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Daniel Threlfall is mar­ried to Keren, and they have three children. Daniel lives in South Carolina, blogs at www.danielthrelfall.com, and works for Sharefaith.com, a church media and solutions company.
I’ve never thought of myself as the creative type. I’m not exactly the kind of guy who’s going to invent light bulbs or design Eiffel towers. If there were such a thing as a creative gene, I think I missed out.

Thankfully, there is no such thing as a creative gene, but there is such a thing as being creative. Unfortunately, being creative usually seems to us elusive, mysterious, and maybe not that big of a deal. After all, for those of us in ministry, what’s creativity got to do with preaching, teaching, or worshiping?

I would suggest that creativity is a big deal, even for—nay, especially for—those of us who live and labor in communicating the absolute truth and God’s revelation. Let me suggest a few reasons why creativity is so important and then tackle the tough question—how do we become more creative?

5 Reasons Why Creativity Is Insanely Important

  1. Creativity is part of our mandate as image bearers. For all the ink spilled over the “cultural mandate” of Genesis 1:28, we easily overlook a crucial component of the mandate—creativity. Man, as God’s image-bearer (Gen. 1:26-27), is a creative being. Cultivating this creativity is part of conformity to God’s image.
  2. Creativity enables us to apply biblical truths to contemporary situations. The Scripture is our absolute authority Anything that enables us to connect biblical truth to daily life is to be valued. Sometimes applying Scripture is straightforward and obvious. Other times it takes creative thinking to bring the truth to bear upon everyday life.
  3. Creativity illuminates our communication. Creative speakers are interesting and engaging. Speaking, as a form of art, gives you a lot of room for creativity. Creativity is the difference between a boring speaker and an engaging speaker.
  4. Creativity improves our problem-solving. Problems demand solutions, and solutions require creativity. If we continue to approach our problems with worn-out attempts at solutions, we should not be surprised when we fail. On the other hand, when we face our problems with the freshness of creativity, successful solutions will emerge.
  5. Creativity enhances our leadership and our ability to minister to others. Creativity is demanded of leaders. Our ability to point the way forward and to encourage people to follow is partly dependent upon our creative ability. Motivation, insight, vision, decision-making, problem-solving—all the traits we associate with leaders—are improved by creativity. Creativity, in other words, is essential for effective leadership.

When applying the Bible, communicating truth, solving problems, and leading others, creativity helps you do it better. For many of us, this is the stuff of our lives. We would do well to improve our creativity.

How to Become More Creative

“Who, me? Creative?” (Sniff. Snicker. Ha.)

Laugh if you want, but you can become more creative. And if the above statements are true, you should try to become more creative. One of the greatest forms of stewardship you can exercise is the stewardship of your mind, and being more creative is part of that stewardship.

We’ve been duped into the belief that creativity is subject to the whims of fickle muses who sometimes bless us with a “flash of insight” but, more often than not, just leave us in the dark. Actually, as Jonah Lehrer argues in his book Imagine, creativity can be controlled, enhanced, and developed. Here are some suggestions for doing so.

  1. Welcome the challenge. Creativity emerges when we face a problem. Why else would there be a need for creativity? Sadly, we often give up on the Gordian knot when our fingers get tired—before our creativity is unleashed and the problem is solved. Problems are the soil for the seeds of creativity, and confronting those problems is the only way to grow the fruit of creativity.
  2. Change your routines. Surprises have the power to spark creativity. As the cliche goes, we are creatures of habit, but habits can kill creativity. Break the stultifying monotony by busting out of your normal patterns. Drive a different way to work. Read a different author. Listen to a different genre of music. Brush your teeth with cinnamon-flavored toothpaste instead of minty fresh. Mow your lawn in a different pattern. Whatever. Just do something different. Creativity isn’t sparked merely by a change in toothpaste flavor but by the unexpected twists of “different” in our lives.
  3. Stop being so busy. Albert Einstein said, “Creativity is the residue of time wasted.” We too easily conflate busyness with spirituality. In truth, however, being overly busy can be a spiritual liability. (Brush up on Luke 10:38-42.) At the very least, being too busy can put the kibosh on a creative moment. Intentional “boredom” may allow room for creativity to flourish.
  4. Don’t try to brainstorm or focus. Instead, just take a break. There’s this myth about focus—that if we focus long enough or hard enough, the answer will eventually emerge. In actuality, you may be so focused on the wrong thing that you never look up to see the right thing. Focus is helpful for most projects, but creative tasks don’t call for obstinate head-banging exertion; they call for a release of neurons firing in a different direction. Release; then reengage with greater creativity.
  5. Talk a walk…or a bath, or something like that. One reason why episodes of creativity are described as “aha moments,” “lightbulb moments,” or “flashes of insight” is because they often come all of a sudden. Usually, such moments occur when we’re relaxed and somewhat distant from the problem. What helps you relax and get away from the problem? A hot shower? A casual drive in the mountains? A brisk walk around the block? Although we’re taking a break from the project, our mind is still working on it. That walk around the block may be your greatest creative moment.
  6. Sip coffee with other creatives. In the rugged individualism of our American culture, we may tend to do Lone Ranger ministry. If you want to be creative, you’ll need help from others. Bring into your circle of conversation people who are unlike you. A collective of people of different ages, different careers, different socioeconomic situations, and different ethnicities is fertile ground for creativity. People who have nothing to do with the problem or issue may bring blindingly brilliant ideas. Oh, and the sipping coffee part? Caffeine may help creativity.
  7. Keep your mind active, engaged, interested, and sharp. Your mind is where the creativity emerges. It’s important to read books, talk to people, keep up with blogs, and do your own share of writing and thinking. Active minds are creative minds.

Employing these techniques won’t make you feel like you’re oozing with creativity. Creativity, after all, isn’t a feeling; it’s a thinking. You may not sense a euphoric rush of inspiration, but you may experience a gentle growth of creativity.

As Christian creatives, it is important that we not neglect God’s enabling grace in the realm of creativity. We can become so excited by tips and tricks for amping up our creativity that we depend on ourselves rather than upon God for creativity and mental insight. Creativity is a gift of the Creator, and we must remain dependent upon Him in our pursuit of creativity.

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18 thoughts on “Why Creativity Is Important for Ministry, and How to Do It”

  1. Good post. I am not a very creative person myself. But I think being creative is so important to the Christian ethos, that I’ve committed to making creativity and art a part of my blogging routine.

    Can I add to your list: sometimes we need to stop take other peoples challenges. Stop striving to be record breakers. Because we’ll never be creative if we keep on following in the footsteps of someone else. Rather than finding a category and striving to set a new record, we should seek to invent or create a whole new category, and be the best at it.

    Creative people are not followers.

    1. Good points, Derek. I like your statement, “being creative is so important to the Christian ethos.”

  2. John says:

    Can creativity lead to idolatry? Wasnt creativity an impetus behind the second commandment? Just some questions for thought.

    1. Mary Smith says:

      creativity was what God used when He created the universe. He has allowed us to have and use a small portion of His abilities. Creativity is just like everything else God has given us, and that is to use it properly as He instructs us in His Word. Everything we do should be in the confines of God’s Word. Even the seven motivational gifts are terribly abused out in the world! So all things God has given us can be abused or used properly the way He meant for us to use them.

    2. Yonaton says:

      In essence, idolatry is worshiping something other than God. Can you worship creativity? Yes, if it is how you define yourself and find your life’s meaning. Can your worship the results of creativity? Yes, if you define yourself by the creative work you’ve done. But can creativity be used in a healthy context by which to glorify God and advance His Kingdom? Absolutely. You just have to make sure you’re being creative with, for, and because of God, not yourself. This article was probably written with that viewpoint in mind. Now go, be creative, and glorify God.

      1. Mary Smith says:

        To Yonaton – Good post! Great explanation.

      2. John says:

        Those are both good responses.

      3. Very helpful and instructive comments, Yonaton. Thanks!

  3. Mary Smith says:

    Wow! Thank you for this great article! SO-O-O important to be creative, a gift that God has shared with us. Couldn’t help thinking of how important creativity is in relationships, especially marriage where things can get pretty stale. For some it comes naturally, others have to work at it by getting ideas and hints from others. An example of no creativity is a personal experience with trying to help someone create interest in her marriage. I suggested she fix a nice dinner and put on a pretty tablecloth, use stemware, use flowers and/or candles, folded napkins, etc., and serve her family a special meal. Her answer? “I cook and serve them dinner every night” – never a thought of the special effects!! Incredible! But that is the way non-creative people are, even in ministry. Boring!! Not a day goes by that I don’t do several creative and interesting things for my husband and also for my grown kids. We find so many churches and ministries that are lack-luster because of tired routine. I believe that many Christians do not think outside the box enough to even get out and share the Gospel! Get creative any way you can!!! Makes all the difference!

    1. So true, Mary. Creativity is a tool that we can and should use in every facet of life — relationships no less than ministry.

  4. David Van Lant says:

    “…Creativity Is ‘Insanely’ Important” Not that creative. What does this even mean?

    1. Daniel says:

      Good catch, David. :-) The “insanely” expression is a shout-out to Steve Jobs, known for his “insanely great” quotes and through-the-roof creativity.

  5. Great post! Being a christian doesn’t only mean being knowledgeable it also includes helping yourself to be more creative for God’s glory.

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