Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Is Creativity a Pastoral Gift?

I suspect that creativity is an underappreciated pastoral gift.

We live in a “creative age,” and the church has incorporated artistry into its worship and websites, but I’m not talking about graphic design or video.

I’m thinking, rather, of a pedagogical creativity that aids preaching and teaching. Jesus was extremely creative, as the parables reveal. These were not just cute stories thrown in to keep the hearers’ attention; these were potent illustrations that challenged and even condemned the hearers. And they were tightly packed, which is another way of saying they packed a lot of punch.

Creativity is also a great benefit for how we structure our teaching as well. Do all our messages follow a predictable pattern, or do we have a variety of means by which to draw people into the text or topic at hand? When we teach a class, have we considered some unique ways to keep interest or reinforce the lessons? Creativity can be as simple as “mixing things up” with testimonies, times of prayer, or hands-on application. Yet at the same time, we need to be pastorally wise and not merely clever; creativity has to be in the service of instruction.

Here are a few other areas where creativity comes in handy…
- Leading prayer. Don’t be rigid, but be creative with how you guide others in prayer. Pray through Psalms, follow the pattern of the Lord’s prayer, read (or sing) the words of a rich hymn and follow it up with praise/prayer, take requests, change course midstream, don’t take requests, gather in a circle around someone and pray for them, take walks through the neighborhood and pray for it, etc.
- Developing outreach or other ministries. I think being “missional” involves prayerful creativity. What works elsewhere probably won’t work in your church. Nor will it be what your church needs. But as you pray, there might be an idea that surfaces that is uniquely fit to your community and circumstances.
- Sharing the gospel. Boy does this require creativity. No two conversations are the same!
- Children. I think this is obvious… and maybe the lesson here is that it needs to be more obvious to us when we’re dealing with adults!

Thinking about Jesus again. Not only were his words the most creative in history (partly this is because truth seems creative when you are swimming in falsehood), but he also “mixed things up” a bit didn’t he? He healed by touch, by spit, by mud. He gave some prepared lessons and grabbed teachable moments. He prayed for and with people. He put children in the center and others on the spot. He gave examples, set an example, used parables, pronounced woes, pointed at temples, surprised and tested listeners, gave away food, and instituted sacraments. And he approached subject matter in unique, provocative ways—but always grounded in truth.

Unless there are any objections, I move that we approach ministry with both wisdom and creativity.

1 comment:

Ed Eubanks said...

Agreed. And your post draws out an important aspect about being "creative": it doesn't mean, "do 'X' with abandon."

And, as most creative types will affirm, creativity flourishes the most when given some fundamental structure or boundaries. The entirely blank canvas, empty word-processing window, or untouched rock will stand unattended while the artist/writer/sculptor procrastinates. Give them an objective, though-- capture the sunset, tell a story from your childhood, shape a heaven-pointing obelisk -- and they will thrive.

Likewise, in pastoral ministry we must have some fundamental structure, boundary, or purpose. The best "spontaneous" prayers are almost always those that have been thought through ahead of time. A conversation in which a pastor (or others) set out to share the gospel will get sidetracked if the gospel isn't the focus.

Creativity and purpose are inherently linked, in ministry and otherwise.