Traditioned Innovation Awards

Traditioned Innovation Awards honor work that holds together past and future

Institutions that practice traditioned innovation root their work in the Trinity, invigorating the present and envisioning the future by honoring the church’s past. This mindset, of holding the past and future in tension rather than opposition, enables leaders to act creatively in the face of social and financial challenges while remaining faithful to the institution’s mission and convictions.

Four institutions are being honored for exemplifying this type of dynamic and imaginative leadership. The Traditioned Innovation Awards, which Leadership Education at Duke Divinity will name each year, recognize established or emerging institutions — such as a congregation or a network of congregations, denominations, seminaries, church-related colleges, consultancies, Christian nonprofit organizations and others – that were nominated by Leadership Education’s Advisory Council.

Award recipients receive $10,000 to continue their practices of traditioned innovation and will be featured in Faith & Leadership.

“The Traditioned Innovation Award recognizes and affirms the faithful and innovative work of an outstanding Christian institution,” said Victoria White, Leadership Education’s managing director of grants. “We want to encourage the diligent work found in the challenges and opportunities of institutions when they innovate. While the financial award is important to the continued work of these organizations, the hope is that through their stories, others will be inspired to innovate in their individual contexts.”

2016 award winners


Try Pie, Waterloo, Iowa

Try Pie is a social enterprise within Link Christian Community Development that empowers a diverse group of teen girls in life and leadership skills through meaningful work by making and selling pie. Students earn money, acquire job and life skills, and practice giving to their community and saving for their futures.

Try Pie exemplifies traditioned innovation in its creative approach to formation with teenagers. It also operates as a new economic model for community development that has the potential for scalability. Try Pie cultivates a foundation of financial competency, personal responsibility, community engagement and stewardship of the delicious abundance of God’s creation. The teens develop confidence in their leadership, learning they have something to offer as individuals and in collaboration with others.



Church of the Pilgrims, Washington, D.C.

Worship at Church of the Pilgrims connects with and transforms lives, invites people into the biblical narrative, and connects the practice of worship to the very real and tangible facets of life. As a regular practice, worship life at Church of the Pilgrims is broken into thematic seasons and members of the worshipping community are invited to think deeply together about the theme, develop its intersections with life and worship, and flesh out the worship services themselves. In any given Sunday, it is difficult to tell who the pastors of the congregation are because the intentional way worship leadership is shared.

Church of the Pilgrims has patiently and creatively broken through the traditionalism sometimes found in worship, creating a community that regularly explores the ways in which faith and the lived experience animates and impacts worship. Worship at Church of the Pilgrims is intimately connected with the congregation’s commitment to justice, witness, faith formation and peace.



common cathedral, City Reach Program, Boston, Mass.

common cathedral is an outdoor worshipping community on Boston Common of housed and unhoused people. common cathedral’s City Reach is a 20-hour immersion program for youth, young adults and students that explores what it’s like to live outdoors or with unstable housing in Boston. Unhoused community members lead the youth and their adult mentors on a tour of “their Boston” followed by theological reflection with common cathedral staff and ministers.

City Reach models traditioned innovation by holding onto the core purpose of teaching about homelessness but innovates by offering leadership positions to the unhoused. City Reach models a kind of “ministry with” rather than “ministry for;” they hold onto the core value of service, but flip who is being served. The model City Reach offers has the potential for scalability for education and immersion into other social challenges.



Mowtown Teen Lawn Care and Youth Ministry Innovators, Vancouver, Wash.

Mowtown Teen Lawn Care and Youth Ministry Innovators is a for-profit company in partnership with Columbia Presbyterian Church. Matt Overton serves as the associate pastor at Columbia and is the owner of Mowtown. Born out of his personal experience doing lawn care and construction projects alongside the youth of his church, Overton found the context rich with significant conversations about life, faith and God. Teens and adults work alongside one another doing yard work, with the teens gaining job and life skills as well as mentoring from the adults.

Mowtown is an example of traditioned innovation in cultivating not only a new way of doing youth ministry and youth formation, but a new economic model for youth ministry. The community created around work is diverse and provides conditions for deep relationships as well inviting participation from people of all economic backgrounds.

For more information about the Traditioned Innovation Award, please contact us at

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