Let's face it: things don't happen the way they used to. We can lament the loss of the good ole days, but if we're honest we really enjoy having air conditioning, GPS, cable television (in color!) and debit cards. But while changes happen around us at a rapid pace, many feel the church is one of the slowest institutions to experience change. Innovation is often met with a response like "We've never done it that way before!"
Innovation opens up so many doors to new opportunities, but unfortunately many churches never come to fully embrace what's put before them. Innovation involves change, and change can often be uncomfortable, require sacrifice, and bring people to rewire their thinking pattern. So how can a church kill innovation? Here's five ways.
Create Complicated Decision-Making Structures - If churches have multiple layers to make a decision, it's too complicated. Making decisions more complicated causes people to not take initiative, which is sad when many churches show greater levels of bureaucracy than the government.
Don't Listen to New Voices - As God sends new people to a church, they come with new ideas. Those new ideas could provide a fresh approach to ministry. When new voices are silenced because "they've not been here long enough" or they're too young or their ideas are too different, status quo becomes engraved in stone.
Be Scared to Fail - Anyone remember the Arch Deluxe? McDonalds spent millions launching a "grown up" burger, only to pull it from the menu when sales absolutely tanked. Apple got into the business of selling clothing, ESPN aired the Hot Dog Contest, and the XFL pushed the boundaries of broadcasting football with overhead cameras and more microphones on the field. When churches become scared of failure, new ideas never get a try. Will some things fail? Of course. But the fear of failure should never be so great that a ministry is scared to try something new. Thomas Edison famously said that he had "found 10,000 ways a light bulb doesn't work."
Never Evaluate - Innovation doesn't happen because evaluation isn't taken seriously. When something is evaluated by "how'd you think it went?" rather than by using metrics and in-depth review, bad ideas are allowed to continue unchecked because there's no objective way of saying something needs to be revised. Constantly evaluate ministries, your teaching, how your services are going, and what processes are in place to take people from guest to member.
Be Comfortable - We should be content with where God has placed us, but we should never let our contentedness become comfortableness. Comfortable maintains for the comfort of those already there. Comfort fails to have urgency. Comfort rarely looks outside. Leaders who are serious about innovation should always be asking "What could we be doing that we're not now? How can we reach our community? Are we missing an opportunity in front of us? Are we doing something now that we need to cut out?" Those are hard questions, but we need to ask them.
How else do you see Innovation killed in churches?
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.