How Your Church Can Innovate by Asking “What If?”

How Your Church Can Innovate by Asking “What If?”

September 2, 2014 by

I have the privilege of seeing many churches throughout my week—innovative churches from around the world. Each week I get to peek inside the doors of 10 to 12 churches to see their worship sets, visuals and stage designs. And I must admit, I’ve seen some pretty cool ideas.

Sometimes these innovations are simple, like putting Scripture passages on worship slides to give the congregation context for the words they’re singing.

Sometimes these innovations are more complex, like a church that created a character named Phillip Randoll whose whole life story was part of their Easter services.

I’ve noticed churches have a similar model for innovation in each of these situations. It’s not necessarily a complex formula. But very few people actually know how to apply this model to their creative process.

So what is this model? It’s a question: what if? (I like to call it “what the if” because it’s more memorable and because it makes me giggle.)

It’s important to ask “What the If” in three different scenarios. Let’s look at those scenarios and what they mean for your church.

What if that idea applied here?

Continually asking this question will cause you to keep your eyes open. You’ll become vigilant, looking for ideas you can incorporate into your church. When you ask this question, you’ll start looking at:

  • Billboards: Is this billboard effective, and what can I learn from it for my church?
  • Ad Campaigns: This is funny. Why is it funny? How does this humor formula apply to my church?
  • Comic Con: This place is filled with fanatics. What is it about this place that makes people feel like they belong?
  • Movies: Why was Guardians of the Galaxy so successful? What gave that movie such broad appeal?

The list goes on. But everything you encounter can teach you something that you can apply to your church. Every time you see a great idea, write it down and write down what made it work. Then apply that new knowledge to your church. I guarantee your staff will become more innovative once you start doing this as a team.

What if this “fact” wasn’t actually true?

Science is filled with “facts” that turn out to be wrong with more investigation. Have you ever seen a medical book from 100 years ago? They suggest things like ingesting your own urine, attaching leaches to your body and giving your child morphine to calm them down. I’m so glad we discovered these “facts” were wrong. And people only discovered these facts were wrong by asking “what if?”

And regardless of how current your church is, there are “facts” about your church that are wrong. One obvious fact might be your need for a paper bulletin. Many people are doing away with paper bulletins.

But some less obvious “facts” that might no longer be true for your church might include:

  • We only have 100 parking spots.
    What if you tried valet parking? It would be cheaper than building a parking garage, and it would give you way more parking.
  • We have to do child dedications during service.
    What if there was a more meaningful time to dedicate children that didn’t take one-sixth of your service time?
  • We don’t have enough budget to pull off this idea.
    What if God already gave you every resource you needed for this idea? What if the budget is in the hands of your congregation and you only need to ask? What if you changed what you thought you “needed” and did it on the cheap?

What if I’m wrong?

Finally, one of the most important questions you can ask yourself is, “What if I’m wrong?”

I don’t know about you, but I rarely had time to ask myself this question while working on a church staff. The reason for this is because most people were asking the question for me. I always had to defend my ideas, because everyone else assumed I might be wrong.

But when we constantly defend our ideas instead of honestly looking at them with the team, we miss out on innovation. A little bit of humility goes a long way when it comes to innovating.

The coolest thing to come from asking this question is the answer. The answer is usually something simple. It’s rarely a life-or-death outcome.

What if I am wrong? We might waste a little bit of money. But that’s worth the risk. Let’s do it!

So “what the if” are you going to do this week to bring innovation into your church?


Jonathan Malm’s new book, Created for More: 30 Days to Seeing Your World in a New Way, comes out this week.

Post By:

Jonathan Malm

Jonathan Malm is a creative entrepreneur and writer. He is the author of Created for More (Moody, 2014), a 30-day devotional to help you develop a more creative mind.
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3 Responses to “How Your Church Can Innovate by Asking “What If?””

  • Kelli Campbell
    September 3, 2014

    “What if” I left a message instead of gobbling up your information and moving on? Great post! I will definitely take the time to ask myself “what if” from now on. I’ll let you know how it turns out. :)

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  • Eric Dye
    September 5, 2014

    Brilliant as usual. ;-)

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