Who & Why, not What & How

3 · 08 · 22
Ryan and Tami knew the community they wanted to serve (their neighbors who were disenfranchised from the church, particularly due to addiction). They knew the mission they were trying to achieve (a community, free of shame, where people could know they were loved exactly where they were on their journey). Ryan and Tami had their who and why, but the how and the what constantly evolved. 

When Ryan and Tami Canaday started their “thing,” as they still call it, the intention was for it to be a four-week series of conversations around community, spirituality, and recovery, in their backyard. When the first four week series ended, the attendees just asked, “what are we talking about next?”

And the “thing” grew. Ryan and Tami wouldn’t consider themselves church-planters. They started with no seed money, no “parent church,” no launch community. They had no five-year plan, no growth projections, no targets. They just had the people around them and the call they felt to serve. One series turned into a few, which turned into a community. 

Tami, who had a background in the coffee industry, began (with a backyard coffee roaster) to roast coffee for their own community, inspired by the coffee traditions of twelve-step programs that would be familiar to their community, many of who were in recovery. Their in-house coffee turned into local sales, which turned into Wagon Coffee, a non-profit that supplies coffee for more than 60 sober houses. 

At Ministry Incubators, we are believers in diversified revenue streams, databases, sustainable ministry plans, major event templates, all of it. But we are also believers in the whims of the Spirit, in the way that sometimes following a call towards missional innovation can mean taking a radical left turn from where you began. 

Ministry Incubators has been conspiring with Ryan and Tami on their community and have loved walking alongside them to help them clarify and launch their “thing” in all its forms.

Ryan and Tami’s greatest advice to those starting their own “thing” is to be crystal clear on their vision. This counsel may sound surprising from a couple that started a four-week series that turned into a coffee company and a sustainable spiritual community, but Ryan and Tami all along were crystal clear on what mattered most.

They knew the community they wanted to serve (their neighbors who were disenfranchised from the church, particularly due to addiction). They knew the mission they were trying to achieve (a community, free of shame, where people could know they were loved exactly where they were on their journey).

Ryan and Tami had their who and why, but the how and the what constantly evolved. 

When we talk about innovation, it can be easy to trip off anxieties when people cannot differentiate the what from the why or the who from the how.

Communities that identify with their ritual of Sunday morning, with their strategy of passing the plates to pay salaries, can feel like challenges to those patterns are challenges to their very identity as a church and their mission as Christians. They can feel like those who seek to innovate on those patterns may lead the church astray.

But Paul made tents, monks brewed beer, and medieval churches ran theater troupes – so what’s so strange about a coffee company? We have experienced some identity fusion with our practices as a church, and Ryan and Tami’s example invites us to hold fast to what matters, the communities we serve and our call to that community, while letting the rest be just what it is – our own “thing.” 

Some questions to consider:

  • What is your community?
  • What is your mission?
  • What is your “thing?”
  • How could you serve your community and your mission with an entirely different “thing?”
  • Where do you feel the identity fusion between your mission and your programming?
  • Where might that be holding you back?
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