Innovation Hub: Empathy

Innovation Hub: Empathy

Innovation Hub Update

Empathy is where innovation begins

By Lynne Onishi, B.Y.G. Co-director

Hi, Blaine Memorial family! It’s been awhile since this project took off, so I thought it would be a good time for a quick refresh on the Innovation Hub. Who are we? What are we doing? And why are we doing this work?

In Fall of 2021, our multi-generational team of congregation members started learning about church innovation through a curriculum program through Wesley Theological Seminary. We met every few weeks over Zoom to learn about the design thinking process and how we might apply principles of design to a ministry context. Over the last year, the Innovation Hub team at Blaine Memorial has been researching, prototyping, and implementing new ministries focused on young people.

This research was, and continues to be, grounded in empathy (one of the key concepts of human-centered design). We learned about young people through interviews and survey responses from folks in our congregation and beyond, and these findings offer the church a chance to listen and respond. The Young Adult hiking group, our film and discussion events, and the reconciling ministries team are all ways we’re responding to these needs and concerns heard from young people in our community.

Empathy-based research is where innovation begins. Innovators seek to problem-solve, but to understand and identify problems, the innovator must listen deeply and let go of assumptions. In a ministry or church context, listening isn’t often our first instinct. Blaine Memorial is an active church! We’re always doing something. But in this Lenten season especially, I wonder how we might create more opportunities for deep and radical listening. 

Discussion questions for the film screening.

Blaine’s young people held a special Lenten Bible Study and a Day of Remembrance film screening and discussion. We reviewed scripture, history, and social issues through the eyes of folks who have been harmed by the church. These programs provide spaces to encounter familiar stories through new perspectives and to listen carefully and deeply to whose story is told or untold. 

Recently, we’ve celebrated Blaine Memorial’s 119th anniversary. One of the sermon questions asked was, “How are you helping to pass along your faith to the next generation? Why do you think this is so important?” The Innovation Hub is not simply tasked with creating new ministries for young adults. Rather, our overarching task is learning about innovation and applying those processes and skills in this ministry context. Our hope is that our whole faith community can come together to listen, create, and innovate for our present and our future. 

We as a community of faith have survived through unimaginable hardship and continue to provide a spiritual home for generations of people. As the world has changed, so too have the needs of our congregation and neighborhood. As we consider what it looks like to pass along faith to the next generation, may we listen to where the Spirit is calling us individually and collectively. 

The Innovation Hub team and Reconciling Ministries Task Force are always looking for new folks to join us. If you feel called to lend your voice to these important ministries, we invite you to join us at our next team Zoom meeting. Please contact Lynne Onishi ( or any of the other team members for more information. 

Upcoming Events:

RM Bible Study: Weds. March 15, March 22, and April 5 at 7:00 PM (Zoom)

Young Adult Activity, Whirlyball: Sun., March 26, 4:00 PM

Lynne Onishi serves as co-director for the Blaine Youth Group.

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