Here is improvisation at its best -- it is John Coltrane after all.

Notice what’s going on: Coltrane takes a classic Rodgers and Hammerstein tune and pulls from within it something new -- and something that’s still true to the song. It’s both. It’s still recognizable as “My Favorite Things,” but Coltrane swaps the showtune perk for more varied and complicated intonations. Incredible, really.

Chances are you can’t play the soprano sax. But you can improvise.

Try this with your ministry or organizational team:

1. Watch and listen to this video. Together, name three things that are core to who you are as a church, organization or school (practices, ways of thinking, traditions, etc.).

2. Discuss one way you might improvise on each of them in a way similar to how Coltrane innovates on “My Favorite Things.”

3. Experiment with the improvisation for a set period of time, assigning roles to each team member (just like a jazz band). It could be one month or one year depending on your context. You decide.

4. Gather regularly to discuss what’s working and what’s not, what you’re learning and how it’s improving your ministry and work.

5. As Miles Davis said, “Don't play what's there, play what's not there.”


Benjamin McNutt is the editor of Call & Response. You can follow him on Twitter @benjaminmcnutt.