When I first received the request asking me to write an article on how to get pastors and leaders to stop micromanaging the artist, my first reaction was to politely decline—for a couple of reasons.

  1. I’m still figuring out how to do that.
  2. Sometimes I’m that leader.

This isn’t an easy issue to tackle—like I said, I’m still working on it—because the person that’s micromanaging doesn’t work for you. They either work with you or you work for them. That makes for a tricky dance. You don’t want to show disrespect and you want them to see you as an asset. But micromanaging is a heavy trap that can often run artists out of the church; and you want to use your gift to create great art.

Micromanaging is a heavy trap that can often run artists out of the church

The First Step

The first step in your role in squashing this beast is to understand that your goal is not great art. It is to move people with your art in a way that connects people to your pastor’s vision.

From the offset, it is important to realize one thing: no one sets out to micromanage. Micromanaging you is not the goal. They are not trying to stifle you, belittle your value and skillset, or slow things down. Of course, the micromanager doesn’t realize that all of those things do in fact happen when the artist isn’t allowed to flow within their gifts.

No one sets out to micromanage.

Micromanagement Cause #1: Ignorance

Note: the word ignorance isn’t used to mean your pastor is unintelligent. Ignorance in this context means they are uninformed.

Whoever is micromanaging you may very well think they are helping you by telling you what they are looking for. They don’t want to waste your time having you create something that’s red when they are really looking for something purple.

If the level of micromanagement is heavy enough, this may mean a difficult conversation explaining how it makes you feel and what it does to the process when you are micromanaged.

Listen to what they say—not looking at it like you’re being micromanaged, but rather helping them get their idea out of their head. Verbalize what they are asking for. Ask a qualifying question: “What is it about purple that resonates with you and this idea?” Then thank them for their answer and ensure them that knowing that is helpful with the process, even if purple doesn’t come out as the final result.

Micromanagement Cause #2: Lack of Trust

You have history with the person that is coming across heavy-handed. Maybe that history is short, meaning they haven’t worked with you enough to trust you. Or maybe it means you’ve worked together for a while and your work hasn’t always been on point.

The solution is easy to understand: do great work. But it isn’t as easy to get to sometimes. It starts with listening, which requires you to quiet your creative mind down long enough to hear and catch their vision. If you’re already moving into ideas, seeing pictures, and imagining styles, you’re moving too fast to get into pace with what your pastor is trying to accomplish.

Once you’ve done this, you now need to lead by trusting them first. Don’t just write down the order for the new series and start working. Create a collaborative environment. That means working with them. Include them in your brainstorming by sending them over images or sketches you’ve gathered to find the right style/tempo/feel and ask for their feedback. This will tell them that you are on the same team—that you are their advocate.

Create a collaborative environment.

I skip this step all the time because we are juggling hundreds of projects. I use the excuse of time. But when I slow down enough to include this as part of our process, everything typically goes so much smoother and the end result is better. Even more importantly, relationships are created/restored.

If you try this, and it still doesn’t work—for instance, you are working with someone with some control issues—show them you understand what they understand by verbalizing it. Then, out loud, ask them to trust you, reemphasizing that you too want this to be amazing.

Remember, you’re goal isn’t to create great art. Your goal is to move people with your art in a way that connects people to your pastor’s vision.

Your goal is to move people with your art in a way that connects people to your pastor’s vision.

A final note to the micromanager.

(Yes, sometimes that’s me.)

When I micromanage I not only create more, often unnecessary, work for myself, but I also hurt the process and the artists I’ve been called to lead.

When I micromanage I not only create more, often unnecessary, work for myself, but I also hurt the process and the artists I’ve been called to lead. I may be blocking the way for something great and allowing God’s gift to shine through them. Often times, I need to get out of the way and allow the artist to create. It may not be the way I would have done it, but I have to ask if it accomplishes the task. It’s the messy mix of being a manager and a leader at the same time. I’m not going to lower my standards, but I need to allow someone else’s vantage point take the lead.

The final result may even be better than the way I would have done it.