Divergent and Convergent
“Creative” people always seem to be a little bit different from the rest of us, don’t they?
You know a creative person when you see one, right? They dress a bit more… flamboyantly than “normal” people do.
Creative women wear extra long jewelry and maybe color only a portion of their hair… purple. Creative men wear hats, all kinds of them. They wear fedoras, ascots, berets. If you’re a creative film director, you wear a baseball cap—but usually with no logo on it. Think Steven Spielberg, George Lucas or Ron Howard.
But here you are, reading a blog about worship and hoping to find a way to bring life to your worship services, an experience that’s thousands of years old and been done thousands of different ways. You don’t regard yourself as a “Creative” person but you do wish that your next worship service would not be the same old same old. However, your problem is that you don’t wear a hat or dye your hair, not even a little bit—and neither does your pastor.
The good news is that creativity is a skill that can be learned.
Here’s a process that you can use that can help bring creativity to your worship service. It’s called the Divergent-Convergent Creative Process.
What makes this process successful is the separation of your ideas into two categories, a non-judgmental category and judgmental category. We can also call this Divergent thinking (non-judgmental) and Convergent thinking (judgmental). Here’s how it works:
The Divergent process
You are going to make a list (I like to use a whiteboard) of all of the possible things that could happen in your worship service—and here’s the key to the success of this process: Resist the temptation to think of any idea as “good” or “bad.” All ideas are valid in this part of the process. EVERY idea is written down.
Your goal in this part of the process is to get as many ideas as possible written up on the white board. Do not erase any! Go for novelty, be affirmative. As you write down your ideas, you’ll find that the standard, “normal” ideas will come easily and will come first. As you proceed, you will notice that coming up with more ideas becomes more difficult. However, you will also notice that one idea will lead to another. That’s why it’s so important to suspend judgment on the ideas now. Don’t think about what’s practical during this “Divergent” part of the process, just get as many ideas down as possible. Write down all of them, normal ideas, funny ideas, quirky ideas, bizarre ideas. Get them all on the whiteboard. You’ll find that the more creative ideas will be generated at the end of this process.
The Convergent Thinking process
This is when you look at all of the ideas in your Divergent thinking list and pull out the ones that seem to work for you. Here is where you may notice that although one of your Divergent ideas seemed bizarre, it led to a new idea that is very practical and could bring deep meaning to your service. That’s why it’s so important that you suspend judgment during the Divergent Thinking part of the process. Now, during this Convergent Thinking process, is the time to judge the ideas.
What most people don’t realize is that the more ideas you produce during the Divergent part of the process, the more you are leveraging the probability that you will generate a few great ideas for your service during the Convergent part of the process.
In fact, research shows that Nobel prize winning scientists published twice as many papers as non-winners. Think too of Thomas Edison. We know that he invented the light bulb, the phonograph and the movie projector, but did you know that he filed 1090 patents for other inventions? Beethoven’s creative process included the writing down of many ideas for his music that ultimately didn’t make it into his finished compositions.
Passion is the key to this. If you are passionate about creating great worship services, but you don’t necessarily consider yourself to be “Creative,” consider a comparison between Beethoven and Mozart. Mozart was absolutely a “Creative” person. He composed his music in his head and then wrote it all down on paper, in ink, perfectly. Wouldn’t that be nice?
For Beethoven however, his compositional process was hard work, some have even called it agonizing. Many of his sketchbooks have survived to this day and they contain many ideas that were ultimately discarded. Yet, because he continued to work with passion, he was able to compose creatively, producing great works like the 9th symphony, the piano sonatas, the string quartets, works that are pillars of Western civilization.
If you’re interested in discovering more about the creative process, may I suggest the you listen to The Creative Thinker’s Toolkit by Gerard Puccio, published by The Great Courses.
Ecclesiastes 2:22 says that there is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work. You don’t have to be “Creative” to be creative in the work of producing great worship services. Use the Divergent-Convergent Creative process to bring life to them. You may find that it will bring happiness to you, your Pastor, your Congregation and ultimately to God.
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