Where is Innovation Happening in the church?

This week I'm at Duke University for a four day seminar on Leadership for the Denominational Executive. There are 24 of us here, mostly Methodists, a few UCC, a pair of Episcopalians and me.  I'm the only bishop, and the only Lutheran.  It's nice being a minority for a change.

I really didn't know what this was going to be like.  But, Rev. Laura Everret, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches highly commended the program.  So I went, and boy, am I glad I did.  The focus is right where we need to be in the church.  Our first full day began with an exploration of both Traditioned Innovation and Disruptive Innovation.

Dave Odom lead us through an understanding of the latest thinking on Innovation.  This video gives you a good overview. 

Traditioned Innovation seeks to take something that is in existence, and improve upon it.  This is mostly what we do in the church.  Actually, it's mostly what business does as well.  Example:  The iphone was a disruptive innovation, but now all Apple is doing is building a better battery, screen, etc.  In the church, one could say that although we may have Jazz worship, outdoor worship, liturgical worship, rock n roll worship, silent worship - it's still worship.  That's traditioned innovation, we are improving an existing.

Later in the day, we spent time with Marlon Hall.  He is a gifted pastor, filmmaker, artist and incubator of hope in the Houston, Texas area.  You can read a short piece about Marlon here or check out his video blog.  Marlon is an example of a disruptive innovator.  What does a disruptive innovation look like in the church?  It begins by asking a very different question than the question we normally ask in our congregations. "Who is the church not paying attention to?"  From there, ideas are germinated.  Awakenings Movement, of which marlon is the pastor, is a church without walls, but it's more than that.  It is a nomadic church, as it moves location every 3 months.  It incubates in the community.  It's a very different view of church.  Read more about it here.

What can we learn from all this thinking about innovation?  The last session of the day focused on the work of Roger Martin, who wrote a book called Opposable Mind.  Here is the basic premise:  Most of us, and increasingly more and more of us thinkin either/or categories.  However, Martin found that the most effective people tended to have a both/and view or the ability to see multiple options.

This has to do with a mind set shift.  THe first move is to reject the instinctive either/or reaction.  The second move is to wade into the complexity of the problem.  The third move is to explore how the oppositions of option A or option B can mean.  What do they need from each other.

This all starts to lead down a path toward engage a set of skills or tools centered around assertive inquiry and generative reasoning.  We ask lots of questions, infact the rule is you need to ask 8 questions before you can make any statement.  It's about making the move from critic (something all graduate level educated folk are trained to do) toward cultivator.

We then engage experiences as learning times.  A key question in any activity is centered around, 'what did I learn from this?'  It's especially important when we are trying something new, engaging in experiments.  Whether something is a success or a failure is not the first question.  THe central question is "What did I learn from this today?'   That seems like a question worth asking at the end of every day, every sermon, every business venture, every drive, every thing we do.

As in any intensive learning experience, there is so much more.  But this gives you the intro to what I'm engaged in, here in Durham - home of the Blue Devils.