A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them. – Liberty Hyde Bailey
In my previous post I talked about developing a personal process to channel your creativity. The same principles apply to church creative processes. When working in a church creative team, whether that’s just you or a whole bunch of folks, it’s necessary to plan for creativity. Putting parameters and deadlines together is much like cultivating a garden. You have to set up boundaries, watering schedules, prune, fertilize, rinse and repeat. Eventually, with a little sunshine, you get some great produce! Over the past couple of years we have worked hard to refine our church creative process. Though it felt a little unnatural at first, we grew to embrace it as it has helped us create some amazing things.
Our church’s creative planning process is as follows:
Yearly Sermon Planning
Once a year, in August, our entire ministry staff meets at our lead pastors house to pray over our congregation. We ask that the Holy Spirit bring to mind the needs of our people and what things should be covered in our sermons over the next year. We split into groups and brainstorm, after which we gather and present our ideas to the group.
Follow up meeting: I meet with the Preaching Team a couple of weeks later to go through the ideas and put them on the calendar for the next year. It’s during this meeting that we assign researchers to each series who will be responsible for writing sermon summaries.
Part 1 – Sermon Summaries Meeting
Time Frame – 2 Weeks prior to Creative meeting
People – Preaching Team, Director of Worship Arts, Design Coordinator
Three months prior to start of season (Winter, Summer, Fall) we start the design process. The preaching team members have been assigned series to research and have spent time crafting summaries which they will present at the meeting. The summaries have to answer several questions:
What are the series texts?
What is the one thing that people need to know?
Why do people need to know it?
What do people need to do?
We spend a good amount of time asking questions, distilling content, and honing in on what is being communicated in each series.
Part 2 – Creative Meeting
Time Frame – 3 months prior to the start of new season
People – Director of Worship Arts, Design Coordinator, Creative team of Artists, Musicians, Graphic Designers, Techs, Videographers, etc.
I must confess that these are some of my favorite meetings of the year. We invite groups of creatives from the congregation to gather for a brainstorming meeting where no idea is a bad idea and there is no editing. We get creative about these three different areas:
Visual Art: What will the branding look like? What are the best images that will tie to the stage design and web graphics? Do these translate well to video? How can we marry those 3 important elements without compromising any one aspect? Are there any unique marketing techniques we could use?
Songs: What songs could work for each series? Worship songs, specials, etc.
Special Creative Elements: What can we do that is unique? What creative ways can we incorporate scripture? Video? Testimony? Drama? Dance? Web? Signage? Call to action? Crazy concepts?
Note: We quickly realized that these meetings could not happen during regular work hours and often worked well in a non-formal environment such as a home or restaurant/pub.
It’s during this stage that various teams are tasked with the development of creative ideas. Videographers are setting up shoots and Set Designers are drawing up plans. Worship Leaders are putting together singing sets, scriptures, and transitions. Graphic Designers are working on series artwork. It takes strong leaders on each team to ensure that the planning is happening within the allotted time frame.
During implementation people are making things happen. This includes rehearsals, video shoots, and set design days. There is a plethora of communication going on through email, Planning Center Online schedules, hallway conversations, phone calls, and meetings. This is where everything starts to come together.
- Various check-ins on the status of projects
- Evaluation and Prep Meetings:
- People: Preaching Team, Director Of Worship Arts, Hosts
- 2 weeks prior – Director of Worship Arts reports to team about their involvement and the run down of the service
- Week of – Director of Worship Arts goes through any last minute details and ensures everyone is on the same page
Day of Service
This is game day! It includes the run-through and service itself. All people involved in the worship service are required to be there for the run-through. We’ve learned that we need to start our run-through early enough so as not to cause stress if it runs a little long. People won’t mind getting there a little earlier if it means a more anxiety free morning. It also helps to go through the service as if there is a crowd in the room. This allows the team to work out all the kinks before hand and become more comfortable in their communication and delivery.
Note: It helps to have a mid-morning check in with those involved in the service. That way if there is something that needs to be fixed, it can be addressed before the start of the next service. There is no need to replicate a potential distraction.
The final step is evaluation and generally happens the following Tuesday. When evaluating it is important to build a culture of celebration before critique. We do this by looking for all of the God moments that may have happened across our campus and through our people. Spend some time with this and don’t rush it. When you evaluate the effectiveness of the rest of the service, everyone in the room must know you have their best interest at heart before you speak. This enables honest conversations without fear of destroying relationships.
- Weekly Evaluation and Preparation meetings
- God moments
- Walk through the flow of the service:
- What went well: Are there teams, groups, or elements that worked really well? Assign someone to follow up with them.
- What could use improvement? Did anything hinder or distract? Assign someone an action item to follow up.
Question: What does your church do to inspire creativity?