“If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play.” (John Cleese)
Game changer: About 20 years ago, I asked a pastor just starting a new (and what would be his last) call to serve a church how things were going and he said, “I’m having a blast.”
It had never occurred to me that professional ministry was supposed to be fun. Spiritual satisfying? Intellectually challenging? Yes and yes. But fun? My Calvinist heritage runs deep. We are not fun people.
But we could be. And if we want to be creative and effective, we will be. So, I am accepting The Carol McDonald Challenge to work John Cleese’s quote about play and creativity into a post.
While there’s no one recipe for sparking creativity in the Church, I look to smart people to shed some light. Tom Kelley is one such smart person and he wrote this last week. He suggests that creative leaders do these three things:
- They build core enthusiast communities inside and outside of their organizations.
- They achieve big change through a series of small experiments.
- They jump-start their innovation journey with storytelling.
We in the church do not create robots, furniture, or nail polish, but we do create spiritual communities that transform the world for good in the name of Jesus Christ. (At least that’s my personal faith statement for the Church.) So how would we translate Tom Kelley’s insights for Church World?
- Have fun. I know a church that gave out t-shirts to every volunteer who stayed with “Max” at night so that his spouse could rest. Max had dementia and wandered all night – or wanted to. Those who helped with this project got a t-shirt that said, “I Spent the Night with Max.” Mrs. Max loved it (and she gave her permission.) And it gave the diversity of wearers occasion to say to the curious something like this: “We take turns at my church hanging out with Max from 7 PM to 7 AM so that his wife can sleep.” Voila. Funny. Fun. Servant Leadership.
- Try things. We love to institutionalize everything but let’s stop that. Instead try new ideas: We are skipping Christmas Eve services this year and inviting all members to invite a family with no church over for dinner. Or we are caroling on the street corner this year and not at the nursing home. Or we are giving gift cards to every resident at the shelter instead of buying socks and gloves. Or we are taking hot chocolate and coffee to the firefighters and throwing them a surprise party. Just because we are trying something doesn’t mean we have to do it next year or even next week.
- Teach people that they have stories to tell. I’ve been told that I have a lot of stories and interesting things seem to happen to me. Actually this is true for everybody. Either we aren’t paying attention or we don’t believe our stories/we are important. Look around and notice what’s going on around you. I saw three Santas sitting on a bench smoking last weekend. I wish I’d asked them their story. More than statistics and mission statements and exegetical analyses, people remember stories. Tell the ones that explain something mysterious. Tell the ones that uplift and make us feel hope.
One of the reasons that Denise Anderson and I hope to be elected Co-Moderators of the 222nd General Assembly is because we love the church, we want church to be a creative community, and we believe ministry is fun. Thanks be to God.