But the church’s DNA is also to be adventurous, edgy, and solution-oriented. Does the way we think and talk about the church prevent us from fulfilling that full picture?
I had this idea a while back; what if someone said “the church is like a startup?” What would that look like? Here are a few thoughts:
A lot of research has been done recently on the value of knowledge spillover and collisionable space; big words that are focused on the positive effects of enough people and ideas in a space to cause better ideas and better innovation. The open office layouts of Google and Facebook, and the coworking movement, are all responses to more productive and accelerative places to work.
For the local church, this could look like a re-emphasis on the importance of its physical space. A current church model today is often a large all-congregation event on Sunday, and then discussion and support together in small groups away from the church Monday through Saturday. Often there are programmatic events in between. This has proven to work well! But to take it a step further would be to open up church space throughout the week for more bottom-up discussion, conversation, and collaboration together. The value of the church as a convening Third Place shouldn’t be overlooked.
In addition, church leadership should ask: are the lines of communication always open? Does the local church intentionally tap into the cross-sector areas of expertise that sit in the pews each and every week? Google, for example, has found its way to success by being an open launching platform for ideas and innovation, not a closed system where things just funnel through leadership.
In entrepreneurship and business formation, a key idea of starting is “niching down;” becoming very comfortable with who you are as an idea and product, and targeting a very specific audience for that focus.
I’ve often thought about this in terms of church mission and vision statements. “We will be a light in our community.” What does that mean? “We equip, empower, and engage.” How does that happen? What would it look like if a church knew its neighborhood and community really well, and committed itself to a specific focus?
“XYZ Church is dedicated to reducing the poverty rate in Everytown by 20% over the next ten years, by launching from within our faith community 15 Gospel-focused ventures that address education, jobs, and economic development.”
“XYZ Church is focused on helping 2,000 people over the next 12 years discover their God-given purpose and provide the mentorship and resources to design and launch into it. Annually, we will strive for a faith community of 300-strong who are dedicated to locating, supporting, and releasing these people and ideas that will change our city.”
This obviously wouldn’t comprise the whole mission and vision, but what if…?
And that question leads us to the last thought. I’ve always been awed by the mentality of an Elon Musk of SpaceX, or a Mark Zuckerberg who is working to reach the whole world with the Internet. Or Google X, the division of Google that is dedicated to coming up with “moonshot” ideas, like Google Glass.
That lack of fear and plenty of faith in big ideas is alluring.
What if the church regularly challenged what everybody else took for granted? The local church has the human resources and skills to do it. What if the blight in our cities went away? What if economic development and shalom was a legitimate reality? What if churches gathered together to build and create beautiful things? What if the good news of God’s love for humanity was woven in and throughout the big and crazy things we put our hands to doing?
Making time to ask “what if?” is healthy. Creating the space and specificity to have that conversation is key. A startup does all three, and ideally into maturity. If the church could translate some of these values more clearly and consistently, and paired them with what it already does well, imagine the impact?
Is your church doing some of these things? I’d love to hear about it. Connect with me and comment on the blog, and share to expand the conversation!
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