By Patrick Scriven, Director of Communications and Young People’s Ministries

The next time I hear a pastor argue that what the church really needs is more innovative pastors I might lose my hair. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against innovation or against innovative pastors in principle. The church certainly needs transformation and we desperately need folks with new ideas. My problem is with our temptation to locate innovation with the clergy and the way it perpetuates a savior mythology, one that oppresses them as much as it does us wee lay folk.

Everett M. Rogers is famous for popularizing a theory explaining the technology adoption lifecycle within his book, Diffusion of Innovations. While the theory was originally developed studying farmers, it has been applied widely to other fields (no pun intended) to help us understand how innovation occurs. Rogers visually presented the adoption of new technology with a bell curve similar to the one accompanying this article.

According to Rogers, Innovators (roughly 2.5% of the population) were found be more educated, more prosperous and more risk-oriented. Early Adopters were younger and more educated. They tended to be community leaders but were less prosperous than innovators. The Early Majority were more conservative but remained open to new ideas and were active in the community and an influence to neighbors. The Late Majority were older, less educated, fairly conservative and less socially active that previous groups. Finally the Laggards were very conservative having the smallest farms and available capital. They were also the oldest and least educated. 1

Before considering an application for the church, I’d like to set forth one popular adaption to this theory offered by Geoffrey A. Moore in a book called Crossing the Chasm. Taking the basics of Roger’s model and applying them to the marketing of high-tech products, Moore introduced the notion of a chasm between the ‘visionaries’ (innovators and early adopters) and the ‘pragmatists’ (the early/late majorities and laggards). He argues that the most difficult step in the adoption of innovation is this one between the early adopters and the early majority. As as early adopter of technology whose been burned once or twice by the amazing product that never really caught on, his theory rings true.

As fascinating as these theories are, I’m only interested in them (or to be more accurate, my Wikipedia-level interpretation of them) because of how they might allow us to see the process of change in the church differently. Permit me to be deliberately provocative for the sake of our conversation here. Let me suggest that the pastor is exactly the wrong person to bring innovation into an existing church and that Moore’s chasm is the reason why.

Let me suggest that the pastor is exactly the wrong person to bring innovation into an existing church…

When a skilled pastor brings a new idea to an existing community I imagine they would have little problem getting that group of early adopters to agree to how amazing their innovation is. Together, they might plot out a course for those new small groups, or for that trendy evening service, but how many of you can relate to the difficulty of getting the pragmatists on board? Might we consider that this is Moore’s chasm at work?

When the pastor is the chief innovator of the church they are less able to apply their authority and influence toward helping the community to bridge this chasm between the early adopters and and early majority because they’ve already expended it by advocating for the idea originally. It stretches a pastor’s credibility to keep saying how amazing their idea is in the face of some resistance. Gifted pastors, or new pastors, may be able to push such change through but eventually their social capital comes to an end unless they’ve found a way to bank some more.

If we are to move forward, what the church really needs are innovative lay people; willing to adopt, suggest, and try new things. When a lay person puts forth a new idea and builds their group of advocates (early adopters), their innovation, particularly if it challenges the church culture, will still hit Moore’s chasm. The difference however is that now the pastor is free to insert their authority and influence to help good ideas to bridge this gap. And when they do so, they also create goodwill and affirm the gifts of their laity to boot.

Our churches need, desperately, to become places of change. While the occasional new idea from the pastor can be good modeling, the pastor that innovates continuously sucks the air out of the church and leaves no room for innovation elsewhere. Our churches would be better served by clergy who excelled at creating and nurturing cultures of innovation.

I would expect that some might say that this sentiment is nice but they know, or serve, churches where creating a culture of innovation is impossible. Where we find this to be true we should be quick to lock the doors and shutter the windows. Before we do this however, we should consider that there is a difference between a church that continuously rejects its pastor’s new ideas and one that refuses to create their own when given a chance.

The Spirit of God is the church’s true innovator. Relocating the process of innovation where we know the Spirit resides – the community – is our most faithful path forward.

So, how might we create, nurture and sustain cultures of innovation with the lay people of the church? I have a few thoughts but I’d rather hear yours. Leave a comment below. And then click here for part two.

* If you don’t know what ‘twerking’ is, trust me, your life is not incomplete.


  1. Actually – you’re completely in target that innovation needs to come from (and will come from) laity. But in a mature structure like ours, the innovators will be frustrated and blocked – even driven out to just start over somewhere else – if clergy do not use the pivotal influence of their position in the organization to nurture an environment where innovation is valued, celebrated and encouraged.

    • Agreed. Any thoughts on how clergy can retool their skills and interaction with the congregation to foster and support lay innovators?

  2. A pastoral role includes oversight of the whole congregation, for its health; this could include teaching congregations – especially innovators, early adopters and early majorities – about these very dynamics of change, so that innovators and early adopters stay in community with — and don’t hate and browbeat — all those who don’t jump aboard the bandwagon.

    • That’s an important point. Hating and browbeating the late adopters and laggards doesn’t really contribute except to introduce negative energy. But I am curious about how one moves forward if people in those groups deliberately set themselves in the way. It seems less likely, from my limited church experience, that they would put themselves in the way of laity-initiated change, but still a possibility.

      • Sometimes it’s the clergy role is to just help make a safe place for the laggards to hang out. Effective chaplaincy can keep them from attacking change, but not make them feel they have to “come on board” before they are ready.

  3. I agree with what Stephan is saying, and will even take it one step further: I am sadly more and more convinced that our structure has gone beyond “mature” to borderline petrified (due to both fear and antiquity), and those who have been in it long-term have seen just enough “innovation” to immunize themselves against real transformation. I also think there is also a basic problem of human nature: How can we look for change to come from those who have the most invested in our structures as they are? Our clergy, our long-term laity – even our bishops – are the people who have been nurtured by what they have experienced of the church that is. Change that preserves may come from authority in the center, but change that transforms almost always comes from malcontents on the fringe.

    • Thanks for the comment Todd. Any examples of what you mean by ‘malcontents on the fringe?’ I’m particularly interested in how such change would move (has moved) from the fringe into the mainstream.

  4. You say that ” While the occasional new idea from the pastor can be good modeling, the pastor that innovates continuously sucks the air out of the church and leaves no room for innovation elsewhere.” My experience is that it is the innovator who get the air sucked out of them by churches who are uninterested in trying new things, or who are content to let the hired professional (= pastor) do the work.

    This said, you are spot on saying that churches need to be centers of change and innovation (= creativity = excitement = vitality). So, how do churches become such, and who will lead the change? Trained professionals again?

    • Craig, I suspect many share that experience and I certainly wouldn’t argue against its reality. It seems akin to the difficulties we have with worship. We’ve allowed things to remain the same for so long that worship is too often a domesticated (and stagnant) animal rather than something that challenges, inspires and surprises.

  5. I think all of us pastors realize that later adopters may NEVER actually get on board with an innovation. Therefore, innovative pastors actually form “tribes,” as Seth Godin might put it, within their institutional churches. Like a “church within a church” an innovative idea gains momentum and snowballs over time, even if some people never do get on board with the innovation.For example, starting a contemporary worship service may only begin with a small group of individuals, but that innovation may grow over time even if traditional worshipers never adopt it. The pastor who sits around waiting for innovation without understanding these dynamics will not see much change. Innovative pastors spur-on and encourage innovative laity, giving them permission to think outside the box. And likewise, innovative laity then spur-on and encourage innovative pastors, slowly breaking that “frozen” or “calcified” institutionalism that many of our churches struggle to break.

    • I’d love to see more of this kind of behavior in the church. The permission giving and encouragement seem like key ingredients of a healthy ecosystem. Thanks for the comment.

  6. I think permission giving is essential. A congregation needs to understand that when an innovator brings a new idea that has traction they have the permission (blessing?) of the congregation to run with it – even though not all agree with it. The problem I have seen is that when something does not succeed the lay person is disinclined to try again. How do we cultivate a climate of experimentation?

    • Great question. I wonder if it would be helpful for the spiritual leader(s) to set a public goal of XX new things each year that the community will do; leaving the actual items somewhat open ended as a challenge and encouragement?

  7. I would venture to say in most churches a pastor could list off the late adopters or laggards. The description of this group leads me to believe they need more time learning about and understanding the new innovation. Why not start with this group by approaching them first and getting them on board. I would venture to say they are most often the ones left behind with new ideas and become frustrated when something new comes along that they do not understand. I have found when I approach this group first and spend time helping them understand and get on board before I bring it to the rest of the church, it goes more smoothly and there is less fear of change.

    Instead of leaving them behind or forgetting about them, help them bece part of the first adopters. It may not work with all of them, but if done enough you might get a different response. In a way it’s what Jesus did when he started his ministry. He went to the outskirts first and worked his way in to the center.

    • Thanks for the comment Carrie! Part of Moore’s underlying theory is knowing which group you are talking to and speaking deliberately in a way they can relate to but it does suggest starting with the folks who are open to hearing; which is also what Jesus did and encouraged his disciples to do in their preaching. The key you might be pointing to is that the world often picks the powerful and popular where as Jesus sought out those who were hungry and ready.

      I think the goal is always to bring everyone along, we are the church after all. But there will always be situations where the change God’s mission field needs, which is equally outside the church, demands we neglect for a moment our tendency to wait until everyone is on board with it.

  8. As a(nother) layperson, I believe you are so spot on here! There is nothing so energizing as an empowered laity that serves in partnership with their clergy leaders. At my local church, we are experiencing early stages of a process very similar to what you describe with the laity serving as innovators and early adopters. I’m excited to see where the Spirit moves us from here.

  9. Patrick, your article is interesting, and rightly provocative, with the same being true for many of the replies sent by your readers.

    You should know that a long ago high school buddy, former missionary, and now in retirement in California sent this “blog” to me, wondering what my reaction would be. His question prompts me to attempt to join the conversation. I begin by asking for definitions, and perhaps adding a thought or two.

    What for me is missing in the above cited replies is the meaning of both “innovators” and Adopters; i..e., what are you and the readers wanting to be innovated, and what as adopters are to be adopted? For me, it’s not enough to say lets be innovators, since not all innovations are right, true, helpful, etc. Indeed some such proposals can be harmful not only to the church, but also to others who may be receiving ideas and/or demands that are not in keeping with the Jesus way of life as understood by the Wesleyan model of gratitude for freely received grace springs us into inclusion against exclusion of would-be followers, and builds the ways for following, , not walls walling out others.

    Another comment has to do with pastors. Throughout my 42 years as a local church pastor, I saw my role as the “theologian in residence, working with the laity to fulfilling our mission at home and beyond; I was not appointed to be the dictator, or sole “minister, so that the laity saw that we were all in ministry and mission as one body of Christ. Having had to serve too many of those churches being wounded (in a manner of speaking), that procedure did much to bring wholeness and effectiveness within and without the churches. Are today’s appointed pastors doing so similary?

    • THanks for reading the article Bob and for the questions.

      I don’t define most of the things you ask about and I suppose that I didn’t do so for a reason. I believe the question of the validity of a particular innovation really is important, as you suggest, but it was beyond the scope of what I was looking to cover. I could say that there are certainly possible innovations, ones that could be successful by some standard, that are also unfaithful. This is more of a spiritual discernment issue rather than a strategic one but it is very important all the same. Thanks for pointing it out.

      I love the model of “theologian in residence.” I know pastors that live out their calling in that particular way and I know others that find other faithful ways of serving. Unfortunately, there are other pastors who do seem to lack the skills, patience, or particular theological understanding of the pastorate to leave room for lay leadership. I also suspect that lay folks have contributed to this to some degree as well as they reward different types of leadership today than they may have in the past. Lots of big societal changes also play a role here I suspect.

      Thanks again for the questions.

  10. Laity are well equipped to understand the role they take in a church. The concern lays in clergy who see the role of leader is to guide ever step of weaving the fabric of a congregation. Congregations are the very fabric of life, in and out of the church center. Clergy are the stitches that hold fabric together, through heat and cold, wind and rain, to keep the design of the pattern woven in proportion.Where this simple method is applied you will find congregations not of size but of strength, will and ability to support communities, and the problems of culture, society and change.

    We all need to be reminded that simple, good theology, liturgy and reason are the strong elements of today’s organism called CHURCH.

  11. The difficulty I find is that in many of the congregation’s with whom I’ve served, there are *no* innovators in the lay part of the community. So I’ve found that, as you suggested above, I am constantly having to rebuild my “social capital,” to be able to introduce innovation that I understand to be important to the congregation’s continuing ministry.

  12. Sometimes a Pastor has to drop suggestions for innovations here and there, and just leave them be, as seeds. The ones that take root in the lay people’s imaginations are the ones that will grow. Perhaps a year or two after the first suggestion, a lay person will come up with a substantially similar idea, thinking that it is their own.

    • Not a bad strategy as the seeding leaves room for others and for lay folks to be a part of the process. It does require a leader with faith and patience.

  13. Seed are the source of ideas to come, as Jesus made several parables of what he expected, not by demands like the Disciples asked of his ministry. Often we take a plan as instant or pending a result.

    We as laity and more so as clergy to be must be willing to suffer the time of waiting for things to happen. For over a decade I have be patience for what a church made call me to be in the role of clergy. For now I am a Apostle laity who enjoys the moments of tending the seeds of ideas, to vines of new programs and projects, to growth into fruits to be shared and harvest for those who need to be future gardeners themselves.

  14. I’m not sure it’s an either/or proposition: not black/white choice between whether clergy should be innovators OR enable lay people to innovate, not a choice between clergy as “innovators” or clergy bringing influence to bear at the “chasm.” Neither am I sure that clergy (or other people) have a fixed amount of “social capital.”

    To begin with, I think it is more important for clergy to recognize their gifts and predispositions in reference to the innovation adoption cycle and apply themselves where they are most gifted: If you are gifted in innovation, the put your gifts to work in the innovation part of the cycle. If you are gifted at helping people persist thru the chasm, put your gifts to work there. The “social capital” argument seems like a red herring to me: sounds like more like fixed-pie than reign of God.

    But perhaps more important, I think, is re-thinking what we mean by innovating. If we think we are coming up with something truly new, well, isn’t there a proverb that puts the kabosh on that? If we thinking we are coming up with and selling something new to the community in which we are the ordained leader, that certainly is coming from a heirarchical/power/control/political capital mindset and because it does it will eat up a lot of political capital.

    I think a much healthier way conceptualizing what we as clergy (and leaders generally) are trying to achieve in the innovation diffusion cycle as it applies to churches, is to think in terms of “emergent” innovation (not emerging church, just emergent): that is, discerning what the congregation, in its deepest, most authentic, most image-of-God self is wanting to become (or dreaming of becoming), and then being the namer/articulator/language creator for that emergent vision/desire/dream, and the faciliator to the congregation of allowing/encouraging/enabling that vision/desire/dream to spread.

  15. Roadblocks push me to go around. When the newsletter editor resisted my pieces, I started emails. Because a staff person was controlling communication, I went to meetings and intentionally spread what was up in other committees, adding potential innovations as “and we are thinking about . . .” Thereby cultivating ground for those and other possibilities. Innovations attract those who seek to innovate. To them, you can give encouragement and support.

    • Every situation is somewhat unique because of its particular context. I’m glad you found a way to make things work in yours. I might suggest that people are less drawn to innovation than they are to movement. Innovation itself can hit or miss but the community that is try new things because they are trying to get to mission is always attractive to the right people.

  16. Dear Patrick – it’s great to see this information shared, particularly Moore’s expansion of Rogers’ original work. My DMin in evangelism was based on what happens if we consider the Gospel of Jesus Christ as an innovation … what can we learn from Rogers and Moore about encouraging its adoption?

    The project is online for anyone to see it … the section most dealing with how church systems derail innovation is Seminar Two –

    And here are two visual parables which illustrate Moore’s viewpoint:

    My primary conclusion was that churches need innovations … but that innovators have a communication disability in terms of presenting their ideas in a way that they can be accepted by the pragmatic majority. And the mistakes they make in promoting an innovation typically make the situation worse. THANKS FOR SHARING THIS!

    • Thanks for the comment and for reading this int he first place. I’ll check out the links you posted; loved the application to the church lightbulb.

  17. I’m actually working on a book applying this technology marketing model to church innovation. I read Moore’s book when I was in the project management group at a software startup in the late 90’s. In Moore’s book, he denotes four characteristics of the Early Adopters (or visionaries) that alienate the Early Majority (or pragmatists). These factors prevent the successful “crossing of the chasm” for great innovations. The characteristics are…
    1) Lack of respect for the value of colleagues’ experiences. (Church interpretation: The clergy’s excitement may not be effective if the experience of the congregation is not respected.)
    2) Taking a greater interest in technology than in their industry. (Church interpretation: The clergy, or chief idea marketer, must be careful to convey that the central mission of the church is above any particular program or innovation. We must always demonstrate the “kingdom purpose.”
    3) Failing to recognize the importance of existing product infrastructure. (Church interpretation: Clergy often trash talk the existing church to make way for the new ideas. This does not bring warm fuzzies to the pragmatists. People must first hear what will not change before they can accept what must change.)
    4) Overall disruptiveness. (Church interpretation: Pragmatists do not like to have their pastor and their innovative buddies always rocking the boat. They need to see it as an evolution of the system with the possibility of a smooth transition.)

    There is much more to this connection that you raised. I think the Pastor must cultivate the entire marketing/adoption process, but the overall drive must come from the dreams, gifts and passions of the laity.

    I saw this pattern hold true when I was a software engineer and project manager for a startup in the DC area. I see similar patterns as I seek to be a midwife of innovation as pastor in a church.

    • A brief study of “The Meditation Effect”
      might provide you with an answer to the question of “How is the pastor to distinguish….”

      Innovation that is negative and serves only and/or primarily “the self” tends to fail, while innovation the stems from love, compassion and offered in service to others in wisdom, tends to blossom.

      I’ve never met a pastor who could not tell the difference.

  18. Coming late to the conversation, but I appreciate the thoughtfulness of this discussion, and that creating environments to experiment and set lay people free to contribute is more important (and healthier) than relying on pastors alone to innovate (however that is to be defined). And I greatly appreciate Rob Dyer’s point that pastors must remain focused on the church’s core mission or kingdom purpose.

    As a lay person, I’ve been wondering what it takes and how to create an environment where we can incubate new ideas, actions, etc. Why are so many talented, passionate people shut down because their ideas have no existing model to fit into the life of a congregation?

    Two things have inspired me around this in the past 18 months:

    1) Popup Church in Portland – run by an Episcopal priest. I loved that part of the design for this was that it wasn’t intended to run forever – only as long as it met needs and had momentum. That way things can be tried, and if they fail, then not as big a deal – we weren’t trying to establish a new tradition – just try something that we think meets some needs at some times.

    2) This talk by MailChimp founder Ben Chestnut at The Youth Cartel Summit last year: What I love is the emphasis on making things. He says something like, “I hire crazy people and let them fail over and over again.” It’s in the process of trying, of making something wrong 30 times before getting it right that must make that place feel alive – not fearful, threatened or as though every move could be the last.

    • Thanks for the comment and particularly for the Mail Chimp quote.

      I imagine our risk aversion may have something to do with our struggles to support innovation in our existing communities.

  19. IMHO, the number one thing that stifles innovation from the laity is the bloated committee structure that our churches still try to operate under. Stop electing people to positions. Sure, you need some officers (most states require this for your non-profit status) and you probably need some trusted people to serve as Deacons or communion assistants or some such (depends on your tradition), and perhaps a group that is elected to be responsible for the building/money/contracts. But for God’s sake stop electing mission and education and music and other committees. Elect or hire ministry coordinators and let people volunteer as they have time. Note, that the most successful projects at most churches are the ones that exist outside of the elected boards and committees (in the churches I’ve served, its been the Christmas Fair run by the Women’s Association or some such thing) Noone gets elected to the Women’s Association…you just show up. The 90 year olds in that group were my innovators.

  20. Innovation of the congregation seems to come from various areas. As pastor, I enjoy innovating but as the years have passed, I have enjoyed stimulating the culture of innovation. Many of my great ideas die on the vine and I let them. The more viable innovation seems to make its way from Sunday School classrooms, fellowship events and conversations in the narthex. It works like this: a congregant mentions and idea or interest and it catches the attention of another person. Eventually, staff and committees hear about it and as it travels, the idea/interest retains its appeal. Indeed, a majority believe it is a relevant to ministry. I refer to these as congregational clues that rise up, organically, but then receive the structure of the pulpit or committees to gain momentum. So rather than hoping that committees can generate increasingly interesting novelty for a congregation, the committees and staff become adept at keeping their ear to the ground for what is rumbling up from the congregation. Once a congregation knows you are listening, they don’t want to stop brainstorming and sharing.

  21. I have been trying to say this for years as pastors have been held more and more “responsible” for decline in numbers. Thank you! Our laity are perfectly able to grow the church if we clergy would be willing to give permission.

  22. At some point in the life of the Methodist Church it would seem relevant to begin to offer clerical training in seminary school to helping future ministers help adult seekers within congregations the ancient worldly spiritual techniques for awakening inner enlightenment through meditation training that enables one to find the God energy within.

    Ministers seem unprepared and thus unwilling to even discuss “Chris Consciousness” —

    In the long run a church that does not seek to offer personal enlightenment continues to split apart by truth-seekers within its laity and is only held together through high tension dogma — imperial theology (believe or die) — and fear which jells the remaining members into closed loop, faith-only allowed, mega structures under its more charismatic leaders.

    Personal Enlightenment, balance, liberation and knowing-experience, are pointedly irrelevant in such a church and often actively discouraged. On the other hand, a church that enables the individual to understand, to accept and love themselves, thus assisting the individual to gain inner balance and some knowing-experience,  will emerge through the chaos of experiences with tolerant, loving, compassionate, fearless members serving a positive polarity in wisdom.

  23. Ideas which spring forth from the “common folk” and spread across the population and are then adopted/codified and encouraged by those seen as leaders is the heart of an open system. Ideas which appear to come from the top down meet automatic resistance in a democracy. Churches are political organisms whose followers in an open society function within the church In the same political manner as they do outside the church. A leader helps people set and achieve
    goals, does not set the goals and then squeeze people into following them.

  24. Seems like I have seen this chart before. Pastors can be innovators but first we have to be pastors. Pastors who would like to lead their churches to a new level and exhibit change should do these two things:

    Provide a wide range of worship opportunities for nurture and spiritual growth.

    Point to being an outward focused congregation in all things.

    Transformation is only possible through hard work, relationship building, credibility in integrity and trusting the Spirit.

    Being a laggard is not a bad thing when in reality the above mentioned foci really do work.

  25. Most lay people today are busy trying to make a living for their families or themselves. When they do commit the time to go hear from their pastor they want an encouraging message that will make their life somehow easier. They don’t think the world can be changed and they develop their critical judgmental attitude from the media on both sides. Good luck with getting them involved in anything except self interest. Your job as pastors is to get us out of that box with the help of Holy Spirit.

  26. Considering myself and innovator/early adaptor who has hit the wall on a couple of occasions, what worked once or twice was if some of the early adaptors were the children or grandchildren of the resistors, they could be helpful in moving forward. Often a parent or grandparent would just love to see their son or daughter or grandchild become active in the church and would put away some resistance and help to sell the new initiatives. What I also learned is you can do some of this but you have to not do some other things in order to accomplish the new idea well. and you go through your bank very quickly and find yourself on the edge of being voted off the island.

  27. Patrick, I think we are beyond the need for innovation, or revitalization, or renewal, or whatever word is used to suggest that the Church just needs to find new ways to do the old things. The fact that this conversation centers on the roles of clergy and laity points to a fundamental flaw in our being: we are an organization that tries to organize the experience of connecting with the divine.

    We need to return to the idea of being a community that enhances the peoples’ chances of encountering and partnering with God for a new creation. If we start there, then all bets are off as to what we as a community would do. Worship? Maybe not. Study the Bible? I don’t know. The community would decide together what works to enhance the relationship with God. Everyone in the community would have their own practices, and these would be supplemented by being in a community of like minded people, seeking the same thing.

    Existing congregations that have any sense of being able to survive within the current paradigms will never go in this direction. They will continue to slowly, very slowly, die. And that is okay.

    However where this new way of being might take hold is in our smallest (less than 20 people in worship) churches. These groups are small enough for real conversations about faith and the purpose of community to take place. 15%, or 5000 of our UM churches are in this category. If the hierarchy of the church wants to do anything useful, it would find a way to help these smallest congregations start uncovering a completely new way of being in relationship with God.

  28. Amen. This is why I am excited about the potential for Extravagance UCC, a new start up, nationwide, online community.

  29. Someone ask me the other day, “What can we do about the world we live in today?” referring to politics, wars, crime, human rights, terrorism, and the “big lies” we are tasked to live under. I thought through all the things I blog and write and research and said “I think if we could learn to Group Meditate globally, we would change the world quickly for the good.”

  30. Thank you for the excellent and thought-provoking article. I just finished facilitating a training called Moving Mountains: How to be an Agent of Change. I used this graph and it led to great discussion. Two points I make though are 1.) There is loss and fear in innovation and it is important to honor and address it respectfully. 2.) There is value added by each group in the chart. Instead of seeing one group as a problem, see the benefits and grow through them. For instance Laggards (pessimists) often see pitfalls that Innovators and Early Adopters don’t. If each position can respect the value of the others, a much better plan and outcome can be achieved. To me, the best change is thoughtful change.

    As for how to infuse the church or any institution with the skills to evolve, my recommendation is always to teach the dynamics of the process of changing first. So that there is understanding and a common language. Then address the mechanics of change.

    Again thanks for the article. Take care…

    • Annie, think you nailed it when you said “always to teach the dynamics of the PROCESS of changing first”. Allows for more trust between lay and ordained leaders when all are on the same page!

  31. John 15 gives us permission to try and then learn (I.e. Bear fruit or fail trying). The humility factor comes in after a season of bearing fruit. Step back and evaluate. Does this new idea need to be pruned/cut off? (Go read John 15. Could be helpful here.)

  32. i guess I’m having a problem with the model. Sometimes necessity spurs invention. Oftentimes innovators are not that wealthy. Need sometimes has to be in the equation which could activate innovation from an unexpected source. Also,would this model look the same category-attribution-wise?

    • Need absolutely needs to be a part of the equation, even if it is just perceived need. I can’t imagine an idea succeeded long without it. Thanks for the thought.

  33. We need clergy who are primarily facilitators, encouraging and nurturing the ideas of laity and generating enthusiasm in the congregation. The clergy might ask the laity questions such as the following: How can we be more involved in the community? What can we offer our members for their personal growth? How can we grow as a church? What can we offer our community? The clergy could throw questions out to the congregation, but let members of the congregation come up with the ideas, then encourage and nurture those members, and generate enthusiasm within the church community for these ideas.

  34. Sometimes, congregations that are small and tired, find it hard to come up with ideas. They need prompts that are working examples, even if they are small workshops that do not aim to last long. From that new fresh ideas seem to bloom and then the Minister can switch and be that encouraging, nurturing facilitator. However, I agree that ideas from the laity is better, stronger and effect lasting change.

    • Thanks for reading, Winnie. It is a truth that some congregations are tired and can benefit from inspiration from others. To take root though, in a system where clergy may move on with some frequency, we (laity) really do need to find a role on championing and adopting new ideas.

  35. Patrick,
    Fascinating blog article and in line with my argument for my dissertation. I am looking specifically at this dynamic within the Church of the Nazarene, not sure if you’re familiar at all with our tribe. I connect this struggle with a lack of ecclesial balance. What I mean by that is when movements become institutions, there is a quest for equilibrium, or status quo, to manage the system and keep things in check.

    I began to look at the “five fold model of ministry” (as it is often referred to) from Ephesians 4. Listed there are Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. My hypothesis is that institutions seek out and promote Pastors and Teachers, the offices that tend to be more inward focused, conservative in praxis and stewarding institutional priorities and principals.

    When movements begin, they are led by Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists, those who find themselves on the fringe of the movement, looking forward to what is to come,, speaking boldly and pushing against cultural norms for the sake of the gospel.

    Statistically, in the CotN there is a noticeable decline in Evangelists as the CotN became more established. I don’t think this is ironic at all, but instead indicative of a larger system problem.

    Would like your thoughts, perspectives and any resources/ideas you think connect with these thoughts.

    • Hey Nathan, thanks for reading. I’m zeroing in on the final preparations for our annual gathering of Methodist churches. I mention this because I’m treading water and don’t have many good thoughts to offer right now. I’ll try to circle back next week but please email me if you don’t hear from me; it’s interesting stuff.

  36. I think that the innovation pastors are most called to bring is coaxing the culture to a state of innovation. Like a DJ at a dance, it is the job of the pastor to invite people to dance with the Spirit. Humor, humility, and the art of surprise are all examples of the best practices for the DJ. The best spinner knows when to change the music, trade lyrics, and move people to find their own rhythm.

    For me that meant at times going to four lay leaders instead of one, making free form small groups, inviting funky creativity in fundraising, and even taking myself off of all finance meetings for a time to let the laity have control. Like a DJ, you intuit when to step in or out and when to change things up in order to change the ethos toward vibrancy.

Leave a Reply