No Lone Rangers: Part 4

written by Kat Bair
5 · 01 · 24

Over the last three weeks, we’ve been talking about innovation teams – why you need them, how to assemble them, and how to equip them. But now that you have this team – what do you do with them?

Here, it bears a moment of reflection back to our first entry into this series. We as church leaders can labor under the misconception that part of our call is to be the person with the ideas, and that can be a terrible burden. 

But it can also be a burden that we protect fiercely. Because we tend to attach a lot of meaning to the idea of being the innovator, the leader, the person who went to seminary and studied and knows what they’re doing, goshdarnit. We consider it part of the call. And sharing that responsibility feels like negligence and forfeit. 

Could I convince you that it is neither? Could I offer you the hope that not only are you allowed to share this burden, but that you’re called to? And that it’s ok if that’s a little hard to stomach at first? That maybe it’s hard to stomach at first not because it’s a bad idea but because of our fear of being inadequate? Could I offer the comforting pastoral word to the pastor that even if you never have a brilliant idea ever again, you are still a good pastor, and even an innovative one? 

I hope so. Because it’s true. God calls up prophets from the most unlikely of places to offer God’s vision to those in the established church. Hate to break it to you, but if you get health insurance from a church, or have an engraved nametag, you’re part of the established church, and prophets may be on their way. 

Because we hesitate to utilize teams, or feel protective over our creative control, we can sometimes contain what we ask of the teams we use, asking only for feedback on existing programs or large scale ideas that you will manage the actual execution of. We encourage you to utilize your innovation team in every single step of the innovation process.

Design thinking, or innovation, is often defined as going through the following stages: 

  • Empathize: deeply listen to the group you seek to serve, both as individuals and as a community
  • Define: in response to the pain points you discern, define the scope of the work you seek to do and the problem you seek to solve.
  • Ideate: Generate ideas in response to the problem you seek to solve, tweaking and iterating as necessary
  • Prototype: Break your idea into small pieces, or create a minimum viable product, and create a series of low-cost prototypes
  • Test: offer your prototypes to a small group of your intended audience and collect feedback. 

So what does it look like to utilize your team in each of these stages? Here’s some ideas, but if you want more guidance or partnership on what this work looks like in your specific community, feel free to reach out to our team for a free consultation about how we could partner together. 

  • Empathize: Your team each identifies 3 people outside of your community to interview with a standardized set of questions, and then everyone uploads their notes in a shared drive so you can all compare. 
  • Define: Your team each fills out a madlib like “[Population] faces [Problem]; because [Theological Grounding] we will [Idea] so that [Outcomes].” You then compile them and build a master madlib together (or realize you need to do some more listening together). 
  • Ideate: Your team plays ideation games (such as Worst Idea Ever, Ripple Effect, or Mission Possible) together. The process of ideation is fun and iterative as a group. 
  • Prototype: Your team breaks up into smaller task forces to execute individual prototypes based on interest and availability.
  • Test: If your team split up for task forces, members of a different task force manage the evaluation of each prototype and offers feedback. 

The stages are non-linear and it is to be expected that you will get to the definition phase and realize you need to do more listening, or get to your prototypes and realize you need to define more, or to test and realize you need to go back to ideation. This is not failure, and is how the process is intended to work. The process of innovation is messy, and the doubling back can feel frustrating and defeating. 

Which is why the team is so important. Having a group of people to encourage you, remind you of why you got into this work, of what you’re called to, is critical. It’s also why you as the church leader matter so much. 

You are the shepherd. You are the pastor. In the team’s steps and missteps and double backs, it is your role to lead the team the way only a pastor can. To encourage, pray, and care for the team, and to point to the movement of the Holy Spirit in your midst. This series started with the basic assertion that not everything is your job, and that is still very much true.

But. There are some things that are. And for this team to be able to do what it is called to do, you have to be able to follow your own call, to be able to pour the anointing oil on the prophets that God has sent to be in your midst. 

In the final installment of this series next week, we’ll talk about how this team can help innovation become part of your regular rhythm of work, and not just a response to crisis or a stroke of inspiration. We hope this series has been an encouragement. You are doing incredible work, and you aren’t meant to do it alone.

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Kat Bair

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