The Resource Trap: How Our Church Lost Its Innovative Spirit


Woodstock City Church's transition from scarcity to abundance reveals an unexpected relationship between resources and innovation. This post explores strategies to ensure that abundance enhances rather than stifles creativity, drawing on real-life experiences and lessons learned from this church's transformative journey.

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Do you have what you need to do your job?

It’s a common question in many workplaces.

Andy Stanley once asked me this very question.

Our church had recently become a campus location of North Point Ministries. Sitting in his office one afternoon, he asked, “What do you need to make your campus better?”

This was my chance! we needed a LOT!

From Humble Beginnings

When I joined Woodstock City Church (formerly Watermarke Church), we were scraping by, operating on a shoestring budget. For two intense years, every dollar was a lifeline, every contribution essential. I received a giving report every Sunday afternoon to determine how many bills we could pay on Monday morning.

It was a difficult but invigorating time, filled with creativity and growth.

And then, a transformation occurred. Our partnership with North Point Ministries evolved into becoming a campus location of North Point, and it felt like winning the resource lottery. From under-resourced to abundantly supported, everything changed — finances, staff, technology.

Everything got better.

Sitting in front of Andy, I pondered how to answer his question best. Our staging was good but far from great. We’d done what we could with limited resources. If you know anything about stage or production technology, you can appreciate how much it costs to make these elements better.

I answered Andy: “Well, at our church, we currently have four moving lights. In your auditorium at North Point Community Church, I lost count at 44 moving lights. I think we need to add more lighting to our stage.”

Andy kindly smiled and responded, saying, “Well, Gavin, how many more lights do you think you need to accomplish the mission?”


He was right.

We were getting an infusion of resources, but something else was happening. I believe Andy understood the danger of resources.

Innovation vs. Improvement: A Delicate Balance

Before we became a campus location of North Point, we were growing and getting better. In hindsight, it’s clear that improvement is not always synonymous with innovation. Our initial scarcity had been the fuel for our innovation; our new abundance seemed to diminish our inventive drive.

Why? Because innovation isn’t just about skills and resources; it’s predominantly a mindset.

I know you’d love more resources. But more resources might create a greater problem.

Here are five strategies to embrace innovation, regardless of your resources:

1. Let Resource Gaps Inspire Innovation. Instead of merely seeking more resources, ask, “How can we get better within our resources?”

2. Celebrate Success, But Stay Driven. Success and resources can lull you into complacency. Keep the fire of innovation burning even when you have something to protect.

3. Embrace Problems as Opportunities. Approach problems with a resourceful mindset. This attitude fuels innovation, making it both a skill and a mindset.

4. Challenge Yourself with Less. Sometimes, reducing your expense budget can force innovation and create a financial cushion to leverage your new ideas.

5. Ask the Right Questions. “Do we have enough resources and creativity for this job?” is a better question. It prompts reflection on how to do more with what you have.

6. Don’t Buy Your Way Forward. If you have financial margin, don’t use it as a crutch. Rather than hire contractors, work harder to inspire volunteers.

Most churches find themselves desiring more resources. To a point that is certainly helpful, but only to a point.

The greater danger may be having too many resources without constraint. Success and abundance always preclude complacency and diminished innovation.

Additional Resources

These other resources might prove helpful to you:

What’s Your Take?

How have you seen innovation flourish under financial pressure?