A Cohort of Innovators

Last week’s Immersion Learning Experience with students from Lipscomb’s Hazelip School of Theology was an educational whirlwind. We shuttled the students all around the Metro Atlanta Area at a breakneck pace!

The students toured South Atlanta with FCS. They went to Sweet Auburn to visit the King Center and learn about the past and present of Ebenezer Baptist Church. The cohort went and learned about the innovative work that Atlanta Mission is implementing. They learned about social enterprise in both Clarkston and Atlanta from Refuge Coffee Co and The Terminus Collective. They spent time at Northlake Church of Christ learning about how this church has welcomed its immigrant and refugee neighbors and learned from Friends of Refugees how they have done the same. We shared the what and the why of EIRO’s work in Tucker. We ended our week at the Cumberland Collective learning about their relational service model. We gave them the full drinking from a fire hose treatement!

From the beginning of the week and through each of the visits we encouraged the students to fight the desire to wholesale replicate in their own ministry context any of the models they were seeing. This impulse to copy a model is one of the greatest challenges for folks who want to make a difference. When we encounter something that is both innovative and working in a community we want to bring it home to share with our neighbors.

What we wanted the students to learn was not how to run a particular innovative model but rather the mindset and practices of innovators.

One of these key mindsets is the emphasis that innovators place on their context. Innovators for social good exist in a state of constant curiosity about their surroundings. They want to know why their community is the way it is. Who is doing what work? What resources in the community are being overlooked?  These questions deeply inform an entrepreneur's course of action and are what produce innovative ideas. This place-based curiosity also suggests that models of ministry cannot be copied directly from one community to the next because each community has unique answers to these questions.

After spending a week with these students, I can say that I am excited about the future of the Church!  Each of them was asking important and powerful questions about their own ministries and it was obvious that innovative gears were spinning in their brains.