by Erik Hall planter of Barnegat Anew in Barnegat, New Jersey
Why change when everything is good?
So it can be the best.
That is what innovation is all about. No turning back and no settling for less! Whether it’s a Fortune 500 company, a mega-church, a non-profit organization, or a new church start the enemy of “best” is “good”. The temptation is always to complacently rely on past and current successes instead striking out in new directions. This is a temptation which has found its way into a lot of churches today. As a church, however, we should always be moving forward and striving to do better.
There’s something very Wesleyan to this idea of striving for the best. John Wesley and the early Methodists understood that when the church or the individual Christian isn’t seeking to do better, then it’s usually a sign that they’re actually “backsliding”. Faith does tend to stand still and the Spirit isn’t inclined to settle down. As we seek to minister to new people, new groups, new communities, and new generations the need to innovate becomes key. Innovation is an inherently Christian idea. Innovation is the means by which the church will not simply survive or break even, but radically transform the world.
One of my favorite areas of innovation has been connecting events that have wide appeal in the community with our church’s Sunday morning worship celebrations. Here are some examples of innovation I’ve seen so far during my time in ministry:
While I was working as an associate pastor in a previous church we contracted with a professional non-profit community theater company. They put on an excellent production of Jekyll & Hyde on a Friday and Saturday night and invited the community to come watch. Then, we invited everyone back on Sunday morning for a worship theme and sermon on “human pride” and “good and evil”. Following our worship celebration we had a “coffee house” style gathering for discussion.
More recently we contracted with a professional magic company to put on a family magic show on a Saturday afternoon and again invited the community to come watch. It happened to be the Saturday before Easter Sunday. Then, we invited the families who attended to join us on Easter Sunday morning for an “encore” magic performance complete with a striking message about the Resurrection.
These are not just “plug-n-play” or “pre-fabricated” events. It takes time, effort, planning, and preparation to offer events like these, but the end result is worth the work. We had a natural bridge between an appealing event for the wider community and the deeper faith and life we offer as Christians.
I wouldn’t say we have arrived yet at “best,” but we have certainly passed “good” on our way to “better and better”. John Wesley would tell us not to stop until we’ve reached perfection. Looks like we've got a lot of work ahead then. The best is yet to come!
Tell us about some of the innovations your church has introduced? How has the community around your church responded to new programs and ministries? Share your thoughts here.