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Episode Notes:

In this episode of the Youth Ministry Answers podcast, Kenny and Elle to talk about how to be (and stay) creative in youth ministry.

Creativity in Youth Ministry

Don’t get stuck in a rut. In youth ministry, it’s easy to get in the habit of doing things the way we’ve always done them. The world around us is changing, and so are the youth we teach. The heart of God’s story throughout Scripture does not change, but the way we teach students to engage with their faith can change. This takes creativity!

Creativity is the process of building things and solving problems. If you don’t think of yourself as a creative person, we challenge you to broaden your definition of creativity. You are made in the Image of God, and part of being an image-bearer means that you are wired to create!

Six Steps for Cultivating Creativity

1.) Get more rest

Don’t fall into the trap of busyness. In ministry, it can sometimes feel like we have the weight of the world on our shoulders. A fatal flaw of some youth workers is the tendency to sacrifice our own rest for the work we’re doing. In order for your brain to function at its highest capacity, it needs rest.

Some of the best leaders make rest a part of their routines. Check out this quote by Winston Churchill: You must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner, and no halfway measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That’s what I always do.

Here’s the British Prime Minister, who, at the height of World War II, was napping daily. He understood the importance of rest for keeping the mind sharp (Note that the “taking off your clothes before you get into bed” part is most definitely optional).

Rest must be intentional. Close your laptop, lay down for a nap, take a walk, and intentionally schedule times of rest into your creative rhythm. Check out Youth Ministry Answers Episode 67 with April Diaz for more insights on how to incorporate rest into your life and ministry.

2.) Learn more stuff

… And not just ministry-related stuff. As youth workers, oftentimes the only new information we’re taking in is ministry or theology-related. These are definitely important topics, but some of history’s greatest creatives and inventors were “expert generalists” – people who knew a little bit about a lot of different subjects.

You’ll be surprised at the connections you’ll make between ideas. Creativity is just the combination of two or more different ideas. We challenge you to go learn about something that has nothing to do with youth ministry, church, or theology. When you listen to different viewpoints and learn about unfamiliar topics, you can make connections you wouldn’t expect!

Podcasts are a great resource. Get out there and subscribe to podcasts or blogs on sports, history, science, storytelling, or anything else that piques your interest! You never know when you’ll be able to connect what you learn back to youth ministry.

3.) “Steal” more ideas

Everything mankind has ever created was born on the backs of the creative ideas before it! There is nothing new under the sun. Shake off the pressure to come up with brand new ideas that have never existed.

Be responsible stewards of others’ creativity. In his book Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon gives insight into the difference between “good” idea theft and “bad” idea theft:

  • Good theft honors the original creator, but bad theft degrades the original creator
  • Good theft studies the original creation, but bad theft skims the original creation
  • Good theft takes ideas from many people, but bad theft takes ideas from just one person
  • Good theft credits the original creator, but bad theft plagiarizes the original creator
  • Good theft transforms the original creation, but bad theft imitates the original creation
  • Good theft remixes many ideas, but bad theft rips off a many ideas

Leverage youth ministry networks for inspiration. To find ideas for your youth ministry, check out the Stuff You Can Use Facebook community, a network of over 13,000 youth workers who share ideas, learn from each other, encourage each other, and make each other laugh.

4.) Ask more questions

Follow the example of history’s greatest minds. Some of the most the most innovative people who have walked the Earth are those who have been the most curious.

Add it to your schedule! In his book A Curious Mind, Brian Grazer talks about how he makes a point to set up regular “curiosity conversations.” He finds an expert in a profession, takes him or her out for lunch or coffee, and asks them about their work and life experiences.  There are so many creative people at your fingertips; ask them questions!

Be humble. You have to open yourself up to the reality that you haven’t arrived yet, and that you still have room to improve. What this does is open you up to an entirely new world of perspectives and ideas that you can use to fuel your creativity.

5.) Involve more people

We’ve seen the value of this firsthand at Stuff You Can Use! The creation of Grow Curriculum & Strategy would not have been possible had we not involved other people. To date, we’ve had over 75 official contributors (not including the amazing youth workers who have helped us crowdsource ideas)!

If you try to be creative alone, you’ll run out of ideas pretty quickly. With more people, you get more perspectives. You’re limited by the scope your own experiences. Invite people to brainstorm with you!

6.) Take more risks

Any creative endeavor is a risk. It can be scary to try new ideas… what if people hate it? What if it fails?

Failure is a part of the creative process. If you don’t take risks, you’ll just be stuck in the same rut of doing things the way they’ve always been done. When you think about failure, think about the resulting long-term benefits instead of the short-term disappointments. Besides, others will care much more about you being resilient, creative and persistent than you being perfect!

Don’t have the time to be as creative as you’d like? Grow Curriculum & Strategy Can Help.

With 50 weeks of curriculum, annual planning tools, 50 games, 6 events, and all the discipleship, parent, and volunteer resources you could need, Grow Curriculum & Strategy gives you the time you need to spend time with students and creatively improve your ministry.