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.
What other traits would you add to “Innovation’s Top 5?” And, do you know small churches taking an innovative approach to ministry? If you do, let me know.
Tall Skinny Kiwi (aka Andrew Jones) had an interesting post today titled “Baby or Bathwater or both,” referencing Jonny Baker’s post. But, TSK also picks up a quote from the same issue of Encounters by Jonathan Ingleby, who says:
My answer to that question is another question: can we begin to think seriously about ‘low-maintenance’ churches? Also, is this possibly one of the things that ‘emerging church’ is about? We are simply being crushed by the weight of the structures we have created in order to maintain our church life. People find they cannot take the weight and are slipping out to look for something which meets their spiritual needs and to which they can contribute something, but which does not weigh on them so heavily. Viewed from within the church, this is the familiar dilemma of ‘mission versus maintenance’. We are putting so much energy into maintaining the structures that we have not got time for anything else.
Which reminded me of our situation: we are looking for children’s Sunday School workers, and a SS director. We’re spending lots of time and energy to maintain the organization, and less on our mission of transforming our community. I’m beginning to think that “low maintenance” church is a great idea, but that is not an excuse for do-nothingism.
Low maintenance is the opposite of the mindless sustaining of institutional structures that no longer serve their purpose. If we channel all that spiritual energy into mission — real life-changing events focused outside the church walls and members — that would be more true to the tasks to which we are called. Problem is — institutional structures are hard to kill or abandon. Why? Because we’ve always done it like that. And the beat goes on.
A Christmas goose. Ask Andrew Jones about his…
Today’s mashup topic is Christmas. Timely, huh? See what you can do with these —
Lots of Christmas goodies out there. My all-time favorite is John Henry Faulk’s Christmas Story. I heard John Henry Faulk in 1978 in Dallas, when I was a student at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, TX. Faulk had been blacklisted as a commie during the McCarthy era. Edward R. Murrow helped Faulk regain his good name, win a lawsuit, and go back to being a writer and humorist. If you don’t know this Christmas story, you can read the transcript or download the audio at the NPR site.