Churches Could Use an R & D Department

It’s no secret as you read Encompass Partnerships’  blogs that we feel the current institutional form of the church carries with it inherent obstacles to the advance of the gospel to the margins of society.  Just read our last 2 blogs.

You can choose to read that as an indictment and that we are against the church.  However you would be wrong.

History & current reality reveals to us that any organization of people, whether in business, the social sector or church tend to become homogeneous in their thinking and approach over time.  As they grow, they attract, select, socialize and retain similar people, whether leadership, staff or volunteers.  The unfortunate and unintended result is that the diversity in thought and values needed to innovate and advance, over time is actually weeded out of the organization! 

Creativity and innovation may continue to be verbally championed by the organization as necessary for growth, but the ability to act congruently is reduced because the homogeneity of thinking within the leadership group is codified in its organizational processes.  We see this happen a lot within the church.  People with bold or innovative initiatives bring it to leadership, but then the gauntlet of policies and processes, built up to protect the homogeneity referred to earlier, squeezes life and enthusiasm out of the proposal. 

The institutional structures of the church are not inherently bad or evil.  Structures, properly leveraged can be powerful to create change (that’s for another blog).  In fact, we are going to propose a structure to you in this blog!  However, the church-as-institution, if left to a normal course of growth, will actually limit the advance of the gospel.  Once that happens, what’s left is a religious institution, but not the Church.

We believe you want to see your church change, but you know there are obstacles in the way.  What could you do to stretch your church in its gospel advance without committing to an organization-wide disruptive change management process?  

How can you stir things up without blowing things up? 

Establish an R & D Department/Team!

There are four things an R & D department/team can do which will help advance the church’s thinking and impact:

1.       Synthesize & theorize the "What’s Next" questions around the church’s gospel outreach.

2.       Explore and gain clarity about the contextual opportunities and resources at hand.

3.       Design, develop and test out ideas.

4.       Implement.  You have to get out and DO IT.  Study how it went.  Improve and keep on the move.

Before committing to develop this as part of a structural approach, we believe there are a few organizing principles and commitments essential for its success. (More important that a structure is the underlying committment).

1.       As a leadership group, define the gap between your calling to share the gospel and your execution.   How comfortable are you with that gap? Be committed to move beyond TALK of mission.  Unfortunately, simply using ‘mission’ words has in itself become a facsimile for mission in many churches.

2.       Commit your leadership to this dept/team.  If you have the capacity, assign a staff member.  At minimum someone from staff or leadership needs to be connected.

3.       You already have the laity to ‘staff’ this.  Every church by divine design has innovators, evangelists & apostles who would be all over this.  God gave them as the ‘advancing gifts’ of the church.

4.       Don’t ever start something like this without the readiness to release resulting ideas into action.  Otherwise, you are like the parent who exasperates a child and stifles their spirit.

5.       Be ready to risk.  You simply cannot innovate and reach into an area you have not yet been without leaving something of your old ways and patterns behind. 

Intrigued?  Want to explore this idea further? Encompass staff are available to facilitate a conversation with your church on how to develop an R&D Team.  We are learning too and by working with & learning from you, we can be of better help to others.

Contact us at


You will probably not be comfortable accepting the thinking and implementing the ideas a group like this may propose.  However, I am not so sure it was a comfortable process for the King of Kings to enter the mess of humanity either.  

You choose:  Comfort or Change?


Harv Matchullis

Executive Director, Encompass Partnerships

Harv Matchullis