We’re all “creatures of habit.” As much as we wish people would do something as simple as sit in a different seat in church, our habits just feel good to us and that’s why we keep wearing that one spot down in the fifth row, left side center. It’s our place. Our brains are wired to the familiar and change is frightening, even on a subconscious level. We don’t always know why we sit there. It just feels good, so heaven help whoever gets there early enough to beat us to the pew.
The word “habit” originally meant “an article of clothing” and later referred to mental attitudes about ourselves and our world. We all have habitual ways of thinking about life that either free us or enslave us. We literally dress ourselves in mental habits that are positive or negative depending upon our experiences and training. And, despite the fact that God created us to be creative creatures in His likeness and image, many people have the nasty habit of describing themselves as “uncreative.”
As worship leaders, we may find ourselves surrounded by people who habitually cling to an uncreative mindset, leading to frustrating dead ends when it comes to doing anything different, unique, or even just slightly more fun in worship. Maybe you recognize your God-given creativity and long to use it, but no one else is on board. If so, maybe it’s time to think about a few ways to create more hunger for creativity in your leadership team and let it spread through the entire congregation in ways that make it easier and more enjoyable than you’ve ever imagined.
Here are three suggestions for inspiring greater creativity in worship in your church.
Become an encouraging voice to your leadership team. Everyone wants and needs encouragement. When a singer or instrumentalist feels your support and encouragement on a personal level, they’re much more open to your ideas. When they feel important to you for more than providing a horn part or audio tech role on Sunday morning, they’ll automatically value you more. Your sincerity to empower them causes an openness to fresh ideas you can gently lead them to without breaking the “trust bank.”
I recall the story of the pastor fired for moving the piano from the left side of the church to the right side. Years later when he visited his former church, he found the piano right where he’d wanted it on the right side and asked the current pastor how it found its way there after costing him his job. “Well, brother,” the new pastor whispered, “you tried to do it all at once. I moved it there one inch at a time.” Win your team’s confidence through authentic interest in them, and you’ll find they’re hungry to follow you, but only as long as you lead them carefully toward more creativity.
Educate the congregation and important leaders slowly and subtly. There’s a reason we call our congregations sheep. Jesus called them that, so we’re just agreeing with Him and learning from His example to lead them like little lambs. Sheep can be skittish and they often bite. When a church member complains, it usually means something feels scary or out of place, or they feel the threat of losing something they value. As in the story of the piano above, sudden changes and frightening alterations cause sheep to scatter more than come together to trust their shepherds.
But if we can learn to educate our people on the reasons for introducing more creativity into worship and do it at a comforting pace, they will generally enjoy the newfound pastures and realize they like the taste of the new grass, after all. I’ve found that making changes that are important to me are often not the changes the church really needs. If it’s something that genuinely enhances the appeal of the sanctuary or music or sound or presentation, it might help to show some real world examples and be ready to back your idea with the “fruit” of this example in other churches.
Foster the idea of a creative community and speak in those terms. Everything starts with an idea. You’re doing what you do each week because it’s ingrained as habit, but it started with someone’s idea first. The old saying is “Do anything twice and it’s a tradition,” but it takes more than twice from my experience and quite literally dozens of times to reinforce the habit of thinking in certain ways. Start talking more about creativity and its benefits and more people will begin to be curious about it and be more open to investigating it for themselves.
One of the things people say to me about my ministry is that I’ve pushed them out of their comfort zone or brought out of them something they didn’t know they could do. I actually learned this from Bill Gaither, watching him become a champion for young artists like Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, and the long list of artists he’s helped raise up over his many decades of music. I admired how he encouraged artists and I adapted that for my own leadership. Like Bill, when I recognize a talent in someone, even if they don’t recognize it, I start encouraging, empowering, equipping, and eventually releasing them in their gifts and callings. One sound tech in my last church has told me over and over that he never would have had the courage to do what I had him do, but he came to believe in himself because I pushed him out of his habits of low-level performance.
It’s more than “talking up” the idea of creativity to your pastors, leadership, and congregation, though. Inspiring creativity in others means inspiring it in yourself first. If you’re burned out and struggling, now’s the time to inspire yourself to greater creativity and get help. That may be reading more, listening more, or taking some time off. Whatever it is, inspiring creativity begins with you being inspired.
You are already inspiring whatever atmosphere you have in your leadership and congregation. There may be holdovers from previous leaders, but you really have a lot more influence than you may realize. Be an inspired person and you’ll find it a lot easier to inspire others and find greater creativity in 2018 than you ever thought possible.
NCS Song Power Week 2018 is a FREE week long empowering event happening January 22 – 27 LIVE on the Nashville Christian Songwriters Facebook Fan Page every day from 11am – noon CDT with artists, songwriters, music industry influencers, and giveaways. Tune in at https://www.facebook.com/pg/nashvillechristiansongwriters/ and read more here on https://nashvillechristiansongwriters.com/ncs-song-power-week/.
John Chisum is a long-time Christian music business professional, ordained minister, songwriter, publisher, and worship leader. He is the former Director of Song Development and Copyright for Integrity Media, and the former Vice-president of Publishing for Star Song Communications. John has managed dozens of professional Christian songwriters such as Paul Baloche, Lynn DeShazo, Gary Sadler, and many others, and has had over 400 of his own songs recorded. Along with his business career, John is an internationally respected worship leader and has traveled over one-million miles in ministry worldwide, while constantly serving in local churches over the last 30 years. He holds a Masters of Arts in Worship Studies from Liberty University. John and his wife, Donna, have been married for 36 years and live in the Nashville area.
John is currently Managing Partner for Nashville Christian Songwriters. You can reach him at john@