I am a big fan of the creative process, I always have been.
I love gathering with other ‘creatives’ and throwing ideas back and forth, dreaming and scheming to find the best way to tell the story. Chasing rabbits and finding dragons in clouds is one of my favorite past times.
In the creative process, it is very easy, especially when surrounded by other creatives, to come up with some really amazing concepts, that if not careful, make no sense. Don’t get me wrong - they are brilliant ideas…but without proper communication and bridges, something gets lost in translation.
Creatives have to remember that all people often see is the final product, not the process. So while something might make perfect sense in a brainstorming session, how many ideas from the original did it take to get there? If it is too many, chances are, the idea won’t translate. Often, creatives over create. Church is not an art gallery (although that would be awesome). It isn’t filled with people wanting to experience something abstract or inspiring, it is filled with people needing to encounter God, and if your creative moment does not have enough bridges, they will not only not understand it, chances are it will not point them to the cross. The creative process must always keep in mind, how will this translate?
Tricks to making sure it translates…
Unfortunately, as most things in life, I’ve learned this the hard way. But it is a great, and necessary, lesson to learn. Creativity means nothing if no one understands it.
If I hear one more person say “I am not creative!” I may just slap them. I think it is absolutely absurd to say that you are not creative – you may just not know how to unleash it. Here’s my thought – everyone is creative! You are made in God’s image, and He’s the ultimate Creator, so some of that must have rubbed off on you (I’m not sure how theologically sound that is, but it makes sense in my head).
You are creative, you just don’t know it yet. Think about children. You can put a kid alone in a room with a box and they can have more fun than a “Tickle Me Elmo” (seriously, those things are fun!)! It’s because the mind is creative. What happened is that one day some stuffy adult told you to stop playing with your food or to color between the lines. So slowly, your creative mind was repressed, and you learned what was proper. To be creative, you have to be willing to stop caring about what others think, and just do! Creativity comes from not accepting the first thing that comes to mind, not just accepting what something was designed to be and allow it to become something else. Thinking creatively is a lot like a late night conversation with great friends. You know that amazingly blissful moment when you are surrounded by people you can be completely be yourself around, and say or do anything, and laugh at everything? Creative thinking is similar. You need to get in a mindset that no matter what comes out of your mouth, it’s ok. Even if it is a horrible idea, it can lead to a great one! So pick something up and use it for something other than it’s original design. Rethink the process in a way that has never been done before. Ignore the person telling you to color between the lines!
For a long time there was a tension in my home. I felt called to ministry, and my dad didn’t want me to be in ministry. At first, this made me angry. Who was he to tell me what to do with my life? How dare he say that because I was a girl I couldn’t do it! Why did he hate me so much?! Granted, I was a teenager who disagreed with everything my dad said, and felt like he was constantly against me. Now, after hearing his heart, I understand his reasoning. Like most parents, my dad thought I was a one-in-a-million, a female genius/creative/effective/diligent/talented/etc. person who could make a butt-load of cash doing anything I wanted. He thought that in ministry I would never get the chance I deserved as a female, and I could make a lot more money doing something else. Maybe he was right.
As someone who has recently taken on a huge responsibility in ministry, I am constantly fighting fears and insecurities. I’m pretty sure that this garbage is coming from the devil, because, well…he’s a jerk. A lot of them come back to me being a girl, and this is pretty unusual for me. Girls are known as being emotional, relational, and complex multi-tasking creatures. This exact thing is what you would think would be great for ministry, right? It turns out that sometimes the thing that makes me great at my job also hurts me. In a field that has been painted like a ‘he-man woman haters club’ in my mind, I am quick to fall for the lie. I am a part of one of the most modern churches around, one with little (or no) politics, and an environment that I have been welcomed and embraced as an equal among my peers, the devil has flooded my thoughts with lies…”it’s ‘cause you’re a girl.” While yes, I am a girl, there has yet to be a time where I was excluded or missed out on things because I am a girl. And even if there were, who cares?! I am called to do middle school ministry. It is my job to do middle school ministry. Anything outside of that is all fluff. So while I may get emotional when I hear the lie or feel left out or misinterpret situations and read too much into them (another “wonderful” female trait), I have learned that my emotional distress is the cause of a liar and a thief. I have also realized that if I don’t check these feelings and emotions at the door, it hinders my ability to do ministry on a team of people who I have imagined to be the enemy. I cannot let the very thing that makes me good at ministry be the thing that holds me back.
Maybe my dad was right, but that doesn’t change my calling. That doesn’t change the fact that God has placed me where He wants me, and it is my job to be a good diligent steward of it. As long as I do that, my God will provide all the support and security I could need.
p.s. My dad is fully supportive of me and my ministry. He is awesome!
So I am currently sitting in what I suppose is called the atrium of a hotel, in the middle of Coral Springs exhausted, but unwilling to move. It is day 1 of a student ministry camp that I am running, and while I am running on fumes, I cannot help but sit and take it all in. This hotel has lots of fountains in it, which is freakishly soothing, and has mesmerized me in this moment. After a day that began at 6 am (after 3.5 hours of sleep), I find myself sitting for the first time, and able to complete a thought all at once. I suppose I am just in awe that the chaos is complete. Day one of camp is always the worst. Too many things go awry, too many things fall through the cracks, and too many kids get hurt (maybe ;)). But it is done. Everyone is alive. Rec was a hit! Our speaker killed it…and God is up to something big. I’m excited for what this week holds. I’m anxious about the unknown. But most of all, I’m insecure about why God would use me. I’m a nobody. Not in an annoying Eeyore-woe-is-me kind of way, but in a “I’m a sinner saved by grace wanting to serve in any capacity but still just a punk kid” kind of way. I always worry that I am going to mess something up. I suppose the reality is that this is already way out of my hands, and God has already taken control (cue “Jesus take the Wheel”). I’m ready to see where this week leads, because I’ve already given it up to the ultimate camp director, the big man upstairs, the ceo, the great carpenter (any other bumper stickers I’m missing?). So pray for our camp, pray for our students, its only just begun.
A couple of days ago, I had an amazing and humbling experience to be on the opposite end of an intern Q&A. Our church has 5 amazing interns from Liberty Univ. this summer, and they are all anxious to learn. Every week, they have an opportunity to interview a pastor. I am not a pastor….but my boss/Student Pastor was the man of the hour, and decided to pull my co-worker and I into the mix. I’ve never really been a part of something like that. Yes, I’ve had many conversations where people asked questions or advice of me, but never an outright Q&A panel. These interns asked some amazing questions: what’s the toughest part of ministry? Who inspires you? How has your background effected your ministry? My favorite question, by far was simple: what advice do you have for a newbie in ministry? I love this question because it is so honest and simple. They are basically saying, “I know nothing, I want to know tons, how do I start? What mistakes can I avoid?”
In my time in ministry, I’ve been surrounded by amazing mentors; people who care about me and see potential in me. I was lucky enough to learn from so many brilliant men and women, and be warned of so many newbie mistakes that it was nice in the moment to pay it forward. There is so much you can say to answer this question, but I broke it down to three simple things:
Protect your relationship with Christ. I know that is a little weird/obvious/dumb. But to be honest, working at a church is one of the worst things that have ever happened to my relationship with Christ. It is so easy to get caught up in serving, praying, and reading because it is your job. But in the meantime, when you only do those things because it is to get the job done, you are not building a relationship, you are building a resume. As ministry leaders, we need to be teaching out of the overflow of what God is teaching us. Your relationship with Christ is more important than your calling, so protect it!
Remember you are just a servant. I have never met someone starting out in ministry who lacked a servant’s heart. Unfortunately, I have met ministry leaders who have been in the game that have seemingly lost their heart to serve. We are all just servants, following the example of our King. As a leader in ministry, you should never loose touch of your servant’s heart, it is honest and pure and honors God. No one, not a pastor or deacon or director, is ever too good to stack chairs or clean poop off the floor or take out garbage. We are all servants, blessed with the opportunity to share the love and truth of Christ. Title does not dictate the things we cannot do, it displays the things we get to do.
Make yourself irreplaceable. One of the biggest lessons interns need to learn is to take initiative. This does not mean going above the head of your leader, but it does mean taking a project and owning it. When I first became an intern, my mentor told me to make myself irreplaceable. I haven’t forgotten that advice. As someone starting out in ministry, if you are not needed, you are not doing your job. So choose to take initiative, find something that needs improvement and own it. Find an area that has no leadership, and lead it. Find a project that has been neglected and give it value. This is not about job security, this is about improving your ministry to the best of your ability. The important thing to remember, however, is that you are always replaceable. It is important to build up your ministry, make it amazing, make yourself irreplaceable, and then replace yourself. That is a true leader.
None of these are things that I have mastered the art of. Instead, they are constant reminders to me as a young leader. They are things that I have excelled at, struggled with, and fought through multiple times. Just my thoughts, my experiences, and my lessons learned (often the hard way).
Daily Quote Three (by Tyssul Patel) #creative
Have you ever wondered if you were going to have an ugly baby?! I know that is a strange question, but I’ve wondered that many times. I know 2 things; all newborns are ugly, and all babies are beautiful in their parents’ eyes. But seriously, what if you had a kid that was legit busted?! If your kid had a unibrow, how soon is too soon to wax it?! If you know me well, you know that kids aren’t my thing, and I have no fear calling kids ugly (sorry), but I have often times wondered, if your kid is ugly, will anyone tell you? There are certain things in life that no one tells you about. Maybe it’s that your kid is ugly, or that, despite your opinion, you’re a horrible singer (please don’t tell me if this is true about me), or that the dream that you want has it’s downfalls. Certain things people shouldn’t tell you. You may not believe them, or they may sway you from pursuing your dreams.
My dream, and calling, is to do Student Ministry full time. By the grace of God, I’ve been given the opportunity to do just that, and I love every second of it. There are a couple of truths about ministry that I was warned of. It’s tiresome. It won’t make you rich. It is not for the faint of heart. Kids will break your heart. You will get pranked. Parents will drive you nuts (not all of them, but there is that one…). And so on and so on. All of these things, I knew, understood, and was prepared for. There is one truth that no one ever told me, and even if they did, I don’t think I would get it. And no one ever talks about it, so I thought it was just me. After speaking to some friends in ministry, I realized I was not alone in thinking that ministry can be lonely. Don’t get me wrong, ministry is a blast and I would not trade it for the world, but there is a reality that it can be lonely. My line of work is so relational, that by the time it comes to my personal relationships, I don’t have a ton of energy to put into them. Between the wacky hours, unconventional motivation, and sheer exhaustion (emotional and physical), it is very easy to feel alone in the world. Unless you are in the trenches, you don’t know what ministry is like, so your friends often don’t understand you. They don’t understand why your time is so limited or why, after a week at camp, you are so tired….I mean, it’s camp, it’s like a vacation, right?! I think Jesus had to be really lonely. The perfect man was surrounded by darkness and sin His whole life, and no one could ever figure anything out just right. In Luke, it even talks about how He would retreat to lonely places and pray. No one understood Him. Now, in no way am I comparing myself to Jesus, but I do find comfort in knowing He went through the same thing.
When it comes to being lonely in ministry, I’ve found a couple things to help navigate it all.
At the end of the day, I have the ear of the Creator of everything, and the presence of His Spirit. I also have the greatest job in the world, with the greatest team that I have the pleasure of doing ministry with. There are times that it feels overwhelmingly lonely. There are also days that the friends, family, and fiance that I have been blessed with is more than enough.
Have you ever had one of those moments where you hear yourself say something, and you are just like….”Why am I saying this? Stop….No, seriously, stop talking….what are you doing?!” Yes, people do say some dumb things, but sometimes, I’m people. Pardon the grammar, but the point is, I am just as much of an idiot sometimes as everyone else that I sarcastically joke about behind closed doors. (see, that’s one of those things I shouldn’t have said, it’s just mean, but its honest, so I’ll let it slide.)
I have hit a point in my life that I never thought would happen, its a time where I don’t have all (or any) of the answers. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always think I have all the answers to life, but for the most part, I have learned enough from the brilliant people around me that I know how to handle most situations. And if I don’t, I tend to have enough common sense to figure it out. All of a sudden, however, I find myself in this place where I am clueless. And I’m kind of scared to ask for the right answers. I don’t know who to ask. I turn to God, I’ve been turning to God a lot lately, which maybe not turning to Him enough in the first place was my problem. But we all know how God operates, sometimes the answers don’t come right away. I am a big believer that He speaks through people, I have just found myself in a place where I don’t know who the right person is to listen to, almost to a point where I don’t know who to even talk to. So this puts me in my predicament, a moment where something comes up, and my reaction is one that leaves me screaming at myself “What are you saying?!” This feeling is weird, and I don’t like it. It leaves me knowing one thing though, God is stretching me. I do believe that with all of my heart. A lot of big things are happening in my world, so these new situations that leave me mumbling through ignorance is due to the fact that I have brand new experiences with brand new responsibilities and brand new priorities, and have no knowledge to fall back on. I can feel the stretch now. It’s kind of like when you don’t stretch for a really long time and then you get back into it and it feels like a body builder has taken your muscle, chewed on it, and then set it on fire (graphic enough for ya?!). When God chooses to stretch you, you should know two things: it’s going to hurt, and it’s for a reason. When I am left feeling like a fourth grader because the things that I am saying are so clearly not thought out, it is not because I am dumb, it is because I am experiencing something new and just don’t know any better.
I say dumb things, I am taking this as a sign that I am being put through the ringer, only to come out praising God for where He has brought me. I believe God has some major things in store for me and my future, I just hope I bite my tongue long enough to not ruin it all.
You would think that being comfortable is a good thing, right? Who doesn’t like a warm blanket on a giant sofa with re-runs of VH1’s latest reality show entertaining you? Or a nice chai latte with Ray LaMontagne playing through the speakers as you sit in the last big chair at starbucks? Or even those Saturday mornings that you have nothing to do and no one to see, so you put on your old torn up jeans, a hoody, and get a mani/pedi?! People love comfort! And who can blame them, it is awesome! But there are some issues with comfort.
When you are comfortable, you are so laid back that you aren’t able to be on your toes.
Working in ministry, I want to be comfortable in my position. I want to know that I am needed and valued enough that I don’t have to worry about making the wrong move, or saying the wrong thing. Comfort in the workplace is reassuring, and almost necessary for peace of mind. The issue occurs, however, when one gets so comfortable they stop trying. People can stop caring if something is right, because they are just doing things the way they are done. Striving to be creative looses value when comfortable, because you are already considered creative. Double checking, re-thinking, or pushing that much further for better doesn’t happen, because when you are comfortable, you don’t need to. Excellence is lost, and you begin to ride on your laurels as opposed to continuing to strive and push for greatness. When your comfortable, you don’t need God’s guidance. This is when mistakes happen, the wrong thing is said, and things fall through the cracks. And you are so sunk into your recliner that you can’t get up quick enough to catch them.
Being comfortable has damaged me in the past, sometimes with minimal consequences, sometimes with life changing consequences. Either way, I decided to rest on what I was capable of, not what God was. I wasn’t on my toes waiting for God to use me. I wasn’t keeping in mind the amount of influence, embarrassing myself and hurting others. There is a time and place to be comfortable, ministry isn’t one of them. Save it for the couch, for there are far too many people with far too high a stake to get comfortable.
Today I got home from a much needed vacation. After being ‘on staff’ at my church (volunteer and paid) for two years now, I took my first vacation that was more than a long weekend. So needless to say, I was very happy to get away and enjoy some time with friends, enjoying life and thinking about nothing.
After a week in Orlando, while I wasn’t ready to come home, I had to, so Danny (my man) and I made our way back to South Florida. For some reason, as I approached West Palm, an hour away from home, I became overwhelmed. I was nervous….really nervous. This is a feeling I could not recognize right away, because it didn’t seem to have any roots. Beginning to analyze my nervousness, figure out it’s purpose, I realized I was nervous to go back to work. Being gone a week, I was convinced that the team that I work with had figured out exactly how to manage all that I do, do it better, and therefore have no need for me. Before I continue, I should state that my boss has done nothing but encourage me and confirm me in my role within the ministry. And before this moment, I have been pretty confident in my place. So all these feelings (which I don’t cope well with to begin with) were all very strange to me. Then I started to think harder, to try and figure out why I was so insecure. Then it hit me.
Two years ago, I was fired from ‘my dream job.’ There is no need to go into the details, because it really was a great turning point in my life, and I know God has me exactly where He wants me. Yet, I bring it up because the last time I went on a week long vacation, I came back to my great job and got fired.
This brings me back to my drive home. My mind was racing, heart was heavy, and eyes welled up with tears. Not because I had any reason to be nervous, but because the Enemy knows my fears and insecurities, and knows exactly how to play his cards. After all this time, I have forgiven, healed, and moved on. This one situation, however, brought me right back to that time, those thoughts, and the reality that I am not invincible. I honestly thought I would walk into the office tomorrow and get fired. Which made me want to stop. I don’t think I can handle the same situation all over again. I don’t think my calling alone would be able to get me through the fear and heartache that would be associated with starting all over again, again. All I wanted to do was crawl into a ball, and do nothing. Not work, not go back, not deal with it, the rejection. Meanwhile, all of this has no grounds for reason.
I’m a pretty logical person, so my logic told me that these feelings were not happening because I am insecure, but because Satan is. He’s insecure that He will loose the fight, he will loose the souls of those teens who finally proclaim Christ. So, he wants to hold me back. He wants to strike fear so hard in my chest that I freeze. In a time that my heart is so burdened for students that I am willing to give it my all, the Enemy sees it and gets scared. I am learning that when my fears begin to hold me back, it is less of a negative reflection of who I am, and more of a positive reflection of who I am, that is simply putting Lucifer himself on the offense. He wants me to stop, he wants me to hold back, he wants me to live in fear. The problem with that is, I won’t. If my God is for me, who could be against me?
So the emotional drive home was weird, both for me and Danny. But it was also a bit of a motivator. I will not slow down, for there are way too many students who don’t know my God yet, and I don’t like that one bit.