A new year is always an excellent opportunity to refocus. Sure, it is entirely arbitrary, and you can refocus at any time, but there is something about the newness of a brand-new year (a new decade!) that makes it seem just right. The new year also marks the first anniversary of the TryTank, so an even better time to look back, redirect, and go forward!
For those who like numbers, in our first year, we undertook 42 experiments, working with 63 congregations in 22 states. I traveled 100,811 miles all over the place (according to American Airlines, that's 3.5 times around the world and 211 hours in the sky).
And what have we learned so far? I think the most important learning is that there are many (many!) hardworking members of congregations who are already doing innovative work. (Here's looking at you!) TryTank has allowed many to find others who are like them and, in some cases, giving them the courage to try new things even if that new thing might fail.
We have learned that non-Spanish speaking congregations can launch Latino ministry. We have learned that people like the assistance a smart speaker provides in their prayer devotions. We gleaned insights into the habits of those whose churches are growing. And we learned that yes, Facebook marketing works to get people into a church, but that it's best to outsource that to an expert in that field, especially since it's always changing and very affordable to do so.
We also learned that while people may be finding a community in group fitness, they already have a chosen community and don't need an alternative. And that some ideas don't gain traction, and that it's ok to let them go. (Seven experiments met this fate.)
So, what's new for the second year? We have 30 experiments still active. (All of that development work will finally bear fruit!) Also, we are entering the second phase of some experiments. We are also going to explore more deeply how far we can take design thinking to impact our work. And, of course, we'll develop new experiments based on what we're learning and hearing from you.
Thanks for being a part of this journey. Especially to the many of you who chime in with ideas and prompts. Your wisdom matters.
The Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija is the founding director of the TryTank Experimental Lab.