GUEST CONTRIBUTORS

Why Creativity Matters in the Church

The local church has an opportunity to be uniquely local, to contextualize the gospel and address exactly what our community is struggling with.  

This is precisely why am excited to share a guest post with you today by Gabe Kolstad, "Why Creativity Matters in the Church".

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Enter Gabe. 

A lot of people are talking about creativity in church work right now, and it’s raising some tensions in me (and maybe in you too?). We’ve been haggled on both ends of the creativity spectrum over the years. On the one hand we’ve bought into the rationale that says, “God hasn’t called you to be creative – He’s called you to be effective.” Therefore, copy & paste at will. And on the other hand we resonate with the thinking that says “All ministry is local.” Therefore, creative contextualization is the only way to impact a locality. It’s a tough balance to strike, really. And if you add the complexity that multi-site churches bring to the table, this can be a serious monkey on our backs as leaders.

To get some clarity on this issue for myself, I’ve spent some time wrestling with the purpose behind it all. Why be creative anyway? Why does “creativity” even matter in the church?

A THEOLOGICAL REASON
Zooming out a little, we can look at the big picture by seeing God’s own character and activity since the beginning of time. We call God our “Creator.” And the Bible says He created humans “in His image” (to be like Him in character – Genesis 1:26). So logically we can deduce that if we are not “creating” at some level, we are not in alignment with God’s basic design for our existence. You see this in the task God gave the first humans to assign names to all the animals. Yet He did not give them a list of names. They were to make them up! (Not sure I’d want that job). And while it’s true that on the 7th day God rested from His work, in a way He has never stopped creating since. In fact, even the universe is known to be in a continuous state of expansion. New things are being created every day.

How do we apply that to ministry?

Well, for starters, we can be sure that creativity is OK in the church. It is not a waste of time or money, and it is not simply a means to an end. It is a perfectly valid expression of our worship to God, and also an important reflection of our identity as image-bearers of the Creator.

A PRACTICAL REASON
Thankfully there’s also a practical reason for creativity, and here’s what I believe it is:

Creativity Creates Anticipation.

Especially when applied to something as repetitive as church services. Think about it, we do the same thing 52 times a year. Granted, Major League Baseball has us beat in the number of gatherings per year. But we’re not necessarily trying to compete on that point.

Creativity creates anticipation.
— Gabe Kolstad

If you’re like me, you’re already asking the next question: Why does anticipation matter? And here’s where the lights come on for me. Anticipation matters because we are the delivery system for the most important message in the history of mankind, the Gospel. And if we bore people with the Gospel, we are guilty of the greatest crime humanity has ever experienced. Anticipation creates attention, and if there’s one thing God wants people paying attention to, it’s the Good News.

So…what are we going to do about it?

This post originally appear on Gabe's blog, GabeKolstad.com


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gabe is the Lead Pastor at Westside Community Church in Beaverton, Oregon where he serves with his best friends. He has had the privilege of leading Westside through a number of exciting changes, including growth, expansion, and relocation. You can learn more about the story of Westside in the recent book “Hope For Stuck Churches,” available on Amazon. Gabe is a Certified Trainer with Church Leader Insights and a multi-time Advanced Coaching Alumni with Nelson Searcy. He loves seeing leaders discover their potential, grow, and make a lasting difference.

Gabe is married married to his Jr. High Sweetheart, Melissa, and they have 3 children: Dawson, Caitlin, and Caleb. They love great food, traveling and finding new adventures together.

Gabe's articles and posts can be found at www.gabekolstad.com, www.outreachmagazine.com, and www.churchleaders.com.

 

Leading Well for the Long Haul

The following is a guest post by Larry Osborne. Larry has served as one of the senior pastors at North Coast Church in Vista, CA.  During that time, North Coast has grown from a fledging group of 128 meeting in a rented high school cafeteria to a multi-site church ministering to over 11,000 in weekend attendance.

Larry has written a number of influential books including Sticky Church and Innovation's Dirty Little Secret. Today's post addresses 4 vital skills essential to leading for the long hall. And Larry should know, he's been serving at North Coast for over 30 years. 

In today's post he's giving you the keys to running the marathon. Enjoy. 

Enter Larry. 

Everybody wants to leave a legacy. But the reality is we can’t control the impact or the length of our legacy. We’re prophets to our own generation (Acts 13:36) who serve God, play our role and are gone.

That said, how we live and lead does have an impact on our endurance. Our perspective, the way we love our people, our dependability and our sense of security all directly affect our ability to lead and serve effectively for the long haul.

1.     Maintain Perspective

Don’t take yourself too seriously. We’re just a mist that’s here today, gone tomorrow (James 4:14). When our work is done, God will say, “Next!” and the kingdom will go on quite well without us.

I tell pastors I’m mentoring to simply do your best, then take a nap. Because at the end of the day, all we can do is prepare the horse for battle. Ultimately, the victory or defeat belongs to the Lord (Proverbs 21:30-31).

2.     Love Your People

Solomon said that a throne or leadership position is made safe and secure by two things: love and faithfulness (Proverbs 20:28). These two traits are essential to a lasting leadership run.

The first trait, love, is simply treating those we lead with a 1 Corinthians 13 attitude. This means responding to them with patience and kindness, not being self-seeking or keeping a record of wrongs. Treating the people we lead with this kind of agape love is directly tied to Jesus continuing to show up. When the church at Ephesus lost the agape love that it had at first, all of its passion, hard work and endurance came to naught. Jesus said he would stop showing up if they didn’t repent and go back to loving one another.

3.     Be Dependable

The second trait Solomon extols is faithfulness. We call it dependability today. It means keeping our promises and fulfilling our responsibilities, being someone people can count on.

When we say God is faithful, we mean he keeps his promises. We can count on him. He won’t let us down. A leader who keeps his promises and consistently fulfills his responsibilities is the kind of leader people will gladly follow for the long-term.

4.     Develop a Thick Skin

Servant leadership is a great idea until people begin to treat us like a servant. But that’s exactly the kind of leadership we’ve been called to emulate. Jesus came to serve, not to be served. He said the way to the top was through taking on the role of a servant and the way to the very top was to take on the role of a slave (Matthew 20:25-28).

Leaders who are easily hurt, offended or need oodles of affirmation don’t usually last very long. Their insecurity betrays them. But those who develop a sense of security in Christ respond differently. They learn that it’s a glory to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11) and that forgiving as we’ve been forgiven isn’t a cliché—it’s a command.

As Sam Chand pointed out in his excellent book, Leadership Pain, our leadership is closely tied to our relational pain threshold. Those with thicker skin can keep moving on with God’s greater glory in front of them and the cross behind them. Those with thin skin have to stop and lick their wounds, lash back or go into hiding.

Keep these four vital things in mind as you consider how you’re running the ministry marathon. They’ll help make sure you don’t run out of gas or hit the wall before the race is over.

If your hope is to lead well for the long term, consider joining me at one of our upcoming Sticky Teams conferences. In addition to being a main speaker, I’ll be hosting a special pre-conference session: Leadership For The Long Haul.

I welcome any pastor or ministry leader who is serious about leading well to join us. Learn more about our upcoming Sticky Teams conferences in Lancaster, PA in April and Charlotte, NC in May.

The Two Sides Of Sermon Ghost Writing

Guest post by Chris Colvin, Content Research Consultant, MisterColvin.com.

Here’s what I know – not all pastors love to do research. Even those pastors who are great communicators often get bogged down by research. They’d rather be empowering their staff, casting vision, or discipling their flock. Coming up with original content each week can seem insurmountable. As one pastor put it to me, “A blank page makes me a nervous wreck.”

I learned how to best serve pastors, and in the process discovered my niche. I actually love to do research, and there are more like me out there. As a content research consultant, I help pastors deliver killer original content week in and week out, while also giving them time to spend on what really excites and energizes them.

But as with any job, there are ups and downs. I love doing the one thing I do best, but it can also be a lonely endeavor at times. I spend more time with books than with people most days. It’s great to have a direct impact on literally thousands of people – many more than if I had my own platform. But that also means I don’t get much credit for my work. Much of my work is as a ghostwriter and by definition I’m heard and not seen.

Having a content researcher can easily increase your effectiveness as a pastor. And if you’re one of us who loves to research, it can be a highly rewarding experience as well. If you’re thinking of becoming a content researcher, or if you’re a pastor who’s thinking about hiring one, let me give you a few tips to keep yourself balanced.

If You Want To Be a Content Researcher:

1. Remember, It’s Not About You

As a content researcher, you’ll be privy to the inner-workings of a church. And if you have a strong opinion (like I do) then you’ll likely find yourself disagreeing with a certain decision or philosophy. That’s normal, and that’s okay. But you have to remember that it’s not about you. 

The words you’re writing aren’t really yours; they’re someone else’s. And that person has a specific philosophy, calling, and even style for how they do things. You’re a servant first and foremost, and your own opinions need to be take a backseat. 

2. Don’t Take It Personal

Here’s the deal – you’re going to spend hours on a project, pour your heart and soul into it, wake up at night thinking of the perfect line. You’ll type it up and feel like you’ve created something of significance. You’ll love those words you wrote! And then they’ll get cut. In one quick flick of a red pen, your best words will be reduced to nothing.

That’s okay. Remember it’s not about you. Those aren’t really your words, they’re the pastor’s words. And just because they don’t like that one line doesn’t mean you failed. Just tuck it away for another day or another pastor.

3. Be Flexible

I can’t stress this enough. You have to be willing to do what the pastor asks of you when they ask you. You never know when inspiration will strike you as a writer, but you’re also subject to the pastor’s inspiration as well. I’ve gotten calls while picking up the kids after school, while shopping at the mall, or even on the golf course. Flexibility means I stop and take the call, because the pastor’s voice is so vital to my work.

If you’re thinking of hiring a content researcher:

1. Know Your Sweet Spot

If you’re a pastor, you’re probably a great communicator. In fact, you’re likely the chief communicator at your church. But that doesn’t mean you have to be the best researcher. You hired a children’s pastor, a worship pastor, maybe even someone to oversee missions. Those people were hired because they have expertise outside of your own sweet spot. The same goes for a content researcher. Let them do their thing and they can be a great asset to you.

2. Give Feedback

Let your content researcher know when they’ve hit the mark or when they need a course correction. It’s frustrating to see edits without getting an explanation, or to hear changes in a sermon after the fact without feedback. If you don’t let them know they’re doing a good job, they may be less likely to repeat those wins. And when you end up cutting something, the assumption is they failed when there are other factors involved. Feedback always clears the air.

3. Reward Your Researcher

It’s hard for me to explain to people what I do. Some have actually been offended to hear that a pastor would use a ghostwriter. That means I usually have to keep a low profile. But rewarding your content research doesn’t mean you have to broadcast to your audience who they are and what they do. There are other ways to reward them. One way is to compensate them fairly. Think about how valuable your time is. Now, how much time did they save you because they did the research you had no time or desire to do yourself?

Another way to reward your content research is through contacts. You probably know other pastors who could use the help of a content research as much as you have. Those contacts can mean increased work – and increased compensation – as well as a wider platform. Your researcher probably has other projects on the side, from a blog or a book idea to their own speaking career. Helping them achieve those dreams is a great way for both of you to be rewarded.

Content research doesn’t have to be a chore, and it doesn’t have to be thankless endeavor. The relationship between pastors and researchers can be one of the most mutually beneficial of any in the church. Cultivating those relationships can help the two of you sync up and fulfill multiple goals in half the time. It’s true! Two are better than one.


Chris Colvin is a husband, father, and follower of Jesus. As a Content Research Consultant he helps pastors and communicators make the most of their messages. For over twenty years he’s worked in churches of all sizes and shapes across the US and overseas. His motto is “turning thoughts into words into actions.” You can find him online at MisterColvin.com.