Innovation Lab Spotlight- Courtney Blacksten

Participating in the Innovation Lab has been a breath of fresh air for my ministry. I have become more creative and have begun to think deeply–academically–about my ministry. I’ve started to ask more questions. 
As Lab members, we interviewed community members, young people, and congregation members. I realized that the more information I acquired, the less I knew. Asking questions and giving people the opportunity to share about their experiences in life or in the community or in the church allowed me to see the world from their point of view. I also learned about the challenges facing young people in the community, the challenges our community faces as it continues to grow and expand, the needs of the community as it grows, and how the church could be affected by that growth.
I have seen God at work in the lives of our team members as they have engaged in relationships with youth. They have expanded their views of where our community is, and are taking pride in how far they’ve progressed in the past decade or two while also realizing they still have room for growth.
My hope, through the Innovation Lab, is to create something that is sustainable without the youth director being the main engine of the program. It should truly be a ministry of the church, not a single person. I also hope to create a means for the larger church to invest in the lives of young people and to reach out to youth who aren’t already in our building. Finally, I hope that trying new things and taking risks will become a part of the nature of the church or at least the youth ministry. 
I joined the Lab with the hope of being challenged to think differently about youth ministry–what it is, who it’s for, and what it could be. I think the Innovation Lab has helped me to do all of that and more.