In a previous post I explained why creativity is important in and for the church from creation to imagination -creativity in the church. I highlighted the definition of creativity (from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary) as “an ability to think beyond what is in front of us, it is tied to imagination. “The ability to make new things or think of new ideas”. For leaders, especially those who are trying to establish stability, members who are high in creativity can be scary. They ask lots of questions and seem to want to change things all the time. But don’t be afraid, they are often not challenging you or your leadership, they may just have a strong need to understand and for variety. They can be a great asset if you take the time to understand them.
Most creatives enjoy and appreciate opportunities to use their creativity in church or team life and this helps them feel able to contribute from their gifts and talents. However it is important that creative types don’t start feeling like their creativity is being used rather than nurtured. Church not only needs to be a place where people can contribute creatively but where they can come to have their creativity nurtured and inspired.
So here are my tips for nourishing creative types in your team or congregation.
1. talk about creativity.
If you like stability don’t assume that everyone does. I remember listening to a sermon that was meant to help us cope with change and choice because it is all difficult. I just sat there thinking its great change and choice is stimulating and exciting and I don’t relate to this sermon at all. Remember to acknowledge that you have people oriented towards variety and creativity when you are speaking. Talk broadly about creativity as does the definition above, don’t just use ‘creative’ to mean artistic. Find different ways to acknowledge those with creative talents that helps them to feel seen and affirmed. Thank them for their creative comments even if you find them challenging.
2. preach about creativity.
I don’t think I have ever heard a sermon linking my creativity to being made in the image of our Creator God. I have read it in books but it would be nice to hear it from the front in church. Encourage people to jump into the freedom of exercising their creativity as their vocation to image God. Preach about taking the time to be creative as a spiritual discipline, as something that will draw you closer to God, and as important as other spiritual disciplines such as reading the bible.
3. create frameworks for creativity.
Take the time to make sure that those who lean towards stability and those that tend towards creativity understand each other's needs. That we come together as diverse members of one body and that we can support and enrich each other. Diversity can be supported by creating frameworks that enable those that need stability to feel enclosed and yet provide some space to allow the creatives to play.
4. create creativity events.
Creative types will enjoy getting together regularly or occasionally, to be freely creative together. They will be stimulated and inspired by playing with others. It is also very inspiring for people with very different types of creativity to meet; they can stimulate each other to new imaginings with the different emphases and ways of thinking from their discipline. Let them loose to re-imagine your church – if you dare.
5. create fresh opportunities.
I love empty houses! They have so much potential and I can’t help imagining how they will look furnished. Creative types will enjoy opportunities that come with a blank slate. Starting something completely new where they can be released from pre-existing boundaries and traditions will be invigorating. Let them loose on the new things you want to start that don’t come with existing baggage.
6. protect creativity.
Creativity theorist Alexander Osborn said: “Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise tends to make it bloom, while discouragement often nips it in the bud.”
Offer creative types protection from unnecessary criticism; help them and others to see things as experiments. Things that don’t work should be reframed as learning events not failures. Be patient remembering that not all creativity is expressed as the traditional lightbulb moment, some creative ideas need time to grow and form. 7). invite expressions of creativity.
Part of nourishing creativity is to include opportunities to be creative as part of the service (or/and team meeting). This could be something as simple as putting out pens and art paper, or something more complex. I heard recently of a church that had a blackboard at the back of the church where people could share thoughts and reactions to the sermons. Be wary here of falling into a routine, always using the same creative response will quickly seem old to those who respond to the stimulation of change. Expose your congregation to things that will challenge and stimulate their thinking. Two talks I remember well used artworks as a centre of the talk one was based on The Trinity by Rublev and the other was based on Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son. Including the paintings has ensured that I remember these talks’ years after I attended them.
8. limit creativity diminishing structures.
Structures, systems, procedures, rules and routines do not nurture creativity. They tend to make creatives feel squashed, boxed in and uninspired. Get imaginative and release some of the energy that is focused on procedures and rules. For example for extra creativity why not replace your AGM with a wine and cheese evening where you imagine different scenarios for the future.
Go create! I would love to hear ideas of how your church or team nourishes creativity.