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When you read the Gospels, you will see that even Jesus had a hard time persuading people to embrace something new. He taught new ways of thinking about the kingdom of God. He demonstrated new approaches to dealing with sinners. He even introduced new ideas about how to keep the Sabbath. Unfortunately, Jesus’ innovations were not well received by most of the religious leaders.

Contemporary congregations often find it difficult to embrace innovation. What can you as a leader do about that?

The new year will undoubtedly bring new surprises. If we have learned anything in the past three years, it’s not to assume that everything from the recent past will continue into the future. Change can happen quickly. We have also learned to explore new opportunities, often when we least expect them.

The new year is a good time to encourage people to open up to new possibilities. While there is always a bit of risk involved, let’s not forget that leadership is more than maintaining the status quo. Leadership involves intentional movement into the future, which requires change and innovation. It is understandable that congregations struggle to embrace innovation; the stability within the church helps reassure members who can do little to stop the dynamic changes happening in their lives and in our culture. Nevertheless, a church that cannot change is a church that cannot thrive.

For this reason, it is essential that leaders understand how to articulate why doing something new matters in the first place. Check out this week’s resources to learn how you can encourage curiosity and embrace new people as you help the congregation learn new ways of doing new things.

Resources

The church needs innovation instigators

As we’ve learned through COVID-19, faith communities can adapt. Church leaders must be willing to continue sparking change by asking new questions and challenging old answers.

By Gabby Cudjoe-Wilkes

New people can mean new ways of doing things

The last four years have seen an influx of new hires for many organizations. Slowing down to make the changes that turnover requires can benefit everyone.

By David L. Odom

To expand your imagination, get curious

Learning to be inquisitive and openhearted can make way for all sorts of possibilities.

By Kelly Ryan

To do new things well, congregations must learn

An effective learning process almost always begins with comprehensively yet succinctly naming the challenge at hand.

Q&A with Tim Shapiro


Before you go…

2023 is behind us, and 2024 stands before us like a vast ocean waiting to be crossed. The challenges are real, but so are the possibilities. As the saying goes, let’s begin this year with the end in mind.

Write yourself a letter dated Dec. 31, 2024. With God’s help, how do you want to lead this year? How do you want to move beyond maintenance into transformational ministry? What is God calling the congregation to do that will require faith and trust in new ways? What personal goals will you set for yourself or your family?

Happy New Year, friends! Let’s discover what new thing God is going to do.

As always, you can reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

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