I have been reading some discussions recently about originality in the church. The question has been raised, is it cool to take ideas from other churches? I think that people who say NO, they perhaps don't understand what creativity and innovation is all about and where ideas come from.
How does a pastor or ministry leader cultivate creativity?
1. Understand that creativity doesn't come from creating something out of nothing. Only God creates "ex-nihilo" something from nothing! :-) Often creativity comes from making NEW ASSOCIATIONS. It is about connecting two independent things in a new and fresh way. Creativity comes from applying ideas from other contexts and finding new ways to associate them into your context. Creativity comes from borrowing. For example, I am always borrowing ideas from culture, and making new associations within our context here at Big Creek. That's what my sermon series MythBusters was all about, you realize of course I stole the idea from a T.V. show? :-)
2. Fill the well. You got to be pouring fresh stuff in your life. I am a gatherer type person. I am always reading and talking to others. We should be willing to borrow from others. Reading blogs through RSS feeds, exposes me to ideas from people around the world. For instance, we are trying to decode how to be missional in our suburban context, and there are men and women who are thinking through the same stuff, and I am learning from their learnings, and being provoked by the questions that they are asking.
3. Cross-training. Learn and read and study other disciplines. Often the best ideas come from adapting ideas from other places and professions. You got to get out of the church ghetto! You need to find ways that ideas in the marketplace translate into the church context. That is why books like Good to Great by Jim Collins have been so highly thought of within the church. I often expand my reading to history, business, biography and current affair books. I also try to tap into the wealth of expertise that our professionals have here at Big Creek. Their professional experience makes them one of the best resources to help us innovate.
4. Don't ask limiting questions. Too often we are asking questions that by the very nature of the question puts parameters around the kind of answer we are going to get. For instance, the question might be, "How can we help students grow deeper in their walk with God at our mid-week Wednesday high school large group"? Within that question is the assumption that we should have a large group of students meeting weekly. And within the question we are assuming that only within the large group can effective growth and life change happen.
Are large youth groups the right avenue to help teenagers to grow in their faith? Should we even have them at all? Listen, I am not here to draw any conclusions. But if you are going to be creative, you have go to be WILLING to ask those questions. Don't let the kind of question you ask, box in your answer!
5. Be willing to risk. You gotta to be willing to risk and risk failing. If your church isn't a risk culture, you are going to be conservative and cautious in what you are willing to create and try. Failures are some of the greatest tutors and learning opportunities. Be willing to risk and risk Big!
When someone asked Spurgeon why within his sermons he preached other's ideas, he quickly retorted. "I am like farmer Smith's cow. I graze in others people's pastures, but just like farmer Smith's cow, you can count on the milk that you get being mine."(1) We need to be willing to graze in all the pastures out there - other churches, the culture, other professions. But at the end of the day, our creative ideas will reflect who we are, who our church is and our unique culture and ministry context.
(1) I remember hearing this quote attributed to Spurgeon and it has always stuck with me, but for this post - I tried to find it's reference, but I had NO success. Do I have it correct? Did Spurgeon say this?
(originally published at Provocative Church)
More resources: Check out this blog post about the 8+ Ways to Train Yourself to Be Creative