• Dan Carlton

Raising the Bar of Innovation

Updated: Jun 13

Cindy is an innovator. She dreams great dreams, is able to see what others can’t see, and is willing to put in the work required to bring these dreams to reality. She loves to gather with other people, and together they catch a vision of what could be.


Cindy also grew up in church. The church formed her faith, encouraged her to dream about what a life devoted to Christ could look like, and expected her to be bold in using her stills, talents and gifts to make a difference on the world. Cindy loved her experience growing up in church.


During her young adult years, the church asked Cindy to help with the youth ministry or to help create a new ministry. Cindy got excited. She was finally able to put her love for church, her heart for people, and her innovation spirit together to make a difference. They put her with a “team” (they had long since abandoned the use of the word “committee”), and Cindy quickly realized that not everyone on the team was innovative like her. That was okay because Cindy loved these people, had known them her whole life, and was willing to work with them on this new ministry even if it meant giving up part of her innovation spirit. Cindy was patient with the team as they met (and met) over many months, and they were finally ready to move forward.


It was time to meet with the leadership of the church. Church leadership politely received the team, and gave them the “green light” to move forward. While the leadership wasn’t as excited as she hoped they would be—they didn’t say no and were appreciative of the team’s work. (Cindy would learn later that there are a lot of ways church leaders say “no” by saying “yes.”)


The team moved forward without much support from the church (either financially or publicly) and the ministry started going and had some good results early on. Eventually the ministry hit some snags. That didn’t bother Cindy because she felt it was a good time to revision the ministry and figure out how to push through the road blocks to bring forward a greater ministry. But the team wasn’t as inspired as they once were. Church leaders were more sympathetic than supportive.


Cindy loved her church and wasn’t too disappointed in the “failure” of the ministry. She stayed actively engaged looking for the next opportunity to be innovative. While the church was doing some good things—there didn’t seem to be an opportunity to truly be innovative so she “turned off” that part of her heart and brain while she engaged church.

Cindy heard about a new church that was coming to town. She had heard of church plants before so that didn’t pique her attention greatly. She ran into a leader of the new church and was amazed by her ability to talk innovation. She shared the plan of the new church and Cindy thought it sounded like a business plan for an innovative company. Cindy went to one of their “launch group” meetings and found people who could dream dreams, had vision, were “all in” to bring the dream to reality and were ready to push on past barriers. Cindy was in.


When the new church launched and Cindy saw the response, it was her greatest dream. Cindy was part of the lead team that eventually negotiated a building lease deal on a commercial piece of property. Cindy could only describe that as a “God thing.” Cindy also went to the leadership conference every year. Cindy had a busy family and career life, but taking that week off to be at the conference was a “must do” for her. She helped her church become a “model church” for the movement in her region.


After a few years Cindy spent more time reflecting on her church experience. She was still disappointed and sad that she didn’t use her innovation gifts at her “home church.” While she was excited about the growth of the church plant she noticed after a couple of years that their innovation “wore off.” Cindy begin thinking about her work—a very innovative technology company. She thought “how does the innovation of my church compare to the innovation at my company?” and she laughed when she thought about the gap. But she accepted that this must be the best the church could do. So she continued supporting her church plant, but realized the church would never use the fullness of her innovation gifts.

We believe Cindy’s story is way too common. That we have lost many leaders by having such a “low bar” for innovation. We believe that even if you compared the most innovative churches in our country to the most innovative companies, there would still be that “laughable gap.” We want to close that gap and leverage the fullness of the body of Christ in innovation. For centuries, the church was innovative in the areas of art, education, health care, science and literature. It’s time for us to reenter those conversations.


#costefficiency #returns

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