Renovate by Innovating

My local church has been renovating and innovating for the past 10 months as we focus on spending a year preparing for future guests. There has been no area within the 93-year-old church that conversations and project development have not touched. Some in the church world would strike a negative chord that too much attention is being placed on the physical footprint of a church or focus on designing the best program to offer to current and future members. I, for one, have seen the renewed excitement that comes with a potential renovation mindset focused on redeveloping the church to reach the community.

If you are a pastor or lay leader, you are called to serve with a vision of the future and invest through discipling members. Innovation indicates that a church’s physical attributes and overall thinking are changing, leading to successful opportunities to reach more people with the gospel of Christ.

Innovate to lead the church forward.

As you begin to renovate the church (programs, people, positions), you must decide the following: Who is your target audience? Where will you invest (time, talent, treasure)? Who are you trying to reach (people-group, neighborhood, demographic)? If you know the why behind the what, you will be able to hone in on your target audience.

Once you know where you want the church to begin moving, others will have to evaluate what is working (programs, style of worship, resources that need investing) and begin discarding broken strategies, fixing what needs mending, and starting what needs to be started. This process is exciting yet challenging, as many voices will try to speak into it, and it will take a seasoned leader to navigate through the voices to find God’s voice. Innovation takes creativity to see what the church could be in the future, through the church’s resources, and to see the church move forward.

Innovate to reach new people. 

If your local church has remained stagnant or declined over the last decade, renovating by innovating to reach new people is essential and not impossible. The first question the church must ask is: Are we willing to change? Think about it this way: where can the need in our neighborhood or community be answered through a partnership with our local church? Your local church is strategically located to meet the needs of the people in the shadow of your church’s steeple. The transformation (talked about and dreamed about) will come if the church (its people) is willing to find the need, develop a partnership with a community agency or neighborhood association, and/or develop a strategy to meet it and invest in it. 

It sounds so simple, but it will take grit to overcome self-doubt and strategic decline to push forward with an innovative spirit to reach the community and bless them as the hands and feet of Christ.

Innovate to capture God’s direction. 

Leading change is not just a physical attribute but a spiritual one. It is easy to transform a space, but it is more challenging to help transform a soul lost to found. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, scriptural teaching, and church family embrace, the community will know that the church cares, and thus, they will care about the church. God has an incredible plan for the local church, but it must trust Him by embracing his plan, process, and partnership that he helps provide. The church must not only pray but also participate with God by doing its part, preparing the facility, and preparing missional workers who will serve others around them. 

The local church’s leadership should ask themselves: what is God asking us to do? What are we willing to do as part of the process? What steps need to be taken over the next week, month, quarter, and year to achieve meaningful connection with our neighbors and future guests? By following God’s direction, innovating by adapting to the needs found throughout the process, and staying prayerfully open, God will restore the church by restoring its focus to others.

Renovating by innovating is dreaming new dreams, being intentional about planning but also executing, and fulfilling the God-call on the church members’ lives to serve others around them. The sentiment of ‘build it that they will come,’ must become go and tell the story of how Jesus helped lives transformed by serving others without expecting anything in return. In the end, God will restore what the locust has stolen, and the community of believers will be better for it.

Desmond Barrett
Desmond Barrett
Desmond Barrett is the lead pastor at Winter Haven First Church of the Nazarene in Winter Haven, Florida. He is the author of several books, most recently, Helping the Small Church Win Guests: Preparing To Increase Attendance (Wipf & Stock Publications) and has done extensive research in the area of church revitalization and serves as church revitalizer, consultant, coach, podcast host and mentor to revitalizing pastors and churches.