3 Strategies Of Doing Less So You Can Do More

June 20, 2017 | Get free updates of new posts here

One of the ironies of leadership – whether you’re a worship leader, a senior pastor or in any kind of position where you are leading people – is that success typically results in complexity not simplicity.

A worship leader grows their worship team and now has to manage scheduling multiple worship leaders and multiple worship teams. More complex, not more simple.

A senior pastor whose church is growing has to sustain new ministry programs, multiple worship services and perhaps launching new sites. More complex, not more simple.

Success isn’t wrong and complexity isn’t necessarily bad but unchecked complexity will quickly be the downfall of what was once success.

Success leads to complexity. Complexity undermines success.

As leaders, how do we push and pray for success while at the same time remaining focused on the key things God has called us to in our ministry? How do we raise up new leaders while personally maintaining visionary direction over the areas we have been tasked with leading? How do I as an individual stay close to Jesus and connected to the source of my leadership and my effectiveness so that I don’t burn out?

I’ve been thinking about this and working on this in my own leadership over the last year. Here are three strategies I’ve put in place in my life to help me do less as a way to effectively have more impact in my life and my leadership.

Blocked Calendar

If you’ve never spent time blocking out your own calendar you are doing irreparable damage to your own leadership. Leaders will never have enough time for all the tasks, never enough energy for all the demands. If you don’t own your own time for the responsibilities which are crucial to your role you will find yourself overwhelmed with other’s people’s expectations, other people’s meetings and other people’s ideas of how you should spend your time.

Consider this a plug if it’s needed but if you haven’t checked out Carey Nieuwhof’s High Impact Leadership Course let me add my recommendation. After working through the course I’ve been able to develop a new, effective, prioritized monthly blocked calendar that places my primary responsibilities within my prime time effectiveness.

Of course we all have responsibilities to be flexible and available as needed and we get called in to meetings which may not be our favourite things but if you start with your own priorities scheduled first you will make much better use of your time. You’ll end up doing less so you can do more.

 

Sabbath

The biblical mandate to rest in the midst of work or to work out of rest is perhaps the most overlooked leadership strategy of doing less so you can do more.

The American dream which has made its way around the world is that we should work hard for five days and rest for two. Work for the weekend!

The cultural expectation for pastors is often to be available 24/7, working constantly for the people they are called to serve. This is a calling, not a job!

As usual, the biblical model is neither of these but a third way: work six days, rest one. Modelled in Genesis and instructed by God, all of creation is designed to fit this rhythm of work and rest that actually allows us to do less so we can do more.

By working hard for the five days we’re expected to work at our jobs and then a sixth day where we can work on a hobby, a side project, work on our home, whatever it is. We then guard that seventh day as sabbath and keep it holy and set apart for the Lord.

My sabbath is typically Friday evening to Saturday evening. We have family time, my wife and I have date night and the Saturday is spent “praying and playing,” encouraged by Eugene Peterson in his book Working The Angles.

By focusing on working six days instead of seven you’re freed up, energized, rested and you’ll discover how doing less can allow you to do more.

Time With Jesus

So far we’ve talked about strategy that will give you a monthly calendar as well as a weekly rhythm of doing less so you can do more.

In all of these leadership strategies we have to remember that our daily strength comes from our time with Jesus and how the Spirit of God equips us to do the work He’s called us to do. My personal ministry verse this year has been 1 Peter 4:11 “If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”

If we’re going to serve Jesus and His kingdom, we have to do that out of the strength that He gives rather than our own ability, talent or expertise.

This means as often as possible I need to be in communion with Jesus, strengthened by His Spirit so that I can continue to do the work that He’s called me to do.

This is more important than strategic planning. More important than casting vision. More important than scheduling volunteers. All of those are tasks which have to happen and all leaders need to spend time doing those things but if I’m doing those out of my own strength rather than this strength that God provides then it’s a downward spiral.

Leaders, every day. Time with Jesus. You will be doing less but in the end you will do more because of your willingness to be strengthened day after day after day by God who loves you and calls you to serve Him and the world.

 

 

What about for you? What are some ways that you have been able to learn how to do less so you can do more?

Write Worship Songs: 10 Steps from Inspiration to Completion

April 1, 2017 | Get free updates of new posts here

A few years ago I wrote a series of posts focused on help you write worship songs for your church. As much as I love to lead worship and equip leaders, I love writing songs and being part of a church community that love to work together on songs for our church to sing.

Of course we sing songs from Hillsong or Bethel or Chris Tomlin or Elevation because those are opportunities to join in with the church around the world in a unified song of praise to God. But there are also some songs that our church needs to sing that nobody else can write for us.

God is doing things globally which can be sung through our collective songs but God is also doing things locally which need to be sung in unique ways by your own church.

To help you with this I’ve gathered all ten of these posts as a guide “from inspiration to completion” on how to write worship songs and it’s available now here as an immediate PDF download:

Worship leaders wear many hats and one of the things we get asked to do is write worship songs for our churches. This is a good thing – writing worship songs that come from our congregation’s own experience and speak to our congregation in its own language is a privilege for worship leaders and an opportunity they should definitely pursue.

To write worship songs for your own church is to help give them the language of praise.

This book covers ten important steps from inspiration to completion when it comes to writing songs, cowriting and how to develop as a songwriter to write better songs for your church to sing.

The ten chapters I cover in this book:

  1. 3 People To Talk With Before You Write Worship Songs
  2. The Most Important Conversation Before You Write Worship Songs
  3. 3 Ways The Bible Inspires You To Write Worship Songs
  4. 3 Reasons To Write Worship Songs With People Inside Your Church
  5. 3 Reasons To Write Worship Songs With People Outside Your Church
  6. Where Do You Start – Lyrics Or Melody?
  7. 5 Things To Remember About Lyrics When You Write Worship Songs
  8. 5 Things To Remember About Melody When You Write Worship Songs
  9. Share & Re-Write & Share – Great Songs Are Re-Written
  10. Resources To Copyright Your Worship Song

10 Questions Pastors Didn’t Have To Ask 10 Years Ago

March 24, 2017 | Get free updates of new posts here

No value judgements, no statement on whether these are good or wise or helpful questions. So much has changed over the past 10 years that what was present only in the biggest, most forward thinking churches is now possible in almost any church in most of the world.

As we lead in a new world and raise up new leaders who will lead in new ways we haven’t even dreamed of, we all have new questions we have to ask. The beauty of change is that we’re forced to wrestle with what we do and how we do it and sometimes asking new questions reveals better and more effective ways to reach more people with the gospel.

So, pastors, what questions are you asking now that you didn’t have to ask 10 years ago?

Here are some that I hear pastors asking today:

  1. Should we have one Facebook page for our whole church or one for each ministry?
  2. How do we deliver teaching by video to each of our campuses?
  3. Are we okay with our musicians reading sheet music off their iPad when they play with the worship team?
  4. How can we use YouVersion to help people in our church read the Bible more often?
  5. Should our church build an app?
  6. How can Google Adwords helps us serve more people in our community who are not part of our church?
  7. Should the music director or the drummer run click and cues for the worship team?
  8. Is automated giving better done through direct deposit, text-to-give or by an app?
  9. How do we disciple people through Facebook Live and our online campus?
  10. Should we be present and active on all social media channels or focus on the ones that get us results?

 

 

Best Apps for Worship Leaders – 2017 edition

March 2, 2017 | Get free updates of new posts here

Technology has been both a blessing and a curse for worship leaders. What we can are able to do now in our worship services is at the same time easier and more complex. Our phones and tablets can now carry so much of the work which took so much time before.

We also have so much new technology at our fingertips that it can be hard to sort through it all and find the ones which are genuinely helpful.

As technology improves we can now find different and new ways to do our jobs as worship leaders. The goal is not to use as much technology but to find the right apps and tools to help us do our job better.

It’s hard to imagine what we’re able to do with these small devices in the palm of our hand but at the same time there are so many apps out there how do you even begin to find the best ones??

I first released this ebook in 2014, a revised edition in 2016 and now and updated version for 2017 with the best iPhone, iPad and Android apps for worship leaders.

 

I’ve compiled my new Best Apps for Worship Leaders: 2017 Edition with updates, additions and some removals of apps that either aren’t available or have been surpassed by other, better apps.

Once again I’m making this available totally free a downloadable ebook. It’s available below through the signup box and will arrive right away in your inbox:

Identifying and Developing Young Leaders

February 20, 2017 | Get free updates of new posts here

One of the responsibilities of leadership is not only to lead but also to identify, inspire, motivate and develop future leaders. Helping others see the potential of their own leadership – even when they may not see it themselves! – is an incredible privilege we have as leaders.

Face it, you have not always been the leader you are now and at some point you were given an opportunity to step forward in a new way. Someone saw something in you that made them think you were worth investing in. And now you get to pass that on and do the same for someone else.

And remember, all leaders are temporary. Whatever role you’re in now – whether you’re a worship leader or pastor – you won’t be there forever. Your time will come to an end with a new opportunity or a new position and someone will need to take your place. What better way to ensure that your successor continues your work in the direction you’ve set than to raise up that leader yourself!

But how do you identify who these potential leaders could be? Especially if you’re at a small church it may just come down to a numbers game. You may ask yourself, “Is there even a pool of people I can draw future leaders from?”

Every church is going to have its own criteria for what makes a great leader. You’ll have expectations on spiritual state, ministry experience, church involvement but even within a group of people who check all the same boxes there are still some people who are ready for leadership opportunities and some who are not.

So how do we identify the ones who are ready?

I’ll say right off the top that there is no foolproof method in this. Part of the art of leadership (as opposed to the science) is going with your gut, knowing when failure is okay and understanding that sometimes you will invest in a leader who will not take the investment seriously. You have to be okay with this and understand that over the long haul a commitment to investing in future leaders is undoubtedly worth it.. even with some bumps along the road.

So here are the three indicators that tell me someone is ready and willing for some serious leadership investment. These are things that trigger my leadership antennae and tell me that they are ready for a new opportunity where they can grow and become more effective as a leader.

 

Show Up

This is the biggest one for me. I look for people who simply show up. People who come early, stay late, come to the team nights, take the training opportunities and are a constant presence at your church or with your worship team.

Showing up should not be taking lightly and it’s a key piece of advice I give to young leaders. You will learn so much simply by being present and it’s the biggest signal for me that someone has leadership potential.

Don’t neglect the powerful potential of simply showing up.

Step Up

Some people will show up.. and show up.. and show up.. but the reason they’re showing up is because they want to be part of the family. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!

But when it comes to identifying potential leaders at some point you want to see people step up into new opportunities. Taking initiative, expressing curiosity about learning a new skill or just wanting to be involved in a new role is another big trigger in telling me that someone is ready for a new leadership opportunity.

Showing up is how we build the family, stepping up is how we build leaders.

Grow Up

After showing up and stepping up what I’m looking for now is people who grow up to confirm that a continued investment in them as leaders is worth it.

Growing up means taking ownership and responsibility, not just filling a role. Helping rethink how we do what we do so that we’re more efficient and more effective. I’ve even seen young leaders be the ones who are best at identifying other young leaders – this is a great example of growing up!

Of course the greatest example of growing up is how we grow in our faith. You should be expressing and living out more of the fruit of the Spirit in your life, serving more in the areas of your spiritual gifts, deepening your dependancy on Christ and becoming more effective at sharing your faith with others.

 

Whether you’re a worship leader or a pastor part of your responsibility as a leader is to identify future leaders within your own church and help develop them into their God-given potential as leaders for the kingdom. Imagine the impact of developing leaders who can continue to develop leaders this way but starting out this way will get you headed on the right track.

Look for potential young leaders who show up, step up and grow up!

Who Chooses The Songs We Sing?

February 3, 2017 | Get free updates of new posts here

Over the years as a worship leader I’ve had all kinds of relationships with the pastors I worked for and the teams I led. Almost always those relationships have been fantastic and have been the fertile ground where God was able to grow His work in the lives of people in our church.

One of the key relational dynamics between senior pastor and worship leader is figuring out how songs are chosen for the church to sing in worship services.

Is song choice up to the senior pastor? Does the worship leader get to choose the songs? Who gets to make the final call when there’s a disagreement or lack of clarity around what songs should be sung?

I’ll preface this by saying that in some churches there is very little decision-making to be done. Either because of liturgical requirements or sometimes depending on the philosophy in a multi-site church the worship leader of that congregation really has no input at all in song choice.

But in the majority of modern evangelical churches the responsibility for song choice in a worship service is going to fall somewhere on a spectrum between the worship leader/pastor and the senior pastor.

Let me illustrate with a fine little diagram ?

Let’s go to the extremes first and think about some of the pros and cons of each of the ends of the spectrum:

Senior Pastor Decides

This is certainly one way to do it and probably in smaller churches, church plants or churches where the senior pastor has built the ministry out of their history as a worship leader this is a more likely scenario. This allows the senior pastor to keep the vision of the church fully integrated within all expressions of the church including the worship ministry and is probably a scenario that works well when there is a new relationship between a seasoned senior pastor and a younger worship leader.

The flip side of this scenario is that over time you will end up with a worship leader who is simply implementing the will of the senior pastor. Without an equipping relationship where the worship leader understands very clearly the purpose of the songs and even some of the theological reality underneath song choice when it comes to the order of the service this will, over time, result in a worship leader who loses interest. The pastoral responsibility when it comes to equipping requires that we build into worship leaders an understanding of why certain songs are good choices outside of the fact that they’re our favourites, the church loves to sing these ones, these songs go together really well in a set list.

Senior pastors – how can you help equip your worship leaders to choose great songs for your church to sing?

Worship Leader Decides

The other end of the spectrum is that the worship leader/director/pastor decides the song selection with no input from the senior pastor. This obviously will work best where there is a healthy, trust-filled relationship between the two, where the worship leader has proven not only their musical ability but also their theological thinking in choosing songs for worship. Pastorally the worship leader is also able to lead the congregation in worship and help them grow as disciples, not just play some songs that the people like to sing.

The shadow side in this kind of relationship is that one day the senior pastor may wake up and realize that their vision for the worship services at their church hasn’t really come to fruition and the worship leader has taken the sound/feel/vibe in a different direction than was intended. Obviously this requires lots of communication within the senior pastor/worship leader relationship and also a very high level of clarity in communication from the senior pastor as far as what is expected, what is required and where they’d like the church to go.

Worship leaders – how can you choose songs that help to implement the vision your senior pastor has for your church?

The Middle Road

The truth is that most churches are going to find themselves somewhere between these two extremes along the spectrum. At the end of the day there really isn’t a proven right way of making song choice work for every church in every place so this is one of those relational realities that senior pastors and worship leaders need to work through.

The conversation around this should start as early as a job interview if the worship leader is a paid position or in some kind of talk around expectations if it’s a volunteer role. So many of the relational pitfalls happen simply because there hasn’t been clarity and the expectations are misunderstood on both sides.

Senior pastor – have you been clear with your worship leaders on the kinds of songs you’d like them to choose? Have you been clear about the sound you’d like to hear from your worship teams in your weekend services? Are you equipping your worship leader to understand a theological framework of the worship service and how songs help to tell the grand story of God’s redemptive purpose for the world?

Worship leader – are you submitting to the authority of your senior pastor even in your song selection? Are you communicating clearly with your senior pastor around why you are choosing or introducing certain songs for the congregation to sing? Are you pastoring and discipling the congregation not just to sing songs but to grow in their following of Jesus through their worship?

What about at your church? Where does the responsibility lie for choosing songs? Does the senior pastor or the worship leader have more influence when it comes to the songs your church is singing in the worship service?

Build a Worship Team Audition System for your Church

January 2, 2017 | Get free updates of new posts here

One question that comes to me all the time for worship leaders and senior pastors is how to build an audition system for your church worship team. The concept isn’t difficult – identify people, give them an opportunity with some kind of evaluation – but it’s the details of worship team auditions that people get stuck on.

I’m here to help you!

Since being in full-time worship ministry in 2003 I have auditioned hundreds of musicians and we’ve now developed a system that identifies the best musicians, helps them succeed, builds your worship team and keeps you as a worship leader from going crazy!

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Before I lay out the full plan it’s important to get this analogy.

I love baseball. Do you love baseball? Even if you don’t you’re probably familiar with the way that baseball teams can build their roster. Generally there are three ways – you make trades, you sign free agents and you draft young players.

Now a worship team is not a baseball team but the analogy is helpful when we think about the idea of what kind of team do we want to build? Over time your team will take on some characteristics and one of the ways you can build the character of your team is through auditions.

Think of auditions like building through the draft.

You need to identify the vision of what you want your worship team to be and then build for that vision through multiple avenues, one of those being your auditions.

For example, if you want a certain skill level or a certain kind of musical style for your worship team then you need to build that into your audition process so that you’re building your team with the skill and style you’re looking for.

If you are hoping to build a worship team that has a very southern gospel or traditional style you will want to use your audition process so that you are not bringing very classical or very modern musicians on to your worship team. Or at least you’re using the process so that the musicians understand what is being expected of them in terms of style.

Also auditions are also a great way to build any character expectations into your team. You can lay out very clearly at the beginning of the process of someone joining your worship team what you expect of them as a part of this ministry.

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One of the beautiful, difficult realities of having a leadership role is evaluation. We are asked to evaluate new ideas alongside existing realities. Leaders are constantly evaluating where things are and where things could be. Leaders are asked to evaluate people, events and systems at every stage along the way.

When it comes to a leadership role in worship ministry, evaluation can take on some added complexity. We are sometimes asked to evaluate someone based on their ability, their talent and what they have to offer our church. While this seems like an easy task in principle it won’t take you long to figure out that all kinds of circumstances can contribute to the complexity of evaluation.

Auditions are one of the ways worship leaders are asked to evaluate. We are evaluating the ability and compatibility of someone who has a desire to lead our church in worship.

This responsibility for evaluation is part of the role of the leader and you mustn’t run from it, you can’t apologize for it and you should never be afraid of it. God has called you, equipped you and empowered you to lead in the context where you are leading and part of that leadership is evaluation. Leaders must live out their leadership in many ways and evaluation is one of those ways.

The catch is often how do we evaluate, what do we evaluate and where are we trying to lead people. If we don’t have answers for those questions it will make our responsibility for evaluation difficult and the people who we are leading will be confused, disappointed and eventually disillusioned with your leadership. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

In our evaluation if we focus exclusively on ability, we will have a team of great sounding musicians who may or may not get along, who may or may not care about the greater mission of our church and who may or may not have their hearts in the right place. “They’re a killer player!” is never reason enough to let someone play on your worship team.

If we focus exclusively on compatibility, we will have a team of nice people who love to serve but you probably won’t have many people in your church telling their friends about how great the music sounds. “They have a great heart!” is never reason enough to let someone play on your worship team.

There has to be a balance.
Ability with compatibility.
Skill and soul.
Competency and chemistry.
Hands and heart.

When I talk about this with people on our worship teams I will often bring them to Psalm 78. Through the psalm we read the cyclical story of God’s faithfulness, Israel’s disobedience, their repentance, God’s forgiveness and God’s continued faithfulness.

Psalm 78 ends with this verse:
“And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.”

See it? Heart and hands. Soul and skill. Character and competency. Both are important.

If we’re honest, ability is fairly easy for most of us to evaluate. Can they sing? Do they have good tone? Do they care about having quality gear? Are they able to match harmonies?

Compatibility can be a harder thing to evaluate but it is just as important when it comes to the formation of our worship teams. In fact, compatibility may have more impact on the long-term success of our worship team and the worship culture of our church than ability on its own.

What you’ve read so far is a pretty good description of the why behind our audition process so let’s talk about the how. Your how will probably not be exactly like mine and that’s okay. We don’t need clones but take what we’re going to talk about in the next few pages and make it work for your own context. Make sure you get to the why of what you’re trying to do and the how will come from that.


Click here to download the Audition for Change ebook pdf

New Year’s Evolutions

December 27, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here

So the year is wrapping up, we’re all looking back and remembering our successes and failures of the last 12 months. Some of you are filled with joy and pride because of what you’ve been able to accomplish this year and some of you are disappointed, frustrated and wondering where you go from here.

Enter.. New Year’s Resolutions!

All of a sudden we feel like we can go from success to success or from zero to hero simply by placing some magnificent goal in front of us and committing to that behaviour for 365 days. Whether it’s the number of books we read, how much we pray, how many times we work out or how many Bible verses we memorize there is this attraction to new behaviour at this time of year which tempts us with the promise of new results and new success.

I’m not here to rain on your resolution parade but if you are part of the 92% of people who fail to keep their New Year’s Resolution through to completion let me offer you an alternative.

New Year’s Evolution.

Don’t think resolution, think evolution.

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Why charge out of the gate with a commitment to read one book a week when you struggle to read one book a month? Why proclaim you’re going to read the whole Bible twice this year when you don’t really spend regular time reading it at all? Why waste time sticking to a ridiculous goal when you haven’t laid the groundwork already?

Hear me out for a second. I’m not discouraging audacious goals and I don’t want to squash your dreams.

I want to help you succeed and I want to encourage you to change your thinking from resolution to evolution.

One way this changed for me was when I began thinking about the quality of our worship services – how well we lead people, how clear we are about the gospel, how we encourage people to come back next week, how we point them to Jesus. Whatever your wins are for Sunday, how can you work as a lead to help your team increase the quality of your worship service?

Evolution, not resolution.

Think of the 52 Sundays which are coming in 2017. If you could improve the quality of your worship service by a factor of 2% each Sunday over the next year, what would happen? All of a sudden you’d look back one year from now and you’d see an overall improvement of 100%! Woah. That’s big. (And yes, technicalities would say 52 x 2% = 104% but let’s assume you’ll miss your target a couple of those weeks!)

Is 2% improvement a sustainable evolution over the course of a year? You better believe it is!

How can you get 2% better each week? Here are some ideas just as an example of seeing this transformation as evolution instead of resolution.

  • Call to worship – can you make the opening of your service 2% better this week than it was last week? Spend time thinking about the first thing you’ll say as a pastor or worship leader to open your service.
  • Transitions – can you make those change points in your service 2% better this week than they were last week? Think about lighting, timing, language and the emotion in the room and how you can help create a more meaningful experience for people who are participating.
  • Next steps – can you make the application points of the message/service 2% clearer this week than they were last week? Think about relevant ways that what the Bible says can impact the lives of people in your church.

This is the power of cumulative change or compound interest or bringing multiple team roles into alignment with each other. The small changes you make week after week all of a sudden bring multiplied impact not only to the area of change but really to the whole thing you are working on.

In my mind this applies to so much of what we do as a church but also to each of us personally.

Want to double your Bible reading this year? Think evolution, not resolution. How can you make small changes in your Bible study reading habits that will have exponential impact over the course of the year?

Want to learn a new skill this year? Think evolution, not resolution. Start small, commit to the process and look for ways to stay engaged with creativity and new learning.

At the end of the day growth is not optional. What you can control is whether you are going to increase or decrease in your effectiveness this year as a worship leader, as a pastor, as an artist, as a speaker, whatever your role is. One year from now will you look back to see the evolution of your ability or will you only be looking for the next resolution that you think will finally solve your problem?

Let me encourage you again to think evolution instead of resolution. I can’t wait to hear about some of your New Year’s Evolutions and how a year from now you have developed a new skill, increased in your effectiveness as a leader or seen some new opportunity because of the growth that has happened. I’m cheering you on!

3 Creativity Hacks for Normal People

December 16, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here

Everyone’s looking for a shortcut. Everyone’s looking for a way to get more bang for their buck. Everyone’s looking for opportunities to come up with new ideas and new solutions. Creativity is one of those mechanisms that helps us go from obstacle to output but where do these creative ideas come from?

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One of the fallacies of creativity is that people who are labelled as creative have access to some secret stash of inspiration that’s not available to the rest of the mortal world. Whatever it is that you find to be the most inspirational for your creative output – nature, technology, conversations, art – is the same inspiration that is available to the people who are known as the most creative.

Inspiration is not the difference.

Attention is the difference.

If you want to be more creative,
you have to pay more attention.

I wish there was more of a shortcut than that but there really isn’t. Once you pay attention you begin to see new things, think new things, dream new things. You begin to see patterns and connections between events or songs or words that you didn’t see before. You begin to understand what it is that impacts people beyond the beauty of the work you do.

(I wrote more on the weird idea that creative is used more as a noun than as an adjective:
There are no creatives. We are all creatives.)

So what are some ways that anyone (whether you have that label of creative or not) can take advantage of to be more creative? What are some creativity hacks to help you pay attention?

1. Stay curious

When is the last time you learned a brand new skill? Have you ever pursued a hobby or interest with which you had no previous experience? Keeping your brain engaged on new skills forces creativity simply because you are forcing yourself to work through new problems.

This is the main reason why we started keeping bees a year ago on our property. Did I know anything about beekeeping? Nope! Was I willing to invest time and a bit of money to learn? Yep! So now the result is we’ve got two healthy bee colonies in our backyard, some delicious honey but more than that I’ve kept pushing in my desire to learn a new skill and to stay curious about something I knew nothing about.

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And ask my friends, they’ll tell you that I’ve learned to apply some of what I’ve learned through beekeeping to other parts of my life and my leadership.

What is something you’ve always wanted to learn but haven’t said yes to yet? Stay curious enough to be engaged!

2. Capture the moment

Creative inspiration and ideas will happen at the craziest of times and despite your best efforts and your self-assuredness, you will not remember that great idea when you get home or when you have a chance to write it down. Inspiration is a flash of lightning and if you don’t catch that shiny thing in a bottle it will vanish.

I’ve also found that when I do happen to remember that idea or inspiration down the road, I’m much less drawn to the idea and I’m less willing to give it a chance because it feels like it’s lost some of its shine or excitement.

You must have a way to capture inspiration right in the moment. For me it’s the notes app on my phone. I can tap out some words, I can grab a quick picture, I can make a quick voice recording. Everything is right there for easy access.

In the past I’ve used the Evernote or Google Keep apps but if you’ve got a smartphone you’ve got a great capture solution in your pocket almost all the time.

For larger, more complex ideas or to turn an idea into a more fully formed concept I keep a Moleskine notebook in my briefcase which comes with me pretty much everywhere I go. I love my Moleskine and knowing that I can transfer notes from my phone or event from a moment of inspiration down onto paper right away gives me a great way to capture that moment and not lose it forever.

3. Long hot showers

Ok this one may be a bit tmi for some of you but it’s the most hack-ish of the three ideas. I can’t give you all the science of why this works (read here or here or here for more on this) but giving yourself time for a long shower with warm/hot water hitting the back of your neck or the lower part of the back of your skull will release dopamine.

The combination of the dopamine with a distraction-free environment of the shower and the opportunity to let your mind wander is an incredible way to let creative ideas flow. Memories stored away, inspiration which has hit you over the past couple of days, recent significant events will all bubble to the surface and you will have the time and the creativity to process these ideas in new ways.

Of course then it goes back to #2 and you need a way to capture those moments, even in the shower!

Inspiration is not the difference.

Attention is the difference.

Creativity is really the habit of paying attention and applying that inspiration to some form of output that generates a response from people. There are so many ways to generate these attention-increasing habits in our lives but these three – stay curious, capture the moment, long hot showers – are ones that have worked for me over the years.

What about you? What are your creativity hacks?

Share a link to this post and include your best creativity hack!

There Are No Creatives. We Are All Creatives.

December 13, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here

I’ve been thinking lots lately about creativity – what exactly that means and how that word has been segmented down to a class of people we call creatives who seem to be this magical breed of human who come up with bizarre ideas and want to test them out on people.

Creativity seems to be this magical ability of these unicorns known as creatives who can conjure up weird, wacky and wild ideas that get our attention in ways that a powerpoint presentation just can’t.

And yet at the same time we get nervous around these people known as creatives and we love their output but not always their input and so creativity becomes this hocus pocus that happens with some cauldron in a backroom and the expectation that these creatives will be able to conjure the right spell to present a video, a song, a graphic, a fill-in-the-blank that will help the powerpoint presentation make sense.

creatives-blog

But how does the adjective of creativity get turned into the noun of creative? How did we get to the place where creativity has been simplified down to describe only the group of people who are able to produce some kind of creative work?

Creative has become a label reserved for a certain group of people and that word is now a noun instead of an adjective.

“Let’s get the creatives to come up with something…”

Creative is the word which should describe an aspect of what it means to be human and creativity is the noun which describes the  mechanism by which we generate new ideas.

The truth is that everyone is creative, whether you like it or not! As a human, you are created in the image of God. And His image is creative – “In the beginning, God created…” Part of the imago dei is creativity.

So what is this creativity?

The definition I’ve always gone back to is that creativity is finding new solutions within limitations.

In the church, there is no shortage of limitations. Whether it’s finances, people or time we all face some kind of scarcity in terms of what is available to help accomplish the thing God has called us to do.

We need a video.. but we only have three days. We need some stage lighting.. but we have no money. We need to start a new ministry for our community.. but we have no leaders to run it.

Creativity is required not only by the ones who are using their creative ability to make new things but by leaders of all kinds. Part of leadership is solving problems and finding new solutions and part of the way that happens is through creativity because we’re all dealing with limitations!

Songwriters are creative by taking words and melodies, putting them together within the limitations of familiar song structure, tonal range and time limit to create the solution of new songs for us to sing.

Painters are creative by taking tools like a brush and paint and applying them to the limitation of a canvas which is only a certain size to create the solution of new artwork for us to enjoy.

Preachers are creative by taking words from the Bible, their own education, abilities and life experience and working with the limitations of time limits, distracted audience and cultural baggage to create the solution of preaching the gospel of Jesus in a dynamic and engaging way.

Now some of us have been born and developed certain talents or abilities which allow that creative nature to be combined with the act of creativity in creating great artwork. Painting, poetry, songwriting, mapmaking – these are all examples of creative ability worked out with creativity to produce something new. This is called art.

We are all creatives.

We are not all artists.

But we all behave creatively and have the potential to produce creative work.

 

Whether it’s part of your job description or not, creativity is something intertwined in your DNA. You don’t have a choice. Every time your heart beats a little faster, every time you play out the scene of a book in your mind, every time you take on the challenge of learning something new – this is creativity at work!

So how can regular everyday non-artists who still possess incredible creative potential increase their creativity and be more effective? I’ve got some more thoughts on that and I’ll be sharing more of those ideas soon.