Why Creativity Is Important for Ministry, and How to Do It
Thankfully, there is no such thing as a creative gene, but there is such a thing as being creative. Unfortunately, being creative usually seems to us elusive, mysterious, and maybe not that big of a deal. After all, for those of us in ministry, what’s creativity got to do with preaching, teaching, or worshiping?
I would suggest that creativity is a big deal, even for—nay, especially for—those of us who live and labor in communicating the absolute truth and God’s revelation. Let me suggest a few reasons why creativity is so important and then tackle the tough question—how do we become more creative?
5 Reasons Why Creativity Is Insanely Important
- Creativity is part of our mandate as image bearers. For all the ink spilled over the “cultural mandate” of Genesis 1:28, we easily overlook a crucial component of the mandate—creativity. Man, as God’s image-bearer (Gen. 1:26-27), is a creative being. Cultivating this creativity is part of conformity to God’s image.
- Creativity enables us to apply biblical truths to contemporary situations. The Scripture is our absolute authority Anything that enables us to connect biblical truth to daily life is to be valued. Sometimes applying Scripture is straightforward and obvious. Other times it takes creative thinking to bring the truth to bear upon everyday life.
- Creativity illuminates our communication. Creative speakers are interesting and engaging. Speaking, as a form of art, gives you a lot of room for creativity. Creativity is the difference between a boring speaker and an engaging speaker.
- Creativity improves our problem-solving. Problems demand solutions, and solutions require creativity. If we continue to approach our problems with worn-out attempts at solutions, we should not be surprised when we fail. On the other hand, when we face our problems with the freshness of creativity, successful solutions will emerge.
- Creativity enhances our leadership and our ability to minister to others. Creativity is demanded of leaders. Our ability to point the way forward and to encourage people to follow is partly dependent upon our creative ability. Motivation, insight, vision, decision-making, problem-solving—all the traits we associate with leaders—are improved by creativity. Creativity, in other words, is essential for effective leadership.
When applying the Bible, communicating truth, solving problems, and leading others, creativity helps you do it better. For many of us, this is the stuff of our lives. We would do well to improve our creativity.
How to Become More Creative
“Who, me? Creative?” (Sniff. Snicker. Ha.)
Laugh if you want, but you can become more creative. And if the above statements are true, you should try to become more creative. One of the greatest forms of stewardship you can exercise is the stewardship of your mind, and being more creative is part of that stewardship.
We’ve been duped into the belief that creativity is subject to the whims of fickle muses who sometimes bless us with a “flash of insight” but, more often than not, just leave us in the dark. Actually, as Jonah Lehrer argues in his book Imagine, creativity can be controlled, enhanced, and developed. Here are some suggestions for doing so.
- Welcome the challenge. Creativity emerges when we face a problem. Why else would there be a need for creativity? Sadly, we often give up on the Gordian knot when our fingers get tired—before our creativity is unleashed and the problem is solved. Problems are the soil for the seeds of creativity, and confronting those problems is the only way to grow the fruit of creativity.
- Change your routines. Surprises have the power to spark creativity. As the cliche goes, we are creatures of habit, but habits can kill creativity. Break the stultifying monotony by busting out of your normal patterns. Drive a different way to work. Read a different author. Listen to a different genre of music. Brush your teeth with cinnamon-flavored toothpaste instead of minty fresh. Mow your lawn in a different pattern. Whatever. Just do something different. Creativity isn’t sparked merely by a change in toothpaste flavor but by the unexpected twists of “different” in our lives.
- Stop being so busy. Albert Einstein said, “Creativity is the residue of time wasted.” We too easily conflate busyness with spirituality. In truth, however, being overly busy can be a spiritual liability. (Brush up on Luke 10:38-42.) At the very least, being too busy can put the kibosh on a creative moment. Intentional “boredom” may allow room for creativity to flourish.
- Don’t try to brainstorm or focus. Instead, just take a break. There’s this myth about focus—that if we focus long enough or hard enough, the answer will eventually emerge. In actuality, you may be so focused on the wrong thing that you never look up to see the right thing. Focus is helpful for most projects, but creative tasks don’t call for obstinate head-banging exertion; they call for a release of neurons firing in a different direction. Release; then reengage with greater creativity.
- Talk a walk…or a bath, or something like that. One reason why episodes of creativity are described as “aha moments,” “lightbulb moments,” or “flashes of insight” is because they often come all of a sudden. Usually, such moments occur when we’re relaxed and somewhat distant from the problem. What helps you relax and get away from the problem? A hot shower? A casual drive in the mountains? A brisk walk around the block? Although we’re taking a break from the project, our mind is still working on it. That walk around the block may be your greatest creative moment.
- Sip coffee with other creatives. In the rugged individualism of our American culture, we may tend to do Lone Ranger ministry. If you want to be creative, you’ll need help from others. Bring into your circle of conversation people who are unlike you. A collective of people of different ages, different careers, different socioeconomic situations, and different ethnicities is fertile ground for creativity. People who have nothing to do with the problem or issue may bring blindingly brilliant ideas. Oh, and the sipping coffee part? Caffeine may help creativity.
- Keep your mind active, engaged, interested, and sharp. Your mind is where the creativity emerges. It’s important to read books, talk to people, keep up with blogs, and do your own share of writing and thinking. Active minds are creative minds.
Employing these techniques won’t make you feel like you’re oozing with creativity. Creativity, after all, isn’t a feeling; it’s a thinking. You may not sense a euphoric rush of inspiration, but you may experience a gentle growth of creativity.