We’ve been through the main points and as you come to actual ministering you will no doubt find things that were not covered in this volume. Even in a relatively short book like this one there is a lot of information so to conclude, I decided to break it down into 16 bite-size action steps you can take to minister to the creatives in your care.
1. Meet People Where They Are
2. Know them
This is an essential first step for any ministry. You need to get to know the people. In the case of creatives you need to learn what makes them tick creatively, their personalities and idiosyncracies. Remember this is about more than what they do. It’s about finding out who they are and more importantly, who God made them to be. Creatives are individuals, every one of them is different. Knowing them is essential. Also, since ministering is about connecting people with God it is also extremely important to know where they are in their faith journey.
3. Love Them
It’s all about relationships. Deep down inside, every person needs to know they are loved. The way we who minister to them love them shows them a lot about how God loves them. “They will know you are my disciples by the way you love one another…” remember?
4. Assess Them
This is where we really start to look at the “doing” part of this. Get to know what they like to do, their goals and dreams and where they are on the journey (i.e. skill level, mastery, etc.) This is not about cutting people from a program, because remember everybody gets to play, but this assessment allows you to find the projects that are the best “fit.” This is not necessarily formal assessment but rather looking at what people already create, which leads to number 5.
5. Give Them a Venue to Create
One of the best ways to assess abilities, get to know them, build relationships, etc. is to give them a place where they can freely create. This is not necessarily a formal project, but more likely an open studio type of arrangement. Giving people the opportunity to create freely, connect with others, etc.
6. Create/Find Appropriate Opportunities/Projects
Once you have some idea where your people are at, you can start putting their skills to work. This will take some work because you will want to match people with projects that match their abilities so that they can be as successful as possible. The key word in this sentence is appropriate. Make sure the people match the project and that the project fits its “venue.”
7. Give Them the Parameters in Advance
Nothing frustrates creatives more than rejection. A great way to avoid this is by defining the boundaries in advance. Remind them of the audience of the project, the limitations, the budget, schedule/time frame and in general what’s appropriate for the setting. Knowing the boundaries ahead of time saves time, money, effort and frustration. Boundaries are our friends and they actually help us to be more creative.
8. Allow Them to Be as Creative as Possible
While the parameters are important, it is also important to let creatives create. Give them what they need to know and let them go.
9. Keep Them Accountable
Help your creatives to stay within the parameters. Work with them through the planning process and help them to deliver what they need to deliver when they need to deliver it and help them to work in a way that honors God. Part of what we are doing here is helping people to faithfully serve God and others with our gifts and part of the involves learning to come under authority.
10. Criticize Constructively
Almost nothing works exactly as planned. Creatives tend to put their whole selves into projects and as such tend to take criticism personally. Help them by keeping track of the project, gently guiding them and catching problems while they are easily repairable. Always stay positive and affirm the creative and his or her effort.
11. Create a Safe Place to Fail
Unless you happen to be God, creation involves failure. Ministering to creatives involves allowing failure to be okay so long as we learn from our mistakes. A key to this is knowing people and their abilities and not putting them in too far over their heads. Failure should not be seen as the end but merely the next step on a journey toward success.
12. It’s Okay to Say No to a Project
In ministry we represent God. The last thing we want to do is represent Him as a task master who only cares about what we can do for Him. For this reason it must be okay for someone to say no to a project without guilt. Once again its not about the art, it’s about connecting people to God through their gifts. The relationship with God is more important than getting our projects done. Use a person’s gifts but do not abuse.
13. Low Risk, High Reward
Once again it comes down to what’s appropriate to a person’s skill level. Since we’ve already established that there is a certain level of failure in all creation, it is important to minimize risk. Have a person sketch before they start using the pricy materials. Have them make a poster before a mural. Put them in the chorus before giving them the lead or the solo. Entrust them with a low budget project and allow them to grow into the larger ones. Help them to learn to be faithful in small things before giving them the “keys to the Kingdom.”
14. Honor Their Efforts
Ultimately God gets the glory for everything we do. That being said there is nothing wrong with appropriate praise for a job well done and appropriate praise and appreciation encourages people to keep going and growing. As stated before creatives tend to put their whole heart and soul into projects (Should we give any less when we are doing things in service to the Lord?). Showing appreciation affirms the creative person.
15. Protect Them
There are two old sayings, “Everybody’s a critic” and “Those who can’t do become critics.” While appropriate, constructive criticism can help us grow, the biting criticism of a jerk with an ax to grind can really crush a creative spirit. As a minister to creatives, you need to run interference for the people in your care, have their backs, affirm them and build them back up
16. Teach Them to Honor and Glorify God
This one very likely could have been first on the list, but I put it last with a reminder that this one is overarching. It covers all of life, not just our creative life. Christ followers should do everything they do to honor God, remembering that all we have belongs to God. The question may be asked, what if the person is not a Christ follower. Remember throughout this whole process we are ministering. This is about much more than the arts, we are attempting to connect people to God through the gifts He has given them.
An excerpt from my new book Ministering to the Creative Soul