This post is from my weekly column, New Insights from a New CAE, on SmartBlog Insights. I really like this post and I hope you do too.

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My knowledge of evangelical churches is limited to driving by mega-churches with gigantic parking lots, the kind that cause traffic jams on Sundays. But I’m captivated by their approach to community.

Xtreme Ministries, a church in Nashville that’s also a mixed martial arts academy “where feet, fist and faith collide,” is one of a growing number of evangelical churches where ultimate fighting attracts and retains a hard-to-reach demographic – 18-34 year old men. We know this lesson – provide activities that appeal to young adults if you want them to pay attention to you.

flickr: au_tiger01

Brandon Beals, lead pastor at Canyon Creek Church, created the church he’d always wanted as a spiritual home, a place where he’d want to hang out — one that recently had 100 men show up to watch ultimate fighting on big screen TVs. Half of them weren’t members but came because they heard about the party. Maybe they’ll also come to his lectures that draw parallels between ultimate fighting and Christ’s life, “the ultimate fighter.”

Beals says this is “not a gimmick to get 20-somethings into our church. Canyon Creek doesn’t need a gimmick to encourage them to come.” I was skeptical about that until I read his description of the church’s Culture:

  • Expect the unexpected
  • Irrelevance is irreverence
  • Love people when they lease expect it and least deserve it
  • Playing it safe is risky
  • Everyone is invaluable and irreplaceable
  • Everything is an experiment
  • The church ought to be the most creative place on the planet
  • Maturity does not equal conformity
  • Go the extra mile

Make no mistake, this is a seriously evangelical church, but they’re doing it on their own terms, in ways that are authentic to its members. In addition to services, they have cook-offs, movie nights, book clubs, yoga, sports, a Facebook fan page and podcasts, all aligned with their Core Beliefs — be Real, Relevant, Relational, Reproductive and Rousing. They’re creating an innovative spiritual community.

Are we providing Real, Relevant and Rousing professional communities for our members? I agree, being relevant isn’t enough, but here’s how their definition of Relevant:

  • Understand the emerging culture
  • Utilize creative innovative means to present truth
  • Encourage diversity
  • Willingness to change

flickr: Flickmor

That aims higher than our usual definition. Why do we settle? Think about it: how many communities can people have the attention, time and energy for? Maybe several, but if your association is not meeting their need for a Relevant and Rousing community, it’s not going to remain high up on their relevance scale, or their attention, time and energy scales.

Their church evolves so it remains Relevant to the community. Do our traditions, activities and ways of operating really work for everyone, or just those who actively participate? Do they prevent us from evolving? What happens if someone proposes something new? Do they dare to even do that?

Churches like Canyon Creek are successful for many reasons. Take a look at churches in your neck of the woods through an organizational development lens. You may find that they are fulfilling their primary organizational mission while remaining flexible and innovative in how they serve their members. Their parking lots are full. Are yours?

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