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Imaginative Risk Taking In Canadian Congregations

Our Flourishing Congregations Institute research team—based at Ambrose University in Calgary, Alberta—spent April to June 2016 interviewing and facilitating focus groups with over 100 Catholic, mainline Protestant, and conservative Protestant leaders in Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, SW Ontario, and Halifax regions. The purpose? To explore how leaders of self-identified flourishing congregations describe and explain the optimal traits and characteristics of a flourishing congregation in a distinctly Canadian context, and to hear these leaders share their insights and experiences that contribute to flourishing in their setting.

I want to focus on one small but important aspect of what we learned: leaders and congregations who take risks and think outside of the box. It became clear early in our research that many leaders could be classified as mavericks, willing to push the boundaries in creative and innovative ways.

An Anglican leader expressed to us, “I think a flourishing congregation is a congregation that can contemplate imaginatively a variety of different possibilities.” A focus group participant stated, “Willingness to risk I think is probably something that's really important in flourishing congregations. It's okay to try something and have it not work.” In response, another member of the focus group added, “Not working means that it didn't explode and there's not 500 people involved. ‘Oh it was a failure, right?’ But it's getting over that and going ‘sometimes things are only going to be a flash in the pan and they need to be for other things to happen.’ That's okay.”

Examples of innovative ideas to emerge in our study include: purchasing multiple properties to expand social service opportunities in the neighborhood, trying new liturgical forms to engage people in weekly services, planting churches, hiring communications and marketing personnel, incorporating the Alpha program as an evangelistic tool, and investing funds into a new ministry without a clear sense of its likely success. The ideas are endless.

Read the rest of the blog here, as a guest blog for the Centre for Post-Christendom Studies.

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