The Penguin

written by Kat Bair
7 · 19 · 22

As part of one of Starter Suite video courses, you can hear Carmelle Beaugelin describe a ministry idea of hers as “a penguin.” 

A penguin? The image is of an idea that should fly but doesn’t. She goes on to explain that we have some ideas for our communities that it seems should just take off and soar but are curiously grounded. 

What makes an idea flightless? The session of the Starter Suite this idea comes from is about congregational readiness. It suggests that we may need to critically evaluate whether the rest of the community is as excited about our big idea as we are or as ready for the difficult compromises, failures, and steps that come from trying to do something new. 

Carmelle suggests that we evaluate our communities on crucial innovation success indicators – things like a willingness to embrace failure, a culture of play and flexibility, and a leader who has built the trust of the community (see last week’s blog on leading off the map for more on that one). 

Here are some questions to ponder when it comes to unpacking whether your community is as ready for change as you are:

  • Does this church have an ecological view of innovation?
    • Do they think about innovation as bringing various systems together — or do they see it as just a programmatic change?
  • Is this congregation more people-focused than idea-focused? 
    • Are they creating ministries around the articulated needs and desires of the “end-user” – the people they hope this ministry will serve?
  • Does this church practice both creativity and humility? 
    • Are they confident in God’s innovation to pivot if their idea turns out to be a penguin?
  • Does the leader practice, model, and encourage innovation herself?

It can be disheartening to find yourself not being sure your congregation is really up to the challenge,. So how do we make our organizations more ready? How can we lead them towards being prepared for that innovation that you as a leader are feeling called to? 

First, we circle back to last week’s encouragement: lead “on the map” well. We must build the trust of loving and praying for our community, preaching, teaching, leading well, and responsibly stewarding the resources entrusted to us. 

The second step is to tend the soil of innovation. You cannot make your community want something they don’t want, but you can set up the environment that leads them to be open to change when the moment is ready. Some of the suggestions from our course are practicing careful vocational discernment with volunteers, establishing a flat hierarchy where everyone’s input is valuable, and practicing being a little bit uncomfortable. 

You cannot lead innovation as a solo expedition, and building the muscles required for take-off is crucial whenever your congregation is ready to take on an idea that is meant to fly. 

Spend some time considering the questions we’ve posed before you try to launch your next big idea, and check out the Starter Suite for a more in-depth dig into all the elements that can help get you airborne! You can also talk to our team about pairing the suite with a cohort experience alongside other innovators walking through the curriculum with you. 

We’re rooting for you and hope you’ll reach out to us with any questions or needs in getting your big ideas to take flight!

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Kat Bair

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