This is the second part of a four part article on applying the Cross-pollinator persona from Tom Kelley’s book The Ten Faces of Innovation to churches and church leadership. Find Part One of this article.
Cross-pollinators are usually "T-shaped people". These are people
are deep in at least one field (the vertical part of the "T") while
simultaneously are knowledgable in many other fields (the horizontal
part). They can bring powerful insights and send shockwaves through an
organization as they bring in fresh ideas from the outside.
They are very often inspired and influenced by both the past and the
future. Many are history buffs who enjoy searching the past for the
knowledge and creativity of days gone by, wondering if perhaps
something long forgotten may need to be revived. They also might enjoy
reading science fiction, applying the insights of imagined futures to
I believe Cross-pollinators are needed desperately in the church.
Kelley writes in the book that sometimes a lack of resources is
actually the spark of innovation, because "business as usual" isn’t
working. When "business as usual" is not an option, it’s innovate or
die, "business as unusual" or "no business at all". Increasingly, the
church is coming into this kind of crisis, and that’s ultimately great
news. It’s forcing her to step out of her comfort zone and think again
about why she exists and how to spend her time and money.
Cross-pollinators are needed to be able to think freshly about the
mission of the church and how she might fulfill it in the postmodern
Part Three on Thursday: Wait a minute, should the church be cross-pollinating?
Hmmm…here’s my thought: it seems in my limited experience, cross-pollinators often find themselves outside the traditional church setting because they can tend to rock the boat. These folks can easily be labelled as non-conformers because they see things from many perspectives and don’t always tow the party line. Again, in my personal experience, there are many of these folks walking around wounded and confused, frustrated and angry, bitter and hopeless because of the rejection they received in the Church. Many are finding refuge in the emergent movement because of the ‘innovative’ factor. Many have left the church completely, perhaps tiring of (seemingly) always going against the flow, running up against the corporation’s expectations. They feel undervalued, misunderstood, and ashamed because they can’t do ‘church’ like everyone else. Unfortunately, lots of them instead turn to pointing fingers, becoming cynical, and indifferent to the mission of Christ. (Ask me how I know….)
I’m glad to hear you think these cross-pollinators are needed in the church. I think getting them to feel safe back in the church culture as it’s been defined in ‘modern’ times will be a difficult task. The ones that fit this description that I talk to are tired of playing church and are looking for more action and less talk, more humility and less production. More inclusion, less ‘defining’. I think Cross-pollinators are a threat to church as it functions now. Too much risk that the individual church community might lose their ‘thang’. Too many entrenched CEOs and boards and history (thinking liturgical mostly here, though it could certainly apply to evangelical churches as well).
Based on the descriptions you posted, Cross-pollinators could be powerful bridge builders in a way…which means they’ll get walked on from all sides. There’s not too much support or understanding for that in the Church right now. Everyone is too busy building or defending their own kingdoms, too busy with thier own little church world to bridge the gaps between the other churches in the world, let alone the poor and oppressed.
My hubby adds that 30 years ago or so, businesses were also ‘safe’ and no one rocked the boat. Nowdays it’s commonplace for innovators to be the vision-casters that keep their companies alive and thriving. I’d add that one of the biggest shifts in that realm was cutting middle management and empowering the workers. But if these workers have been ‘indoctrinated’ in the ‘business as usual’ mindset, it can sometimes turn ugly (ie: unions that continued to foster an ‘us and them’ environment between leadership and laity).
What would Jack Welsh do with the corporation of ‘church’ today? Is that a good thing? Who would be shaking in thier boots about losing thier jobs? Is this even a legitimate analogy?
Benjamin Sternke says
Good questions. I think you’re right that more and more people are realizing that “safe is risky” – and that innovation is needed simply to stay alive and afloat.