“In the beginning, God ‘innovated’…”
Being a young guy, I love innovation. Be it design, a product or something church-related. If it’s brand new, different to the status quo and “happening”, you have my full attention! However, it’s safe to say I’m not the only person with this mindset. This trend closely follows in the youth of today as time and time again I have seen that innovation is always attractive amongst youth.
Apple! Here we have a company that has innovation as a bedrock. Apple has the incredible habit of releasing a product which mostly has no market prior to the release. Yet it works! Everyone’s lives were perfectly comfortable without the iPad, but once you saw it your jaw dropped in utter amazement as you realized what you had been missing all your life……. (At least that was my experience).
Jesus and His church are at the forefront of life and therefore should be at the forefront of innovation and creativity. We serve a creative God, unending in vast amounts of complex thoughts and ideas that haven’t yet touched the minds and hearts of man. It’s my hope that the talk of the youth in terms of church, christianity and youth ministry, would far exceed the talk that Apple could ever create (No offense). I’ve seen a visionary such as Steve Jobs, the creator of apple, use innovation and creativity to capture the minds of men. How much more can we as visionaries, putting our focus on Christ, use innovation and creativity to capture the hearts of mankind? That’s the dream!
So, how do you go about being a visionary? Unfortunately, innovating and creating are only 25% of the process of carrying vision. The rest, I’ve found, is often planning in which most visionaries should try not to get caught in. Below is a brief and practical look on what I call the 4D’s of being a visionary.
And dream big! Without a dream, there’s no vision. Being a visionary requires “out of the box thinking”. However – sadly for us – dreams require creativity and creativity is a quite a temperamental trait. It has no “on” or “off” switch. It’s something that can be randomly sparked at any time through anything from prayer, to a conversation, to a leaf falling. Pin-pointing the exact things that allow people to be creative are therefore impossible and improbable. Nonetheless, here are a few practical helps for getting the dreaming phase going.
a. Start with an end goal in mind – If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you’ve arrived? Most often there is a reason behind why we dream about something. What do you want to accomplish? Could it be a project to see growth, a way to develop stronger relationships with the youth, maybe being more relevant over media and social networks or even having a greater presence in schools? Knowing this can often direct and channel your dreaming.
b. Copy & adapt ideas – Picasso said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” As wrong as this sounds, it is something that can be incredibly helpful in dreaming. Allow me to explain, often the solution to your current problem or need has been fleshed out by someone else. Therefore learn from them and adapt, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel from every angle. In fact, if there has ever been an idea or concept that you’ve found on this site or in our youth group and think it will work for your youth group, take it! Brand it! Make it your own!
c. Trust in God – This goes without saying, God is the most creative being in all life from eternity to eternity. He is living and wants a relationship with us. Therefore, trust and ask Him for ideas. In my personal experience the best ideas have often come in the middle of nowhere. It’s been a great practice for me to always have a device or notebook handy in order to record the idea the second it hits.
Thomas Edison said, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” As a visionary the next important step is to create or devise a plan. Without this a person is merely a “dreamer”. This area requires that “feet”, so to speak, get put to the project and by the end of this phase all questions concerning the project should be answered. Some questions to consider are as follows: Is the project even possible? Should we consider this, will it be fruitful? What is needed to make this happen – advertising, man power, money etcetera? Who should run with this project? These first two steps (Dream & Devise) require heavy involvement from the visionary, however the next step should, if possible, require little to no involvement from the visionary and should be delegated to someone who thrives on systems and administration.
Here we have one of the most crucial aspects of the visionary process and probably the phase where the visionary should be involved the least. The “Do” phase can be subdivided into 2 categories.
a. Execution – People are put into place; resources are allocated; deadlines are set and the project is underway.
b. Management – Once the project is underway, management becomes crucial. If the plan has been communicated badly from the visionary and/or executed incorrectly, this phase should point out the errors and with proper management prevent the plan from failing. It is important to constantly audit and edit as the project moves towards completion.
The fourth and final phase involves having a revision of the process and requires the visionary to take an active role in this review. It is important at this point in the process to judge whether or not the original intent or idea for the project was kept, and whether it achieved the goals/benefits that it originally set out to achieve. It is incredibly easy for your leaders to become frustrated if something hasn’t worked as intended. If this is the case, sometimes it requires to restart from phase 2 (“Devise”) – planning the project once again and making sure all the shortcomings are accounted for and managed. Afterwards the project must be set for a re-evaluation.
“Let them Die” – I personally can’t stress this enough. If a plan has failed or run it’s course, let it rest in peace. Allow yourself the freedom to let it rest. Good visionaries are able to take sober assessments of projects and know when to pull the plug. If an already “dead” project doesn’t get completely killed in time, you may find that the volunteers/staff who are so faithfully serving will become lost in the project, loose interest and eventually become worn out. Therefore if something has run it’s course or failed to a point where it wont work again, allow yourself to kill it.
Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, people perish.” As I’ve stated before, dream big! It’s my hope that as we continue on Christ’s mission that our vision, creativity and innovation in church would expand as we follow Him.