The Most Innovative Churches

January 19, 2007 by

Part 1 in a series on Innovative Churches

Outreach magazine recently released a list of America’s most innovative churches. Outreach magazine and Simply Strategic guy Tony Morgan came up with the list, with the help of a panel of experts.

But what do experts know? We put together Outreach‘s list and now want to hear your opinion. Are these the most innovative churches? How would you rank them? What churches would you add to the list? Thanks to some handy Squidoo-fueled technology, we offer the Most Innovative Churches list, voted on by you the people.

Click through and sign in with Squidoo to vote or make additions to the list. Remember that this isn’t about whose church is more innovative and earning bragging rights. This is a chance to learn from some cool examples. Get some ideas. Be inspired. Let the innovative cream rise to the top. We’re not here to stroke egos.

In addition to our interactive innovation list, we also want to explore what makes a church innovative. Included on the panel that came up with the original list was our own Brad Abare. Along with recommending some innovative churches for the list, Brad answered a questionnaire for Tony Morgan about what it really means to be innovative. We’ll share some of Brad’s answers on innovation over the next few weeks.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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17 Responses to “The Most Innovative Churches”

  • Jeremy Scheller
    January 19, 2007

    I’d love to see that questionaire about what makes a church innovative.
    After looking at links and personally having been to some of those churches, I have a tough time deliniating between many of them. Most of them seem to have the same look and feel and are pretty much dong the same thing.
    Big fancy church, lots of comfortable amenities. Dynamic speaker at the forefront. Sermon series that somehow make a pop culture reference. Focus on growth. Majority white middle class congregations.
    I’m not saying those are bad things in any way, but if everyone on the list looks the same, where’s the innovation…
    To me, Crossover Church in Tampa is the most innovative church on the list. The way they are using Hip Hop as a church model and lifestyle model is truly revolutionary in my mind. Pastor Tommy K really has a unique vision and the skills to carry it out…
    So what do other people feel makes a church innovative?

  • Gman
    January 19, 2007

    Innovative? NY Journey is a replication of Saddleback, I have even heard them do Saddleback sermons word for word. how is that innovative? This list is terrible. There are about three truly “innovative” churches on this list. What a disappointment.

  • Meghan
    January 19, 2007

    I was suprised there were not any Episcopal churches on this list. The Episcopalians, after all, did innovate the U2 Eucharist. All Saints in Atlanta is a cutting edge, leading Episcopal church in the US. Others include St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco and Holy Comforter in Richmond, Virginia.
    I think any church that can appeal to the unchurched skeptic…evangelicals are a turn off to a large segment of the unchurched population.

  • sdennie
    January 22, 2007

    I was amused that 15 churches made both the 25 Most Innovative Churches and among the top 25 of the 50 Most Influential Churches. Just rounding up the usual suspects? With 400,000 churches to choose from in the US? It makes me smile.
    Since these lists routinely focus on only very large churches, they should probably be labeled, “The 25 Most Innovative Churches with over 2000 people.” I don’t mean to be cynical, but that’s how these lists tend to work. Very much a James 2 thing, of recognizing the biggest and wealthiest.
    A lot of innovation is just money–you “buy” creative people and buy them resources to work with. An innovative church can also be a small church working among poor people with minimal resources. But the way we construct our lists, such churches will never be considered influential or innovative.

  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    January 22, 2007

    That’s a good point, sdennie. But it’s certainly not something we’re unaware of (and hey, we didn’t create the list!).
    One way to remedy that is to talk about those small churches with few resources. Add ’em to the list!

  • Dan
    January 22, 2007

    I find Neil Cole’s Organic Church, George Barna’s Revolution and the house church movement probably the most innovative, most adaptable, most truly life-changing model and probably most overlooked/despised/dismissed by the church establishment.

  • nathan.
    January 22, 2007

    You make some really good points. Just FYI, as a member of National Community Church I can tell you that we’re not even close to 2,000 people, and in fact we just crossed 1,000 last year.
    I hope people realize, like you mentioned, that you don’t have to be large to make a creative eternal impact. Hopefully some of the things we’re doing can resonate with smaller churches because we’re not gigantic.

  • dave anderson
    January 23, 2007

    Our church is less than 200. In fact we are barely over 100. I cant believe people are criticizing these lists or the churches on them. Im thankful that there are people who say – check these guys out – they are making a huge difference – and giving those of us who are just starting out something to aspire to.
    Maybe one day there will be a list for your church too. Then people can be critical of your church.

  • gman
    January 24, 2007

    Hate to break this to you Dave, but you are not on the innovative church list. The list that they are talking about is the one linked to Outreach that was voted on by the panel. The one on this page is just a popularity contest that has nothing to do with this conversation and therefore no one is criticizing your church.
    But it appears on your blog that you went ahead and tried to get as many people as possible to vote for your church on the Squibbo thing. Nice work! You must have a lot going on down there.

  • Geoffrey Brown
    January 25, 2007

    Gman’s post regarding innovative Episcopal churches was a good one. To some extent, we all innovate in our own space. I’d give two examples here:
    –Trinity Church, Wall Street (said to be the wealthiest parish in Christendom) replaced their grand old pipe organs (badly damaged in 9/11) with a digital organ. “So what?” many will say. Well, for a big, old-line Episcopal church to go digital was pretty earth-shattering — and, oddly, they seem to have gotten a fair number of people to “come and see” as a result.
    –The other example is my own parish, Trinity Lime Rock, a tiny parish in rural Connecticut. Historically, here ALL of the kids vanished each summer once Sunday School ended. Then, two years ago, a nine year old girl commented that she loved soccer, and that she thought we should play soccer in the summer at Trinity. Somebody listened, and now we have more kids during the summer than any other time — yes, it’s definitely “Sunday School lite” but some is better than none.
    Again, both of these parishes innovated in their own spaces. Neither tried to be something it was not.

  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    January 25, 2007

    Hate to break it to you gman, but the Outreach list wasn’t voted on by the panel. They took nominations from the panel and then ranked the list themselves. The panelists didn’t get to vote on who showed up where in the list.
    And I hope our list isn’t a popularity contest. We tried to make that clear from the start. This is a chance to talk about what makes a church innovative, what are some good examples, and what can we learn from each other.
    If you’re just going to get mad about it and call it a popularity contest, then by all means, take your toys and go home.

  • gman
    January 26, 2007

    is that why pastor’s are trying to get their people to vote for their church on their blogs????
    popularity contest.

  • brad
    January 30, 2007

    Okay, here’s the deal: If a church is at all innovative, it’s gonna draw people. If it’s big, it’s gonna be influential.
    gman, quit throwing rocks around.

  • steven
    February 1, 2007

    It would be nice in the future if there were some details as to why the Churches made the list.

  • Ryan Forkel
    March 5, 2007

    I agree that these lists typically have the same churches on them–the ones with lots of money to buy anything they want or need. Please show me a church of 50 with a volunteer or bi-vocational pastor being “innovative” and I’ll take a look. I’ve been to seminars by these churches and they tend to be “do these things and you can be big like us” churches.

  • J. R. Miller
    March 6, 2007

    I have two thoughts posted on my blog:
    1. America’s Most Inbred Churches
    2. America’s Most Entertaining Churches

  • J. R. Miller
    March 6, 2007

    Hi Steve, I lead a church plant under 50 and have a huge amount of innovation in our style, approach and vision.
    If you check my website, http://www.OrtingReunion.Org, I do all my own graphics and web design and it shows a lot about who we are, but not all the innovation.

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