The fourth NEXT Church national gathering is next week in Minneapolis. I’ve been to each of these gatherings so far, and I’ve come away each time with lots to think about and experiment with. This week we’ll look back at the first three NEXT gatherings and suggest things I’m looking forward to at this year’s gathering.
A prototype is a rough-and-ready incarnation of an idea. It’s not fine-tuned. It’s still riddled with bugs. It’s a learning tool, a beta test. The prototype sensibility seems to me to have very rapidly lodged itself into our cultural consciousness, mostly through our experience with digital technology. Every new technology is a beta, and the frequency of updates and bug fixes is the most critical factor in its success. It’s the opposite of healthcare.gov. It’s local, small-scale, and, often, by invitation only (by the way, I have four invites left for the private beta of the Aviate launcher for Android. Let me know in the comments if you want one).
NEXT 2012 lifted up a bunch of prototypes, mostly experimental Christian communities in mid-Kentucky. But a prototype doesn’t have to be a new community. It can be a new expression of Christian education in a particular church. Or an Executive Presbyter job description. Or a Synod-wide Youth Ministry Coaching Program cohort, like the one I’m agitating for in my synod. It can be a sermon. The critical components are 1) invitation and 2) intentional learning.
NEXT is itself a prototype.
I’ll be looking for examples of prototypes in Minneapolis, for sure.