Six Ways to Create a Culture of Innovation in Your Church

By Rick Warren

Creativity matters in ministry. It matters because God is creative. He’s the most creative being in the entire universe. It only makes sense that we serve God with our creatively.

xrayHow do you develop a culture of innovation in your church?

You need a theology of innovation. We are most like our creator when we’re creative. God wired us to be creative. Children are very creative. They are born creative. It’s normal. We get the creativity kicked out of us as time goes by. We learn to be afraid. But a theology of innovation always reminds us that God intends us to be creative.

You need a creative atmosphere. There are certain environments I can be very creative in, and certain environments where I can’t. At Saddleback, we’ve never had a boardroom or the big boardroom-style table that comes with that. We have recliners. Meetings don’t start at Saddleback until we kick our feet up. It’s when I get in a totally prone position that I can be the most creative and can discover what God would have us do.

You need to stay playful. Playfulness stimulates creativity. When you get people laughing, you get the endorphins going. Creativity is often putting together two exactly opposite ideas, which is often ludicrous or seemingly stupid. It just makes people laugh. When people start to laugh, I know creativity is coming. When they’re serious, we’re not going to get creative.

You need the freedom to fail. Innovation means not being afraid to fail. There’s no such thing as failure at Saddleback. We experiment. Sometimes we guess. It’s trial and error. But I give my staff the freedom and flexibility to fail. You’re never a failure at Saddleback until you stop trying. We’ve done more things that didn’t work than did. I want all of my staff members to make at least one mistake a week. If they aren’t making mistakes, they aren’t trying!

You need to think big! You foster innovation by setting goals that are so big that you are bound to fail unless God bails you out. We did this before we started 40 Days of Purpose back in 2002. We had been planning to start 300 new small groups through the campaign. That would have been a big deal. But God told me, “Add a zero. Start 3,000 small groups.” But we didn’t have 3,000 small group leaders. So we innovated. We came up with a brand new way to do small groups, as we focused on finding “hosts” instead of leaders.

You must do something that matters. My friend, Erwin McManus, once told me, “The reality is that if you’re not trying to accomplish something meaningful, you’re not really being pressed into the creative process.” We don’t innovate at Saddleback to be cool. We innovate because we want to reach people with the good news about Jesus. The why determines what we do.

Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.