Combat Institutional Paralysis With Creativity

Creativity, at it’s core, is the use of imagination or new ideas to create something. When a ministry is birthed, it requires creativity to the max.  We must create what we will do, what we will call it, who it will reach, how we will reach them, how we will grow, and what it will be become.  The ideas flourish, and the overarching purpose reigns supreme: to stay together, to stay committed, stay alive and be effective. It’s a basic driving force for any new endeavor. The energy from this is powerful and attractive.

In the natural course of an organization’s life, “institutional-ism” begins to take shape, and for good reason. You have to protect what you have and there must be agreed upon standards that everyone follows. Programs exist to help things move forward and share the vision and history about how the thing began. People need to be on the same page. Newcomers need and desire assimilation. Leaders go from making decisions on napkins around booths at a restaurant to meetings, proper channels, staff and budgets.

The problem is, we become bound by the institution we created. I once wrote a post about what the established church can learn from a church plant. The biggest thing may be “without doing something, the church plant will cease to exist.” The new church is motivated because inaction means certain, and speedy death. But established churches, like many aspects of the government, can exist on and on, apart of any visible signs of success. They linger, based on history more than mission.  They have paralyzed themselves by focusing only inward. It’s difficult to move forward on anything for some reason.

As Hans Finzel says in his book, Empowered Leaders, “The longer we have been in business, the greater the probability that we don’t really understand what’s going on in the minds of our customers, our congregation, or our community.”

Though it seems we would become experts over the years, the fact is that we become experts about ourselves – which may be a great informal definition of “institution.”

To combat this, we must be creative. We must use our minds to create something new, something different, something better. We must answer an old problem with a new solution. We must connect with people on different levels in new ways.

A church must rediscover the mission field, focus on individuals in the community, and make connections.

How can you be creative? What new thing can you do? More than ever before, the church is poised for cutting edge creativity as we reach out to the world with the message of Jesus.

Though the church I’m a part of has been in existence since 1843, here are three fresh, recent things that have been creative – answering old questions with new approaches – for reaching people and staying true to the mission more than the institution:

  1. The church just closed on land they voted to purchase last fall.  This adjacent land more than doubles the existing property acreage and will be an amazing asset to future ministry.  The creative part, at least from my view, is that the church voted to purchase this land void of any immediate or long range particular plan. They voted to buy based on what could be, to answer questions for the next generation that we may not even know they are asking yet. They took a leap with this purchase to be ready for what God will do through it in the future.
  2. Two falls ago, we rearranged a two and half decades long tradition of Wednesday evening worship for adults and relocated the student ministry to the sanctuary. They now meet weekly, with a worship team and opportunities for growth and discipleship. At the same time, the adults have shifted to more of a midweek small group mindset.
  3. Our church has a smaller church that has been attached to us. We recently invited a young man to begin serving in this community as a ministry builder – to help make something happen. It’s a risk, but it’s exciting. He and his family have moved into the neighborhood and are helping to move the gospel forward.


There are other, more everyday kinds of ways to combat institutional paralysis. One way is to answer the question: “If those who were before had not done _____________ we wouldn’t be here today. So, what is that we need to do in order to set things up well for the next generation?”

Be creative. Have fun in ministry. Reach out.  Here are some recent posts with practical ideas:

Seven Ways The Church Can Shine In The Community

Does Your Community Know About Your Church? (25 Ideas To Make It Happen)

12 Ways to Increase Your Church Sending Capacity

For The Sake Of The Culture Around You, Market Your Church

12 Things Every Church Ought to Know About Their Community

Three Ways To Boost Your Creativity

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