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Mainline Protestantism and the Challenge of Disruptive Innovation

The term "disruptive innovation" refers to the process of replacing existing products, policies or cultures with emerging technology or new systems of thought. However, innovation can be difficult for any business or organization to embrace, especially when it calls for a radical reconceptualization of the organization's culture. In cases where disruption is necessary, even unavoidable, such as the challenge of computers, new communication technologies, and the rise of the "virtual world," institutional leaders can help guide organizations through disruption and adaptation by keeping the focus on the organization's core tasks.

In the church, especially in the mainline Protestant church, failure to adopt new communication technologies has caused congregations to fall behind, and to fall out of touch with young adults. Using technology is essential, but it can also be disruptive to "business as usual." In a series of articles intended to help church leaders understand how technology can transform the future of mainline churches, Methodist Bishop Kenneth H. Carter Jr., and Duke Divinity School academics L. Gregory Jones and Susan Pendleton Jones explore the concept of disruptive innovation for Faith & Leadership, an online offering of Duke Divinity School. The series explores how youth groups have become laboratories for tech experimentation, the changing role of clergy leadership in the face of new technology, and some of the ways the Internet can support church outreach and evangelization.

For additional perspective, see our feature article, "Social Media Goes Spiritual." Also explore our resource page, "Why You Need Social Media and How to Get Started."

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