As I said in PART 1 of this series, the relationship between a lead pastor and the creative team has such incredible potential to impact the life of a church. Sadly, this potential often goes unrealized, and it’s almost always due to conflict. Pastors and artists are often people with radically different gifts and personalities and needs, and seeing eye-to-eye requires some real spiritual and emotional maturity. But, a few quick tips never hurt! Today, it’s time for church artists to go under the magnifying glass. How can artists learn to win the confidence of their pastor, and build a thriving collaborative relationship? Here are 5 suggestions:
1. Dethrone the Pursuit of Art
Most artists believe that there is something divine and holy about the act of creating. I can wax poetic about the fact that art possesses a unique power to touch the human heart, and that we are perhaps never more like our Creator than when we ourselves create things of beauty, truth, and meaning. And while all that is true, it’s also dangerous territory. It’s easy for me to become more about the joy of creating than I am about joyfully worshiping the Creator. It’s easy to worship art (as I discuss at greater length here). But here’s the truth. Art is a tool, PERIOD. It’s an amazing tool, but still, it is useful only insofar as it moves people towards experiencing God. If it doesn’t do that, it’s a treacherous distraction.
2. Adopt Ruthless Practicality
In addition to the need to have a healthy perspective on the purpose of art, we must also become unswervingly practical about the purpose of art specifically in a church setting. There’s no room for pet projects and art-for-art’s sake in the relentless Sunday-driven rhythm of most churches. So get over it. This is the realm of art-for-Christ’s sake. 90% of the time, that means channeling your creative energies into the weekend worship experience. When your pastor doesn’t have to continually reign you in to focus on what happens in the sanctuary, then you’re more likely to eventually see greater freedom to pursue things outside Sunday mornings.
3. Embrace the Box
I can’t count the number of battles I fought with my pastor or worship leader, challenging them to think outside the box. You know what? I eventually learned I was dead wrong. I needed to think inside the box. I needed to accept the boundaries of the structure of our worship service, the culture of our church, and the personal preferences of our pastor. No, that didn’t mean give up, or stop pushing myself as an artist. Precisely the opposite. I committed to doing the very best work I could do within the boundaries I was given. The strangest thing happened. My work got more focused, more results-oriented, and just plain better. Along the way, I showed my leaders that I was a team player, and learned that structure is the most fertile ground for creativity.
4. Save the Drama for your Momma
Let’s just admit it… many pastors would say that they find their artists to be needy, temperamental, and exhaustingly high-maintenance. That’s because, for most artists, the act of creation is highly personal. That’s a good thing, in that it means we are prone to pouring ourselves into what we do. But it’s a bad thing in that we all too often personalize what we’ve created – so if someone doesn’t like our work, they don’t like us! We’ve got to see that for what it is – a lie that the enemy feeds us to create division. You are not your work. It’s right and good for others to have opinions about your work, and you’re obligated
as an artist to hear them, and learn from them, without interpreting every criticism as a personal attack.
5. Paint a Vision of the Future
On the one hand, you have to be ruthlessly practical about the purpose of art in church, and strive to do the best work possible within the boundaries before you. But once you have built a firm foundation on that ethic, something happens. You earn the right to be heard, and can use that privilege to cast vision. As an artist, you have a God-given gift to see alternate realities – to see a version of the future that is better than the present because of the impact of creative action. Whether it’s adding an element of dance to your worship setting, or bringing in new hardware to run media, or starting a feature film at your church, you have the ability to see what’s possible and share that vision in a way that invites others to become engaged – once you have earned the right to be heard.
As with my last post, my head is buzzing with important points that just didn’t make the top 5… but that doesn’t mean they don’t need to be heard. So, I turn it over to you. What have I missed? Share your ideas and experiences on how
creatives can work well with pastors in the comments below!Click here to comment