Innovative small church?
Do those three words belong in the same sentence? Can innovation happen in a small church? Is it even possible in an older small church?
Turning a tired, dying congregation into a fresh, innovative church is one of the greatest challenges a pastor can tackle – even if the congregation is in full agreement.
But when the people are resistant or apathetic – well that's even harder. And there's no 3-step, 10-step or 365-step plan to guarantee success.
But there are some principles that can get the process started. Principles, not promises.
I made plenty of mistakes trying to turn the church I pastor from unhealthy to healthy, even though the need was obvious and the congregation was willing. But the Lord helped me find a handful of foundational principles that stood me and my church well as we moved from old, tired and dying, to new, healthy and innovative.
Here are three of them:
1. Connect the Congregation to the Church's Innovative Heritage
No one starts a church because they have a set of hymns they plan to sing forever. Or because they want to maintain a building. Or because they expect the preacher to do all the work.
Churches are started by visionary people who want God to do something in and through their lives and their community. One of the most powerful ways to get an existing congregation excited about the next wave of visionary thinking is to tie the new ideas back to the original church visionaries – some of whom might be their own ancestors.
For example, when our church celebrated our 50th anniversary a couple years ago, we asked long-time members and former pastors to look for documents from its founding days. They sent them in and we put them on display.
One piece jumped out at me. It was an article from the local newspaper printed the week before the church was launched. It featured a photo of the founding pastor under the headline "The Church Can Reach Juvenile Delinquents".
In it, the founding pastor explained that one of the main reasons for starting the church was to reach what we today would call at-risk youth. I looked up from reading that article to glance outside the window at the skateboard ramps in our church parking lot – and I smiled.
Your church has such nuggets hiding in your archives. Dig them out, dust them off, display them proudly and link the principles you find in them to what's coming next.