As a kid in high school my youth pastor invited my friends and I over to his house to hang out for the first time. Even though he was a compassionate youth leader he never invited us over before. So, when he opened the door on that day we realized immediately why it was difficult to have company. The problem was that his wife had covered over every bit of furniture with plastic as well as throwing down a little plastic on the carpet to make a pathway to the backyard. She was so scared that we might soil her furniture and carpet that she went out of her way to protect it with plastic.
Seriously? I know that we were teenaged guys, but was she seriously expecting us to jump on the furniture with grape juice boxes like four year olds? That sense of control she was trying to grasp onto made us feel more like an inconvenience. She appeared to value stuff more than relationships.
Pastors, there is a principle that I want you take from this. Your sense of control, or need to “put plastic on the furniture” can put a damper on your church teams, in particular, your creatives. You may be wondering why your creative team, whether if it is a fully paid staff, volunteers, single production person, or that talented kid with the DSLR are not performing up to your expectations. Let’s look at some of the ways that you can remove some barriers and really unleash your creatives.
Be Clear with Your Vision and Expectations
Creatives are amazing people. They can do what seems like the unimaginable; however, they do need boundaries. Now, I said boundaries, and not limitations. There’s a difference. The boundaries that you give to your creative team are that of your vision and expectations. Their creative expression will wrap around and enhance that vision. Make sure that you are clear on your vision. This includes articulating the overall purpose of your vision as it relates to ministry and the project itself. If you don’t do this, your creatives will find another direction and vision to follow. It is only natural for them.
Include Creatives in the Creation Process
It may seem obvious, but don’t push your creative types out of the creative process. Apple Inc. is the most iconic and forward-thinking company in the world. Its secret? While most technology companies engineer their product then pass it on to the design teams for a nice container, Apple puts both teams in the same room to create their final product together. Instead of creating a disjointed product from two different creators, they bring the process together for one beautiful and seamless product. Pastor, you are the engineer in the process. Too often, a pastor will create a message, a campaign, or a curriculum and then turn to the creative team to just film it and make something cool. Let me suggest that you bring your core creatives into the room with you when you are crafting that message. Let them into that sacred space and listen for their feedback. You just might be blown away with what you will get. Not only will the final product be even better but you will also build loyalty and trust like none other into your creative team. They will work harder and be more passionate about the project than ever before.
Give Them Grace to Experiment
Here’s a truth about the creative process. It is messy. The creative process is fluid and always changing. Sometimes it means trying out a hundred bad ideas that eventually lead you to a really good idea. Let your team be free to experiment. Let them try new things. If it doesn’t work, just check it off the list and try something else later. Thomas Edison famously went through 6,000 iterations of the light bulb before landing on the final design. You too need to give your creatives the opportunity to try new things with little fear of major repercussions. Make your ministry a place that gives that kind of grace.
Resource Them Out
Ok, this one can be contentious as ministry budgets are always tight; however, do your best to provide the necessary gear and equipment for your creatives. While budgets and specific needs may vary, you should allot at least 1% of your annual budget towards new equipment. Trust your creative teams to know how to best spend that money. Again, they might surprise you with what they come up with.
I spoke with Pastor Joe Champion from Celebration Church in Austin Texas about his creative team and he said something that made me leap for joy for his team. He told me that he not only allows his creative teams to pick up side work but he encourages it. He encourages it so much that he allows them to use the church gear for side projects. To any control freak, this is insane thinking. But there is subtle genius in doing this. Let me explain. First, no one in ministry is paid enough. Pastor Champion recognizes this and so he sees this as an opportunity to let them supplement their incomes. Second, it gives his creative team opportunities to learn and grow. By being in different environments and working with different teams and clients, his creative team gets to learn new techniques, processes, and get creative ideas that will only enhance the final products that they produce for their church. If you need proof of this go to the Celebration Church website here.