Innovation Lab Making an Impact

guest post by Rev. Sue Joiner

Note by Kenneth McIntosh, Church Growth and Renewal Coordinator for SWC:

“Last October, Sue Joiner and Ann Marie Stranger from First Congregational Albuquerque participated in the Innovation Lab Workshop held at the SWC office in Phoenix and led by Rebecca Glenn. They have attended video conference coaching group meetings in the months since then, and have facilitated an exciting process of innovation and healthy changes at their church. Enjoy this article, be inspired by some of these ideas, and remember that there are still openings for the Innovation Lab Workshop round #2 happening this fall.”

We began our process with a team of a dozen leaders in January. We were inspired by the Innovation Lab technique of experimentation, deep listening, prototyping and learning as we go. We interviewed people about the church to hear what their deep hungers were. The theme that was repeated the most was connection. Then we created a survey to help assess what would most meet that need for connection. We gathered to assimilate the information and discovered some themes:

There is a longing for meaningful relationships and we are addressing that by creating opportunities for people to get to know each other. We did a Lenten series using the book Learning to Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life by Philip Simmons. We had four groups meeting at different times and places over a six week period. These were so well-received that we are doing three groups this summer – one group is reading a collection of short stories set in New Mexico, another is reading the book Being Mortal, and a third will gather later this summer to read plays and look at the themes as they relate to our lives. Our Green Justice team is sponsoring a dinner and movie discussion to explore food justice issues in more depth.

We talked about connecting in worship. We have found ways to integrate children in worship and relocated our children’s corner to give children better access to their own resources. We have added some visual arts for Easter and Pentecost. We did a community Candlelight Memorial Service for the victims of the Orlando shooting. Our sanctuary is now 100% LED lighting (a result of the Green Justice committee and our commitment to making the space more welcoming).

We are looking at our building as a resource and seeking to make it friendlier. We put rainbow doors on Lomas (a major street outside our church) that say, “God’s doors are open to all”. We want to do more with the inside of the building. We are committed to a master plan for the building. We have a trainer and opened a fitness room in our basement that is open to the community.

We became a Green Justice Congregation on May 22 so we are finding new ways to live out this commitment.

We are planning to send care packages to any UCC student at University of New Mexico (we are counting on churches to send us the names of students who are coming to school here).

We are committed to finding new ways to make our building and our community a place of connection. We are finding new ways to get the word out about our extravagant welcome. We are committed to the whole person and to a welcome that is long lasting.