Adapt or die.
That's especially true in small churches.
The good news is, because of our size, small churches have the ability to adapt more quickly than our larger counterparts. Like steering a speedboat instead of an ocean liner.
Sadly though, that’s not our reputation. Of all the parts of the body of Christ, small churches have a far greater and more well-earned reputation for being stubborn, static and refusing to adapt than any other segment of the church.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can be the innovation leaders, as we have been historically.
For instance, every year when Americans celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday, we’re reminded of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower, 37 of whom were members of the same small church. Yes, a small church founded the United States of America!
There are many instances of small churches changing world and church history, including the Azusa Street revival and the collapse of European Communism, several of which I mention in The Grasshopper Myth.
But this is not just theory or history. It’s a present-day reality. In the last 23 years, I’ve watched as the church I pastor has transformed from a static, dying place into a vibrant, innovative change agent. And there are many other small churches doing the same.
And no, we didn’t compromise our core values to do so. They’ve actually been strengthened because of it. (See point #3, below).
Here are six steps that many innovative small churches have taken to become nimble and adaptable.
1. Figure Out How to Say “Yes” to New Ideas
This may be the #1 way for a church to become adaptable and innovative.
Every church has people with new, fresh ideas. They use them at home and at work all the time. But they don’t try them at church. Why? Because we scare them away by putting the brakes on their ideas before they get a fair chance to succeed. (Yes, pastors, I’m looking at you!)
New ideas need the space to breathe. They need a champion. In a church – especially in a small church – that usually means the lead pastor.
Figuring out how to say “yes” to new ideas doesn’t mean green-lighting every half-baked notion you hear. You can still trash those 10-page manifestos written in crayon. But it does mean creating an atmosphere where innovative people know they will find a sympathetic ear. That, combined with a mature leader who will help edit an almost-there idea into a let’s-give-it-a-shot reality, is a winning combination.