categories: innovation, leadership, staff
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September 9th, 2008

by Bobby Gruenewald

11 comments (+ Add)

Idea Persistence

I’ve really been enjoying the conversation in your recent Swerve comments. A recent one from Bruce in response to the Theories vs. Ideas post brought up a great point…what I struggle with is making the idea “stick” with those who have the power to implement it. The problem is that I don’t think they really get it. It’s not their own and it is either difficult for them to see the relevance, the importance or the creativity of it. How do I convey my ideas to the powers that be so that they “get it?” I hate using the phrase but how do I “cast the vision” so to speak?

My experience is that leaders who don’t understand something will buy in to the person more than the idea. Buy-in becomes less about persuasion and more about trust.

My advice would be to work to build trust, which I think is best accomplished in many small steps by being faithful with the responsibilities you have. If you can show results based on these smaller tasks, little by little you’ll gain the confidence of your leaders and you’ll be trusted to do the larger ideas. But it likely won’t be on the merits of the idea…but on their trust in you.

It’s easy to get discouraged with a sense of rejection when your ideas aren’t adopted, but trust in the wisdom of your leaders and keep proposing new ones. You never know which one is going to be the breakthrough idea! What advice can you offer to Bruce about how to “lead up” with ideas your leaders don’t fully understand?


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  1. Sep 9, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    One thing that I’ve learned is to convey an idea in such a way that it becomes the senior pastor who birth’s it. And secondly (and this is a “biggy”)… There’s nothing worse than an awesome idea at the wrong time.

  2. Sep 9, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    this is definitely a challenging position to lead from, but one probably more common than not. I agree completely with Bobby that it is mostly about trust - something earned through faithful submission and loyal support over time.

    until a leader is convinced that you have the ministry’s best interest in mind and God’s perspective on the process, fresh idea or strategy, they are obliged NOT to listen to you. you will find your greatest effectiveness when you prove yourself to be a servant of the King and for His Kingdom, not simply a marketer of your own cool ideas.

    particularly for today’s younger leaders who have had every resource, medium, conference and teaching on church innovation and challenging the process known to man, it is essential that we learn to submit first to our authority and study them to know what God has planted in them as far as specific vision goes. if you can not line up with that than you either need to grow up where you are planted or move to a new field where you feel you can grow better (just realise that even in THAT field you will still have to mature!)

    see post “should I stay or should I go” at

  3. 3Ken
    Sep 9, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    I agree with Rob, Will, and Bobby on (Timing, Submitting, and Gaining Trust).

    Here are my lessons learned:

    -Communications. There are those that can make the change but without the authority. And then there are the reverse. Getting the one with the authority and the one with the ability together is the key.

    -Not following through my with idea (follow up, ask question, be honest, and sincere about the idea)

    -Expecting my idea to be implemented. What else can I say… humility is the key here.

    -Less talk. More action. I recall a story one of the pastors at Willow Creek conference shared a few years back. There was an idea that he couldn’t implemented because God was telling him to spend more time with his family. So the couple who came up with the idea got the permission to start it. Next them he knew it became a huge ministry in their church. Action!

    I don’t think I’m sharing anything new here… but just my thoughts. Thanks everyone!

  4. Sep 10, 2008 at 1:46 am

    That is some great advise! All of you have really nailed it!

  5. 5Nyxll
    Sep 10, 2008 at 10:24 am

    If you want the idea to stick, give them ownership of it and make them excited about it. Put together a mini business plan with projected outcomes.

    Sometimes, you need to just start something small on your own, if God is leading you that way, and let others come on board once it is running.

    Another way is involve people in the conceptualization process, make them feel like it’s their idea, listen to their concerns, ideas. Sincere encouragement, appreciation and praise go a long way in keeping the idea fresh.

  6. 6Gary Detrich
    Sep 10, 2008 at 11:18 am

    It is difficult to push water uphill. It is likely that your idea will be accepted and recognized to the same degree that you are in the ministry. As has been so ably stated build maturity and trust in who you are and what you do. If you think your idea is devine inspiration, you might believe that it is not yours and belongs to the Kingdom which would allow you to give it away with no strings attached and now it would be their idea and they can implement it. If your goal is to serve the Father you have just allowed the idea He gave you to become a reality. Everybody wins.

  7. 7Bruce
    Sep 10, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Thanks guys. Since the posting of the comment, I have found and have come to realize that essentially it boils down to three things: timing, value and trust. Without going into too much detail over what has happened in the past few days… is it really God’s timing for the idea to be implemented? Does the ministry leader see value in the idea and does it fit within their framework? Do they trust that I am bringing them an idea that will move their vision, not mine, forward?

    In one recent conversation with a pastor, I can happily say, “yes.”

    Thanks again.

  8. Sep 12, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Here is an example of how Idea persistance pays off! It is well known that less than 5% of believers who attend Church share their Faith. For years this has troubled me and probably every Pastor who wants to build a foward moving Church. To make a long story short, in 2002 while on a missions trip to Haiti, I got an idea of how to address this problem. For 4 years I developed the idea and wrote it into a Training Manual. I then presented it to our Church leadership. To my disappointment, they couldn’t grasp the concept. So, I began using the idea on my own and it was very successful. So, I refined the appearance of the 3 ring manual and presented it again this past June. For some reason the response at the board meeting was unamiously infavor of implementing it in our Church. Pastor has given me access to everything I need to make it a success. It is a Training Program targeted at New or Unskilled believers or those who don’t feel comfortable or qualified to share with others. Our Pastor is now very happy, because after 4 classes we have 38 new believers actively sharing their Faith. PTL.

  9. Sep 12, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    My ideas have played out more like Gary described–just allowing it to be developed outside of my control by others. The rub is that since the idea gets detached from it’s source, the trust I’m trying to build up gets placed elsewhere. I can see pretty much every big idea I’ve presented played out successfully in our ministry, but that hasn’t seemed to improve any feelings of trust coming my way.

    My favorite Swerve quote that I’ve been meditating was from a guest post from Scott Rodgers “Anonymity is an act of worship.” All of the best ideas are His anyway.

    Plus there’s always the factor that really big ideas are scary and threatening for some people–no matter how much they trust you.

  10. 10Bruce
    Sep 13, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Our church hosts a pastor’s conference every year. We also happen to be training pastors in Bolivia through one of our missionaries in LaPaz. One of my ideas was to create a “video venue” of the conference for Spanish speaking pastors both here and abroad.

    I think the idea might feel a bit overwhelming to our pastoral team. Right now, this missionary and myself are completely committed to making this happen. We just need the approval from one of the pastoral team.

    I’m wondering if I should go ahead and start creating the support material for this to at least give them an idea of what it might look like in the future. Sometimes it seems that if they if they can actually see it played out, it makes it easier for them to conceptualize the larger idea as well. Of course, it also may backfire as well.


  11. Sep 20, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    Bruce, if you can do such a thing without spending an enormous amount of time, it may be worth it. Because of the way God has hard-wired individuals with their own unique personalities, some will conceptually grasp the “vision-thing”, while others need charts, graphs, and statistics. God has also blessed people with different learning styles: auditory, visual, or kinesthetic (hands-on). So, the best advantage is if you know the personality preferences of those who you will be presenting to - try to meet their needs. My encouragement would be to go with it as it may also take some of the heat off of you in having to try and verbally articulate the vision - especially if they start to struggle with “seeing” it. From a professional presentation perspective, having a variety of communication modalities is always helpful; as long as it is well done and not overkill on any one aspect. Perhaps all of the pastoral team will then buy-in!