Be Innovative with these 3 Idea-Generating Tools

This new year has all the opportunity to be different. The question is, how are you going to make it different? Creating change, momentum, and energy requires ideas of innovation which takes an intentional effort to create. Being equipped with idea-generating activities is paramount for every team looking to have a year full of opportunity.

To have an innovative ministry that thrives on out-of-the-box thinking, pastors need to facilitate idea generating activities. Three powerful idea generating activities are Brainwriting, Idea Battle Royale, and Slice and Dice. With these three activities, you as a pastor can lead your team into a year of innovative change that reaches more people for the Kingdom of God.


A criticism many people have of churches and their environments is that they are out of touch with what is current, they are behind on the times, or they are simply irrelevant. There is some merit to this criticism, and I believe as pastors we need to make the efforts to remain aware of what is happening in the world outside of our sanctuaries and offices, I don’t believe this is the core issue.

Many pastors that I know and work with are very aware of the world around them, even of the communities that are just outside of their doors, and desperately want to find new and effective ways to make an impact for the Kingdom of God. Unfortunately, a desire to do new and creative things is not enough, and many of them get stuck with knowing what to do. They may even find themselves looking at other churches and what they are doing and ask themselves, “what a great idea, how did they come up with that?”

Well, today I want to give you three powerful idea generating activities that will not only help you come up with some great ways to modify or completely change the way you do ministry but will also infuse energy, camaraderie, and high morale within your team and leaders. First, we need to discuss change.

Being Open to Change

Change is always challenging in a church setting. Churches are notorious for resisting change, for having a deep desire to remain where they are, and for killing ideas before they really have a chance to blossom.

New ideas and a desire for innovation are great to have, but if your church is not open for change, then great ideas will be lost. Ideas need a culture that is open and welcome to new ideas and here are three quick things necessary for a church culture to be open to change.

  1. The Pastor needs to invite change, not just accept it: Sometimes as pastors, we simply accept change when it comes, and though there is some value in this, it also creates a passive approach to change. This models to your congregation that change should be accepted when it can’t be avoided, but we shouldn’t intentionally look for change. This has major implications for how they will approach their spiritual development.
  2. Change needs to match the culture: Too often pastors will try to implement change that is beyond the congregation’s ability to handle. I know it has happened to me and almost every other pastor I know. Take a trip to a conference, read a book, or learn about something from another church and with excitement and zeal we implement change only to discover the congregation doesn’t match our energy. In order to implement change, the culture needs to either be ready for it or given the necessary time to get ready for it and we have to be patient.
  3. Change needs to be wrapped in vision: As leaders, we are agents of change and, for the most part, are fairly comfortable with change. We see where our churches are and where we believe God has called them to be, and we are ready to move with clarity. However, our people don’t see from the same vantage point as we do. Our ability to cast vision clearly and often is an absolute must when it comes to implementing change. Communicate the vision of the change to those who are impacted the most and move out from there until you reach people who are minimally impacted. Communicate it multiple times, provide the opportunity for feedback and insight, and be open to modifying your plans along the way.

As the leader of a church or ministry, if you want to have a church culture that is open to change and eager to try new things, inviting change that is wrapped in vision and matches your culture will create the fast track toward an innovative environment.

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Now, let’s look at a few powerful, idea-generating tools that you can use to make this new year one of innovation.


Most of us are familiar with brainstorming where a team engages in throwing out a flurry of ideas and maybe someone is capturing them on a whiteboard or on a computer. In the end, there is this pile of ideas that get everyone excited and energetic, but eventually end up with no action behind them.

Brainwriting captures the essence of brainstorming but improves it by leading toward actionable steps to take ideas to reality. It looks like this:

  1. Give everyone a stack of post-it’s
  2. Determine a topic: ministry idea, upcoming event, problem needing addressed or even sermon series
  3. Set a 3-5 min timer
  4. Hit go and everyone writes down an idea on a post-it and passes it to the right.
  5. Only one idea per post-it
  6. When someone runs out of ideas they grab a post-it from the pile next to them and write down any ideas that are sparked, if no idea comes they pass it to the right.
  7. When the timer goes off, place the ideas on the wall, group them together according to similarity, and then build your plan, strategy, or process from the ideas.

Idea Battle Royale

When I was growing up I was a huge World Wrestling Federation (WWF) fan. One of my favorite events was a battle royale, which is where the match starts with two wrestlers and if the wrestler was thrown out of the ring, then whoever was still in the ring won.

The trick was that every minute or so another wrestler would enter the ring. So after just a few minutes, there is a whole group of wrestlers in the ring just going at one another trying to be the last one standing. It was so exciting because you never knew who would be the next person thrown out of the ring and who would be left standing. Often, it was someone you did not expect.

This same thing can happen with the idea battle royale. The goal is to generate ideas by the truckload and then distill them down to one actionable idea that can be developed and implemented. This is how it works:

  1. Give everyone post-its or index cards with a sharpie
  2. Determine your topic: sermon series, event, ministry, whatever
  3. Set the creative level to 10…anything goes
  4. For 1-3 minutes have everyone write one idea per card and throw in the middle
  5. After the time allotted, someone reads all the ideas and the team works to widdle them to 3-5 of the best ideas
  6. Do another round, but this time the creative level is lowered to 7 to allow for some new ideas, but beginning to focus on the 3-5 ideas from the previous round
  7. Do as many rounds as you need, each time focusing more on a course of action and lowering the creative level. When the creative level goes below 5, the focus is on ideas for implementation, logistics, or communication of the course of action

Slice and Dice

Often times great ideas are not necessarily new ideas, they are improved ideas. The iPhone was not a new idea. It was a cellular phone, which had been around for a while, however, it was an improvement of something that already existed. It was innovative because it added new features such as a touchscreen, playing music, and having downloadable apps.

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For you and your team, the search doesn’t necessarily need to be for a new idea, it can simply be an improvement on a current ministry, process, or system. The goal is to look at all the attributes of an item, and tweak each attribute until an innovative idea rises. Here is the process:

  1. Get a whiteboard
  2. Write your problem or challenge at the top of the board (Kids Check-In)
  3. List as many attributes of the problem (station location, software, hardware, user uncertainty, volunteers, etc.)
  4. Choose each attribute, one at a time, and think of ways you can change or improve this attribute. Ask questions like, “how else can this be accomplished” or “why does this have to be this way”.
  5. If the solution is too much to tackle now, then identify the most feasible option for you now, and create a stair-step strategy that gets you to your ideal.

These are three powerful idea-generating tools that you can use today with your team to make 2019 a year of innovation, idea generation, and strategic change. Leaders are change agents, but we have to navigate change with clarity, purpose, and consensus. As you lead change in your ministry this year, I pray God will grant you favor and give you and your team great ideas to reach your community.

Do you have any other idea-generating tools you use that would help the Modern Inklings community? Let us know in the comments below.


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