Where Are We Headed as a Church?
The protestant church has accompanied people since the 16th century. In this timespan of over 500 years, people and their needs have changed while different worldviews have emerged, disappeared and taken turns. In spite of its steadiness in providing moral orientation and hospitality, the protestant church has experienced an increasing loss of members in the last decades. As if it weren’t enough, high numbers of resignations are predicted for the coming years. Facing this unsettling development, the protestant church of Heidelberg recognized its need for action and asked SAP for support to structure a future direction in three Design Thinking sessions lead by the Design and Co-Innovation Center from SAP.
The church has always been in need to renew itself in order to meet changing needs. At the same time, we have to protect our values and interpret their priority for the people of the present.– Beate Großklaus (Educational dean of the protestant church Heidelberg)
What will the protestant church have to change in order to still exist in 2030? And can Design Thinking, which usually creates business solutions, help to structure problems and find a leading perspective for a nonprofit organization? As one might see, there were a lot of questions to answer in the workshop sessions.What is the project about? (including service provided, what is the context of the project)
Changing the Present to Embrace the Future
The formulation of a leading perspective, yet, first requires the understanding of the church’s own objectives – for whom do they want to change? The first session, thus, started with the creation of a fictive person – a “persona”, embodying the church of 2030 with its crucial features and needs. “This task was a decisive challenge for us”, remembers Beate Großklaus. “We had to ask ourselves: Will we pursue directions that are inconvenient for us, like including people who are not willing to pay church taxes?” Coming from different age groups and backgrounds, including teachers, business men, music managers and people from the city administration, the invited participants offered a big variety of perspectives and ideas. This became the key to understanding: “We didn’t want a workshop with people who are largely involved in the church to get to know different perspectives”, explained Marlene Schwöbel-Hug, dean of the protestant church Heidelberg. After having created the fictive person, the ensuing sessions developed, centering around his or her needs. The second evening was dedicated to setting priorities regarding the focus group in a stakeholder map. The third session included an ideation and prototyping phase in which business ideas were generated and mapped in a business model canvas.
When Openness Helps to Set the Path
Building a persona, brainstorming with different perspectives, and overall strict time-boxing – the participants expressed great enthusiasm to learn new ways of approaching complex problems from the SAP coaches and designers. But the sessions offered more than methods: “The workshop helped to see once more that we as Christians have to pro-actively initiate conversations with others to remove barriers; that we need to approach people that think differently to foster exchange”, explains Marlene Schwöbel-Hug. This notion was supported by the creative space of the SAP AppHaus Heidelberg: “The flexibility and openness of the room enables to think more open and in bigger dimensions”, she adds. It also enabled a new perspective on society and economy, but also on the church itself. “It is necessary to get out of stagnated thinking and see things in a different way”, concludes Beate Großklaus. “Seeing potential church members like business customers with needs that have to be addressed was a way of dealing with the task”. The participants thought of possible ways to integrate future church members, for example through a wedding-service app. In this case, Design Thinking enabled a human-centered focus. The freedom to be unbiased further enhanced the solution finding process.
What has helped me a lot were the methods of structuring, the different kinds of questions, and the openness of the communication between the SAP coaches and the participants of the workshop.– Marlene Schwöbel-Hug (Dean of the protestant church Heidelberg)