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How to Build a Creative Arts Culture

Kent Shaffer —  March 9, 2012

Taylor Barriger, Whitney George, & Pace Hartfield at Seeds Conference

At Seeds Conference 2012, Taylor Barriger of Camino de Vida (Lima, Peru), Whitney George of Church on the Move (Tulsa, OK), and Pace Hartfield of Fellowship Church (Grapevine, TX) discussed how to build a creative arts culture.

Re: Struggles with Multi-Site
Pace: Each campus is resourced differently. The main campus has more lights and action compared to other campuses. But what we try to create are environments that fit each campus.

Re: Excellence on Budget Issues
Taylor: Creativity thrives on limitations. I love Bobby Gruenewald’s quote that “Media is a money hole. You have all you need today to do what you need to do.” So we have kids run our cameras sometimes because they are the most skilled at it. So we took on a mindset of “No limitations.”

Re: Is your band paid staff?
Taylor: No, because we don’t have the budget, and it wasn’t a possibility. We’ve grown our talent. Good musicians are attracted to good music.
Pace: No, our musicians aren’t paid anymore, but they were 3 years ago. We transitioned because no other volunteer was paid.
Whit: We no longer pay our musicians either. We realized it was an honor to serve, and we didn’t want a culture where people expected money every time they served.

Re: How do you get people to be excited about what you do?
Whit: The people’s excitement level will never exceed that of the leader. The people in the audience will never be more excited than the people on the stage.

Re: How do you stay creative with an older creative pastor?
Whit: Your pastor doesn’t necessarily limit your creativity. He may just shift and direct your creativity to look a different way. Creativity doesn’t have to be lights and stage design.
Pace: If you are getting kick back from your pastor, try giving him 3 options instead of one.
Taylor: Sometimes older pastors might not know what is possible, so constantly share what is possible with them.

Re: What if you pastor has a buffet mentality but expects gourmet creativity results?
Whit: Sometimes pastors don’t know how much time and effort it takes to pull things off.
Pace: On the rare occasions when you do have more time, show the pastor what can be done.
Taylor: The leader of the creative team must fight to create buffer between the pastor and the designers.

Special thanks to Skylark Audio Video for covering my travel expenses so that I can live blog the conference for you. They love churches and are currently offering free AVL consulting.

Further Reading:
2012 Church Conference Calendar

How to Build & Lead a Creative Arts Team

Kent Shaffer —  March 4, 2011

Whitney George at Seeds Conference

At Seeds Conference, Whitney George of Church on the Move (Tulsa, OK), Pace Hartfield of Fellowship Church (Grapevine, TX), and Marty Taylor of Northland, A Church Distributed (Orlando, FL) gave a behind the scenes discussion of how they lead their creative arts teams.

WG: It is not so much about what you do as who you are. What are the personalities like that make up your creative team? Those personalities will shape your art.

MT: Each week, we focus on some specific attribute of God and we connect that attribute to some type of call & response for the church to act on that week.

MT: We don’t ever buy anything just because it’s cool. We buy something because it will help the message.

WG: You don’t do all the lights for the sake of lights. You do it to create environments for worship. God did the same for us when He created a beautiful environment for us to worship in.

PH: And sometimes creating the environment means turning the technology off. Sometimes that is most powerful.

WG: It is about using it in the right way. You always want to keep at the heart of what you are doing, “What am I trying to say?”

WG: When we opened our new auditorium, we asked, “What is the appropriate response?” We thought up a lot of crazy ideas but decided that the appropriate response to launching a new auditorium is worship.

MT: We find out 6 weeks out what a weekend will be and start planning.

PH: We plan 10 weeks to a week out, and sometimes start planning 6 months in advance. We start with whomever will be teaching. Ed Young Jr. will do a mind dump and journaling, and the create planning team will read it all. Then we meet as a group to talk it out. We leave more on the cutting room floor then in the final sermon.

PH: To as best you can, match the leadership style of your pastor. When your pastor feels that support, he will trust you more.

WG: I have to remember that God didn’t call me to run Church on the Move. He called me to serve Church on the Move. You have to make sure that mindset is aligned if you want to be creative.

WG: One of the main things about collaboration is that when start going up, you will see the fruits of that, the disjointedness, showing up on stage. The tech guys and the media guys and the worship guys need to be able to speak into the lives and process of everyone around them.

WG: During rehearsals, we have someone always watching it who is not doing it. That kind of feedback in the time you are putting it together is critical to a great worship environment.

PH: We always have to keep one hand free to adjust for what God wants. You have to be careful to never spiritualize your laziness. Don’t do things on the fly. God is in the details.

MT: I think the approach is greatly affected by how you view the video and the lighting and everything. If you look at the lighting as just another tool, as another worship leader, then it helps to evaluate if it is working together.

WG: Stop thinking of worship as one thing and lighting as one thing and production guys as one thing. They are all one thing together. They are all communication.

WG: Honor and serve. Start honoring the sound man. He is as much of the process as the person on stage. Serving them means respecting their process and putting yourself in their shoes. That relationship is essential.

Further Reading:
2012 Church Conference Calendar

Whitney George on Building a Culture of Creativity

Kent Shaffer —  March 3, 2011

Whitney George at Seeds Conference

At Seeds Conference, Whitney George of Church on the Move (Tulsa, OK) discussed building a culture of creativity.

When most people think of creativity, they think of artists. But really that is an incomplete definition because you can be creative at anything – mathematics, engineering, parenting.

Creativity at its core is really nothing than solving a problem of some sort. We all have the capacity to be a creative person.

But creativity for artists comes with unique challenges.

As artists, our challenge, our problem, is one of communication. If you think about it, all art is communication. Often, it communicates feeling.

The power of the arts is it can take you places that you didn’t know you can go. It can communicate things that you otherwise cannot.

When you think about the Great Commission, our responsibility is to communicate the gospel. And as artists, we communicate the gospel through the arts.

So how do you build a culture of creativity? Ask yourself these four questions:

QUESTION #1 – Have you given the right people a voice?

If you want young people to buy into your church, give them a voice.

That doesn’t mean ask anyone. Find a young person who has a relationship with your church and genuinely cares. You don’t have to take every single suggestion. But it matters to listen. When you show that you care about what they think, then they will go to town to work for you.

If you want to build a culture of creativity, you must continually find new people, give them a voice, and give them an opportunity to serve. Like attracts like, so get great people.

QUESTION #2 – Have you got the right people on the team?

The idea of the lone genius is actually a myth (research proven). Creativity always works best in groups. Where people often have pitfalls is not willingness to do something but rather choosing the right people for their team.

Avoid These People

  • Avoid people who cause tension.
    Tension is the biggest enemy to the creative process because tension makes our guard go up. Sometimes the senior pastor creates tension because of his position of authority.
  • Avoid people who dominate the conversation.
  • Avoid people who don’t participate.
    If you aren’t going to engage the conversation, there is no point in you being in the room.
  • Avoid people who always agree.
    You need people who will ask the tough questions.

Get These People

  • Get people who have a selfless heart for the church.
    They may not have the best ideas at first, but they give themselves. You want people who use their talents and gifts to build the church and not people who use the church to build their talents and gifts.
  • Get people who have familiarity with each other.
    Familiarity breeds comfort with each other.
  • Get people who move the conversation forward.

QUESTION #3 – Have you put in the time?

There is nothing sexy about creativity and the creative process. There are hundreds of decisions to come up with a result that looks like a genius idea. Creativity works in really small sparks.

Creativity is horribly inefficient. That’s okay. It is like that for everyone. When people do anything very well, they make it look easy.

QUESTION #4 – Are you ready to just do it?

Don’t get hung up wondering “How?” Just do something. Take the first step.

What God has called you to do, He has also given you the grace to do.

Further Reading:
2012 Church Conference Calendar