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The Role of a Creative Director: Creating in the Name of the Lord

In this second of three parts about the role of a creative director, one must not forget worship is not about how skilled we are, but about our task of leading people into fellowship with God.

To read the first part of this series, which posted to the site on Friday, February 22, please click the following link for "Creative Direction in God’s Image, Part 1."

God is creative. People rush. God provides material, order and timing, as He provided for David and Solomon building the temple. Yet even His servants can become impatient and lose sight of whose church it is, anyway. David reminded his son the temple ultimately would be built “in the name of The Lord.”

To organize teams of people (especially volunteers), establish ministry structures, and continually engage in feedback, knowing when “to be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry,” is invaluable.

In assembling personnel, resources and preparing programs for corporate worship, there’s a danger of being so driven by schedules, enamored of toys, focused on numbers and being “liked,” that we can become misguided, forgetting worship is not about how skilled we are, but about our task of leading people into fellowship with God.

This is why when seeking to hire a creative director, there are intangibles that may override the bullet-pointed resume keywords, such as “visionary” or “B.S., M.A., PhD.” An assortment of creative directors and pastors will attest to the most valuable intangibles.

Greg Saffles, previously a creative director for Shoreline Church in Knoxville, Tenn., and also contributing writer for Worship Tech Director, said on this topic, “There's no set of rules or a copied-and-pasted job description that applies to creative directors. No matter where they come from, though, the role of the creative director is ultimately about people.”

Nalinee Barrett, Creative Manager of Full Gospel Assembly in Singapore, concurred. “I studied nothing (worship-related) pursuant to this gig. Leading teams, winning people over, casting vision, production planning … these are all things I am learning on the job,” she said. “Eighty percent of this job is talking to people.”

Allen D. Edge, actor, pastor and author, emphasizes that today’s worship artisans are worshippers in the order of Old Testament Levites, charged with bringing excellence into worship.

“Regardless of the present-day trends and fads in and out of our church, God is the same,” said Edge. “When we execute our art, we must constantly ask ourselves, does it express God’s desire for harmony with mankind?”

Which brings us to the first intersection of practical skills and intangible qualities.

1. Create and Maintain Order in Ministry Structures

A companion story outlines six primary responsibilities of a creative director, based on biblical examples. The first was creating and maintaining order in ministry structures.

There are two types of order the creative director must maintain: operations and people.

For “operations,” it involves establishing structures for how ministry is to be done. This may include establishing deadlines, procedural manuals and ongoing training. It’s not the creative director’s role to do all of these, but to obtain personnel (ministry leaders) to do them and managing their teams.

For “people,” that means keeping in mind the implementation of structures which will involve the responses of sinners, saved by grace and potential intervention by The Enemy.

The larger the ministry, the more potential intervention.

The smaller the ministry, the more unpredictable the attack.

To organize teams of people (especially volunteers), establish ministry structures, and continually engage in feedback, knowing when “to be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry,” is invaluable.

Managing conflict is a second intangible.

Take Nalinee Barrett’s case, as an illustration. Barrett oversees approximately 40 people serving across nine ministries during two services that attract up to 300 people each weekend. That means recruiting nine team leaders who will recruit and train, etc. 

Potential exists but can be averted through The Word.

Paul spent ample time teaching diverse congregations in Corinth about order in worship.  “God is not a god of disorder, but of peace,” he wrote, “as in all the congregations of The Lord’s people.”

A creative director may take Paul’s approach, for a downfall in countless ministries is failure to establish written procedures, behavioral guidelines and training opportunities.

It’s not necessary for the creative director to create rules or be legalistic. However, by encouraging each ministry team to collaborate on creative guidelines, the ministry operates smoother and is more attractive to newcomers.

In addition to operations guides, Barrett adds the personal personnel touch.  “My goal this year is to embrace the team,” she said. “Get better with knowing the individuals in the team and providing pastoral care for them more.”

2. Enable Recruiting, Developing and Training Personnel

“Being a church creative director is largely about gathering talent,” said Len Wilson, author and Creative Director at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas, and also a contributor to Worship Tech DIrector.

To gather talent, the creative director should help establish a basic template for volunteers to express their gifts, hobbies and interests, then connect with small group and hospitality ministries to brainstorm where newcomers may begin serving.

The creative director should be an astute observer and active listener in seemingly casual conversations. People often drop hints about serving or mention abilities they haven’t thought of using for God.

An often overlooked source is Student Ministries, the age group best attuned to rapid changes in technology, especially social media. Teens often feel alienated by adults or left to “do their thing” in their part of the building. Inviting teens into serving the mainstream church is an opportunity to disciple them, find new avenues of sharing the gospel, and build a sustainable ministry.

Personnel variety aligns with Paul outlining of spiritual gifts, and Wilson encouraging intentional recruitment. “Most churches ask their creatives to do everything,” he said. “…and not for lack of resources, but for lack of good vision and lack of good systems.”

SEE MORE: Does Your Ministry Have a Farm System?

3. Allow the Pastor to Concentrate on Preaching, The Worship Leader on Music

It’s one thing to recruit volunteers. It’s another thing to keep and develop them, especially when volunteers are from different generations, cultural or denominational backgrounds. The variables can lead to conflict – which is simply a difference of ideas and needs.

Although Jesus gave instructions on how to manage strife between believers, and Paul cautioned the Ephesians about lingering anger, few people are actually taught how to manage emotions in conflict. We tend to run from it, become personally confrontational, or vent socially.

Artistic conflicts can emanate from “creative differences,” the kind which have broken up many famous performing groups (can you say, “The Beatles?”), but worse, have driven wedges between pastor and worship leader, worship leader and musicians, musicians and tech…that linger, removing joy from serving and turning hopefuls from the gospel. A pastor or worship leader may be asked to intervene, but such interventions distract from their preparation and execution of God’s work.

Anticipating such problems, a savvy creative director creates avenues for open communication. Consensus-driven written guidelines minimize subjectivity. Regular conversations are helpful, not only to plan, but also to air issues that may interfere with ministry.

Noting that many church worship issues surround styles of music, Edge, writing in “The Levite Today,” emphasized, “God has only one song that is sung from Genesis to Revelation: It is ‘Tabernacle.’ Does the end result of your art promote oneness with God and establish His kingdom principles in the mind and heart of those who experience it?”

Such an atmosphere keeps people: serving and coming.

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