Saying, “no,” can be a really hard thing to do. I experienced this firsthand while serving on my church’s missions team for many years. The requests that came to our committee seemed never-ending. 

Members of the church brought us information about community organizations that needed assistance. Fellow committee members had their own passions and advocated for their projects. Community members contacted our team with pleas for help to get their non-profits off the ground. 

It was hard to say, “no.” So we didn’t. We made the decision, as a team, to give a little bit of help to a lot of people. We justified it by saying we were spreading the love of Christ to as many people as possible. We believed that was the most faithful way to operate. But was it?

We missed a critical step in the process of innovation, as many faith communities often do — theological reflection. If we had paused to consider what should be happening in our community according to God’s desires for people and creation, we might have noticed something important: there were one or two ministries that our church could have more meaningfully poured our focus and energy into, instead of spreading ourselves thin over the eight or nine that we tried to support.

The Importance of Theological Reflection

Theological reflection is a key part of developing a new ministry that is meant to expand a faith community’s imagination with possibilities about what could be created. But equally important, theological reflection puts constraints on a faith community’s ideas by pointing out what isn’t consistent with their beliefs about God and God’s people. 

Every faith community has different theological convictions, or “Theological Rocks” as we call them here at the Innovation Lab. These are the guiding beliefs that form the foundation on which every ministry is built. Just as the body of Christ has many different parts and functions, we rely on the variety of Theological Rocks across denominations, churches, organizations, and people to work together to represent God’s desires for the world. 

When you stop to examine each of your faith community’s ministries through the lens of Theological Rocks, beautiful things can happen.

When you stop to examine each of your faith community’s ministries through the lens of Theological Rocks, beautiful things can happen. People will be more engaged and bought into the ministries. Ministries will be more closely aligned with your faith community’s mission. And ultimately, the lives of people inside and outside the faith community will be transformed by God.

How to Identify Your Faith Community’s Theological Rocks 

These are a few guiding questions to consider when developing a new ministry to ensure it is built on your Theological Rocks:

  1. What theological beliefs are most important to you in your personal life?
  2. What do you believe God might think about the role of your faith community in the wider community?
  3. What might God most desire for the people in your wider community?
  4. What is your faith community’s mission statement (if you have one)? What does it tell you about the theological convictions of your faith community?
  5. What theological beliefs are being expressed by your faith community’s current ministries and programs? Are they consistent with the mission statement and what you believe to be true about God and your faith community?
  6. What beliefs are spoken about by your faith community but NOT currently being lived out or practiced?

Uncovering a faith community’s Theological Rocks isn’t meant to be done by one person. Answering these questions on your own is a good start, but plan to have a conversation with an intergenerational group from your faith community.

Together you’ll establish a strong foundation to build innovative and effective ministries upon.

About the Author: Lindsey Johnson is the Lab Coordinator for the Innovation Lab at CYMT. She has worked in church ministry and youth ministry as a lay leader for over 20 years.