Mar 042013

What may be emerging is a new role in the church: pastor of innovation. (Granted this may not become mainstream where every church would have one, since most churches have more pressing operational day-to-day needs.) I’ll do my part to keep this list updated. (Please do add to this list.)


How much of their job is pure innovation and experimentation? Would you like to know? Me too!

There are over 30+ definitions of innovation and over 6000+ definitions of leadership. Organizations, especially organized churches in the 21st century, need more innovation and more leadership, not less. What’s worked in the past is not working as well as it used to, so we as the Church capital-C must make room to develop new ways of doing things.

Peter Drucker has said, “Any time an organization fails to change at the rate of the world around it, that organization is doomed to failure.” and “innovation is change that creates a new level of performance” and “All organizations require one core competency: Innovation.

The chart to the right (from Leadership Network) illustrates how church innovations get adopted over time. As an experimenter, I’ve had very limited resources to experiment in developing innovations; I’m praying for more resources to do more. [disclosure: I do contract work with Leadership Network]

Rob Rynders makes a case for innovation in his denomination - Why The UMC Needs an Era of Innovation -

We need an intentional, grassroots, movement of innovators willing to put new ideas into action, fully realizing that many of those ideas will fail, but some will be successful. Even the failures will allow for immense learning, evaluation, further experimentation and adaption, ultimately leading to success. As successes and failures build, over time, we must apply those learnings from those models to other contexts and allow easy ways for others to learn, model, and adapt.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, there are 4 levels of innovation, so not all innovation has to be risky and be revolutionary game-changers. Pastor Karl Vaters provides a helpful list for key questions to consider when preparing a church for change (and innovation) @ 10 Questions Every Innovative Small Church Pastor Needs to Ask.

Mar 032013

Think outside of the box? How about creating a new one. This excites me big time! There’s a new emerging kind of role in the marketplace, and Wikipedia has a short entry for it: Chief Innovation Officer. This is so new the acronym for it isn’t settled yet — I’ve see it as CINO and CNO.

What kind of a role is this? — According to What does it mean to be a chief innovation officer? “Chief innovation officer: one part hacker, one part change agent, one part idea generator, one part creator of collisions“. Sounds like my kind of dream job.

And what is innovation? Mark W. Johnson describes in Viewpoint:The Role of the Chief Innovation Officer the need to be devising a language of innovation:

… A common language that is used across the entire organization helps frame a company’s principles of innovation. The starting point for that shared language is a practical definition of innovation. The definition I favor depicts innovation as something new: a product, service, process, business model, or combination thereof that can be commercialized because it solves the problem of a “job to be done” for the customer. Whatever language is used, it should distinguish between innovation in the core business and innovation that creates platforms for new-business creation. That distinction is critically important because the chief innovation officer’s raison d’etre is to lead new-business innovation that will ensure the company’s continued survival and growth.

Orchestrating-to-get-things-Done1What does s/he do? Gina Colarelli O’Connor explains in The Real Role of a Chief Innovation Officer that this person is an orchestrator, and it’s an exciting trend for 2 reasons:

First, it signals a recognition that innovation is distinct from other functions, including R&D, Corporate Strategy and Marketing. In other words, innovation is accepted as incorporating both invention and new business creation. Secondly, it shows there is a mandate for companies to build a strong capability for breakthrough innovation.”

However, research by O’Connor’s group shows this is only the hope and not yet the reality. “In several companies we have studied of late, the turnover in the role is high, and the role title is modified frequently. Some tell us that there is ‘baggage’ associated with the title, left over from its previous holder’s failure to make things happen, or that resentment is building in the organization among those not incorporated into the ‘innovation’ function.

Plus, I’d add that not all innovations are the big game-changers. Most look smaller. This chart from The Four Levels of Innovation: Assess the Time, Effort, and Resources Necessary to Join the Ranks of Innovation (Kris Miner, 2010) shows 4 levels:



May 012012

What’s Next? A Look Over the Next Hill for Innovative Churches and Their Leaders” is a new mini-book by Dave Travis of Leadership Network. The book appears to be a report or white paper that was written to inform executive-type leaders of larger churches and that same kind of intel’ is now being made available to the public. And this kind of insider info may well be a glimpse of things to come, in some way like a self-fulfilling prophecy. I was very eager to read this 64-pager (print edition) and devoured it all in 1 sitting.

Dave notes that innovations could happen on the fringe or in smaller contexts that are nimble to try new things (“some would insist that innovation happens at the edges… smaller churches often seed new ideas and innovations into the Christian ecosystem…”) but asserts how an innovative idea spreads requires influentials and influencers on a larger scale — “… pushing an idea across the broad expanse, from an obscure starting point… there is a need for ‘opinion leaders’ to get on board… the diffusers of innovation…” And those influencers are by and large leaders in very large churches. Size attracts attention.

Yet, once an influencer doesn’t mean always an influencer. Dave noticed this: “Old conference notebooks reveal to us that many of the 2002 thought leaders are no longer at the center of our ecosystem. Yet they built the steps to this year’s platform.”

And Dave explains why large churches are valuable to our society: “… large churches are the most effective and efficient bundlers of social capital in a community… the best equipped to mobilize large groups of people to use their time, talent, and treasures for purposes that make the neighborhoods better places to live… [even] across the world…”

The book anticipates a number of trends and even some speculations about the future of the American church. And even researchers of global Christianity acknowledge that what happens in the United States still has (disproportionate) influence around the world, even though the center of Christianity has shifted to the south and to the east. I’d interpret that as more people are becoming Christians in parts of Asia, Africa, and South America, but the financial capital is here in the US for the time being, and that can make things happen for a time. In the long run, sheer numbers of people will outlast sheer number of dollars, just a matter of time. Consider, what could Christianity look like in 1000 years, and with that kind of perspective, we won’t be looking just at quarterly numbers or annual reports.

I did want to react to 2 things mentioned in the book.

Firstly, financial transparency in the church. This one is a toughie in the church, and in the non-profit world for that matter. And there may well be a bunch of factors for this, some for bad reasons and some out of fear and ignorance. I believe that if we are truly children of the light and the light of the world that the church can be leading the way in showing how to disclosure finances more than any typical non-profit. In so doing, the church can show how to avoid jealousy about staff salaries and being above reproach in its use of finances. Perhaps I am being too idealistic, but I believe more in the power of good over evil, truth over silence, honesty over hiddenness. Criticism will surface anyways, and even more so, now that everyone has a (potential) voice over the Internet.  And I’d counter misperception with hard data rather than hiding data any day.

Secondly, what about the next Billy Graham? Dave writes, “Billy Graham, the Sequel: Who will be the next great evangelist with a worldwide impact? I’ve predicted for years that we’re likely to see a native of India or some other Asian country, fluent in English, who can appeal to the West.” I wonder if s/he would really emerge from the the East? History tells us that there have been great evangelists from the East, like Watchman Nee or Bakht Singh.

I’d say someone from China might have a better chance at being a global evangelist, and not just because I happen to be of Chinese descent. From sheer numbers, India and China will dominate the population numbers. And so much of the world economy and cash flow is finding a home in China, so much of the clothes and furniture and technology we use today is made in China (including this MacBook Pro I’m typing on.) Yes, that next global evangelist will be internet-savvy, and I’d say more than event-savvy or media-savvy, s/he has got to be social-media-savvy, so it’d look a lot more like reality-tv live-streaming than an on-stage inspirational speaker, tho’ s/he’d have to be quite the motivational speaker too.

[disclosure: I work with Leadership Network]

Jun 172011

They probably had a good reason to call the TEDx event in Orange County TEDxOrangeCoast instead of TEDxOrangeCounty. Did you know there are (at least) 8 Orange Counties: California, Florida, North Carolina, New York, Indiana, Texas, Vermont, Virginia

TEDxOrangeCoast happened in May 2011 at UC Irvine. Amidst the speakers’ lineup was Saddleback Church’s pastor Rick Warren & you can watch the video. He described how innovation often comes from asking the right questions, and listed 8 essential questions as the “8 Nations of Innovation”:

  1. Termination- What do I need to stop doing?
  2. Collaboration (Coordination) – How do we do it faster, larger, cheaper, or with a team?
  3. Combination – What can we mix together to make something new?
  4. Elimination (Simplification) – What part could we take out in order to make something similar?
  5. Reincarnation (Reinvention) – What has died that we can bring back to life in a new format?
  6. Rejuvenation – How can we change the purpose for why we are doing it?
  7. Illumination – How can we look at it in a new light?
  8. Fascination – How can we make it more interesting?
May 022011

Thanks to the conference organizers of Imagination Summit 2011 at Biola University, you too an watch the inspiring talk with Chick-Fil-A CEO Dan Cathy. In that talk, he talks about the history, the meaning of restaurant being a place of restoration, and how that ties into their restaurant business as a place of restoration through food and through customer service. Their 2-year effort to make “second mile second nature” was instrumental in growing revenues in a down-economy and keeping their stores closed on Sundays; great service like fresh-ground pepper, free refills, and possibly personalization-tracking on iPads in the near future.

Watch the video in HD at Youtube or play all 16 videos from Imagination Summit via playlist

Inspired me so much that I went to Chick-Fil-A the very next day for breakfast. And great customer service was demonstrated by their adding cream to my coffee at the drive-thru, although I wish they’d change the company policy, so it’s not just cream and coffee for me.

More recently, I went to a Chick-Fil-A in Orlando (during the Exponential Conference) that hosted a teens’ dance party in the evening — music cranked up LOUD, alcohol-free, and the sweet-tea was flowing! Noticed how my Icedream soft-serve ice cream didn’t melt after slowly savoring it for over an hour. Their use of a styro cup kept it cool and yummy for much longer than the typical paper cup!

Dec 142008

One of the things that Leadership Network is known for, is its regularly published newsletters about the latest in church innovations. In the past, that has taken on the form of NetFax, Church Champions Update, NEXT newsletter, Into Action, etc. I still hear about them when I meet (older) leaders at conferences.

The current iteration is something called Leadership Network Advance, a free bi-weekly email newsletter with the latest in church innovations. So we’re clearly on the same page, innovation in ministry is any new change of practice that improves performance. Take a look at the current version:

Subscribe to get Leadership Network Advance conveniently delivered to your inbox; every other Tuesday is when you can expect it hot off the (digital) presses. [disclosure: I work at Leadership Network]

Dec 092008

There’s something to counting down the days to some big event: Christmas and the advent season — we’ve got this wreath on our front door; end of the year lists for 2008; top predictions for 2009; whatever. (some even count down hours and minutes, especially if you’re an internet campus of a church).

According to the calendar, we are now 49 days away from the Innovation3 Gathering on January 27-28, 2009 in Dallas!

Every day leading up to the Innovation3 Gathering, Leadership Network will count down 50 reasons for why you must attend, one reason for every day!

Reason #50: No stump speeches. Reason #49: not your father’s conference. Check the Innovation3 blog every day for count down of more reasons, or you can follow @innovation3 on twitter.

And, look at the website for more details and you can easily register online. And, follow along with the count down.


[disclosure: I work at Leadership Network and that means I'll be at Innovation3 -- that can count as Reason #51, right? Todd Rhoades is Reason #52.]

Dec 012008

It’s been a long time coming, and it’s now around the corner. A $0 conference for Christian leaders to gather! For years the rest of the world has had unconferences that have shared valuable content and facilitated engaging conversations for $0 registration, but it was very hard to find a free Christian conference for church leaders. (Granted there’s a certain value to the traditional conference format with productions on the main stage and breakouts / seminars / workshops, and some even are profitable ventures, there are also other innovative ways in the Web 2.0 world.)

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m so grateful that Charles Lee is coordinating an unconference called The Idea Camp on February 27-28, 2009 in Irvine, California. SAVE THE DATES! Here’s what The Idea Camp is about:

The Idea Camp is a free hybrid conference for idea-makers to share, network, and implement ideas. We are gathering some of the most innovative and creative leaders from around the country (this means YOU!) to share ideas, intentionally network, and move collaboratively into idea-making. Whether your passion is church leadership, non-profit work, social entrepreneurialism, technology, media, creativity, culture making, church planting, spiritual formation, compassionate justice, etc., this is the conference for YOU!

The Facebook Group for Idea Camp is and using a powered social networking engine, conference information is dynamically and collaboratively updated. See the list of people who will be presenting and/or facilitating conversations at The Idea Camp; it already includes: Brad Abare, Greg Atkinson, Eric Bryant, Mike Foster, Dave Gibbons, Jeff Shinabarger, Cynthia Ware, Robert Yang of, me, and more! More will be added between now and then, and you could be part of it too!

New to the idea of unconferences? It’s where no one pays to get in, no one gets paid, the playing field is level, and everyone has skin in the game. Read more about it cf. what is an unconference, understanding the unconference.

Call out others you’d love to see there. I’m calling out Dan Kimball, Erwin McManus, James Choung, Ed Stetzer, Dallas Willard, John Bishop, Donald Miller. Come on down!