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Why Your Pastor Says No

Why Your Pastor Says No

Those of us who create art and ideas dread the word “no”. It feels like mapping out a trip. We pack, we buy tickets for excursions; then we’re told we can’t go. Imagine being seven years old, ready to head to Disney, running downstairs and screaming, “Today is the day, today is the day!”…only to have dad say, “Sorry, we aren’t going. Mommy wants to go to the mall instead.”

For the pastor reading this: Please, realize it really feels that crushing. The best ideas only come when we pour our everything into them. When we hear “no”, it’s like spilling that everything all over the floor.

For the creative reading this: Avoid the dreadful “no” by knowing how and why it happens. “Know thy enemy” – so to speak. Of course, the enemy is “no” – not your pastor. And these are some of the ways you’re guaranteed to hear “no.”

Dismissing the “Non-creative” Creativity

I used to think there were only two types of people: creatives and non-creatives. But God revealed, through the story of Creation, that we are all creative and all created to take part in the art of creation. This even includes your linear-minded pastor.

We are all creative and all created to take part in the art of creation. This even includes your linear-minded pastor.

While your pastor is likely more analytical and word-driven than visual and exploratory, he was still created to take part in creation. He is creative in his realm. Think about it; if he’s pastored for 20 years, he’s preached about how to be a good mom 20 times and told the same story of a baby being born 20 times – and that’s if you don’t count special speaking engagements. He allows God to knit the words together and his mind formulates new ways to view the same old story.

Acknowledge your pastor’s ideas and creativity. Don’t tease or make fun of his “coolness factor”. Please remember, it’s okay if someone’s solution to a problem isn’t the same as yours – as long as it’s a solution brought with excellence.

Trying to Fix Your Pastor

It’s easy to see that the church needs to embrace new and creative ideas. It’s easy to check your pastor off as being stuck, stubborn, or whatever it is you may have set out to fix. But, just like you, he’s there for a reason – with his personality, his quirks, and his hangups. None of those are yours to fix.

While we need to bring new ideas and perspectives to the table, your job is not to fix your pastor. Your job is to find a way to breathe creativity into the vision that has been given to him.

Your job is to find a way to breathe creativity into the vision that has been given to your pastor.

Falling in Love with Your Ideas

You’ve spent time researching. You’ve explored the ideas countless ways. You’ve sketched hundreds of pages of details. You’ve found the greatest way to tell the story – ever. It’s probably the best work you’ve ever done. It’s beautiful and you’re in love.

You push that idea so hard and you’re so infatuated with the idea that you can’t hear anyone else or accept any critique or revision. This is, after all, the greatest idea ever! Pride comes before the “no”.

Pride comes before the “no”.

If you love something, set it free. If it comes back…okay, not really. But, you do need to find a way to disconnect all of the emotion you poured into your idea. In fact, stop seeing it as “your” idea. Listen, take in critique, and adjust as needed.

Killing Bad Ideas

You’ve heard the old phrase, “There are no dumb questions.” But, apparently that was never taught in art school. We are a group that knocks down bad ideas as if they were mosquitos carrying dengue fever. We squash them and the person, usually the pastor, that presents them.

We should celebrate bad ideas as springboards to great ideas.

But, we should celebrate bad ideas as springboards to great ideas. Explore the why behind the idea. Why does your pastor think this idea is a good one? Many times there are diamonds underneath it all.

Saying Yes All the Time

Too many artists don’t know the unique part they play. They haven’t learned how to remind others of that role, so they say “yes” to things they shouldn’t be doing.

Be the creative. Stop playing it safe. Be bold. Let your personality show. Bring creativity into all you do. Don’t send a regular birthday card – be different. Bring your crazy toys in, walk around with a slinky in your hand, pass around an article from the latest issue of HOW magazine. Be the creative and remember that’s why they hired you.

Just Doing Your Job

You get paid a salary and you get some vacation days, why rock the boat? Come in, crank out some safe design (exactly what your pastor would do), collect your check, and go home to complain to your wife. You’ll avoid “no”. You’ll also avoid fulfillment and joy that could come from being an artist. Don’t miss out…

Go all in. Love your work, but also love the people you work with. Focus on relationships over a job. If you do this, over time, it will give you the permission to ask the tough questions and have the uncomfortable conversations.

Understanding You’re the Expert

They hired you because of your talent. You’re right and they should know it.

It’s really easy to get into this trap as artists – especially if you’ve been in the business for a while and are a truly talented artist. You know you can go anywhere and the truth is – you are right most of the time. But, being right only serves as a beating stick to others. Feelings get hurt, relationships spoiled, walls go up, and you never earn the right to be a real part of the team.

Decide to bring harmony instead of being right. Challenge ideas and processes instead of people.

Decide to bring harmony instead of being right. Challenge ideas and processes instead of people. That’s the way to break down the walls that resist change.

Don’t Give a Roadmap

Your pastor is likely analytical. That means he likes very concrete direction. He wants to know where you are and where you’re going. When you go off on tangents or off the beaten path, it can scare him. You’ve ruined the neatness of the analytical mind and have brought chaos into the picture.

Why not tell your pastor about your process? Tell him that, while you may wander off occasionally, you have things in place to keep you on track. You will arrive to the same destination. That will give him confidence in you.

Let’s get past “no.” We’ve allowed the enemy to use a good thing (creativity) for a worse thing (turf wars within the church) for far too long. It’s easy to see this as a creative versus non-creative, right versus left, and us versus them issue. But it’s time we become part of our pastor’s team, so he sees us as an essential comrade instead of a constant adversary. Remember, your pastor is learning too. He’s a real person, just like you – with feelings and all.

About The Author

Michael Buckingham

Michael Buckingham is Experience Pastor at Victory World Church in Atlanta and Owner of Holy Cow! Creative, focused on the how of church and the art of preaching. Michael is working to launch Creative Cadre, a place for creative peer critique. Sign up to receive more information here.

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