Outreach magazine publishes an issue each year featuring the most innovative churches in America. These churches aren’t just big ones either, and the editors are looking for small churches that do things in an innovative way. What makes the difference in an innovative church and everybody else? These five things:
- New eyes. Innovative churches see things differently. They dissect situations, problems, concerns, and programs to get to the core. They ask the difficult questions like “Why are we doing this?” and “How can we do this better?”
- New opportunities. Everybody saw the internet, and most churches built websites. But LifeChurch.tv saw the internet as core to their mission, and developed a whole set of tools around the idea that people could actually connect to their church online first. Maybe some other church did it first, but LifeChurch.tv created a model others could adopt.
- New approaches. I’m reading Mark DeYmaz book, Building A Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church. Mark shows others how multi-ethnic congregations are intentional, not accidental, and gives concrete principles to guide new or existing congregations toward inclusion and diversity.
- New expressions. Jonny Baker posts about new “worship tricks” regularly. Tall Skinny Kiwi writes about their new social enterprise called The Sorting Room. Other churches are taking drama to the streets, living as neighbors with the poor, and expressing faith in new ways.
- New permission. Innovators give the rest of us permission to follow their lead. They take the risk for blazing the trail, and the rest of us can follow or modify their efforts. But innovators break new ground, chart new territories, and give the rest of us cover to try new things. When Rich Cizik, vp for the National Association of Evangelicals, stuck his neck out to say that evangelicals should be concerned about the environment, too, he gave cover to a bunch of folks just waiting for someone to take the lead on that topic.