Most churches that are seeing significant growth and ministry effectiveness are also churches that practice regular innovation. They have a culture of looking for new and better ways of accomplishing their mission and pursue those opportunities regularly.
However, developing a culture of innovation is not as easy as it sounds. There are always significant hurdles to moving from a culture of status quo to a culture of innovation in a church. Obviously those churches who see regular growth have overcome these hurdles but understanding what they are is an important step in overcoming them.
Hurdle One: You have to want a culture of innovation
Do you embrace innovation, seek it and value it? If this is not a value at the leadership level it will not happen. If your leaders operate out of fear (what if something goes wrong? We've never done it before! Someone might object) innovation will not happen. Organizations that see regular innovation do so because they want it to happen and know how it helps them move forward and stay fresh.
Hurdle Two: You must be willing to fail and even celebrate failure
Truth be told, most leaders won't go toward innovation for the simple reason that it may fail. They would rather be safe than suffer the embarrassment of failure. Here is a simple truth: Innovation requires risk. That risk pays off in multiple ways but not all ideas work. Ministries that make innovation a part of their culture know this and will celebrate that people tried a new idea even if it failed. In fact, it is often after the learnings of a few failures that the right solution is found.
Hurdle Three: You must focus on the future rather than the present or past
If one wants to focus on the past or present, innovation is not for you. If your focus is on the future, innovation is the key to that future. Times change, opportunities around you change, generations change and unless we also change we become irrelevant and stale. If you are happy where you are, doing things differently will not be a value. If you live in fear of failure, innovation will not be a value. If you want to reach the next generation or new opportunities, innovation is your friend.
Hurdle Four: You must be willing to push through the naysayers
It is a sad reality that the majority of church leaders (staff and boards) live in fear of those that object when new ideas are suggested. Think about that: The most conservative and change unfriendly folks in your congregation hold the congregation hostage from moving forward because their voices are loud and intimidating and leaders are unwilling to challenge those voices. Lets be candid. New ideas face opposition. We have the choice of allowing naysayers to run our ministries or for us to lead well and push through the opposition. Every good idea that is different will face opposition.
Hurdle Five: You need to we willing to spend money when necessary
Innovation does not mean that it must be expensive but there are times when investments need to be made in order to try new things. If your leadership is unwilling to spend money to try something new you will never have a culture of innovation. No business prospers long term without making investments in R & D and nor do ministries. Such investments are investments in the future success of your ministry. Make no investments and you live with what is and not what could be.
Hurdle Six. You cannot be too proud to steal good ideas
Cultures of pride say, "I won't do what others are doing, it has to be my idea." Cultures of humility say, "I am willing to learn from others any time I can and keep my "dumb tax" to a minimum. Proud leaders don't value learnings from others but humble leaders do. Learn from others and rip off their ideas. This is not about you but about maximizing the impact of your ministry.
Hurdle Seven. You must have a leader who promotes innovation
If the senior leader does not value innovation and you are an idea person, you may be on the wrong team. A senior leader must champion innovation and new ways of doing things if there is going to be a culture of innovation. Otherwise you are pushing a boulder uphill and it is likely to come back down and flatten you.
Hurdle Eight. The church board must value innovation
It is unfortunate that church boards can be the largest impediment to innovation in the church. I have watched this happen time and time again. This is where the influence and skill of the senior leader is important. Can they convince the board to take the same risk for the future that the staff is willing to take?
Think about the level of innovation in your church or ministry. Which of these hurdles are keeping you from embracing a culture of innovation and what can you do about it?