I have often found in the past that the people I lead either don’t think of themselves as creative or struggle to be creative. This is not true of everyone, but it is true of many—and definitely true of me. This becomes a problem when you want to ensure that your ministry is not stagnating. When you become complacent in your ministry and do the same programs and activities “because that’s what we have always done”, then your ministry will fail to cater to changes in culture.
I am not saying that you need to change the gospel, nor that people should come for and stay for your activities/programs. However, no program is perfect, and there are always some aspects that could be improved: pastoral care, welcoming, activities, etc. So how then do you promote creativity in your team?
There are many activities you can use to promote creativity and get fresh ideas, but my favourite I call ‘Little Bobby’s perfect day’, though Lee Cockerell calls it the ‘Rogers family’. This is an activity Cockerell, a former executive for Walt Disney World Resort, instituted for the hospitality staff at Disney’s hotels and theme parks.1 Whatever you think of the Disney juggernaut, anyone who has stayed at a Disney hotel will often talk about the high-quality customer service.
The activity was simple. Cockerell wrote down the perfect day for the Rogers family visiting Disney World. He included everything, from when they first bought their admission ticket to when they return to their room to sleep. There were two reasons why Lee did this activity. First, he wanted to be crystal clear on what he wanted guests to experience on entering the park. Secondly, he wanted his teams to understand their role in making each family’s day special.
These two reasons alone are adequate motivation for writing this down. Clarifying what you want your ministry to look like and then clearly expressing it to your team are helpful things to achieve. But how does this activity promote creativity in your team? Well, if you change the activity from being written and individual to oral and collaborative, the benefits also change.
I have found that you can discuss ‘Little Bobby’s perfect day’ with your team to critically examine why you do what you do and to think of new ways to achieve your goals. Essentially it is a creative and tangible way of creating a vision for your ministry and helping your team to own it. Here is an example from my youth team:2
Me: What is the first thing a student does when they arrive for youth group?
Joe: They and their parents are welcomed by a leader at the gate.
Me: Great! Why do we do this?
Mary: To make the students feel welcome and special, and to make the parents feel at ease.
Me: Is there a way we could do this better? How could we better put parents at ease and make students feel welcomed?
Steven: We could have a parent’s corner on outreach nights where we offer hot drinks and an older leader to talk to if the parents have any questions.
Sally: We could make a red carpet for them to walk down so that they feel important.
You get the idea. You do not have to do the whole ministry all in one meeting; in fact, I recommend that you don’t as it could take well over an hour with all the ideas that your team will come up with.
Now you may find that people are slow to share or that the activity falls flat the first time. There are two ways to avoid this. First, bring your own ideas to share. This makes you vulnerable, and if you are willing to be vulnerable then your team will be too.
Secondly, you need to create a safe environment for your team to share ideas. You can do this by encouraging people to share their ideas, no matter how wild. You also need to respond positively to new ideas. We can sometimes be afraid of new things, and in meetings this manifests itself as pointing out the difficulties associated with them. If this is you, you must fight the urge with every fibre of your being, because you need to protect new ideas like they’re babies. Ideas, like the ugly duckling, often don’t look pretty in their infancy, but with protection and nurturing they can become something beautiful.3
Finally, a word of caution about activities such as these. Whilst they are incredibly helpful, you must not lose sight of why you are doing them. You want people to hear about Jesus, and care for them as best you can. The outcomes of this activity must never become what you advertise to prospective church goers or youth group students. Always ensure that the gospel is the focus of your invitation, not the program. People may come for the program or their friends, but we should always be upfront about the gospel focus of what we do: “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor 4:5).
1. Lee Cockerell, The Customer Rules, Crown Business, New York, 2013, pp.42-46.↩
2. All names have been changed.↩
3. Craig Hamilton, Wisdom in Leadership, Matthias Media, Sydney, 2015, pp. 197-202.↩