Creating… The 7 Question Conversation
It’s regrettable that some people in the worship arts can’t figure out how to keep their fires of creativity burning or even get started. Does your church value imagination? In position descriptions for church musicians I see the same statements repeated over and over again, but I have never seen, “Must have a Willy Wonka-like imagination and deeply earned grooves in his/her forehead from imagining new ways to tell our old story.”
Our imaginations are our chief tool for creating vital and engaging services, but in our “follower” culture, we may be losing our ability to imagine.
1. Do you talk to yourself when you’re driving?
People used to look at me strangely when I was driving because they often caught me talking to myself (BlueTooth has changed all that :-). Eventually I got over being embarrassed about this quirky part of my makeup. Recently I saw some research suggesting that things which just stay muttered in our heads are not as memorable as things we say out loud.
Are you talking out loud to someone or maybe even just to yourself about the things you value and prize? Are you creatively interviewing yourself in a way that helps you be more articulate about what you believe and hold dear?
At the heart of creativity is your ability to describe your ideas and dreams to others. If you can’t do that, your creativity will go largely unnoticed and ignored. An art teacher colleague said to me several years ago, “Artists don’t like to have to explain their work, but if they can’t learn to at least hint about the meaning of their work, nobody’s going to buy it!” I tend to agree—the articulation of your vision is your primary vehicle for selling it to another person.
2. Do you read fiction?
Lots of people read self-help and management books to get better at doing their jobs. One associate of mine could spout quotes from two or three of these books at every staff meeting—impressive! It may be, however, that reading one well-written fiction book a month could spark your creativity and imagination with greater efficacy. If one reads only the dogma and spewings of another, they are destined to only know about someone else’s creativity—not their own. Fiction enlivens the senses if it’s really good.
3. Do you use metaphors to help people understand what you’re talking about?
I’m a descriptive language and metaphor guy—I firmly believe that folks can understand our point of view more efficiently if we can use verbal images that they can better relate to and embrace. It also helps us understand our own thoughts if we can use descriptive language.
For example, I might say to a choir, “See if you can make that diminuendo as subtle as a baby finally going off to sleep while you sing them a lullaby.” (Hey, that’s pretty good!)
4. Does your worship tell a story of your faith or does it just describe your mood?
In one church coaching situation I found myself in recently, I asked for the minister of worship to describe to me the service he had just led. He said, “I was really happy with it and found it exhilarating.” I got it! He felt good.
Here’s the problem…worship is not always about how it made us feel or even about how our congregations felt—it’s being clear with both God and ourselves about God’s transformation of our lives and sure knowledge of His love.
5. Do your worship services leave your congregation “shaken” but not “stirred?”
James Bond knew how to order a Martini, but, for the most part, it doesn’t define what most of us are looking for in worship. You want to be shaken? Mark Driscoll at Seattle’s Mars Hill Church recently delivered sermons with titles like “Biblical Oral Sex” and “Pleasuring Your Spouse.” I’m not judging Mark—I believe his purpose was to discompose people’s view of God and His all-knowing presence in our lives.
Contemporary Christianity loves the whole “shaken” thing, but I believe the Holy Spirit works to stir our superego and bring us back to reality. In Acts 9:31 we read, “The church…became stronger…and with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.
Our worship is meant to stir us at deep levels and to revel in the mysteries of God. Read this article, ”The Perils of ‘Wannabe Cool’ Christianity.” It could be very influential in renewing a meaningful worship point-of-view. You don’t have to agree with it. Just read it.
6. Have you ever had counseling?
Having mentioned this before, I have some reluctance to repeat myself—but here it goes anyway. If you don’t have a realistic understanding of how you tick and what motivates and drives you, it’s difficult to be truly creative in the church—maybe not artists like Picasso, but as a church musician, creativity is born of personal observational savvy and subtext. You don’t have to be completely emotionally healthy to be creative, but it couldn’t hurt. If you didn’t understand what I just said, see a therapist.
7. Could you turn your worship into a screenplay?
This is simple. To be creative, one needs to write a script that contains the following:
If you can do all this—you’ve got an idea that’s probably both imaginative and creative!
Doug Lawrence, internationally recognized speaker, author, and advisor, helps churches assess and improve their skillfulness in creating engaging worship experiences by utilizing his more than 35 years of “deep trench” worship leadership in prominent mainline churches. has been a consultant to church leaders for 35 years and is anxious to be helpful to you in leadership, musical, and staffing considerations. Or, if you wish, call 650.207.8240 for assessment information and scheduling.
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