Many times in ministry, we are called by God to work alongside people with completely different personalities, passions, drives, triggers, and methods to ourselves. Such is the blessing of diversity within the Church.
However, we have all been in situations where our differences become stumbling blocks to ministry, as we seek to work effectively and productively with the team God has raised around us. So, how do we leverage our strengths and build our weaknesses to allow effective team building on our creative service teams in our churches? Here are some pointers that may be useful, derived from Rory Noland (Heart of the Artist ministries):
1. Be gentle to your artists.
The very process of creativity involves vulnerability. Artists who care deeply about their craft wear their heart on their sleeve each time they play, act, design, present or write. In terms of their craft, this is where passion and power comes from. However, in terms of interpersonal relationships, there is potential for great hurt, disappointment and discouragement.
- Ask questions that mine the depth of feeling or thought behind the artform ie: “how did you feel when you wrote that?” or “what do you think is powerful about this piece?”
- Listen attentively, without trying to solve problems. Many creatives value the process of working through feelings and attitudes on their way to an answer. Don’t take away from them the process of working this through in their own time. Provide a listening ear, and feedback in your own words what you are hearing them saying.
- Be mindful that judgements or opinions about their art may in fact be taken personally. Ensure that criticisms are always constructive, and be careful to encourage the artist, especially if you are critiquing the art.
2. Love your artists, and encourage them to love each other.
Creative people develop a deep love for their craft, but it is important that they are encouraged to love the people more than the artform. This is important in building a sense of community within your artists. Model this by valuing the artist above their art.
- Make a point of telling them that you value them (for more varied reasons than just their artistic contribution). Encourage them to do the same with fellow artists, to build community.
- Take an interest in their work. Even if you don’t quite understand it, try to give compliments that reveal a little of your emotional response to the work. Ask them what they were feeling/thinking as they created it.
3. Exhort your artists.
It is important that artists are continually encouraged towards developing both creative skill and Godly character. Excellence (Doing the best you can with what God has given you) is dependant upon artists growing in both skill and character.
- Never let character issues slide. Many a creative person within the church has suffered catastrophic falls because character issues have been allowed to persist unquestioned and unattended. When this happens, there are three levels of fall-out: The artist themselves, their family & friends, and everyone who has ever been touched by their artistic craft. Speak the truth in love, and continually encourage your artists to walk close to Christ.
- Many artists are powerfully motivated by the concept of development of their craft. Ask this powerful question: “What is the next step for you creatively? Spiritually?”. If it is within your power to provide them with the resources to achieve the next step, do it!
- Set firm boundaries for conduct and clear expectations for the role of the art-form in your congregations. Whilst this may sound counter-intuitive, without a set of constraints to guide the creative process, many artists will simply flounder in unproductivity.
4. Encourage your artists, both in success and failure.
In many cases, there is no objective measurement of the success of a creative work, so it is of the utmost importance that we find ways to encourage our artists, in both success and failure.
- Honour artists for their good work in front of other artists, wherever possible.
- Share stories often of how their art has been used in transformation, or stories that share of the power of the emotional response to their art. Personal stories are best.
- Balance constructive criticism with positives. If the artist has failed on this occasion, try to find something positive to praise – perhaps the underlying technique, the work ethic, the passion demonstrated, the willingness to take risks etc.
5. Charge your artists to walk with Christ.
It is of the utmost importance that we encourage our artists’ connection with the church to be more than artistic. We need to encourage connection – with you, with the rest of the team, and with Christ!
- Maintain group devotional times in rehearsals.
- Ask your artists to share what God is teaching them.
- Engage in conversations with your artists about the spiritual truths behind their art.
A final note to those of you who are involved in utilizing the creative work of others in worship. You are the curators of the art-form, not administrators of the worship experience. No art gallery curator would display paintings or sculpture without first understanding both the life of the artist and the nuances of this particular creative piece. Only then would the curator know how best to display and promote the piece of art. The same is true of us in the church.
If you take the time (just a few minutes) to walk deeply with your artists, and to talk to them about their perspective of the work they have created, you will be able to use it in much more powerful ways.