Cultivating a Culture of Curiosity

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
–Albert Einstein

There are books on curiosity, blogs on curiosity; even a monkey named after curiosity (George). It seems
curiosity is in vogue at this point in history in North America. People and organizations who learn are driven by their desire to know, called curiosity. This pushes them out the door and into the world. This drives them to open books and blogs, while engaging people and organizations in their community. Curiosity provides the motivation for exploring, questing, probing. The result is learning which we then use to adapt our approach to life. In particular, curiosity is part of the driving force within churches who effectively adapt to their contexts, growing relevant and engaging.

When doing a workshop for a denomination in 2016, I introduced the concept of “holy curiosity” as a way to describe adaptive change. By adding the word holy, I meant a kind of curiosity which is rooted in our faith, trusting God to guide our curious questing toward faithful ends. After describing and discussing holy curiosity, participants in this workshop were given the following assignment to integrate its meaning further. They were randomly assigned to small groups, given the challenge to create a video or still frame communicating this holy curiosity spiritual posture toward God and the world. No verbal words were allowed, though sounds were acceptable. These groups were constrained by a ten-minute window for planning their demonstration, mimicking life in church wherein we have to think on our feet given the fast pace of life and community engagement.

As they came to the front of the group, taking turns demonstrating this spiritual posture of holy curiosity, I found myself growing amazed. The creativity, joy, enthusiasm, and engagement of these participants was overwhelming. Obviously God has gifted the Church with great creativity and imagination. Afterwards I found myself wondering what stifles this kind of beautiful creativity from thriving in our churches. Perhaps we have undervalued the role of curiosity. Perhaps we don’t have structures and openings to encourage or engage curiosity. Perhaps we aren’t overly interested in curiosity which leads to creativity.

Imagine churches who intentionally cultivate a culture of curiosity. What would this look like? Consider the following descriptors.
• Open rather than defensive postures
• Forward leaning rather than passive or neutral
• Engaging rather than fearing culture
• Asking questions rather than directing or telling

Churches who practice these postures and attitudes will learn, broadening their understandings of their world. Churches practicing holy curiosity do not posture themselves defensively with arms crossed, staring down their community. Nor do they raise their fist toward their world, positioning themselves as adversaries. Instead, they engage their world with arms wide open, inviting interaction. They are not afraid of community engagement, since they know who they are and whose they are. They are convinced God loves them completely (I John 4:18), so they know the world cannot take anything away from them. They move forward in faith, hope, and love. In so doing, they position themselves for adaptive change, becoming cultures of curiosity, open to the fresh winds of God’s Holy Spirit.

(This article is an exerpt from Farming Church, Cultivating Adaptive Change in Congregations, Mark Tidsworth, Pinnacle Leadership Press, 2017)