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Tell me if this sounds familiar:

You’re with a pastor friend when he tells the story of how he recently preached a sermon that included a physical illustration or creative element that made it sound like he has a team of Pixar legends working at his church. From the outside looking in, he must be the most creative pastor since Jesus multiplied bread and fish. Great for him, but how does that happen? Did he hit the staff and volunteer lottery? You wonder to yourself, “How do I get there? Where do I even start?”

Creativity is often talked about but rarely understood. Most of us want it. We see the value of it, but in the end, we don’t know how to get it or how to harness it for our church.

At its core, creativity is the ability to solve problems. It’s finding uncommon solutions to common problems. Creativity is our brains doing what they do. It’s human nature.

But why is it so hard for us to wrap our hands around? Ironically, like creativity itself, it’s a simple solution to what is seemingly a complex problem. Your role as the leader is to do a few key things to unleash creativity in your church:

  1. Invite Others In.

You might be the most creative person in the room, but if you limit the church to your ideas, then you are selling everyone short and putting a lid on how far you can go. Creative strength is exponential when there are more people invested in the process. A variety of personalities and perspectives creates the kind of friction that sharpens ideas. Opening that door of trust can be unsettling, but the benefits are bigger than just creativity. You will see a team form that is committed to the vision and invested in seeing it move forward in a huge way.

  1. Put Up Fences.

Contrary to popular belief, creativity thrives within a structure. Lorne Michaels once said, “To me there’s no creativity without boundaries. If you’re gonna write a sonnet, it’s 14 lines, so it’s solving the problem within the container.”

Don’t be fooled into thinking that huge budgets, more staff or the most expensive equipment are the secret to success. Often, ridiculously great solutions are found when those tools aren’t available. MacGyver was MacGyver because he could make a jet ski from a CO2 cartridge and a cardboard box. That isn’t to say you deprive your team of proper tools. It means that MacGyver’s solutions would have been vastly different, cost more and taken longer if he had unlimited access to a Home Depot!

The right people with a mature, can-do spirit can make the most of what’s in their hands with incredible results.

  1. Don’t Forget the Context.

Imagine a person looking for advice about a potential new job. The problem is that they want that advice without giving context. You don’t know what the job is or what they’re currently doing. Are they happy where they are? Is it closer to home? Does it give them more schedule flexibility? Giving good advice would be nearly impossible.

We have a tendency to lead our creatives this way. The context around a question can drastically change the kinds of solutions you will get. Include them in the conversation. Let them hear the story of where you want to go and let them know it’s safe to ask questions. Great creatives ask questions. When you take the time to provide the context and answer questions, you will have a more engaged and invested team. Better solutions will follow!

  1. See “Failure” as Progress.

Is an effort only successful if we maximized an idea to 100% of its potential, or if we did our very best with what we had and the impact was positive? So much relies on how we define success and failure. We often have an unfair expectation that everything should be without flaw. There are many studies that show the negative relational, emotional and mental cost of striving for perfection.

Did you know that 36% of Google’s high-profile products are failures? One of the most forward-thinking companies in the world is failing almost 4 out of every 10 tries. Those are just the “high-profile” products. The times when an idea’s potential isn’t fully realized should be harnessed as learning experiences. After all, without failures like Google Notebook, there would be no Google Docs.

Sadly, as leaders we very quickly allow “failures” to erode our faith in our own teams. Imagine if they lost faith in our leadership so quickly! Let’s take a deep breath and lead our team toward turning those lemons into lemonade!

Your church’s creative potential is waiting to be unleashed and it’s easier than you think.


Want a simple way to start casting vision for creativity with your team?

Download this quick reference tool that addresses a helpful mindset with practical tips:

Get PlainJoe Studios’ Practical Tips for Managing Creatives

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Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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