Passion in Ministry

I’ve been thinking quite a bit on a conversation I had with a worship director on the importance of creativity in worship, and it really got me thinking on a few issues that I hope to get around to blogging about in the next couple of weeks.

Breaking Traditions
He made several comments about how difficult it’s become to break away from the normal routine of worship, and at least in the Lutheran Church, I know even I’ve found it easier to please our large audience by playing it safe and not taking the risks necessary to innovate, and in return I’ve found myself displeased by the results. If you have found yourself on like situations, know this:

You were not created to play it safe.

You are not in a position to lack risk-taking.

The thoughts you have in your head about where you should be taking you and your church– they’re what you need to start doing.

We are each called to our creative positions, and God doesn’t call us to maintain the status quo. You’re an essential part of the Great Commission and it is your duty to tell the Story in the greatest way possible in your church, so do it. Innovate. Bring God the glory by breaking the chains of safety and pushing your creative limits. He isn’t going to put you or your team into a situation that you can’t handle, so take every new project or idea and take it to the fullest possible capability. People are going to hate you, but if people hate you, someone will love you, and the worst thing you can do as a creative or a church leader is to become invisible or to become bland. Kill any sort of comfort in maintaining your routines, because with every routine you create in your ministry, you remove the excitement and buzz surrounding it. Break it! Shake things up on a consistent basis, and you’re going to find consistent excitement with what you do.

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Inadequacy in the Creative Department

“Your work sucks.”

Now, likely, you’ve never had this said to you, but if you’re anything like me, that little phrase has gotten stuck in your head at one time or another. You feel inadequate, like the work you’re doing is under par of what should be considered under par.

Don’t ever believe that phrase.

If you have found yourself to be a creative, or you’ve been put in a position that requires your creativity, then God has put you there for a specific reason. The way you see the world and show others is going to change the way others see the world. You need to be confident in yourself to create what God’s imparted on your heart, otherwise you won’t see it. The times where I was having the most problems coming up with creative material were the times I was majorly comparing myself to someone at another church who can do it better, faster or more creatively. You can’t get caught up in that–If you do, you’ll never grow, you’ll stay just as stagnate as the moment you started feeling the creative jealousy.

Here are a couple of things I found that really remedy the creative jealousy:

Look to your members | In the end, they’re going to support you the most. Church is like a family to most people, so when you succeed (i.e. make a new poster, change up something in the bulletin, make a set switch, etc.) they’re likely to notice. Get feedback. I’m the kind of person who HATES criticism, but I take it knowing I’m 100% more likely to act on it and fix it than if they had smiled and said, “Sure! Looks great.” Take a creative risk. You need to, or you’ll never receive feedback(good or bad).

Go to your boss | I am truly blessed to have a direct supervisor who genuinely cares about the work I produce, and lucky enough, in the Church, that’s going to be the majority of creatives. Whether you report directly to the pastor or to the business administrator(such as in my case), chances are, they care just as much about what you do as you. Seek advice from them, get their two-cents. Before our quarterly publication goes out, my boss and I sit in his office and discuss the pros and cons of last quarter’s publication (as hindsight is always important) and how to improve/change the way we do things this quarter. This is definitely easier for our quarterly publication than our weekly bulletin, but the same can happen week-to-week.

Do a couple of online Photoshop tutorials | Yeah, this one may be a little specific, but it can be metaphorical for other creative positions. The times I was most fired up for creativity were the times I learned something new (Yes, I do recognize college will be a liiiittle bit different than that). Everything I know is either self-taught or from online tutorials (Which in a sense is like self-teaching I suppose….), and because my major is a little different than what I intend to use it for, it’s imperative that I’m keeping myself fresh with the tools I use in the workforce because there isn’t a class for it. Now, I don’t know, you may have a formal college education and have been in the workforce for many years, but you still need to do this, too. When you create, you’re spiritually connecting yourself to God with that piece, and when you replicate someone else, you’re learning the skills they used to do that same process. I don’t agree in claiming someone else’s thought to be your own, but I do agree that in order to hone in on your creative skills, there has to be a certain level of the ability to replicate. You’ll feel better about yourself afterwards, too. I like to use Abduzeedo for my tutorials, just because his are a little more detailed and allow for originality.

Pray | When you lack in the communication department with God, you’ll find your communication department in the Church lacking as well. You NEED God, and just like He longs for you, you should do the same. There’s nothing worse than unrequited love, and what’s the most important thing in a relationship? Communication. You’ve got to communicate regularly with God to find out what He wants you to do. Iit would be like if you never talked with your mom, but wanted her to give you $50. Unless you communicate that to her, you’ll be short $50. Do you really expect God’s going to strike you with a brilliant idea out of the blue for absolutely no reason if you haven’t been at least talking to Him?

And as the great Jon Acuff said so beautifully, “Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” I have the biggest problem when surfing other church’s websites and seeing how well they’re designed and being jealous (Now, if they’re outsourcing their design, I typically laugh and go to the next site, outsourcing your design, especially when you have competent people on staff is not only lazy, it’s cheating.), but I’ve learned that I’m only 18, and I should be proud I’ve got something that even competes with the 30-somethings. While my situation probably isn’t the same as yours, think on this carefully: Why should you be jealous of something someone else in the Kingdom has done? Use it as inspiration and improve your work, that’s the great thing about creativity; always room for improvement.

Learning How to Breathe in Creativity

I’ve come to learn that I’m impatient…. And, I’m sure God thinks that’s important somehow, but I happen to despise that particular trait about me. Take this quick story for example:

While teaching myself Photoshop one night, I became engrossed in a particular piece about Jim Morrison, from a tutorial where I was learning how to use layer masks. It was rather time consuming, and as the evening settled, my parents decided to have a family evening at Conan’s Pizza. I happen to not be a fan of Conan’s, and I wasn’t in the mood to deal with family issues, so I procrastinated pressing Ctrl+S because I’d much rather do graphic design than “hang” with my family. I finally decided to save my work and walk away from it, more or less because my parents knew where the off-switch was.

I realized much later that I had let my passion become priority in my life, instead of my family and the relationships I was learning to heal. I had become so consumed in my work that it had taken precedence over literally everything in my life. While I told myself that I was simply in a creative mode and wanted to express my creativity in the piece, I was secretly feeling like my life depended on my finishing this piece.

Until this point, I was consumed with quantity, rather than quality. I felt like because I was 16, I had to prove that I could learn as much as I could as fast as possible, and I became what most would call a replicator. I was turning out duplicates of the tutorials I was using to learn the program faster than most would fathom possible. I considered this an important quality, as in the workforce, at least what I knew about the workforce, was that quantity was the most important, and quality would eventually come with time and practice. With the benefit of hindsight, I noticed most of my work until this point is missing something, almost like it was missing talent.

I thought if I had to go to dinner with my family, the least I could do was still be productive, so I thought about my piece for the first 15 minutes or so. Eventually, my large and lively family got the better of me and we began to laugh and talk about life in general. My previously “stuck-up” attitude about life and productivity made me believe that I absolutely needed to think about work, and anything else was frivolous and unimportant. However, God didn’t make me to act like that, in fact, I’m pretty sure if Jesus was standing next to me for that period of time, he would have (politely and lovingly, I’m sure) dropkicked me to next week.  Instead, He used this time to give me a break from my thoughts and clear my head, which unbelievably, allowed for the most creative thoughts to come to my head. After a rather funny(but seemingly irrelevant joke which would be classified in the “you had to be there” category), I took a deep breath and suddenly, I realized how to make my piece unique. A completely irrelevant topic and in a completely new setting, I found creativity. When I arrived back home, I added what I needed and made the piece my most creative(and favorite) to that point.

Juvenile as it may seem, I learned that creativity cannot and will not be forced. We are not made to create on command, and my biggest fear in working in the creative world is still that need will take precedence over desire. We cannot be creative because someone needs our creativity, we can only be creative when we clear everything from our routines and take a step back. It’s not about demand, it’s about doing what we were created to do: create. There isn’t a secret formula to becoming creative, and it’s only when we surrender all of ourselves to God that we find ourselves doing things creatively. Creativity is the artistic problem-solving. We look beyond ourselves and focus on who we belong to, and then we discover the art in creativity.

I have found in order to be the most creative, you need to take breaks from your work, even if it’s multitasking to read Stephen Brewster’s blog for a few minutes and then returning. It’s an elementary idea, but turning your mind away from the task at hand makes the task at hand much simpler. Many will criticize the generation that multitasks, but I applaud it. If you can find a way to creatively focus on many things at once, it allows you to find creative solutions more easily. If Googling for 10 minutes makes your mind as active as being at a party, then use that activity to see others’ creative solutions. Doing this will allow you to piece together a creative solution for your current task, and thus productivity increases.