Yesterday we talked about the fact that the world’s greatest innovators are people who know a lot of things about a wide range of subjects – they are “expert generalists“… people who love and are committed to learning about all kinds of fields – even those unrelated to what they do for a living.

Then we talked about how, as youth workers, it might be time for us to cut back on the ministry-related knowledge we consume, so we can spend more time exploring new fields of study. Business, economics, psychology, marketing, design, history, literature – even different theological perspectives and faith systems. Because, by broadening the scope of our knowledge, we can become better people, better thinkers, better problem-solvers, better leaders, and better innovators. 

So today, to get us started, Kenny and I wanted to share with you some of our all-time favorite places to learn new things and get exposed to new ideas. And then we want to hear yours too!

 

OUR 13 FAVORITE PLACES TO LEARN NEW THINGS…

 

Untitled-1#1 Radiolab

Radiolab might be our current favorite place to learn new things. It’s a radio show (and a podcast) that is full of interesting stories, philosophy, science, history, humor… Here’s an episode called Mutant Rights that we liked. You can stream episodes straight from their website, but we subscribe to the podcast so we can listen from our iPhones in the car.

2#2 This American Life

Another radio show and podcast that we love. The subjects of the episodes are super diverse, but they are always interesting, insightful, and funny. Rather than trying to explain, it might be best for you to just listen to a few episodes. Like this one about life in Middle School. Or this one about the crazy things people do for love (might help with your Valentine’s Day message prep!)

3#3 99u

“Insights on making ideas happen” is their tagline and, well, I think that’s a pretty good summary. This is one of my favorite blogs on my RSS feed. And it’s actually where we got the inspiration for this series on innovation. Consistently great content about how to nurture creativity, be more productive, be a healthier person, and get stuff done.

4#4 TED

You can subscribe to the TED blog, subscribe to the podcast, or just peruse their site for videos that interest you. You’ll learn about interesting people, new technological developments, science, culture, economics, education, design, religion, philosophy… We like this one about how great leaders inspire action, and this one about how games invade real life.

#5 Seth Godin5

Seth Godin is so cool. He writes books and a blog about business, marketing, creativity, art, and ideas. Check out this video explaining the concept of his newest book, The Icarus DeceptionWe just really like the way this guy thinks.

6#6 Design*Sponge

I love the Design*Sponge blog. Love love love. You’ll find articles and photos of beautiful homes, beautiful design and typography, and beautiful products… DIY projects and tutorials… recipes… and interviews with artists and designers about their creative process and what inspires them.

7#7 Freakonomics

Freakonomics began as a book, and then later expanded to a blog and podcast. The book, blog, and podcast are all meant to explore “the hidden side of everything” through the lens of economics. Their topics range from copyright law to Christmas shopping, the US economy to the real value of a college degree. You can check out their archive of podcasts right here.

8#8 Planet Money

Another blog and podcast centered around all things related to money and the economy, explored via some really engaging interviews and interesting stories. We loved the episodes about the history of money, why some popular products cost what they do, and why LeBron James is actually grossly underpaid. Here’s their archive.

9#9 TechStuff

A really interesting podcast from the folks at HowStuffWorks.com about… well, tech stuff. They’ve got episodes detailing the history of important technology companies like Microsoft and Apple, breakdowns of specific products and new innovations (like smart phones, electric cars, and DNA computers), social media, trends and rumors in the tech world, and other cool stuff.

10 #10 Mashable

Another helpful site in the realm of technology. You’ve probably heard of Mashable already, but I’d encourage you to add it to your RSS feed. You’ll get hooked up with all the latest tech news from around the internet. I find their social media section to be super helpful.

11#11 Literature

Seriously. Go read some novels. It will do your brain good, I promise. Getting lost in a good story can inspire you, spark creativity, make you a better writer, and even help you better understand and empathize with others (which is kinda important in ministry). My most recent reads: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Speak, The Casual Vacancy, and Harry Potter (…again).

12#12 Designers

We’ve talked before about how churches aren’t always great at graphic design. But I think we can help solve that problem by becoming students of great design. Check out some talented designers, follow their work, and use them as inspiration. Like Jessica Hische, Jim LePage (and his collaborative Old & New Project), and any of the Instagram artists we mentioned here.

13#13 Faith and Theology

Ok, since this is a “non-ministry” list, this is kind of cheating. Sorry. But our final favorite way to learn new things and spark innovation is by learning about theology and faith systems that are not our own. There is so much value in listening to other perspectives, with the intention of truly understanding them. While I won’t be giving you any specific recommendations for this category, I’ll just say this… maybe check out some faith-related blogs or books or videos that you expect will make you a little uncomfortable. Listen to people who you think you’ll disagree with – and really listen. Maybe, after listening to some new perspectives, you’ll find a little something in your way of thinking that needs to be adjusted a bit. Maybe not. But at least it will be a good workout for your brain – and your heart, too.

 

So there you go! These are some of the sources that Kenny and I use to keep us sharp, to help us continue learning, and to spark fresh insights and innovation for ministry. Now go learn something new!

What about you? What are some of your favorite places to learn about non-ministry things? Has there been a time when something you learned outside of ministry helped you innovate, problem solve, or create something new in ministry?