The Price of Failing to Innovate

Every day is about innovation.”  Shahid Khan at Chicago Ideas Week 10-18-14

Las Meninas Velazquez and Picasso

I’ve been doing a 21st Century Church road show for about ten years now – asking church leaders such questions as:

  • Why does your church exist?
  • If your church vanished who would notice/care?
  • What does your congregation worship more than God?

That sort of thing. The power point slides get tweaked with every presentation, but it’s basically the same message, and invariably, people come away feeling either overwhelmed (“We can never change like that“) or self-satisfied (“That’s exactly what I’ve been talking about but nobody else in my church gets it“) or energized (“Yes! This is what we’ve been looking for.“)

Every congregation and denominational and religious institution these days seems to be in the throes of Reorganizing or Transforming.  So here’s my own small idea for how Presbyteries/Associations/Dioceses should reorganize and transform themselves:

  • Offer a broad plan in which each congregation is assessed in terms of their spiritual, financial, and transformational health.  There are lots of organizations that can do this for us and denominations should pay for it – except for a minimal fee from each congregation to ensure buy in.  If a church selects not to participate, we close them.
  • Provide skilled/healthy/spiritually energetic coaches who will walk with each congregation as they move towards innovations according to the needs noted in their assessment. (Note:  The next steps might include closing the church which is often a healthy and wise choice.  Remember that all churches planted by the apostle Paul have closed.)
  • Re-assess spiritual health and transformational successes after three years, again, with Middle Judicatories assisting congregations as they call new, more innovative pastors and train church members in new, more innovative leadership for a 21st Century Church.

For much too long, we have been leading our congregations using methods learned in seminaries for a different culture.  The results have been crushing.

The price of failing to innovate for the 21st Century is exorbitant, but we can do better.  God has called to much higher things.  Who’s with me?

Image is two versions of Las Meninas – first by Velasquez in 1656 and then an innovative version by Picasso in 1957.

6 responses to “The Price of Failing to Innovate

  1. Say more about the first idea. We have closed a church here recently, which was a needed thing, but also terribly sad.
    You would close churches who don’t want to participate in assessments?


  2. Marci – I think I might indeed. Every congregation (Every. Congregation) needs to look at how they are faithfully being the church. Some are doing pretty well. Others are clubs with chaplains. It’s always good to hold each other accountable, access things, repent, repeat.


  3. In the United Church of Christ, the Associations – or really the Conferences – would not have the authority to close a church given our polity vesting ultimate authority in the local church. An Association could vote to withdraw the church’s standing in the Association, which would matter surprisingly little to many of our churches until they wanted someone to help them get a new pastor or get rid of an unwanted pastor or discipline a misbehaving pastor. But we’re odd. We have churches that still belong to our Associations and Conferences although they never joined the UCC.


  4. I will be interested to hear what middle judicatories and denominational folks think.


  5. I like number 2. My congregation did a thorough assessment three years ago and then — nothing. They were completely overwhelmed by all the suggestions and had no guidance on how to begin, let alone proceed.


  6. Pingback: This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.