Someone once said that churches fail for lack of nerve. In other words, churches fail for the lack of courage to change failing things. This is true, but I’d add that churches also fail for the lack of imagination to know how to change those failing things. It isn’t just that some failing churches would rather die than change, but that they can’t imagine what change might look like. Ministry in a rapidly changing world demands courage and imagination. Increasing courage demands loving “there” as much as loving “here.” Increasing imagination demands seeing “there” as much as seeing “here.”
Here are seven investments that increase imagination:
Investment 1: Create Umbrellas of Grace
An umbrella of grace is present when an idea (no matter how whack-a-doodle) can be shared without being judged. In team meetings and planning sessions everyone should have the opportunity to ask for an “umbrella of grace.” Umbrellas of grace provide environments where brainstorming flourishes.
Investment 2: Isolate one Need and Imagine Ten Solutions
A practice that increases imagination is identifying a tangible need in ministry or mission and insisting that a team develop ten solutions to that need. Typically, the first two or three solutions come relatively quickly but the next seven stretch the imaginative muscles. Surprisingly, many of the best solutions show up in the latter part of the list.
Investment 3: Ask Those You Intend To Serve
The typical approach in ministry is to create a solution before researching the problem. If a church wants to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a neighborhood, they should begin by asking neighbors what that looks like. Often the most imaginative ideas for ministry and mission come from outside the walls of a church where real life is being lived.
Investment 4: Find An Imagination Partner
Some churches are just better at imaginative ministry than are others. It is helpful for a church to identify a congregation that is a step or two ahead in ministry and mission and ask if they would serve as ministry mentors. Through staff to staff and team to team relationships, fresh ideas can be explored and discussed.
Investment 5: Try An Experiment
Mark Twain famously said, “I knew a man who grabbed a cat by the tail and learned forty percent more about cats than the man who didn’t.” The best way to nurture imagination is to do something that hasn’t been done before to discover things that haven’t been discovered before. Simply put, we learn by trying and we imagine by doing.
Investment 6: Get Out From under the Bubble
Ministry leaders tend to live under ministry bubbles. They see things through the lens of how the church does what the church has already done. The pandemic forced the church to get out from under their ministry bubble to imagine new ways of being church. In the post-pandemic world, the church must continue getting out from under the bubble.
Investment 7: Subscribe to shareyourexperiment.com
The Center for Church Renewal just launched a new website “shareyourexperiment.com”. It’s a place where imaginative ministry ideas can be shared and where ministry leaders can subscribe to have ideas automatically sent to their inbox. It is our hope that this website will be the beginning of a flourishing marketplace of imaginative ministry ideas.
The Center for Church Renewal is committed to “serving leaders renewing churches.” If we can assist in anyway, please feel free to contact us.