Clergy, seminarians, and other church leaders often look to denominational resources, churchy blogs (like this one) and theological periodicals for inspiration. I’m not suggesting that we don’t read those offerings.
But just as it’s important to get out of the Church Bubble in our recreational endeavors (take a Thai cooking class!), it is essential to broaden our reading horizons professionally.
Secular magazines are an excellent resource for figuring out fresh ideas for congregational leadership, and – with the NEXT Church National Gathering around the corner for me and my PCUSA colleagues – this week’s posts will focus on secular magazines we should be reading as we consider what the Next Church might look like.
I love Fast Company magazine. It’s dense with ideas, filled with recommendations for further reading and research, and decidedly not churchy. But many articles, graphs, and lists speak provocatively to Church World.
The annual issue featuring The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies is currently on the racks and while their “20 Lessons of Innovation for 2015” do not completely resonate with management of religious non-profit organizations, many of these lessons actually apply well.
Those lessons – by Editor Robert Safian – include these:
1. “Inspiration needs execution.” What drives me crazy in Church World is that congregations hire consultants or participate in denominational programs but then Nothing Happens. A report sits on a bookshelf. A new mission plan is considered, but no execution occurs. I believe that – after the consultation – every congregation needs ongoing coaching to prompt real action. We need to be held accountable. How are we moving towards the vision? Who is tending to the necessary details? We need congregational coaches.
2. “Tomorrow is too slow.” Remember what Jesus said about not knowing the day God will show up? We in the church move as if God will never show up. Call me impatient, but there is an urgency about serving those who are hungry or broken or lonely. Let’s do this!
3. ” . . . But great ideas may need time.” We can’t change congregational culture, heal from misconduct, or figure out who God is calling us to be without serious discernment and prayer. One leader cannot carry the vision alone. We need buy-in from the whole community, or at least from a substantial part of the community. This takes time.
4. “Innovative cultures are rewarding.” Fast Company is talking about financial rewards here. But I’m thinking about spiritual rewards, emotional rewards, and cosmic rewards. Imagine a culture in which lives are being changed for good and neighborhoods are thriving. Yes, please.
5. “Failure does have a price.” Some efforts fall short. Some are expensive. Sometimes “performance” doesn’t align with “aspirations.” Some congregations ruthlessly punish and shame those who fail after trying something new. Yes, there is a risk. But show me a congregation that doesn’t try new ways of being the church and I’ll show you a dying congregation.
6. “Millennials are making waves.” Show some love to Millennials. “This demographic cohort is often caricatured,” says Safian, but they are smart and interesting and super capable. Point them to leadership positions.
7. “Values are valued.” “Next gen customers appreciate enterprises with soul,” writes Safian. Amen.
8. “Bold ideas are global.” How are we connecting with sisters and brothers in other parts of the world? I’m not talking about sending them checks. I’m talking about relationships.
9. “Every company is a tech company.” Or in our context: Every spiritual community is a tech community. We connect digitally. Apps improve our lives. We don’t use social media to be trendy. We use it to connect.
10. “World-changing ideas are bubbling.” Do we imagine partnering with others (maybe even inter-faith partnerships!) to serve trafficking victims, refugees, people with PTSD, or basic hunger? There are some cool organizations that would love to partner with us.
This post could be much longer as I could share so much Good Stuff from Fast Company magazine. I read it so you don’t have to. But if you want more . . .
Image of assorted Fast Company covers.