8 Nations of Innovation for Your Church

Great innovations come from great questions. The quality of your ministry will be determined by the kind of questions you have the courage to ask yourself. If you don’t ask the right questions, you won’t get the right answers. If you don’t get the right answers, you won’t build the right strategy for your ministry. And, if you don’t have the right strategy, you’ll never get the results you hope for. It is critical for you to ask the right questions!

Asking the right questions is a skill you can develop. And you can get good at it. I want to suggest to you eight questions of innovation. These questions will help you innovate—no matter your area of ministry.

I call them the eight nations of innovation, but these nations aren’t geographic. They’re nations of imagination. I’ve used these exact questions to build Saddleback Church, the Purpose Driven Movement, The PEACE Plan, the Global PEACE Coalition and a number of other ministries.

1. Termination: What do I first need to stop?

You can have so many irons in the fire that you put out the fire. The great Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter used to call this creative destruction. One of my mentors, Peter Drucker, used to call it systematic abandonment. When the horse is dead, dismount. This is a real key to success.

Here’s an example: For many years at Saddleback Church, we had a midweek Bible study, and we had a thousand people coming each week. Despite that, we decided to end the Bible study. Why? We weren’t satisfied with a thousand people. So we decentralized the study material and funneled it into small groups. And so today, because we terminated our midweek service, we now have more than 32,000 people in small group Bible studies all the way from Santa Monica to San Diego. There are cities all across Southern California where Saddleback small groups meet. This never would have happened if we hadn’t asked the question, “What do we first need to stop?” Asking this question helped us see the necessity of terminating our midweek service.

2. Collaboration: How do we do it faster, how do we do it larger, how do we do it cheaper—with a team?

If you want to start a movement, you need a team. Your team can include paid staff, but the real path to success is to create a team of volunteers. One of the secrets of Saddleback’s growth is that we’ve mobilized thousands of volunteers. A few years back, during 40 Days of Community, our church fed every homeless person in Orange County. We fed 42,000 homeless people three meals a day for 40 days. We couldn’t have done it without volunteers working together as a team.

3. Combination: What could we mix together to create something new?

One way to innovate is to take two existing things and combine them together. Years ago we combined the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and the eight beatitudes of Jesus to create Celebrate Recovery. It’s now the official recovery program in 17 state prison systems, and used by tens of thousands of churches. More than 15,000 people at Saddleback have gone through Celebrate Recovery. Why? We combined two existing things and created something new and innovative.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

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In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
 
— Jonathan Schultheis
 

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