, not just doing something new for the sake of doing something new. Rather, it has in mind a larger picture, one that innovation will help the congregation move toward. The truly innovative congregation will know…
- when something new is needed
- how to figure out what is needed
- what purpose the innovation will serve
- what success with the innovation will look like
So—what is innovation? An innovative approach to ministry has more to do with the way decisions are made, and executed. For example, the innovative congregation will be characterized by a culture that emphasizes 1) staying in touch with external and internal environmental factors, and 2) decision processes that are proactive and allow for timely andeffective response to changes in those environmental factors.
A congregation must key on a number of things if it is to be truly innovative.
First, it must cultivate an awareness of what is going on inside the church. The leadership of the typical congregation has very little time to spend with congregants. So it is difficult to know what is really going on in their lives.
Second, church leadership needs a keen awareness of what is going onin and around the community, region, state, etc. in which the church is located. These external factors will invariably affect the congregation as a whole, just as they affect the members as individuals.
The third critical element in an innovative approach is the church’s responsiveness to these internal and external factors. The congregation must have the ability to read and assess the impact of shifts and to act accordingly. The congregation’s decision-making process must be nimble.
A healthy congregation is built from the inside out, and that will likely take a long time.A congregation can choose to take shortcuts and do those “cosmetic” things that cause it to look healthy. They may change the style of music, or tell folks to begin dressing casually at worship, and tout themselves as an innovative church. Eventually the “look” will wear off—usually sooner than later, and things will be back to where they used to be.
Lasting, healthy innovation takes place in an organization’s infrastructure. Innovation just shows up in what the organization does and produces. Therefore, those looking at a congregation from the outside may never ‘see’ the actual innovative processes in the organization. But they will see the results.
A congregation must practice innovation in each area of infrastructure, and it must engrain that practice of innovation deeply in the culture of the organization, before it can begin to change its external elements. An innovative church can be a church of any worship style, size, denomination, etc. Again, the key is the decision-making process.