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The lights go down. The room?s electric. Something amazing is about to happen, and everyone can feel it.

A single spotlight illuminates. The music kicks in. The video plays. It?s a circus of visual and audio spectacle unparalleled by anything in the history of the universe. This is your creative masterpiece?a gift your church will never forget.

Then just as soon as it began, it?s over. The moment is done.

There?s complete silence, but not the awed kind. It?s bored and confused silence. The church didn?t get it. The most creative thing you?ve ever created didn?t connect with the congregation. And now it?s just, well, awkward.

Maybe your story isn?t quite as dramatic as that. Maybe you didn?t spend the next Monday through Thursday crying on the floor of your bedroom in a fetal position. But how do you avoid having something like this happen to you? How can you make sure your next creative efforts actually connect with your congregation? Here are a few ways to ensure the idea actually works.

Run it by a ?non-creative?.

Depending on the makeup of your congregation, there?s a good chance most of the folks in your church don?t put themselves in the ?creative? category. They might feel a bit awkward watching the Holy Spirit dance with Mary in divine conception. It?s not that they are philistines; they just don?t connect with that sort of thing like the professional artists in your church do.[quote]There?s a good chance most of the folks in your church don?t put themselves in the ?creative? category.[/quote]

So when you?re planning your creative idea, grab a few regular Joes from your congregation and see how it connects with them. You might find out you can be more artsy than you thought, or you might need to pull it back a little bit.

Run it by a middle schooler.

I was in a service a few weeks ago where the guest speaker kept mentioning that God?s Word should ?penetrate? our hearts. I?m not proud of this, but I giggled inwardly each time he said it. I even texted my pastor across the church about the guest speaker?s overuse of the word, and saw him giggle each time he heard it afterward.

The word was a valid word. But I sure wish the guest speaker had run his message past his sixth-grader son. He might have realized a word like that wasn?t the best way to ensure a serious reception for his message.

The same thing can happen to us when we?re planning creative elements. That?s why it?s great to run it by an ?immature? mind. Does the chart you?re drawing look like a pair of boobs? Does a word you?re planning to use have an odd sexual connotation? Does that new ministry, in acronym form, spell ?fart?? It?s worth checking.

Make story/emotion the dominant factor.

There are still moments I remember from Sunday School when I was a kid?creative moments of flannelgraph use. Even though this stuff is arguably one of the more mockable technologies we used in our churches, it made an impact on me. The reason is: the whole thing was about a story.

I could visualize the story because the flannelgraph brought it to life. That?s really what artistry and creativity in the church should be about. It should be about bringing out the stories and emotions of the Gospel.

It?s hard to go wrong when you tell a compelling, emotional story. Even if the audio or visuals break down, as long as someone?s telling a story, the moment was successful.[quote]Even if the audio or visuals break down, as long as someone?s telling a story, the moment was successful.[/quote]

Make it personal.

Back to stories?stories work when they?re personal. Too often, it?s easy to tell stories in a newspaper fashion. We hit the factual elements of the story and hope it hits home. But newspaper stories rarely bring the reader to tears or applause.

Instead, it?s the reporters that can show us ourselves in their stories that truly make an impact on us. Even though the story relays facts about someone else, we put ourselves into the details. It becomes about us just as much as it is the subject of the story.

Find the universal truths in whatever you?re telling, then connect those truths to your congregation. That will guarantee connection.[quote]Find the universal truths in whatever you?re telling, then connect those truths to your congregation.[/quote]

Remove your ego from it.

Finally, don?t worry about impressing people with your brilliance. If you do your job well, that will probably be a byproduct. But if that?s the goal in your creative piece, you?re probably going to miss the mark.

When it becomes about ego, it becomes a spectacle. More fire! More lights! More smoke! I?m going to smack the face of everyone in the church with this thing! That sort of thinking won?t benefit anyone.[quote]When it becomes about ego, it becomes a spectacle.[/quote]

Instead, center everything you do on the story. Even if you have one-week, unlimited access to pyrotechnics and U2?s enormous lighting rig, don?t use any of it if it doesn?t help tell the story.

These five things will help you keep your creativity grounded and help it connect with your congregation. And that?s really your goal, isn?t it? You want your hours of planning to reach out and speak to each person in the room. Make sure you keep the audience central, and you?ll be able to do that.

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