Unprecedented times. That’s the phrase we’re all hearing right now. From countries to states to businesses to churches to neighborhoods, we are all facing challenges that we’ve never faced before in our lifetime. We are feeling the impact of these unprecedented times. That’s why these 5 Cs of innovation are so important.
On March 20th, just as our nation was shutting-down and staying-home, The Praxis Journal published the article “Leading Beyond the Blizzard” that posed scenarios as we consider what’s ahead.
It is a thought-provoking article that I would encourage you to read. You see, we could be in the midst of a blizzard—a sort of short-term winter. Or we could be in the beginning of a new ice age—a monumental change affecting everything for years to come.
But regardless of your thoughts on the scenarios, whether you see blizzard or ice age or something in-between, one thing is certain: we are not going back to where we were before.
In light of these unprecedented times, I would love to propose 5 Cs to help you and your church think about innovation. The goal is for our churches to not simply survive in these times, but to thrive through them.
With these extreme challenges, there are also great opportunities that we may have only dreamed of when it comes to sharing the message of hope through Jesus Christ to a world desperately in need. A lot changed, but His faithfulness never wavered.
This is a simple overview for us to begin thinking about these things. I could write a chapter on each of these, but this article is to give us a starting place.
Do we understand what many are calling “the new normal”?
As many of us spend time reading and studying the Scriptures, we know that context is key. That certainly also rings true of these unprecedented times.
Pause for a moment and ask yourself: Am I prepared to lead by offering, in the digital and online space, a significant amount of what I usually do in person? Is my staff and church prepared to act and think differently?
Such questions are always good, sure. But, right now? They’re essential. Stop, look, and listen. What is your context telling you?
Can we adapt fast enough to capture the moment?
Remember, the goal is not to merely survive, but thrive. Every organization, and that includes churches, is now a start-up.
I urge you, please don’t be naïve in thinking that you and your congregation will somehow be insulated from this new reality. Life has changed—more drastically for some than others. After COVID-19 is no longer seen as a threat, you will be leading people whose thinking and behavior (minds and hearts) have changed, and in some cases, changed in very dramatic ways.
Are you prepared for this change? What steps are you taking right now to prepare yourself and also to guide those in your congregation to prepare for this change?
Will our current church culture help or hinder our moving forward?
You know this: every church has a culture. But oftentimes, if we aren’t careful, we’ll be too late to realize that the culture that served us well in the past may not serve us well in the future.
Many of us are already experiencing this as we’ve had to pivot to virtual staff meetings and live services on social media—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Is your culture one in which you can adapt and communicate both quickly and clearly?
I’m not talking about building from a nervous behavior which is usually about reacting. But rather, I’m talking about an ability to efficiently respond to the needs of your church and community. What will your church look like going forward?
Pause and think about this one. It’s okay to take dedicated amounts of time to consider each of these ideas. We want to move forward in timeliness, without getting caught up in the haste.
In all of this, clearly communicate with your teams and your congregation. Then over-communicate. Then communicate again. It really is key.
Do those of us on church staff have the skills we need? If not, how will we get them?
Rest assured—our message has not changed. If we can rest on one thing, it is the reliability and unwavering truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But the mediums by which we are communicating that message are definitely changing, and we need to be able to adapt with them.
For example: How are you and your staff thinking about producing and delivering digital content? From finances to student ministries, how are you and your staff thinking about engaging with people in your congregation?
A different set of competencies will be needed going forward, and we, as leaders, have to take a serious look at our teams’ strengths and weaknesses. We can all grow from this as we learn to adapt and build new skills.
How should we utilize our capital?
Now before you equate capital with money, let me challenge you to see capital as all the assets currently at your disposal. These assets can include your facilities, finances, your church’s brand, the intellectual and creative skills of your staff, the dedication of your volunteers, the content you have or are creating, and the list goes on.
Let’s take time to think broadly. Are you ready to leverage that capital in a new way in order to capture what could be a never-before-experienced opportunity to spread the gospel?
Because ready or not, here we are.
Innovation Challenges and Opportunities
I urge you to prayerfully consider these 5 Cs. Look for the opportunities all around you and begin now to take the essential steps to guide you, your staff, and your congregation into what will most likely become your new normal.
And don’t be discouraged if you aren’t there yet. Church will look different for many of us. There is no prescriptive measure here. But we each need to do the best we can for our church bodies and the communities around us.
This is definitely a challenging season, but let us not forget we face these unprecedented times led by Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).