9 Tricks to Crank Up Your Creativity

The (unfair) truth of the matter is that some people are just naturally more creative than others. And sometimes those folks who feel like they are lacking in the creativity department decide that instead of learning how to be more creative, it’s better (or easier) to simply admit their creative shortcomings and focus on other important aspects of ministry.

So this post is for those of you who would identify as “creatively challenged.” Here are a few tricks I’ve utilized over the years that have helped me stretch my creative muscles:

* Plan Ahead. Planning and organization IS NOT a road block to creativity as many people think. The reality is that when you plan ahead, you leave lots of time on the front end of a project to chew on things, talk to others for input, etc. Many creative folks claim to be much more creative in “crunch time,” which is fine … if you are a creative folk. Otherwise, a litle preplanning will go a long way.

* Find Your Creative Time. Creativity is hard work, so do it when you are at your mental peak. If you are a morning person, do your creative thinking first thing. If you are a night owl, wait until evening time.

* Be a Looker and a Reader. There’s an old saying: “Stop and smell the roses.” I say, “Stop and smell the roses, then figure out how you can use them in an object lesson.” The world is full of all sorts of awesome sights, sounds, smells and textures that we can apply to our ministry settings. Become somebody who looks at the world around them and who reads magazines, billboards, bus stop ads, etc. Observant people are usually fairly creative.

* Use TV, Don’t Let it Use You. While watching TV, keep a notepad handy and jot down anything from the news, sporting event or show that you might want to refer to in an upcoming lesson.

* Hang Around Creative People. There’s strength in numbers. Two heads are better than one. All of us are more creative than one of us. One of the best ways to stretch your creativity is to hang around folks who seem to ooze it.

* Always Ask, “Can this be improved?” Don’t settle for the status quo. If you plan ahead, you’ll have plenty of time to look over your lesson, event, parent meeting agenda, etc. to see where you can make it better.

* Empty Your Mind Before Beginning. After an activity, it’s important to keep good records and files that you can refer to next time around, but try to avoid the temptation to make reaching for last year’s file the first thing you do this year! Sometimes starting with an entirely blank slate is the best way to let creativity flow.

* Have an Honest Ear. Is there somebody in your ministry who will be honest enough to tell you when an idea is a dangerous one, or a stupid one, or a boring one? Having somebody you trust to bounce things off will help keep you from settling for something uncreative, as well as protect you when your newfound creative skills could get you in trouble!

* Become Five Again. I’ve never met an uncreative 5-year old! But something happens as we get older: We become aware that certain ideas shouldn’t be shared. We get penalized for “coloring outside the lines.” We become insecure and afraid of failure. All of these things serve to shut down our natural creativity. Force yourself to set these adult attitudes and concerns aside from time to time just to see what the 5-year-old version of yourself comes up with!  

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Kurt Johnston
Kurt Johnston has been involved in junior high ministry since 1988 and is currently the junior high pastor at Saddleback Church in Southern California. He's the author of Controlled Chaos: Making Sense of Junior High Ministry and Go Team! He loves providing resources for junior high ministry almost as much as he loves junior highers themselves.

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