How to Use the Summer to Innovate and Incubate

Youth Specialties
April 29th, 2015

If you are a fan of Google, you probably know that the company encourages engineers to spend up to 20 percent of their time on side projects even if the projects are outside of the engineers’ assigned tasks. These side projects have led to some successful products for Google. The company understands that you cannot force innovation any more than you can force a plant to grow. Rather, you must create an ideal environment for innovation to be nurtured into life.

Most churches are not exactly fertile grounds for innovation to grow. Yet, innovation is important because it allows us to challenge the status quo and live into the Missio Dei in a relevant and effective manner. I think we struggle to innovate in the church because we do not create space in our schedules to dream and because we lack the courage to risk failure. Let’s change that!

I like to use the summer ministry season to innovate and incubate new ideas. Though attendance may be sporadic in the summer, excitement is in the air and schedules shift, causing families to be open to new things, while students have more time on their hands. I have found that summer is an optimal time to foster innovation and pilot new gathering opportunities.

Want to join me? Here are a few helpful guidelines for creating space for innovation this summer:

Set a Foundation

Starting today, spend at least two hours a week praying for your students by name and two hours a week devouring resources that will help you dream about new possibilities in your life and ministry. This assumes that you are already cultivating the spiritual disciplines of Sabbath keeping, scripture study, and prayer on a daily basis. 

Communicate Clearly 

This may be obvious, but you need to make sure your pilot programs are clearly and consistently explained in all of your forms of media. Have an information meeting for parents, use “experiment” language, and give an end date to the new program idea.


“This summer we are going to do a little experiment. Rather than having our traditional Sunday school program, we are going to try six weeks of Bible study on Sunday nights at Jin’s house.”

Have a Purpose

Every new gathering must have purpose. Don’t forget to communicate your purpose to your students, parents, and volunteers.


“We are experimenting with a Sunday night youth group gathering to see if the environment increases both attendance and the level of depth. If it does, we may make some changes in the future.”

Be Willing to Fail

When Google Wave failed, Google’s CEO said, “We celebrate our failures. This is a company where it is absolutely OK to try something that is very hard, have it not be successful, take the learning, and apply it to something new.”

I would love to hear from you.

Use the comment section to ask questions about creative programing and to suggest ideas. We are better together!

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COBY CAGLE lives with his wife and two kids in Seattle, WA. He is the Youth Pastor at Quest Church and you can follow his meanderings on faith, family, and life at CAGLEJOURNEY.BLOGSPOT.COM.


Youth Specialties

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