Creativity matters in ministry. It matters because God is creative. He’s the most creative being in the entire universe, and it only makes sense that we serve God with our creativity.
How do we develop a culture of innovation and creativity within our church?
Every church has ministries. Hopefully every church has volunteers that serve within those ministries. Our ministries and volunteers are important… so how can a church become more effective at equipping its people and ministries to serve creatively?
As we start this journey let’s think about some steps we can take together as leaders to encourage this mentality.
- Cast a Vision and Create a Culture
Vision casting is a big catch phrase in ministry today. A quick stroll through your local LifeWay Christian book store will yield more books on leadership than any person could be expected to read in the course of their lifetime… if you did read all of the books then you probably wouldn’t have time to implement anything that they communicated to you!
Unfortunately, even with all of the information available on vision casting, many churches and church leaders are yet to grasp the concept or to see the need for casting vision beyond their current situation.
So… what is a vision? How is it useful to the church?
Having a vision is providing a goal, a purpose, and a destination. Having a vision means knowing where the ship is going, even if you aren’t completely sure how to get there. Casting a vision isn’t the same as drawing or providing a map to follow, but rather it is providing an address to where you are going. Any person who has taken a road trip knows that sometimes routes have to change. There are accidents, roadwork, and the occasional outdated map… but as long as you know your final destination rerouting usually isn’t an issue. Our methods may have to change, our approach may vary, but the destination never moves.
We even see Jesus cast his vision to the disciples by telling them where they would go and what they would do in Acts 1:8. It says,
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
Jesus set a destination… a vision. He didn’t lay it out step by step for the disciples, but he provided them an address to head towards.
A vision propels us to move where God is taking us, and encourages people to come along with us.
- Learn to Communicate
Nothing is more frustrating and breeds more discontentment than trying to follow someone who cannot communicate. The next thing we can do to promote a healthy and creative working environment within our church and its ministries is to learn to communicate effectively.
Every great leader must learn how to communicate.
Have you ever been to a country that spoke a different native language than the one you speak? What issues did that cause?
We see a story in Genesis 11:1-9 where language is confused and because of the language barrier people go their separate ways and are dis-unified. That story goes like this,
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
Up until this point in the Bible, the whole world had one language – one common speech for all people. The people of the earth became skilled in construction and decided to build a city with a tower that would reach to heaven. By building the tower they wanted to make a name for themselves and also prevent their city from being scattered.
God knowing their intentions, knew this “stairway to heaven” would only lead the people away from God, and as a result, God confused their language, causing them to speak different languages so they would not understand each other. With the language barrier people went separate ways and the lofty goal they had set before themselves was forgotten.
How is the way we communicate with our people thwarting any mission, plans, or goals we have set out for our church and it’s ministries?
Let me go out on a limb here and say that if you were relocating to live in a different culture and country you would probably attempt to learn that culture and the people’s language. In the same way we must approach our ministries with that mentality. If we are working in the technical or media ministry then we must learn their language! If we are leading a praise team then we need to work to understand the instruments they play, the vocabulary, the sounds we want, and how to communicate that to each individual in respect to the part they play.
- Build Confidence and Allow Freedom
One of my biggest struggles working with new or inexperienced “creatives” is breaking the fear of failure. Many of us have it! True freedom of expression and creativity means that we cannot be afraid to fail.
There are many things that get in the way of us being our creative best… but I think the biggest is the fear of failure or lack in confidence in our own creative self… the creative self that God has created us to be.
We are afraid to be wrong. We are afraid to make a mistake. We’re afraid of not being perfect. We’re afraid of looking stupid and being laughed at or being rejected.
Samuel Beckett, the Nobel Prize winner for Literature, once said,
Fail, fail again, fail better.
Many artists hesitate to start painting on a new canvas because they want to be sure they have it perfected before they begin. They fear they will not execute it correctly and continually delay the actual painting process, sometimes to the point they never paint again.
Have you ever known someone like that? Have our ministries ever looked like that?
Being creative in a church ministry begins in the same way that a new painting does… you just have to put some paint on! Nothing really happens until the paint goes on the canvas. Once the paint is on the canvas we as a creative can work with it and make it into the image in which we desire to be. But… we have to have something to work with.
We must work to build confidence and encourage creative freedom by eliminating the fear of failure within our ministries and churches. We experiment. Sometimes we guess. It’s trial and error. But we have to allow for the freedom and flexibility to fail. In my opinion we are never a failure until we stop trying. I personally have done more things that didn’t work than did, and I have decided that if I’m not making mistakes or trying things that ultimately don’t work then I have stopped trying!
Rick Warren says,
Successful people are not people who never fail. They’re people who get up again and keep going. Successful people just don’t know how to quit.
Warren also says,
You overcome failure when you admit it to God and keep doing what God has called you to do regardless of setbacks. The Bible reminds us that God specializes in using failures.
Using your creativity means welcoming trial and error into our lives. It is common knowledge that most people who have succeed brilliantly have failed devastatingly at some point. But… what made them successful? They kept on going, kept on trying, and kept pursuing their vision.
Let’s change things up. Offer freedom to explore and be creative. Stop emphasizing failures and emphasize the process.
Let us remember… we don’t innovate to be cool. We don’t innovate to impress or be relevant. We innovate because we want to reach people with the good news about Jesus.