The church faces big issues in the coming years.
The communities we’re trying to engage with the gospel have changed rapidly in the last few decades—and all signs point to the fact that they’ll change even more in the coming years.
Our communities are becoming more diverse, less religious, more isolated and more technologically in tune than ever before. Just consider the dramatic change in human knowledge in recent years. According to govloop.com, human knowledge was doubling at a rate of every century in 1900. In 1945, it doubled every 25 years. Currently, it doubles every 13 months. IBM predicts in just a few years it will double every 12 hours. Change is coming rapidly to our churches and our communities. We face problems today we couldn’t have even imagined a decade ago.
And we can’t solve today’s ministry problems with yesterday’s solutions. Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Never has that thought been more accurate.
God’s Word won’t change. The gospel won’t change. But the world we’re trying to reach is changing like never before.
That’s why the job description for anyone in church ministry—whether pastoral leadership, administration or technology—has to include innovation. Craig Groeschel once said, “To reach people no one else is reaching, you have to do things no one else is doing.” That’s innovation.
To reach people in 2018 that aren’t being reached, your church will have to do things no one else is doing in technology. You can become more innovative in 2018 by making these five commitments:
TAKE A VACATION
Tired people don’t innovate. They may get things done. They may manage people well. But they generally don’t solve new problems (and they continue to struggle with the old ones, too).
Too often, we laugh at the need for vacations among church leaders. We hold up the overworked pastor or staff member as a paragon of virtue. That’s dumb.
American workers lost 222 million days of vacation in 2015 simply because they didn’t take the amount of vacation days allotted during the year. Church workers likely weren’t any better than the general population.
In trying to respond to the question, “Should leaders go on vacation?” Rosabeth Moss Kanter writes in The Harvard Business Review, “Everyone needs down-time to renew, re-energize and re-bond with family. Time away while accumulating new experiences can stimulate imagination and support innovation.”
So take a vacation. Schedule it today. Don’t save it for a rainy day. Don’t skip it to be more productive. Certainly, don’t let it evaporate.
TAKE A RISK
Innovative leaders take risks. It’s almost a cliché. You can’t innovate without risk. But let’s be clear. Innovative leaders don’t take wild risks. They take calculated risks. They take good risks.
Seth Godin says it this way to business leaders: “Playing it safe and not taking a risk is probably the most dangerous thing you could do in today’s rapidly changing and highly competitive business environment.”
That’s true for church leaders, too. The gospel is too important for you to not take risks in the technology your church will use to communicate.
Too often we think about risk in church ministry and assume that our resources are stretched too thin to be able to afford to take risks. But the opposite is true. Our resources are too precious not to take risks with them. Re-read Jesus’ Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. Our faith should lead us toward risk, not away from it.
So what are the calculated risks you need to take this year? That’s up to you. But make a commitment to take at least one this year. Start small. Think about a risk that’ll move your church forward in reaching your community. Get buy-in from other leaders in the church. And go for it. Make calculated, healthy risks a habit.
FIND A MENTOR
We talk a lot about mentoring in church circles, but we often struggle with the actual work of mentoring. But for the sake of real and meaningful innovation, mentoring is a must.
More than anything else, we need outside voices in our lives. Nothing blocks innovation quite like a silo mentality. Finding a mentor is a step in the right direction. Pick the right mentor, though. You want a mentor you trust. You want a mentor who will make you think outside of the box. You want a mentor with competence in an area where you’re weak.
But don’t get stuck thinking of potential mentors as necessarily people older than you, either. Mentors can be younger than you. Mentors are simply a step ahead of you in an area where you need to grow. You can have multiple mentors in multiple areas—from your professional life, your personal life and your spiritual life. Innovative leaders, particularly innovative church leaders, grow in all those areas.
Just make a commitment to meet regularly with the person. Come to those meetings with questions and a pencil and paper. Make good use of the time you have with your mentor. It’s some of the most valuable time on your calendar.
You don’t know everything you need to solve 2018’s problems. Yes, innovation will require new skills of you. But more importantly, innovation will require you to think differently about the tech problems your church faces. You need training that expands your vision of how your church can use technology to engage people with the gospel.
Identify some special areas where you need further training. Invite the feedback from others, including coworkers and mentors. Of course, look at some tech topics where you might need training, but don’t stop there. Innovative leaders are well-rounded leaders who learn inside and outside their fields.
Check out upcoming conferences, like the echurch Summit. You particularly want to find conferences where you can learn from creative leaders who will stretch your thinking. Do some research on them before signing up. Look to learn from people with a history of bold leadership in topics where you need to grow. But conferences aren’t the only training you can invest in. Online classes, books, webinars and meetups can all provide opportunities for growth as well.
BUILD RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER INNOVATIVE LEADERS
Lone innovators are an American myth. We tend to look at people like Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell and Steve Jobs and assume their creations were the product of long nights locked away in an office or garage.
But that’s not the history of innovation. Innovators gather. Innovators network with other innovators. It’s when innovators connect with other innovators that good things happen and impossible-to-overcome problems get beaten.
To do that, you’ll have to put yourself wherever there are other innovators. Again, the upcoming echurch Summit (Feb. 13-15) is a great place to start. The conference will bring together some of the most innovative leaders in the church world to talk about leadership, communication and technology. Check out echurch.com/summit to find out more.
Look for ways in 2018 to build your network with people inside your church, people in other churches in similar positions as yours, and people outside of church ministry. You need a growing network of people in all three of those categories if you’re going to become an effective, innovative technology leader.
Our churches need innovative technology leaders. As you know, technology will play a critical role in solving some of the most important problems the church will face in 2018 and in the years to come. Innovation isn’t a bonus for today’s ministry tech leader: It’s a necessity.