Church artists
Do you encourage creativity among your church members? (Lightstock)

In recent decades, churches haven't been known as hubs for creativity.

Instead, churches have been known for doing things the same way—the same kind of worship, the same songs, the same bulletins, and the same style of preaching for years on end. There hasn't been much room for those with creative talents to come in and splash some color around our fellowship halls.

Too often we have resigned our bulletins to some guy who knows how to use Microsoft Paint and our website to whoever did it 15 years ago, stressing that "art" was a luxury we couldn't necessarily afford.

Recently, that seems to be changing.

Churches are opening up the way they do things and allowing creatives to come in and make their mark on the way we teach, lead, and worship. We're so lucky to have them.

So how do we, as the pastors of our churches, continue to cultivate an inviting space for the creatives among us? How do we create an environment that allows them to contribute their gifts to the congregation?

Here are four thoughts:

1. Look for opportunities. If you're looking for them, you'll see creatives everywhere.

Your next-door neighbor may be a sculptor and your children's pastor a brilliant singer. There is creative talent hiding in the pews of your church, just waiting to be found. Opportunities for them abound as well.

Within your church, there is room for the talent of filmmakers, songwriters, painters, and writers. There are opportunities for crafters and entrepreneurs, chefs, and stylists. Start opening your eyes to opportunities and for people who might be able to fill them.

2. Leave wiggle room. Many leaders are linear thinkers—people who thrive with a schedule in their hand and a plan in their head. But in order to give creativity room to breathe, we have to build some wiggle room into our days, weeks, and Sundays.

A good example is worship time. Instead of giving it a solid 15 minutes, figure out a way to give the worship leader a bit more leeway. That way, if God is moving in that moment, the worship leader will have the freedom to explore.

Providing some wiggle room in the way you do things allows for people to come in and creatively influence it.

3. Give them a voice. For a long time, artists have avoided churches because it didn't seem like there was room for what they had to offer.

Find a place where artists can truly contribute value and invite them to do so.

Give them a piece to own—something they can work on and change and reshape. When people feel they have ownership over something, they're more likely to engage more deeply with the church. And as a bonus, they'll contribute something you didn't have before. (Hello, new bulletins!)

4. Create clear expectations. When you're working on a project with anyone, it's important to establish clear expectations. This is never truer than in a relational environment like a church. If these creatives are not on staff, it can be hard to establish realistic expectations—especially if they're not being compensated for their work.

Even if they are on staff, you have to remember their process is likely less structured than the typical Type-A.

Establish expectations early. What are they working on? How long will it take? When does it need to be finished? Having those boundaries will help you keep your expectations clear, and will preserve working and non-working relationships.

There's no misunderstanding more frustrating than one that leaves you with a half-finished video on Sunday morning. Clear that up with clear expectations.

To be sure, the talent in your church body is not all on your payroll. There are unseen and unheard members of your church community who have beautiful things to offer. Some of them may work professionally using their skill, yet others may wish they had more of a space to explore it.

What's an area of your church where you can open up space for creatives to contribute? 

With more than a dozen years of local church ministry, Justin Lathrop has spent the last several years starting businesses and ministries that partner with pastors and churches to advance the Kingdom. He is the founder of (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership, and, all while staying involved in the local church.

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