Innovation: the Key to Effective Church Planting

by New Church Starts

by Rev. Gary Shockley, Executive Director of Path 1

BusinessDictionary.com defines innovation as:

The process by which an idea or invention is translated into a good or service for which people will pay. To be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need. Innovation involves deliberate application of information, imagination, and initiative in deriving greater or different value from resources, and encompasses all processes by which new ideas are generated and converted into useful products.

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, recently spoke of innovation when he was asked about his company’s phenomenal success. He said, “We had to learn to say ‘no’ to good ideas everyday in order to keep the amount of things we focus on very small in number, so we can put enormous energy behind the ones we do choose.”

In 1998 Jobs decided to reduce the number of Apple products from around 350 to 10. In speaking with Mark Parker, President and CEO of Nike, Jobs said, “Nike makes some of the best products in the world.” But, he added, “It also makes a lot of crap. You have to get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff!”

I’m thinking that’s great advice for those of us involved in new church development. Steve Jobs revolutionized technology because of his dogged determination to do his very best and to focus his company on creating the very best.

When you consider what we’ve been called to do, could we offer God anything less than our very best?

I’m not talking about perfectionism here. I’m talking about doing the best we can with what we have in any given circumstance. The first church I planted, in Western Pennsylvania, lacked for good musicians. They just didn’t show up in the first wave of newcomers. So, a few of us pooled our money together, bought a keyboard with a midi player and a bunch of contemporary music files and allowed “Muzak” to be our very first worship leader. A couple months went by until a classically-trained pianist showed up and offered her services. Suddenly “Muzak” became unemployed. Next a guitarist showed up and then the principle percussionist for the Johnstown Symphony, and then an actor/freelance songwriter. A year after we began worship we had an awesome praise band. We didn’t start that way but we innovated our way by doing the very best we could do with what we had. It worked!

Innovation is driven by vision. With the end in mind, we do whatever we can with what we have to make that vision become reality.

Looking back, we could have assembled a group of well-meaning, tone-deaf volunteers to lead worship for us. I had to turn down a few of these folk, who became upset at me when they learned I opted for “Muzak” instead of their “God-given talents.” I had to keep us from lapsing into doing crappy stuff so that we could focus on doing the good stuff.  Innovative church planter-types will get what I am saying here. As leaders in the church we need to think less about the church’s need and much more about the people we are seeking to reach. Don’t they deserve our very best?

Path 1 is committed to innovative ministry. That’s why we’re bringing together planters, coaches, and strategists October 19-21 for the Innovation Forum. At the Forum you’ll have access to some of the top innovators in the new church planting movement. Today is the last day to register so visit our website now to claim your spot.