Remember when you first became interested in that special someone?  The two of you would spend hours together listening to stories about one another.  You had insatiable curiosity about one another’s likes, dislikes, childhood, and hopes and dreams for the future.  Every detail about who that person was became of the utmost importance to you.  Likewise, they desired the same from you.  There was a shared vulnerability while at the same time a profound appreciation that someone else cared enough to want to know that much about you.

You are likely curious about what your first love interest has to do with innovation!  Too often churches come at innovation with good intentions, but from the wrong direction.  Innovation is motivated by what the church desires, what the church “thinks” the community might respond to, or how the church intends to narrow their income versus expenses gap.  While the church certainly needs some giftedness and passion around their innovation, it must be first and foremost community-centric.

Let’s dive into this community-centric mind shift. 

First, we all know that God is already at work ahead of us.  We sometimes have to be reminded of this fact and become more aware and notice where the Holy Spirit is already bubbling up.  Sometimes we are working way too hard trying to make things happen when God has already prepared the ground for us. Christian social innovation is responding to where God is calling us.

Second, we will often need to extend ourselves to be in the community in new places.  Getting stuck in our comfortable relationship ruts is common and those ruts many times include our current congregational brothers and sisters. We frequently gravitate towards people who are similar to ourselves. Becoming more community-centric will stretch us to move outside congregational relationships, outside our other existing relationships, and intentionally extending into building new relationships with different demographics in different settings than we might typically invest in. Christian social innovation calls us into a vulnerable investment in new community relationships in new places.

Third, just like when we first became interested in that special someone, Christian social innovators invest in multiple conversations with new friends in the community. Through multiple conversations, not only does each continue to learn about one another, but an authentic relationship continues to build, trust is developed, and there is the continued opportunity to demonstrate genuine care for one another. Christian social innovation starts by leading with your ears not your ideas.

Fourth, we must be careful not to react too quickly.  Sometimes one person from the congregation hears one thing and the church decides to run with the idea/need as the innovation. Christian social innovation is birthed from a common thread noticed in multiple conversations identifying a community need, gap, or opportunity that is not already being addressed by someone else.  Christian social innovation is noticing where the alignment is where God is calling the congregation, where God is already at work opening doors, and where the congregational gifts and passions align with the community’s area impact area to be addressed that will have the greatest Kingdom impact.

Fifth, above all else, Christian social innovation is grounded in love. Kenda Dean reminds us, “Love surpasses our need to succeed.”  At the root of Christian social innovation is our sincere desire to love our neighbor as Jesus loves us. No strings attached.

If your church would like to innovate with your ears and explore Christian social innovation, gather your cohort and join Kenda Dean and Kay Kotan for a six-session, Innovating for Love series.