The First Step to Sparking Innovation In a Stuck Church

Church leaders need to spark the creativity of innovative believers by  Saying “yes” to their passion.

SparkBy: Karl Vaters

Churches get stuck sometimes.

If you’re a pastor, you’ve known seasons when it’s hard to get church members to do great things for Jesus.

Good things.

Okay — anything.

During our church’s years of being stuck, I longed for the day when launching a new idea was as easy as striking a match, instead of getting calloused hands and a cold heart while rubbing two wet sticks together.

Thankfully we’ve been fired up for several years now, after discovering a key to sparking innovative ideas from passionate people, while disempowering the ones holding buckets of cold water. I now consider it to be one of my main roles as a church leader.

Find a way to say YES.

Yes to people. Yes to their crazy ideas. Yes to their passion. Yes to something God may be trying to do through them that I can’t see yet.

Saying Yes to People and Their Great Ideas

Too many pastors feel it’s their God-given duty to expose the faults of every idea, discourage innovation and snuff out any spark of creativity from church members.

They claim it’s about respecting authority, maintaining doctrinal purity, or stemming the tide of whatever moral crisis is at hand. But it’s almost never about any of those things.

It’s about control.

Innovation, but its very nature, means living with a certain lack of control. Because the details under our control are, by definition, not innovative. Innovation means new, untested, unknown and uncertain.

When every detail of each decision has to pass the pastor’s white-glove test, very little gets done.

When everything has to be controlled, when every detail of each decision has to pass the pastor’s white-glove test, very little gets done. People stop offering great ideas because they know they’re unlikely to see the light of day.

Then we wonder why we’re constantly in the company of whining, uncooperative wet blankets? We’ve encouraged them by creating an atmosphere where naysayers carry all the power, and innovators give up and leave.

We need to spark the creativity of innovative believers by figuring out how to say yes to their passion.

Of course that doesn’t mean saying yes to every stupid idea. But sometimes it does mean finding the non-stupid part of the idea and helping people shape that until you can say yes to it.

Sometimes that means encouraging them to re-draw their plans. At other times, it means sitting with them to tweak an almost-good-enough idea to make it doable. Occasionally it’s just about finding a way to pay for it.

We’ll get better ideas – and more creative people giving us those ideas – when they know their pastor will be their greatest encourager, supporter, promoter and fund-raiser, instead of the main hurdle they have to overcome.

Stuck Or Unstuck? It’s Not About Size

Stuckness isn’t about church size.

Big churches can get stuck just as easily as small churches can. And there are plenty of unstuck churches of all sizes that are doing fresh, innovative, kingdom-building ministry. Including the small church I pastor.

Become a “Yes” Man

I don’t want yes-men on my team. But if I was a team member, I’d love to have a yes-man or -woman leading it. (Sorry, but there’s no gender-neutral term for this.)

Pastors need to become yes-men.

Having yes-men on the team is dangerous. It breeds false pride in the leader and dishonesty, status-seeking and mediocrity in the team member. Control freaks like yes-men.

But having a yes-man leading the team is awesome. It breeds freedom, creativity, sharing of ideas and great innovation.

Of course, when we say yes a lot, we’ll end up making some mistakes. But we’ll make mistakes when we say no a lot, too.

‘Yes’ mistakes are a lot more fun than ‘no’ mistakes.

‘Yes’ mistakes are a lot more fun than ‘no’ mistakes.

Saying yes can give you a reputation. A reputation that will draw positive, creative, passionate people to you, to the church and to Jesus. And it will keep the control freaks and wet blankets away.

Saying yes a lot can mean a wild ride sometimes. Fires are like that. That’s why God gave the church pastors and other leaders. Not to douse the fire or control it, but to channel it for God’s glory.

Originally posted at

Copyright © 2016 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal. June 03, 2016
Karl Vaters is the author of the book, The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking That Divides Us. On his blog Pivot, he writes about Innovative Leadership from a Small Church Perspective for several times a week. He’s also the founder of, a ministry that encourages, connects and equips innovative Small Church pastors.
Karl’s passion is neither to help pastors grow churches bigger or to settle for less. He believes small churches are not a problem, a virtue or an excuse. They just are. And they can be pastored well.

Related posts

WHEN A PRIVATE APOLOGY IS NOT ENOUGH   This article is certainly thought provoking. I think he is saying something...

REMEMBER THIS WHEN YOU’RE TIRED OF PEOPLE’re+Tired+of+People   By: John McGee  July 10, 2017 / Focus on the Family Have...


Pastor Rick’s Ministry Toolbox < By: Rick Warren Ministry is a marathon: it’s not...

THE SUCCESS AFFAIR Why do so many adulterous relationships begin when ministry is going well? By:...

THE MANY BENEFITS OF GRATITUDE This well written article is excellent for focusing us on the grace of...


By: Frank G. Tunstall I thought about it hundreds of times over the years,...


By: Frank G. Tunstall “The next day the great crowd that had come for...


Dr. Ron White serves as president of Emmanuel College. He assumed that role October...

COURAGEOUS CONVERSATIONS–part-2 By: Lance Witt Courageous conversations is a battle of prepositions.  Half of the...

ONE QUESTION YOU MUST NEVER ASK IN MINISTRY “Sow your seed in the morning, and do not be idle in the...

I WENT TO HELL IN A DREAM During this night of terror more than 25 years ago, I fell...

FRANKLIN GRAHAM SPEAKS OUT ABOUT ELECTION By: Franklin Graham   October 16, 2016 A lot of people are slamming evangelicals...

WILL MORE INVITATIONS RESULT IN MORE SALVATIONS? By Hal Seed // For a long time I’ve wondered if there...


Released by Focus on the Family, June 6, 2016 By: A pastor who’s...

More Money? More. . .

By Kent Woodyard “If your church isn’t strapped for cash, your vision isn’t big...


 By: David Koyzis  What happens when the demands of government contradict our faith in...

The Day I Hit the Wall

By: Gordon McDonald Marathon runners speak of “hitting the wall,” a moment in a...


Posted by Focus on the Family, December 7, 2015 by Kevin Conklin I once...

Life Is Eternal; Don’t Have an Affair! By Ed Stetzer  Aug. 25, 2015. This week, we’ve found it’s not as...


BY Richard Greene With cancer eating away at her, the Iraqi woman faced a...

Divorced Dads

A Helpful Perspective on Your Ex The Championship Fathering blog by Carey Casey One...

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.