Answering For Adam Hamilton

ideasEach year The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection brings folks together for a “Leadership Institute”.

Looking to engage participants and meet people where they are, Resurrection’s Senior Pastor, Adam Hamilton, asked on facebook:

“Leadership Institute participants: If there was one question you hope I or someone else might answer during the institute, or one topic or issue we might address, what would it be?”

Kevin Bergeson wanted to know more about:

“Intentional steps to help create culture that welcomes new ideas? How to invite longer range thinking in a leadership team?”


Kevin’s question intrigued me.

Now,  I’m no Adam Hamilton, but here are a few “steps” I suggest:


1. Start with “why?”
(check out Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk…at least the first 5 minutes)

  • We believe God is creative and we are created to be creative as well.  New ideas are the fruit of creativity.
  • Encouraging new ideas allows us to embrace God’s activity as a present reality.
  • In being creative we incarnate one of God’s fundamental characteristics.

Figure out why you value a culture that welcomes new ideas and you are well on your way to creating such a culture.

2. “Reward” the behavior you want
There are two primary ways to influence behavior.  Reward and punishment.  I believe you “get more flies with honey.”  You want a culture that welcomes new ideas?  Reward new ideas.  The big ones and the small ones.  How you reward need not be extravagant or expensive.  Let your people tell you want kind of rewards they most desire.  For some, simply praising the generator or a new idea will go a long way.  Others will find a small gift (i.e. a gift card to get their favorite coffee drink) provides a great incentive.  Be creative.  Maybe this is a great place to experience some “new ideas.”

3. Ask questions
Often we fall into rhythms and routines because they work.  Traditions become traditions because they represent ideas or practices that are (or were) meaningful.  Questions allow us to explore the meaning and potentially find new practices that build on and honor what has gone before.

  • What might it look like if we used flashlights this year at the Christmas Eve “candlelight” service?
  • What does the sanctuary look like from the visual perspective or a three year old?
  • Could the Lord’s Prayer be sung instead of read/recited?

Sesame Street taught me many years ago, “Asking questions is a good way to figure things out”.  The right question asked at the right time can be very powerful.

Of course, asking is pointless unless we are also prepared to listen.  Listen well.

4. Remember the power of language
Language shapes culture.  The stories we tell.  The metaphors we use.  The ways we describe our dreams and goals.  All of these shape culture.

  • Church is a “hospital for sinners, not a country club for saints”.
  • Church is like a “picnic more than a restaurant”.
  • Church is more “aircraft carrier than cruise ship”.

Be intentional about the language used to talk about new ideas.  Select the metaphors that paint the picture you wish to share.

Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis is built on such a premise.  What if the “Velvet Elvis” was the pinnacle of art?  What if the “artist” after creating the original said, “Okay, no need to make any more art. This is it.”?  Find your Velvet Elvis and talk about it…a lot.

5. Expect resistance
Regardless of the steps taken, creating a culture that welcomes new ideas will inevitably take place amongst people, and some (most?) people don’t deal well with change.  In subtle and not-so-subtle ways, there will emerge resistance to the forces of new and different and change.  Expect it.  Prepare for it the best you can. Introduce change only at the pace the people can tolerate.  Above all, don’t make it personal.  Not about you or about those who struggle against the new thing you see springing up in the wilderness, the new heaven you imagine, the new wineskin you hope to offer.

6. Beware “new” for newness’ sake

 “If you want to have good ideas you must have many ideas. Most of them will be wrong, and what you have to learn is which ones to throw away.”  – Linus Pauling quoted by Francis Crick in his presentation “The Impact of Linus Pauling on Molecular Biology” (1995)

New ideas are great…when they are great.  The truth is they aren’t always.  Practice asking, “Is this a good idea or just a new idea?”  Failure to throw out the wrong/bad ideas will undermine your efforts and erode confidence in the culture you are looking to create because people will be forced to live with the garbage that doesn’t get taken out.  No one likes living with garbage.


Now that you have my thoughts, what are yours?  What steps would you take to create a culture that welcomes new ideas?  Maybe Adam will drop by and add his voice.


Life is better together,


2 thoughts on “Answering For Adam Hamilton

  1. Love this post! I think the biggest thing that welcomes new ideas is humility. It goes a long way in helping you truly listen to others as well as legitimately entertain ideas that are not your own. Nice thoughts, friend!


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