Creativity (n): the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.
There are plenty of definitions of creativity that point to artistic expression, but I think this one is the most comprehensive. If you have ever come up with a new or new-to-you way of doing something, you have been tapping into your creativity.
Children have no problem with this idea. They tap into their creativity all the time. They even naturally layer their creativity in different dimensions to create new things. They don’t need a guide or tutor; they do it on instinct. It is God’s design in action.
However, over time, we let ourselves and others categorize our creativity into segments. Worse, we buy into the idea that it applies only to certain areas and therefore certain people.
We forget that all we have to do is come up with a novel solution to a problem to express our creativity. The size and scope of the issue do not matter, our approach to it does.
Creativity is especially valuable to ministry. A novel, gospel-centered solution to a problem points others to Jesus. Using our creativity to better love our fellow man glorifies God.
So, if all of us are creative, why is there so little of it in the world? Why is it there is so little of it in our churches? Why is it limited to a select few artists, musicians, scientists, designers, entrepreneurs?
Because we convince ourselves we are not creative. We buy into a myth that we, created in God’s image and called to join him in his work in the world, are not like our creator.
In his book The Creative Curve, Allen Gannet suggests that what holds more people back from expressing their creativity is a belief in the inspirational creative theory. This is the idea that it happens in a lightning bolt moment and only for a certain few. Gannet calls this theory a myth.
John and I tend to agree. The problem with such an idea — that creativity only comes in flashes of inspiration — is to believe creativity is limited to a type of person who is prone to such flashes. Which also means that if you aren’t that person, you might believe you are not creative.
However, Gannet refutes this notion, pointing to an Austrian study of creativity, the results of which claim that 86 percent of people in the world have the same creative potential. So, the idea that you are not creative is statistically unlikely.
You are only truly creative when you run out of options. —Dennis Parrish
A mentor of John’s and mine, Dennis, would explain that when options are eliminated, either by circumstance or choice, our creativity emerges to discover new options.
Parrish is right, but his scenario only addresses creativity as a reactive response, not unlike our human responses of fight or flight. But there is more to creativity than reacting to a crisis in which your options are limited.
We don’t have to rely on creativity solely as a reactionary process. We can proactively unlock and expand creativity. There are four keys I think we need to do so.
Key #1: We Need to Believe in Our Inherent Creativity
When it comes to unlocking our creativity, we are our first and most important gatekeepers. Getting past our own doubts is the first step.
We need to believe that we, made in God’s image, are creative, that this creativity is readily available to us for a variety of situations, and that we can learn to employ it at will, not just out of necessity.
Key #2: We Need to Believe in the Creativity in Others
While we are all creative, we are not singularly creative. God designed us to use our creativity in collaboration with others.
Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak and later Jonny Ives and a whole company of people that made Apple what it is today.
It’s hard to find a Steven Spielberg classic movie without Kathleen Kennedy as an executive producer and that doesn’t feature John Williams on the soundtrack. Esther had Mordechai.
Alexander Graham Bell had Watson. Thomas Edison couldn’t have made the lightbulb without the work of Lewis Latimer. Moses had Aaron. Jesus, who needed no one, surrounded himself with disciples and sent them out to start the church.
God surrounds you or is in the process of surrounding you with the people you need to collaborate on your solution. Your job is to find them, assemble them and create an environment whereby you can find your solution.
Key #3: We Need to Believe There Is Both a Challenge and a Solution
One lock to our creativity is a belief that a problem is not solvable. This mindset discourages us from applying our creativity to a given situation.
I don’t believe in the “no-win” scenario. — James T. Kirk
Instead of seeing a problem as something that cannot be overcome, see it as a challenge that has a solution. God is working through you to find this solution and apply it to the challenge.
What is impossible to do in your field, but if it could be done, would change your business?
The above quote from Andy Stanley is a great prompt to get you thinking in this direction.
God has a plan for your time and context. You get to be a part of God’s work, showing his love and making disciples of Christ. The process by which you uncover the solution is for your growth and your joy.
Key #4: We Need to Believe the Failure of Our Ideas Is Not a Judgement From God
In ministry, we have an unhealthy fear of failure. We convince ourselves that success is a validation of the hand of God in our lives. When we fail, we convince ourselves that God is not with us. This is simply not true.
What is true is that we learn a lot more from failure than we do success. To deny ourselves an opportunity to fail is to deny ourselves an opportunity to grow.
We can no more ruin the work of God in our time and context than we can complete it. Missio Dei, the work of God, is not dependent on us to succeed. We are stewards with responsibility, but not ultimate responsibility.
Success is not necessarily a blessing and failure is not necessarily a judgment. Rather, the whole process is about us becoming more like Christ.
Work Out Your Creativity
Anyone who has ever begun a fitness or training program will tell you, at first the goals seem impossible. However, with consistent training and incremental results, you will see improvement.
The same is true for your creativity. The more you employ it the better it gets.
One way to work out your creativity is through Divergent Thinking. This simple exercise will help loosen up your creative mind.
For this exercise, you need a pen, paper, a timer and one common item.
The item can be anything you find in your house or office. For example, a hairdryer. Now set a timer for 30 seconds. Now spend those 30 seconds trying to come up with as many alternative uses for that item as you can.
Try it a few times a week for a month to unlock your creativity.
When we free our creativity from the bonds of self-doubt, we will see God use us in ways we never thought possible.
This article originally appeared here.