Monday, December 7, 2009

Innovation, Relevance, and the Church: Paradox in Action?

One of the paradoxes of the church today is that it demands continual innovation yet often resists change.

In an effort to keep pace with fast-changing culture, churches of all types and sizes often implement various levels of change in order to reach the unchurched. These changes range from the relatively minor (different times and days for worship, different styles of worship) to the really edgy (launching an Internet campus, using building funds for missional activities and meeting outdoors).

But in ChurchWorld, there is no such thing as a minor change. Moving a worship time back one hour to accommodate another, different type of service can be very threatening to members who have grown used to patterns of attendance. And I won’t even start on worship styles!

On the other hand, churches – especially those started in the last decade or so – have so integrated innovation and change into their DNA that they are continually pushing the envelope of ministry possibilities in order maintain relevance in society.

The following quotes from Tim Manners, author of Relevance; editor and publisher of Cool News of the Day, and regular contributor to Fast Company magazine provide some things for church leaders to think about:
  • Sustaining relevance can require a kind of innovation in reverse: finding new ways to continue doing things the way they’ve always been done.
  • Relevance is designing and implementing meaningful solutions and providing them when and where people need them most.
  • If some is good, more isn’t necessarily better. A disciplined focus on what matters most is essential to innovation and growth.

What, then, is the approach church leaders need to take when it comes to innovation? There certainly aren’t any easy answers, and every church must decide for itself how much and how fast it is going to innovate. But to me, the church is a living, breathing organism –the Body of Christ. If living things don’t constantly change, they die. It’s that simple. Craig Groeschel summed it up pretty good: “To reach people no one else is reaching, we’ve got to do things no one else is doing.”

How are you dealing with the paradox of innovation and resistance to change in your church?

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