Innovator

Photo by Glen Alan Woods

This photo was taken deep within the confines of the Group Publishing facility. The sign was posted next to a door. The room inside was empty at the time of this photo, but the sign still perked my imagination.

Is this innovation central for Group Publishing? Is this where employees go to test new ideas? Is it like a theoretical centrifuge which separates mediocre ideas from the potentially amazing. Or is it something else altogether? I don’t know. I suppose I should have asked while there.

My point in this post is that Group has built into their physical infrastructure a space specifically designed for innovators. Having spent a couple of days onsite, I am quick to point out that the entire facility seems to generate an innovative flair. Yet, the fact they have designated an innovator room speaks volumes about what they value.

I am not suggesting that other businesses follow suit in designating an innovator room by posting a placard on it. I am suggesting that an ethic of innovation is necessary in a business climate which is rapidly changing for a variety of reasons.

Likewise, I don’t suggest that churches signify an innovator space in their facility. But it wouldn’t hurt to create space in conversations, meetings, and relationships for innovation to occur naturally as part of normal everyday interactions among leadership and parishioners. How might that happen in real church life? Here are some suggestions to jump start your thinking:

  • Ask for input from other leadership and parishioners. Implement and/or adapt the best ideas, giving credit where credit is due.
  • Listen to others, taking notes, and asking good questions to gain further insight.
  • While listening to others, don’t shoot down ideas you know (or think you know) won’t work while they are being given; simply listen, learn, and gain insight to the thinking of your colleagues and parishioners.
  • Ask people to brainstorm ideas regardless of how off-the-wall they might seem.
  • Just because something did not work in the past does not mean it cannot work in the future. (Exhibit A: Thomas Edison and his thousands of attempts to produce a working light bulb).
  • Just because something worked well in the past does not mean it is right for this moment. Use discernment in coordination with your senior leadership, understanding your church’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
  • Don’t confuse practical innovation (how ministry is executed) with theological innovation (in reference to first order orthodox doctrine).
  • Spend time in creative venues and spaces, both alone and with creative people.
  • Because of the image of God in you, you are creative, whether you perceive it or not.
  • Create a file for innovation. Some ideas might not be ready for implementation, but who knows what might happen five years from now?
  • Your old, tired ideas and resources might be someone else’s desperately needed innovation. Consider giving resources and the knowledge of your past successes to others. For example, I know a missionary friend who is seeking puppets, Betty Lukens materials, resource books, etc. to take to Romania where they have NO resources.
  • Help colleagues in other ministries brainstorm. This could generate ideas for your context. There are great venues to do this online, such as Kidology.org, cmconnect.org, ministry-to-children.com, and the wealth of blogs on the net.
  • Specifically interview the children and parents in your ministry. Listen to them carefully.
  • Interview neighbor families who do not attend your church, especially those who are not believers. Ask them for their opinions of your church.
  • Have non-believers and believers attend your church as “secret shoppers” to give honest feedback on their experience.
  • Visit other churches to generate ideas for your own setting. If your church is small, try visiting churches your size who are doing ministry well. Also, visit churches which currently are doing ministry in a way you envision doing it five years from now. Listen, learn, ask questions, observe, and take careful notes along with many photos. Don’t think simply in terms of environments and staffing. Think in terms of ministry effectiveness using metrics such as connectivity to the lost and the discipleship process, as well as how parents and families are engaged in the partnership process.
  • Keep in mind that sometimes simplicity is more innovative than complexity.
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