Innovators and Laggards

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


In 1962 Everett Rogers wondered why people grab hold of certain new ideas while others reject the same idea. He wrote the book, Diffusion of Innovations, which describe how new information spreads. Those who latch on early are called innovators, while those who tend to wait until the end are called laggards. I was first introduced to this theory while studying to be a presbytery executive in a presbytery leadership cohort. The faculty warned us that we might think something is a solid idea, but don’t be surprised if the presbytery warms up to it gently and slowly.

I received a letter last week with a great idea that I want to share. My hope is that you too will see the value, opportunity, and challenge which the letter presents. It is a summation of a survey. In 2018 and 2019, Luther Seminary conducted visits to over 58 congregations and several Lutheran synods. They then compiled a list of seven key themes which church leaders should know. Thanks to Mike Willock who sent me a copy of the letter. The themes are-

  • Deepen Christian identity and practice
  • Cultivate Christian community
  • Innovate faithfully
  • Connect with diverse neighbors
  • Equip the saints for ministry
  • Shift ministry models
  • Improve administrative leadership

Each of these points could take an article! I believe the list is accurate for the congregations in our presbytery as well as for the presbytery itself. As you look at this list, how is each of these items encouraged, nurtured, and utilized in your church? Which of these items are supported by the presbytery through its structure, mission, grants, and ministry? Where are we lacking? Is there something missing from the list you would add?

Wouldn’t it be great if those who are interested in each point could talk with one another and share ideas and ways to do the work? I’d love to make that happen! The more innovators and early adapters we have of these seven points, the more robust and healthier our presbytery will become. Let me now if you’re interested!

Rev. Craig M. Howard

5 Responses to “Innovators and Laggards”

  1. Michael Dawson on

    The word “saints” should be reserved for those who truly are. Using this word for “congregational members” cheapens the word “saints” and degrades it enormously. We need to be more precise about the use of language and not allow it to become slang.

    Reply
    • Diane McCullough on

      If memory serves, and correct me if I am wrong, but both Knox and Calvin spoke in terms of “saints”, meaning people who follow Christ. Rather than “cheapening or degrading” the term, I think using the term can elevate our thinking about our responsibilities and aspirations in striving to lead a Christian life. It is an extremely high aspiration, but an uplifting way of thinking.

      Reply
  2. Diane McCullough on

    I am especially interested in working on “Connecting with diverse neighbors” and have some experience in this area.

    Reply
  3. Karl Hauser on

    I think few people would ever disagree with the importance of these values. The mental leap to embrace *new* practices and *different* behaviors to achieve them is where we see those who are eager to adopt, and those who maybe are not yet ready to.

    Reply
  4. Bill Tucker on

    I used to think that the prophets were the “early adopters” of the church. I am less sure the early adopters are the most wise today. Sometimes a “laggard” may be the more thoughtful, for example, those interested in the goal “deepen Christian identity and practice.” That sounds like building on what may have been successful, but needs more reflection. Bring the early adopters and laggards together for that one!

    Reply

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