Does Forced Creativity Kill the Desire to Become More Creative?

Ryan Egan —  August 25, 2011 — 10 Comments

Image of a man holding a canvas in front of his face with words "Not creative enough"

Something got my wheels turning.  I am placed in a strange juxtaposition of two different cultures.  The culture I serve, my home congregation is a beautiful and wonderful place; a place I so enjoy serving, but I think we’re just starting to scratch the surface of how to be creative.  We’re making excellent strides there and I can’t wait to see what’s in store.

On the other hand, the online world of church creatives that I daily take part in is a place of bold innovation, extreme creativity, and fresh thinking that, at times, might even be offensive to some within my congregation.

I try to live in the space between with discernment, challenging our home community to be more creative when I see the opporunity and knowing when to say “that’s too much for us right now” when I feel pushed to be more creative from the larger creative community of church leaders.

I wonder if we get too caught up in it sometimes.  Let me set up the scenario:

You are working with a small team of musicians who are growing very successfully in their musical abilities.  However, they’re not scouring the web and searching for content to help them become more and more creative.  You, on the other hand, are constantly looking for new ideas, and you feel like you need to keep pushing the creative envelope and challenging your musicians, artists, and church leaders.

So, instead of hearing a piano player, who’s never learned to play by chord, play her first ever song with only a chord chart and get through it fairly successfully you say, “Nope, you’re not a creative enough piano player to fit into my team.  We only take people who can create from chord sheets, not people who are bound to the written page.  Sorry, we can’t use you” before she even starts.

How much does this sort of thinking apply to the broad spectrum of your entire congregation?

  • Sorry, all of your designs look like something from [insert other church name here] – we need you to come up with something innovative and new
  • Sorry, Vacation Bible School planning team, you’re not writing your own curriculum and music or using live musicians, we need something specifically tailored just to our congregation
  • Insert whatever other creative ministry situation you can think of here

Maybe I’m the only one, but I’m finding myself thinking the above thoughts far too often.  ”Man, I really wish we had a creative designer.  Man, why can’t the people involved in the local theatre community use their skills in the church.  Man, why can’t we have a puppet ministry or a more exciting children’s ministry.”

Then I think, “Wait.  I’ve never encouraged or set out to train and equip any of these people!”  My disappointment in anyone’s “lack” of creativity has diminished any ability to help them get rid of that “lack!”

I wholeheartedly agree that the church needs to be more creative collectively and lead culture the way it used to.  However, instead of discounting someone just because they “only use clipart” or “only play written-out music” can we commit to helping move them from clip-art to creative design and from classical musical training to creative musical creation?

I’m afraid that sometimes the more we push people to be more creative, the more frustrated they might become. Gentle equipping and encouragement over the long haul is going to be what it truly takes to create a creative culture.

What do you think?

Unedited Photo from Ty Carlson

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Ryan Egan

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Ryan is a follower of Christ, husband, father, worship leader, & creative. He is heavily involved in the Association of Free Lutheran Churches and desires to teach others to live a life of worship in everything they do.
  • Shannon Lewis

    Dude – with ya, full-force.  I have regularly taken “classically trained” keys players, & started them on a track toward improvisational rock keys… sure, it takes some time, but it expands gift and blesses us as well (I think another face on stage always expands your reach – there is always someone out there who can reach someone that I may not connect with).  Great post, bro!

  • iamanoffering

    Thanks, Shannon. It really was a gut-check for me as I tend to get frustrated without seeing quick results instead of enjoying the journey. Thanks for your addition!

  • Dana

    There was a book years ago “All Originality Makes a Dull Church” or something similar to that.  Creativity can become a god; in worship the constant thirst for something more can replace God himself as the focus of our worship.  That said, dullness and boring sameness in the name of tradition can also be an idol.

  • iamanoffering

    So true! Thanks for your thoughts, Dana!

  • Anonymous

    Oh man, I’ve been thinking about this recently too! I recently found myself ‘evernoting’ a ton of stuff, staring a bunch of blogs in my reader…when all of a sudden I found myself at the foot of an idol…. Creativtity and the persute there of, it is important to keep things on the radar (of what others are doing), but  I’ll speak for myself and say that I don’t often pray enough for God to give creativity in what he has layed before me.  Great post man.

  • iamanoffering

    I’m totally with you!  Like I said, I’m totally in support of the church being creative but when the pursuit of creativity comes at the cost of equipping people right in front of you it can become, just as you said, an awful idol.

  • Chris Gambill

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. There is definitely a tension that exists. I’ve found that I’m also challenged by what I encounter online, but I have to always process through the filter of “how has God knit this particular church together?”. Some things transfer, some don’t, and some are adapted to help equip and draw people to greater expression and excellence. Some stuff is good to pass on, and some stuff I just keep to myself. I think that’s part of what differentiates a worship pastor from a worship leader.

  • iamanoffering

    For sure. Thanks for your thoughts!

  • Seth Dekkenga

    This is good to think about for sure. The biggest challenge, especially thinking about the context of community, is that it’s not about me, it’s about US. I think what you touch on also is that creativity isn’t always the way we see it. Creativity looks different for everybody, and it is a challenge to lead that in a creative community environment. Thanks for sharing!

  • Melissa

    Great post. I needed to see this today.