About the Author

author photo

Andrea Useem, creator and publisher of ReligionWriter.com, is a freelance journalist and editor based in Northern Virginia who specializes in writing about religion. Andrea holds a Masters of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, as well as a Bachelors degree in religion from Dartmouth College. Previously, Andrea worked as a freelance journalist in Eastern Africa for four years; she has also lived in Muscat, Oman. She is married and has three sons.

See All Posts by This Author

Booklet: Why — and How — Churches Need to Innovate

The Dallas-based Leadership Network - the closest thing the evangelical world has to a church think-tank — released in February a glossy publication covering the newest and best ways to “do church.” The 63-page Innovation 2007 starts off with a provocative sampling of relevant statistics. Did you know the average American spends only seven minutes a day on religious practice? Or that the largest 10% of congregations contain 50% of all American church-goers? And that 37 million Americans live in poverty?

Changing social, religious and demographic realities make innovation “inevitable,” writes Warren Bird, executive editor and primary writer of Innovation 2007, in an email to ReligionWriter. “Language changes, technology arrives. Since culture is constantly shifting, so our way of bringing the same, unchanging Good News may change.”

If you haven’t heard these buzz words before — multi-site, externally focused, encore generation — Innovation 2007 offers journalists, church leaders and interested observers a chance to bone up on church trends. A quick sampling of successful innovations:

  • Using video cast sermons and other Sunday-morning content to create a “multi-site” church with multiple locations.
  • Preaching regularly on helping those beyond the church walls.
  • Creating house churches where believers gather for an intimate worship and discipleship experience.
  • Making church a place where people can admit and overcome substance abuse and other addiction issues.
  • Ministering to the needs of the “sandwich generation,” which cares for children and elderly parents at the same time.
  • Modeling financial generosity at the leadership level.
  • Helping people navigate complex health care services.
  • Pinpointing underutilized talent in a congregation and encouraging “ministry entrepreneurship.”
  • Viewing university outreach as a strategic investment, not simply an obligation.

But how to distinguish between genuine innovations and “what’s cool?”

“Innovative practices are changes that produce results — results that support values represented by the

Kingdom of God - and work across multiple geographies and denominations,”writes Bird in his email. “By contrast, ‘what’s cool” is fun alone and may not have any significant impact.”

Though the Leadership Network is focused exclusively on Christian congregations, Innovation 2007′s insights could potentially be applied in any faith community. Indeed, non-evangelicals may wish their faith communities had their own Leadership Network, where best practices are research, distilled and disseminated.

(Warren Bird says church innovation is “inevitable.” Photo courtesy of WarrenBird.com)

NOTE: Innovation 2007 is available for purchase


Sphere: Related Content

There Are 2 Responses So Far. »

  1. Would that American Muslim leaders commission such a report! It goes without saying that “extra-mosque” (social, service, continuing education, and university-based) Muslim institutions are increasing in number and influence in American Islam. We need to watch this space more closely because it is from these organizations that a new kind of American Muslim leadership will emerge.

  2. Excellent point, Al-Husein. American Muslim leaders would do well to take note of the innovations going on at evangelical churches. Many of these churches are expert at taking the pulse of their members (and potential members) and offering what is most appreciated. Knowledge from institutions like the Leadership Network could easily be applied in a American Muslim (or Hindu or Bahai or Jewish) context.

Post a Response

FireStats icon Powered by FireStats