Imitation or Innovation?

I'm learning more and more that ministry has to become more innovative everyday. What worked two years or even three months ago, might not work today. Innovation is what each ministry should strive for but it is a double-edged sword. I've read many books, attended conferences and talked to many people about student ministry. What is happening across the culture of ministry is a "quick fix" mentality of imitating bigger churches who have are perceived as successful. What is real success in the ministry? Is it merely numbers alone and bigger buildings and more campuses?

I want to use principles and ideas from mature leaders and ministries to help me but imitating everything they do will not work the same at each church. An important principle that must be in place is to be a student of the people in the church and community. Every city has a specific culture and specific needs. Is it our job as leaders to only imitate other churches specific goals, innovations and practices?

We must find their needs, aspirations, passions, abilities and gifts. Build the ministry upon God's Word and build relationships to create an "ownership" culture. I believe after watching the students in culture, more often than not they want to be part of a movement more than a program. Imitating what other people do simply compounds the hard work that every leader must face. Innovation means to, "the introduction of something new, a new idea, method (Webster's Dictionary)." It is crucial to do the hard work of creating a fresh approach to reaching people with the love and truth of the gospel. What I am not saying is that we have to reinvent every detail of the church mission, strategy, goals, and practices. I'm simply advocating the fact that imitation of other churches is putting a "band aid on a massive hemorrhage." Imitation leads to a "package deal approach" that is impersonal, cliche' and simply shallow.

We need to use every resource out there, research what other churches are doing but we must never replace our own creativity and spirit led innovation with a "copy+paste" approach to ministry. I'm still trying to understand how to approach an ever changing culture with the love of Christ. Ministry is hard work. Ministry is filled with imperfect people, leaders and situations. We need to spend more time imitating Christ and less time imitating other leaders personalities, and "church business strategies."

I'd like to hear your thoughts?  Do we need more innovation or imitation?