How to climb out of the creativity rut
“Creativity is contagious, pass it on.” — Albert Einstein
Are you in a sermon slump? Do you feel that your ministries have gotten monotonous? Are you searching for inspiration, imagination and ingenuity? Check out these ideas to break your creative block.
Gather the right tools
There is no tool that will automatically open the door to your creative nature. However, there are a few universal “must-haves” that are guaranteed to help, and the good news is that most of them can already be found in your home, office or church.
- Notebook — It really doesn’t matter if it’s a standard school notebook or a fancy hard-back journal. Find something to write in, and keep it close. Some people prefer a pocket-size version that can be stored in a purse, coat pocket or glove box. Use it to store ideas for next week’s sermons, inspiring quotes that you read, or a funny joke you heard during your morning commute. Spend a few minutes writing each week using daily writing prompts to get you started. Even scrawling down your to-do lists or penning your goals and resolutions can be beneficial. As cheesy as it sounds, the process of writing can change your life and is often a great way to spark that creative match.
- Sketchpad — Just like writing, drawing is another essential element in helping you think outside-the-box. Don’t worry; you don’t have to be Picasso or Rembrandt. The aim is not to create a display-worthy piece. According to author Jennifer Miller of FastTime.com, there is benefit to even the simple act of doodling. “Studies have shown that doodling can free up short- and long-term memory, improve content retention and increase attention span,” writes Miller. “It can also produce creative insight… .” Can’t think of what to draw? Check out examples of creative doodling for inspiration, or look up a lesson on how to doodle. Just remember, the goal is not to imitate but to create!
- Markers, colored pencils or pens, crayons — Color spurs creativity; so pick your medium of choice and keep it handy. Add color to your notes or fill in those doodles. Even something as simple as adding colored bullet points can make a difference.
- Coloring books — In recent years, coloring has become quite an adult fad. Coloring is good for you, reducing anxiety and increasing focus. Almost every big-box department store has a variety of children’s and adult coloring books with intricate designs and mazes, as well as custom coloring books that focus on hobbies (like gardening) or interests (such as animals). For contemplative coloring, use coloring Bibles or coloring books with portions of Scripture or inspirational quotes.
Of course, these tools may seem too “old-fashioned” for techies. If that’s true for you, you can find online sites and apps such as Evernote, Lino and Goodnotes that serve as electronic notebooks or sticky notes, or visit one of the many other apps that spur creativity or support the creative process.
Never stop learning
Having the right utensils at the dinner table is helpful, but they won’t accomplish much if you don’t have a meal on your plate. If you just can’t conjure up any new ideas, you may need to try a few of these ideas to help liven up your senses.
- Go on a field trip. Schedule one with your staff. Visit a museum or a local art exhibit. Go to a concert together or have a picnic in the park.
- Listen to music. "Music fuels the mind and thus fuels our creativity." Your worship leader is sure to agree. Try a variety of music; play it when you are working in the yard or in the kitchen, when you are socializing or when you are praying, when you are in the car or at the office. Make music a regular part of your life.
- Check out other churches. Sometimes visiting another church will help you generate new ideas for your congregation or help you to view certain circumstances in a new light. Find another UM church and arrange a one-on-one visit with the pastor for a “get-to-know-you” lunch or join one of their regularly scheduled services as a guest. If your obligations keep you from making a visit in person, try listening to a sermon, many of which are posted on church websites.
- Take a class/learn a new skill/start a new project or hobby. Never been a hobby kind of person? That’s OK. Just think of something you have always wanted to do, and find someone to teach you. Don’t have any money? Don’t worry. There are lots of free or very inexpensive hobbies to try. You may even want to inquire within your church to find a creative mentor.
- Play games. Bring a board game to your next staff meeting. You might be surprised at how much fun you have. Games are a great way to socialize, burn off a little steam and encourage resourcefulness. In addition, there are plenty of games that can help train your brain to think more creatively. Check out creativitygames.net, exquisite-minds.com and brainmetrix.com for lots of great brain games.
- Brainstorm. Use mind mapping — including Venn diagrams, figure storming, free association or other longtime brainstorming techniques — to generate new ideas. Garnering other people’s participation can also prove beneficial, especially with exercises such as rapid ideation where everyone writes down as many ideas regarding a topic as they can think of in a given period of time.
Creativity may not come naturally to everyone, but everyone has the potential to be creative. The biggest key to finding and maintaining your creativity is to be intentional. Take advantage of online resources to jumpstart the creative process. Plan opportunities to use your imagination. Encourage congregants to share their talents, hobbies and ideas. Something as simple as changing a routine can help incite imagination. Try a few of these ideas, and come up with more of your own. Reinvigorate your creativity today.