Part 2: Leadership to Foster Innovative Church Cultures

In Part 1 of this 4-Part series, we looked at why millions of people worldwide are leaving our churches and Christianity as they know it. We also saw how Jesus eliminated all the barriers to the Gospel and that the same needs to be said of our churches today. So what role do church leaders play in fostering innovative church cultures that provide significant positive change in people’s lives?

Church leaders obviously provide theological direction for their congregations. What might not be so obvious is that they also determine the culture of their churches.

MIT Sloan Fellows Professor Edgar Schein said of culture that it “is our learned solution to making sense of the world, to stabilizing it, and to avoiding the anxiety that comes with social chaos.”

Culture is how and why we do what we do around here.

According to international change management expert Ken Hultman, culture is comprised of beliefs, values, and norms. A church’s culture then involves beliefs, values, norms, tradition, and theology.

Church leaders serve as the cultural managers of their churches. As cultural managers, church leaders shape the vision, beliefs, values, theology, and norms of their churches, thus guiding the church community, by what they say and do, by their words and actions.

In order for churches to continually spread Jesus’ Good News by eliminating barriers to the Gospel amidst changing societal cultures, church leaders must foster church cultures where creativity and innovation are central values.

According to leadership experts James Kouzes and Barry Posner, exemplary leaders model the way for their followers and personally set examples for others that are congruent with their vision, and in the case of church leaders, with Jesus’ vision and mission.

Creativity in and of itself does not determine whether an environment of innovation will flourish among a church community. There are countless creative church leaders who lead churches that do not meet people’s needs today. Simply because a senior leader is creative does not mean their Gospel communities are creative and innovative.

Being creative in and of itself is not a determinant of innovative church communities. Rather there are three timeless and placeless attributes of leaders who successfully foster cultures in which people eagerly participate in the ideation, development, and implementation of new ideas: risk-taking, trust-building, and collaboration.

Throughout history the world over, these three leadership characteristics have been the foundation for shaping innovative cultures that lead to providing significant positive change in people’s lives. Over the next two weeks, we’ll dive into each of these three characteristics as part of this 4-part series on leadership to foster innovative church cultures.