Every church leader or creative team leader I know is looking for an edge that will separate them from the noise in their community. Frequently, the key to breaking through the noise is to become innovative – doing something new or different. When we do new and different things, it helps us to break through the typical creative patterns. When Seacoast church became a multi-site, that was innovative. When Hillsong started turning out songs from their ministry, it was innovative. LifeChurch giving away resources at no cost is innovative. Courageous Church giving away free breakfast and starting their church via social media was innovative. So, how do we make our church or organization innovative? Here are a few tricks that may help:
1. Create, don’t copy. Copying is easy. Creating is hard work. If we want to innovate, we have to do some difficult things. We have to create our original works. What works for someone else may or may not work for us. If we are going to innovate, we have to identify the things that make us uniquely us; what makes us designer originals. When we get busy copying, we stop creating and without creation, there is no innovation.
2. Have a clear mission. Not only having a clear mission but being committed to that mission forces us to point our organization towards innovation. We must know what we are willing to compromise on and what is non-negotiable. Our mission is the rudder of our organization. Our mission is the filter that every decision must pass through to be executed. Our mission keeps us on track, and we will never innovate if we are not on track.
3. Fall in love with the mission, not our method. When we do things, especially successful things, we must refuse the temptation to fall in love with our methods. We should always be looking for new ways to do the things we do every day. Innovation requires us to think about what is next, not what is now. When we love our methods, we stop trying to figure out what is next. We can never rest on our achievements. We have always to be striving for what God has next for us and how we can accomplish that differently and more effectively.
4. Change our lens. The greatest innovations come from people who see things differently. When we are our innovative best, people will wonder what in the world we are doing. Figuring out how to do things differently, looking at problems and opportunities differently (or non-conventionally) often give us the ability to be innovative. Innovation often makes people question before they accept. Don’t be afraid if what you are proposing seems like it is “out there” or not going to be accepted. If it were easy or not scary, everyone would do it.
5. How can we do this better? These are six words that breed innovation. Study our systems and process then ask “How can we do this better?”
6. Allow creativity to thrive. Innovation shines when our best ideas win. From the Senior Pastor to the intern, the best ideas matter. Find them, cherish them, and share them. Focusing on our best ideas allows us to be prepared when #2 on this list hits and we realize innovation means we have to change everything…again. Beating our best stuff is the best compliment for our creativity. We should not be worried about what other churches do. We need to be worried about what we are going to be better – how we are beating ourselves and the best stuff we have ever done. When creativity thrives, we can see we are growing because we are better than we have been before.
7. Be intentional. We don’t drift into innovation. Being innovative takes intentionality and a culture that strives to make a mark in art and history. Innovation should be a by-product of doing our work to the best of our abilities. Passionately staying on a mission provides the opportunity for innovation to thrive. Innovation develops out of the simple processes that we are using to be better and be our best.
8. Shake the haters. When we create great stuff, it will have lovers and haters – but it won’t live in the middle. The middle is where we are ignored. When we are so focused on people’s opinions, we drift from our message and our mission. People come to our churches for what God is doing in them. Ironically, we quickly fall victim to these same people who loved what we have done differently to make us uniquely us and try to change us to what they want the church to be. Shake The Haters. Stay on mission. Fight to keep our DNA pure.
9. Innovation is kin to revolution. What is the one thing we can do that no one has ever done before? What is the one thing our community needs that no one is giving them that fits in our mission? Doing THAT thing is innovative and will make a mark.
10. Accept rejection. Not everyone is going to like us, and that is okay. When we are innovative, we are going to be rejected. We must believe in what God has called our church to be…at all costs. Live in the confidence of all that God has called you to be – that is innovative in its right.
11. Innovation does not require infinite resources. Innovation creates momentum – this can be done without a ton of cash. Don’t rely on what funds you do or don’t have. It’s about ideas, not cash.
12. Get the right crew. If we want to innovate, we have to have the right people in our organizations. Hire people who will be owners of your vision, not renters. Give them space to own. As they buy in and develop, partner them with people who will help them continue to remain an owner. Being an owner does not mean that someone has all the experience. It means they have all the motivation. Sometimes, experience can hamper innovation.
13. Be a hustler. Innovation might happen tomorrow, or it could take years. But hustlers understand that we are working towards a goal, not just for the moment. Hustlers are always asking questions. Hustlers never feel they have arrived because they know there is more that can be done. Are all the people in your city saved? If you answered no, there is more work to be done. Keep working, keep pushing, and keep trying to get better.
So, let’s innovate. In our communities, our churches, and our world. We may never be LifeChurch, Elevation, or Mars Hill, but we can be our absolute best in our community, and that is what matters.