I get the feeling that churches like left-brained people more. I don’t think it’s intentional, but we tend to gravitate toward people who have teaching and organizational gifts rather than creative gifts. Organizers help us structure the church for numerical growth in logical ways and typically like rules and traditions a little more than the left-brained crowd, so they’re less scary and less threatening to our comfort zones.
Personally, I think the church is missing out on something rather valuable and precious when we pass over creative-types. The gospel is a narrative, a story told through different means at different times. Abraham saw it in the stars and David portrayed it with a home for the ark. The apostles saw the gospel in flesh before them as Jesus. Michelangelo painted it on the ceiling of a church and C. S. Lewis allegorized it with a lion, a witch, and a wardrobe.
God is quite creative in His telling of His own story, and He certainly calls us to reflect His creativity as well. I love a good, well-organized sermon as much as anyone, but we need to foster creativity and celebrate the diversity of ways the story can be told if the church will be all that God wants it to be as His chief storytelling agent in the world today.
So how to do you foster creativity in your church?
1. Focus on empowering, not controlling people.
I wrote about the concept of empowering people to do world-changing things recently, and in that article I offered a reminder that people are not a means of getting ministry done. People are the ministry. Helping someone to try out a ministry, or try something new in ministry, is a win when it fits with the overall vision and values of the church.
2. Help people discover their unique SHAPE.
Not everyone is a painter, singer, speaker, or seamstress. Everyone has a unique make-up of spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experiences. God uses all of these factors in ministry, and when combined, our SHAPE is what makes us unique. The church works best when people are serving according to their God-given SHAPE. At Grace Hills, we do this by trial and error, asking people to “try out” an area of ministry once or twice to see if it’s a fit. We also plan on conducting personal SHAPE interviews once we have our Ministry Matters class up and going.
3. Celebrate great story-telling.
When someone creatively tells a story well, celebrate it. Congratulate and thank them and highlight their work so that the church understands how much we value the labor of love that produces creative things.
4. Provide resources for creative story-tellers.
When we moved to northwest Arkansas to plant Grace Hills, one of my earliest purchases was a Canon XA10 HD camcorder so that we could stream video online. Just yesterday I received a text from someone on our creative team asking if we could sell the Canon and use the money to buy a less expensive camera that would be better for the job. What? Better than what I picked out? My answer was yes, whatever it takes to empower our creative team with the best tools we can afford… within reason. We also hope to utilize some extra office space for a Mac equipped with professional video-editing tools.
5. Allow creatives to reach other creatives.
The funny thing about musicians and artists is that they tend to find each other. I wouldn’t know where to find a great guitarist, but God led me to Neil Greenhaw who has drawn other creative individuals to work in proximity to him. He loves them and empowers them, which excites me.
Thousands of years ago, artificers and craftsmen were recruited for the building of the tabernacle. Later they built a whole temple. Today they’re building churches – not just the brick and mortar buildings, but the people who make up the body of Christ.
Get creative for the gospel’s sake.