6 Church Innovations from Churches You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of

It seems like about a dozen churches across the country get all the attention of church leaders when it comes to looking for innovative approaches to ministry. Even though there are over 100,000 churches in the country we all seem fixated on just a few! Today I wanted to highlight some great stuff happening in churches that aren’t a part of that super-elite group.

A part of our role as a church leader to keep our ears to ground to learn from other leaders. People have solved the issues that you face in your ministry today. These are six churches that I’ve taken note of and that I’m learning from as I think about our ministry. I’ve listed the question that I’m asking myself when I think about what’s happening at their church.

  • Hosting Stephen Baldwin One Month After Easter! // Northstar Church, Albany NY

    • At Easter this year Northstar announced that film actor Stephen Baldwin would be coming in about a months time. This move built huge momentum for them in the “post Easter” time frame. (The church leveraged a relational connection with Stephen and asked him to come last weekend.) The Sunday was an all around success … great local press coverage, 220% bump in attendance from an average Sunday, massive first time guests contact information and 34 people made commitments to follow Jesus! Albany is the most post-Christian city in America and I’m excited to see what Northstar is doing to make an impact!
    • What “even bigger day” could your church plan a month out from next Easter?
  • innovationLaunching a Home Grown Kids Curriculum // The Meeting House, Toronto ON
    • What do you do when your church has particular passions or concerns that don’t seem to be covered by the “generic” kids and student curriculum companies? The Meeting House decided to take action and pull together custom made curriculum called “Survive the Street” for grades 1-5 and Jr. High. [You have got to check out the trailer.] The core of the curriculum uses a “reality tv” premise of dropping two young people on the streets of a major urban center for 24 hours. The curriculum will be walking through life lessons on the Book of Ruth. I love the creativity bubbling out of this project … it’s been a long time in development but it’s fantastic to see it come to life this month!
    • How are you communicating your church’s unique voice and vision to your students?
  • Tvotions … 140 Characters of Inspiration // Next Level Church, Newington NH
    • Next Level is a rapid expanding church in New England (4000 at Easter!) that I think you are going to be hearing more about in the future. There are many things about Next Level that look really cool but I was particularly attracted to their Tvotions service. They are 140 character messages from Lead Pastor Josh Gagnon to help their community stay focused on Jesus all week long sent via text messages. These aren’t news and updates about Next Level and they don’t send more than 1 per day. Just short but powerful encouragement from their pastor sent straight to their people. There is no doubt that people’s phones are some their most personal possessions and I love that Next Level is looking to leverage that close technology to help people take steps closer to Jesus!
    • What could you church do to get a Tvotions service going?
  • Community Garden Project. // Glengate Alliance Church, Niagara Falls, ON
    • I biased … this is my brother’s church. For a few years they’ve been responding to a practical need they saw in their community. It’s not easy to grow fresh vegetables or plants if you live in an apartment building or shared accommodations. Glengate is working to remedy that problem with its community garden project. The idea is simple: the church rents 10’x19′ garden plots to members of the community and in turn, they get the chance to plant food or flowers for personal enjoyment. It’s a simple idea … but I love it’s community positive posture and how relationships flourish as the gardens grow. [Check out a full story in the local paper about the community garden.]
    • You know that big piece of grass you have at your building? Why not start a community garden on it?
  • 284 Spontaneous Baptisms … in the Northeast! // Grace Community Church, Washingtonville NY
    • Grace Community Church is located in a bedroom community of New York City. You know … Godless, “liberal”, post Christian, ain’t nothing goin’ on in church world … Northeast. A couple weeks ago they prayed and took a huge risk in the wake of a massive response to 4,000 people showing up their Easter Services. [You need to read the whole story by their Executive Pastor.] Here is a snippet of his reflections on the evening: “Tonight our pastor preached a simple message on the nature of baptism. He said, “We’ll baptize anyone now if you haven’t been already. Right now—in your clothes. Come up here.” And then I wept. I wept because the lines stretched so far to the back of the room. I wept because people forgot their dignity in the most glorious way. I wept as the educated and the enlightened buried their sin unabashedly.” In the end nearly 300 people spontaneously responded to the call for baptism. Stunning. God is on the move. I love that the team at Grace took this bold and foolish risk! They responded to what they saw God already doing in their people and created an environment where their community could respond.
    • Are you leaving space for something spontaneous to happen in your services?
  • Free coffee, free Wi-Fi and plenty of couches. // Crossroads Church, Cincinnati OH
    • Crossroads is fantastic church with 3 locations around the Greater Cincinnati Area. But what caught my eye was at one of their locations they’ve designed the foyer to be a public meeting space as a gift to their community. In addition to running a full slate of Sunday Services, Crossroads’ facility is open six days a week (Mon-Fri 6am-9pm, Sat 7am-8pm). They offer free coffee, free Wi-Fi and plenty of couches. They encourage their community to come for a meeting, just to hang out with friends, or even for a quiet place to read or pray. This is breathtaking to me … opening up their facility and staffing it as a service to their community. Love it.
    • What resources does your church have that you could freely give to community around you?

What amazing stuff are you seeing at churches that you know?  We’d love to hear about in the comments section!


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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.