At the heart of any innovative church or business is a team who is looking to improve how they approach what they do. Innovative organizations are not threatened by changing things up. Instead, they choose to nurture a culture that is willing to ask “what if?”
A “what if” conversation is rarely quick and clean. But where there is a growth mindset, people feel free to propose and process ideas that have potential to bring real progress. All too often we pinpoint those who are innovative based on a breakthrough that no one else seemed to see. The reality is, any organization can be innovative and realize a breakthrough if they pursue a growth mindset.
Innovation isn’t determined by how big the organization is or whether there is a sizable budget. Innovation occurs when leaders cultivate a culture where people are encouraged to be curious. Where there is curiosity, there is opportunity to learn, to create, and to improve.
In the spirit of being curious, I began researching churches and businesses that are proactively innovating in hopes it might help you explore ways to innovate. I asked friends, pulled out conference notes, and talked to some people I work with. That led me to fourteen innovators. I am sure there are dozens, if not hundreds more, who could be added to this list, but these are the ones I have found to be really helpful.
Area of Innovation: Guest services
By all indications, Elevation Church has been innovating to help people feel welcome through a great customer service experience. They pioneered the online “Plan a Visit” for first time guests. This personalized concierge approach relieves a lot of uncertainty for guests. Elevation is innovating through touch points that provide a caring customer service experience.
Area of Innovation: Online church
Many churches provide an online expression of worship, and some even consider their online church a campus. Community Bible Church was one of the earliest to hire a Media Pastor to cultivate relationships with online viewers. Community Bible Church is innovating by bringing a personal touch to the online viewer through worship and online small groups.
Area of Innovation: Social media engagement through SnapChat and Instagram
Few churches are as intentionally focused as Crosspoint when it comes to bringing a conversation from the weekend experience into the weekday experience. Crosspoint Church is innovatively exploring how best to use the social platforms of Snapchat and Instagram to cultivate relationships.
Area of Innovation: Automated staff assignments through text messaging
Oak Hills Church is innovating with geographically-based small groups centered on bringing neighbors together in community. Getting people into community is as easy as texting a key word to a church member. When an attender texts the word “meet”, a Pastor automatically gets an assignment to contact the sender.
Area of Innovation: International multi-sites
How many churches do you know that have four international locations and eight more coming soon? Saddleback Church is innovating by expanding beyond the United States with the launch of each new international location. When all locations are open for worship, they will be equipping and reaching people in 13 countries.
Area of Innovation: Visual storytelling in presentations
The Duarte team gets to the heart of the story by shaping ideas. They find the story, provide structure, and design visuals to create a compelling presentation that serves to shift beliefs and behaviors.
Area of Innovation: Human-centered design process
The IDEO company works with organizations to solve problems through a human-centered design process. They believe in rapidly prototyping and human interaction shapes the outcome at every stage of the design process. IDEO exists to help organizations innovate by building creative cultures and the systems needed to sustain innovation.
Area of Innovation: Church online through a social platform
Media Social brings personal recognition and relationship to the live streaming worship service. Through interactive live walls that integrate Facebook updates and Twitter mentions, an online pastor and volunteer can have a conversation.
Area of Innovation: Open source solutions for churches
The Spark Development Team is passionate about bringing open source solutions to churches. Currently they are working on a Church Relationship Management Solution called ROCK.
Area of Innovation: Group text messaging and mobile giving
Textify is the mobile communications solution specifically designed to make it easy to raise funds. They have been innovating by figuring out how best to use a mobile phone for timely communication and easy-to-use mobile giving.
Area of Innovation: Project management
Trello is a project management solution that allows individuals or teams to collaborate on projects across any mobile or web platform. They have been innovating to create an online process that enables teams to organize and track projects of any size.
Area of Innovation: Group text messaging
Twilio provides easy-to-use tools that allow developers to embed messaging into web, desktop, and mobile software. They have developed a robust cloud-based API that developers can use to integrate communications systems within their open source church management software.
Area of Innovation: Live streaming at exceptionally low bandwidth cost
Upper Room started archiving media when they created Media Fusion as an online media tool for churches to deliver archived video through the church website. Their continued innovation with online media has brought them into live streaming at an amazingly low bandwidth price point of under $0.10 per gigabyte. Combine the low cost with the Padcaster and they have a very inventive approach for archiving and streaming media for both small and large churches.
Area of Innovation: Acoustics, stage design, and live production
Wave brings innovation to the live production of any worship experience. From the acoustic design of the environment to the use of light and stage design, the Wave team pursues the “what if” as they explore the culture and story of each client.
Innovation is all about finding a solution to a problem. We begin to innovate when we are willing to ask “What if?” This short list above is only a glimpse into all the innovation happening around us. Hopefully, you too are innovating and finding solutions to problems, because where there is innovation there are people who are curious and willing to learn.