No Lone Rangers: Part 3

written by Kat Bair
4 · 24 · 24

As a parent of toddlers, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the ways we teach people what we expect of them. How do people learn to share, take turns, have a conversation? How do we learn what our role is in a family, in a community? 

There are so many parts of just being a member of a human community that we don’t think about because we learned them when we were very small. If you’re anything like me, thoughts of those kind of social protocols don’t come up often – I know what to do in the places where I go, and I know what people expect. 

But if something is new, it only makes sense that there may be some initial awkwardness as people don’t know what is expected of them, and without guidance, they’ll default into whatever they have done before. When my toddler drops a snack at home, I’ll let them eat it right off the floor, so they are very confused as to why I snatch it out of their hands in a parking lot. 

We’ve been talking about forming an innovation team – why you should do it, and how to do it – over the last few weeks on the blog and this week, we’re going to talk about how to make them effective. 

As you start this new thing, particularly if you don’t have a lot of things like it, you are going to have to be intentional about teaching people what you expect of them. You as a leader cannot take people who have never been really listened to before and put them in a room and ask what they think, because they will default to whatever you tell them to think. You cannot expect your team to intuit that you want them to think, act, and behave in a way you’ve never asked them to before. You have to develop the skills for strong contribution.

Here’s our biggest 4 pieces of advice for equipping and empowering your team so that they have the skills to do what you’ve asked them to do:

  1. Start small. If you don’t have a lot of ways for congregants to meaningfully contribute to the substance of programming, asking them to invent something is going to feel out of reach. Practicing with more structured, limited-scope contributions (planning for special events, brainstorming themes or activities for existing programming, etc) can help build the confidence that their contributions value and matter. 
  2. Take them seriously. If your team gives you an idea, feedback, or input, you need to take them seriously, no matter how unrealistic or ill-informed it is. This is particularly true at the beginning of the process, while your group is watching for clues of what you want from them. If they sense that they are meant to be an echo chamber for your ideas, then they will act like it. 
  3. Utilize games. We at Ministry Incubators are big believers in games. Many of us are youth pastors by training and we know the power of a game to help people unlock the playful, risk-taking parts of their brain that are best suited for innovation thinking. Games like Blow Up Your Idea, and Ripple Effect can help re-set the rules of how we work together as a team.
  4. Timebox. We know that people hate it. If you’ve been to a Hatchathon or a Pivot Retreat, there’s a solid chance that you’ve hated it. But we do it anyway because we as church leaders can get stuck in the pondering, the what-abouts, the questions, right at the moment when the Holy Spirit is trying to point us in a new direction. 

Utilizing an innovation team, particularly one like the one we’ve encouraged you to design, full of an eclectic mix of underqualified people, young and old, is scary, its hard, and its by no means the most intuitive way of doing innovation. 

It is, in short, an act of faith. Jesus chose twelve ordinary men to start his Church, is our project more precious than that? 

Next week, we will continue our series with ideas on how to actually use the team, and how to incorporate innovation into your regular routine of program maintenance, but for now, remember that doing something new often times requires thinking in a new way, and your community will only feel the space to think innovatively if you give it to them. 

We are all echoes of the legacy of Jesus empowering His disciples with His own gifts, and sending them to carry on His mission. We are all the recipients of Gospel handed down via the riskiest plan imaginable. We are called to be imitators of Christ, and if handing off the ministry was His plan, there’s no reason it can’t be ours as well.

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Kat Bair

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