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Here at The Borough, we thrive on innovation.  The Innovate Series is all about collecting the stories of those who are being innovative – those who are applying the principles of Scripture in fresh ways.

I was able to interview Dr. Thomas Dickelman (“Call me Tom”, he said), who runs a non-profit organization called the Center for Innovative Ministry.  It says it right there in the name, he’s innovating and promoting innovation.

Who Is Tom Dickelman?

Tom-200x300Tom has lead a very interesting life.  He has been everything from a ski bum to a bartender, living in a handful of different places around the country.  In addition to holding a doctorate in ministry, leading a church, and running more than one non-profit throughout his life, he also plays ukulele in an ensemble called the Dancing Bohemian Ukulele Team.

Tom is a funny, and all-around enjoyable, man with a robust laugh and optimism in his eyes.

Today, he leads a church, which meets in a rented chapel during the winter, and out on the beach on Lake Michigan during the summer time.  They spend a portion of their meetings with the congregation sharing joys and concerns they have.  Tom’s church prides itself on their performance-style music.  Yeah, they have a sermon, but as you can guess, not much about their services are traditional.

For Tom, the years he spent buried in the politics and bureaucracy of traditional churches was not only off-putting, but had forced him to rethink what was most important about our faith.  He just couldn’t do it anymore, after years of grinding it out in a large, gaudy church.

This man knows what it means to be unique, fresh, exciting in ministry.

What is the Center for Innovative Ministry?

Not only does Tom do church in an innovative way, but his non-profit centers on supporting innovation.

If there is one adjective I would use to describe his organization, I would say “optimistic”.  There was a painful sadness in his voice about the churches and ministries in the nation who are dying, but it didn’t change his great hope for the future and the possibilities which exist if we could be innovative.

They believe one of the biggest problems in our churches today is all the in-fighting, which leads to ineffectiveness in ministry, burnout, becoming overwhelmed, and the destruction of church culture.  This organization addresses problems like these.

Tom has a background in corporate consulting and training.  Naturally, one of the resources the Center for Innovative Ministry offers is consulting and training in ministry.  They come and do workshops for your church, and community coaching and speaking engagements.

They offer what is called the McCormick Prize for Innovation.  It is a financial grant which is awarded every year to a ministry or church which they deem having the most “impactful innovation”.  Last year, a ministry called Sweaty Sheep won first place.  Sweaty Sheep is a church which meets outdoors and uses athletics to engage its participants, such as 5Ks, pickup football games, biking, and more.

But Tom told me that the purpose of offering this grant is not just to give the winners some needed financial support.  They are building a database of all the entries.  This database is meant to be used as a think tank, so to speak, which offers new ideas to stir creativity and application in anyone who accesses it.

I love that vision.

One of the biggest problems in our #churches today is all the in-fighting. Click To Tweet

*Side note* Neither Tom nor The Borough is benefiting financially from our connection which resulted in my interview with him or the writing of this article, but he did say he would enter The Borough into the running for 2016’s McCormick Prize.  Yay!

stairsThe Center for Innovative Ministry also supports and participates in church planting.  They give financial support, offer help in organization and mentoring, marketing, and a boot camp for prospective church planters.

New Ways of Thinking

With organizations like The Center for Innovative Ministry, we can see a push to think about things in new ways.  We can’t just do things the way we always have.  Tradition is not enough.

I’ll be forward and say that The Borough is not aligning itself with the Christian Universalism which is present in Tom’s church and ministry, but the work being done through their innovation should speak for itself.

They are reaching out, and helping churches get through burnout and division.  They are supporting ministries who are applying Scriptural principles in creative ways.  Their optimism is compelling.

We can't just do things the way we always have. #faith #church Click To Tweet

Take in all the good that the Center for Innovative Ministries is doing, and consider how you, your church, and your ministry can be creative to better reach people with the saving grace of Christ.

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