Welcome back, everybody, and thanks for tuning in today for another episode of the unSeminary podcast. Today we have Ben Stapley, the creative pastor at Liquid Church in New Jersey.
Liquid Church started 10 years ago in the northeast of New Jersey. They currently have six campuses and about 2,500 people in the weekend services. While the teaching pastors are concerned about the content of the message, the creative pastor is concerned about the actual communication of that message to the congregation and how to do that well. There can be some tension in that because you have two different values rubbing against each other.
Ben is here with us today to talk about how to bridge the gap between the executive and creative sides of church ministry.
• Creatives love Jesus as well. A lot of times creatives can be seen as this group that is only focused on the artsy part of things. Administratively-oriented leaders need to remember that the creative leaders don’t love Jesus any less than they do. And vice versa! This is an important foundation that needs to be set in place before moving onward.
• Give them an opportunity to fail. Be willing to let the creative leaders experiment and even fail in some attempts. This may not be best in the Sunday morning service during the sermon, but they need a chance to take these leaps in ideas because their best work will come out of this risk-taking. If creatives think it’s not OK to try, and fail, then they will hold back in their work and become tense under the pressure to only bring ideas that are guaranteed to succeed. That doesn’t mean that the creative leaders should be able to do something new without the executive leaders’ approval or feedback, but it also means that as the executive leader, you allow your creatives the chance to bring in new ideas and go forward with them.
• Evaluate the idea on the merit, not the originator. Sometimes it can be intimidating for the creatives to bring new ideas before the executive leaders, so create opportunities to do it anonymously if needed. One idea Ben offers is to have a Google document set up where everyone can add an idea without any names attached to it. Then at the next staff meeting everyone evaluates each idea based solely on the merit, not on the person who submitted it.
• Encourage creatives to do things on the side. A creative mind doesn’t turn off and on at certain times of the day; it’s always thinking of ideas and possibilities. Don’t restrict your creatives to only doing projects on site and only for the church. This narrows the creativity of that mind and the quality of the ideas they produce. In other words, allow your creatives to have other creative outlets on the side, such as wedding photography, selling paintings or freelance design. Don’t restrict it because you think it will interfere with the work they produce for the church. Within reasonable boundaries, these activities can increase the creativity of what they bring to the church and expose them to new possibilities.
• Allow other activities, but set some boundaries. Along with encouraging other work on the side, do set some reasonable boundaries with your creatives. If they aren’t producing quality work for the church, outside freelance work may not be the best for them to pursue. Encourage your creatives to excel in the work of the church before trying to excel elsewhere. Also within work hours, the creatives should be working on church ideas and not on their side work.
• Give particular praise. Everyone thrives on praise, especially creatives. If they don’t hear feedback on their work, they can feel ignored or not appreciated in what they do. But don’t just give them praise, give them particular praise. General praise can be seen as just a pat on the back without really paying attention to what was done. So give particular praise on the parts in which the creative really excelled and let them know that you are paying attention to what they do.
• Have a consistent review process. Liquid Church has four criteria for how they give feedback. The first is praise on what was done well. The second is to give suggestions for new additions, but allow the creative to use those ideas if they want. The third is requests. Let the creatives know what you liked, but also what you didn’t like and what you would like changed. There is a difference between suggestions and requests. A suggestion is an idea that the creative could do if they like it, but a request is something that should be done right away. The fourth is notes. Ben explains that an example of this would be to say, “I like what you did here, but in the future could you make sure the boom mic isn’t in the shot?” As in, “It’s good at this point, but in the future could you keep this in mind?”