Without a clear identity, many creatives get caught in a brutal cycle of meaningless elements and artistry that reaches for hype instead of effectively reaching the heart. As creatives, it is vital that we have a sense of who we are in order to effectively use our unique gifts and inspiration to the full impact.
In order to bring clarity to your church?s creative identity, here are some questions to answer as you look at your church.
What is our Core Context?
Your team should not be creative simply for creativity?s sake. Your team does not exist to be creative. Your team exists to further the purpose of God within the specific context where He has placed you. Your artistry should always be toward a higher spiritual awareness and the transformation of those experiencing it.[quote]Your team does not exist to be creative.[/quote]
What is our Core Culture?
Our role as a creative team within a church culture is first to study and know the culture we serve. Only then can we actually begin to mold and shape the raw material that?s at our disposal to make maximum kingdom impact. When we speak of culture, we are talking about how we are uniquely shaping and cultivating the raw materials we have been given to work with. Most of the raw materials in churches are very similar, but how we use those materials is what makes us unique. How you use those resources, no matter how limited or abundant, is a reflection of who you are. In that sense we are not just creating, but shaping.
Who is our Core Community?
Every church community has an identity that is specific to them. It resonates from the unique demographic God has placed you in and spreads outward from the unique leadership God has placed in your church, including you. We have to place a high value on this and steward it accordingly.
We identify this community by asking these three questions:
- Who is our Primary Newcomer? Who do we have entering our campus and worship experience? How do they arrive there? What are their core issues, struggles, and spiritual challenges?
- Who is our Primary Attender? Who do we actually have in the seats when we gather to worship? What is their background and history? Why are they connected to our church community? What gives them ownership and what leads them to engage?
- Who is our Primary Target? Who is ?not here yet? that we are actively wanting to reach? What would cause them to resonate with our model of presenting the Gospel? How can we be creative in such a way that, when an invitation is extended and they enter the room, God has the best opportunity to move them??
What are our Core Values?
Your church?s core values are an interpretive lens for your creative process and speak directly to your church?s identity. Though a vision or strategy may change, values rarely do. What we value reveals who we are.[quote]What we value reveals who we are.[/quote]
There is a very real tension every church feels in what they value. Some values are spoken loudly, maybe even printed on our walls. Others are unspoken or felt? and these may actually be at odds with what?s listed on our websites. Craig Groeschel says it best when he says, ?Our values are a result of what we create or what we allow.?
We can either create values or allow them. We can either direct or be directed. We can plot a course or drift at sea.
As culture, worldviews, environments, and spiritual landscapes change, it is vital for churches to fully understand and lean into their unique core values. Like a rudder steering the ship among the constant stream of external influences, our values help us remember who we are.
Does your creative team have a grasp on your church?s values? Or do the unspoken and allowed values dictate your creative flow? Perhaps it?s time for a deep, yet life-giving, discussion on your values and your identity.
If you are in a situation where your team believes the identity needs to begin to shift, let me give you two key give thoughts.
Where can we make Incremental Change?
When I arrived in my current role, I inherited a creative team that would gather to creatively program services and would invariably pitch program ideas, concepts, videos and music that were contrary to who we were. Their desire for ?cool? was blinding them to our core. They had given no thought to our Target, Newcomer, or Attender. Consequently, we were left with only the personal creative agendas in the room with no true direction. And though there were areas needing big change, I chose to facilitate incremental change. This meant bringing small, strategic moves that gradually introduced the desired music and artistic expression in a way that was appropriate and most likely to be well-received.
As the size of your church grows, the impact of any sudden or drastic changes is magnified. Oftentimes, the creatives in the room grow frustrated with the lack of perceived courage by those leading them. However, it is good to remind yourself that we are often leading and navigating at less than a 35,000 foot perspective. If we can grab hold of a wider perspective and understanding of our overall church identity and DNA, it allows us to then better navigate the change we see necessary. Absent of that perspective, we risk making dramatic shifts that endanger the long term sustainability of the church.[quote]As the size of your church grows, the impact of any sudden or drastic changes is magnified.[/quote]
We have to know our identity and create within that identity.
Yes, it is our job to constantly push the envelope, but for the purpose of impact, not just for the sake of innovation. Always being aware of who is actually there, who is actually walking in the door for the first time, helps us avoid the pitfalls of hype over heart. And making small changes over an extended period of time can deliver long term impact.
How can we be Subversively Submissive?
As a part of any church team, ultimately we have a responsibility to submit to the leadership and their director. This is difficult, especially when we have questions about the church?s identity and/or would like to see it change. But if you are not in a position to directly impact that, decide to be submissive?and subversive.
Dave Cowan, our Pastor of Creative Arts, describes it this way, ?If you have vision capacity to see where your organization is versus where it needs to be, learn to be submissive to the powers that be. Yet at the same time, slowly and methodically push your group toward the goal in mind. Slow and incremental change allows one to be submissive to authority, your team, and culture, yet subversive by bringing gradual change. If you bring too much change, you may potentially destroy the load bearing walls of your organization.?
Drastic change may indeed be needed at some point, but that will only be entrusted to those that understand the culture and have a proven track record of submission. A slow drip of incremental change can help get your organization and your team to your ideal future without destroying relationships or trust along the way.
This balance of incremental change while being subversively submissive may just be the mindset your team is missing.
We must understand the unique identity our church currently has, what it reflects to those not yet part, and what it may be longing to be. And then create toward those definitions and destinations.
Look in the mirror. Ask yourself the tough questions about your community, and then shape your environments to lead them toward Jesus.