Innovation over Duplication

Innovation Over Duplication

This topic is one that hopefully resonates with a lot of you.  If you are anything like me, you have often times found it to be very easy and comfortable to dig into that old bag of tricks and pull out something that has worked previously, perhaps in a different ministry setting or with a different target audience.  Over the course of this article, I want you to go on a journey with me in discovering how detrimental duplication can be to your ministry.

I have served in children’s ministry in some way, shape or form for over 20 years.  In that time, I have been able to have influence over children in 5 different churches.  I use the word influence because in 4 of those churches, I worked directly with teenagers because it is where “I thought” God wanted me to be.  All the while, He kept opening up opportunities to minister to children in those 5 churches in some capacity.  My mind just couldn’t wrap around the idea of serving in children’s ministry though.  I NEEDED to be doing Youth Ministry. 

The Lord was gracious to show me a lot of things in that span of time.  A lot of things that I would ultimately try to carry over into Children’s Ministry once I realized, through the nudging of God and my wife, that working with children was really where my heart and gifting’s were.  Even upon the great epiphany in my life of where I needed to be serving, I still wasn’t being totally fair to those I was ministering to.  It was my preference to do what I was comfortable with and knew very well how to execute perfectly.  I wasn’t giving God the opportunity to do something new in “my” ministry.

I had fallen into a rut of relying on yesterday’s good idea instead of seeking God for some fresh ideas or insight.  I went with what I knew instead of the scary unknown.  Duplication over innovation became what I was known for. 

The children wouldn’t complain much with my duplication because they were having fun with their friends and family.  Parents didn’t care much because it provided their kids with something to do.  And honestly, I was perfectly content with satisfying both of those groups.  The key ingredient was missing from my ideas and events, God’s plans.

I want to stop right here though and assure you that repeating an event or sermon isn’t wrong.  I find no sin in that at all as long as you’ve gone to God with it, but where I do find sin in it is by not seeking God first. I know, I know, we all have a title of some sort in children’s ministry.  Pastor, minister, teacher, volunteer, staff, ninja, small group leader, and the list could go on and on.  And it’s just a given that we all go to God with everything.  Well, I have a confession to make, I have not and likely will not.  It’s not because I don’t want to, because I do but rather it’s simply because sometimes I just don’t.  And I would guess that if you were being honest with yourself and God, you would find things in your ministry that you haven’t taken to Him either.

This form of duplication is just one of many traps that the enemy likes to see us travel down.  I firmly believe that it can be a ministry killer.  It’s a first and last resort many times because of the lazy bug or busy bug that we’ve been stricken by.  I’m guilty as charged.  I can’t tell you that enough.  But, it’s not something that I will always be known for. 

It’s not something that I will always beat myself up over.  Innovation over duplication is my rallying cry.  It’s my heartfelt desire.  It’s what I feel can help take my children’s ministry to the next level.  Innovation over duplication.

Before I share my thoughts on how to become innovators, I want you to know that I am no expert.  If anything, the thought is something that I am still trying to wrap my mind around and asking God to reshape that same mind for His glory.  

I reflect back to an interview process I was in with my current church.  It was in the Fall of 2014 and as I think back on the interview process, I relied a lot on duplication in sharing some ideas for ministry in this church.  It was stuff they had never heard of or had seen.  It was innovation to them while it was another case of duplication for me.  Now, I had some fresh, innovative ideas as well, but I sure do remember sharing a whole lot on what I had done and had been successful in.  It served a purpose I suppose as it gave insight to our staff on some of the things I had done in the past and perhaps what they could expect to see here as well.  As I’ve mentioned, this whole innovation over duplication process is still very much a struggle for me.

With all that said, let’s tackle how to be innovative in our ministry settings.  These are some points that God has been very upfront with me about so take them for what they are.  These are presently being tested and as you can expect, the results are rather impressive. 

First, seek God with your plans and intentions.  Jeremiah 33:3 states it perfectly.  “Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things that you did not know.”  Duh, David!  Simple, I know.  You all know this, and I “know” this, just know that this is the first step. 

Secondly, in keeping with the theme of Jeremiah 33:3, wait for His answer.  A thought the Lord has made very clear to me in this process is that today’s duplication was yesterday’s innovation.  The result of going to Him is His answer and Him showing us things that we didn’t know.  Innovation.

Thirdly, don’t do what some other ministry is doing just because it was a success for them.  This is a hard one to resist because we’ve all heard the success stories from our friends in ministry who tried this and that and the results of that were absolutely amazing.  See this as a sign that God desires to bless His church and do big things in other places not named your church or ministry environment. 

It’s pretty awesome to grasp if we’ll sit back and absorb it.  You’ll have plenty of those success to stories to share over coffee as well.  It’s tempting, but please stay away from the thought.  

Lastly, don’t continue to rely on those awesome results from last years’ mega event.  What happened last year was awesome.  It’s worth rejoicing and celebrating over.  Several from your community are now involved in your church or heard the Gospel message for the first time.  AMEN!  Rejoice in that! 

Ask God for a new vision, a new desire, an innovative plan for something fresh to happen.  God CAN and WILL do it!  You’ve got to believe it and trust Him for the results.  Do you understand that David?  Trust God for the results. 

One of the great things about doing life and ministry together, we can learn from each other.  Hopefully you’ve done just that in reading this.  It’s my prayer that not would I learn to be more innovative and not reliant on duplicating previous successes, but that you too would choose innovation over duplication.