Creativity is a form a problem solving. And research suggests there are two ways we try to solve problems and generate ideas: convergent thinking and divergent thinking.
Convergent thinking is based in the idea that there exists one single, correct answer to any given problem. This answer has metrics. It works. Convergent thinkers tend to see black-and-white scenarios with right-or-wrong answers. They don’t like brainstorming (storms leave a mess). They want to find a solution they know will work.
Divergent thinkers are the opposite. They’re unconventional. They explore ideas that seem unrelated but which spark new solutions we’ve never considered. They search the great “out there” instead of settling for something we’re familiar with “in here.”
If you’re a creative, divergent thinking is probably right up your alley. But if you work in a church or lead people, you must make peace with convergent thinking as well. In fact, most of the tension of church and creativity lies at this intersection: what works and what might work. It’s the proven idea versus the new idea.
Which brings us to Sundays.
Sundays in a church can become extremely convergent. Week in, week out, it starts to feel like a rerun. Predictability sets in, frustrating the creative people on your team. They’re bored and they want something new to happen. This is because disruption is the starting point of creativity.]
Ed Young, who leads Fellowship Church in Dallas, dropped a great quote about patterns in church. “If it ain’t broke, break it!” People tend to doze off unless something unexpected happens. Disrupt the norm – with a story, with humor, something interactive that we didn’t see coming – and all the sudden, the room wakes up.
If you work in a church that embraces that level of creativity, count your blessings. That’s a rare gift. In case you don’t, here are questions to help keep your creative team engaged Sunday to Sunday.
1. What’s the win today?
This question speaks to intentionality. Even when you don’t have the option of trying something new, always connect the dots between what you’re doing and why it matters. (We tend to forget.) And when you do get to execute a big new idea and the team is working overtime, make sure they understand why it’s worth the extra effort. Define a win for the team, reach for it, and evaluate the response.
2. Where are people today?
Today might look like any other Sunday to you, but never underestimate the pain people bring with them into church. Are people hurting? Are they celebrating? Where do they need hope? Acknowledging where people are allows your team to connect on a heart level instead of executing another cookie-cutter Sunday.
3. Where is God working?
I’m a storyteller, so this is actually my favorite question. If you think Sundays have gone stale, pay attention to what God is doing in people’s lives, because He’s doing a lot. In fact, God is pretty divergent in how He answers prayer. It’s unexpected. When you notice Him work, tell the story. This puts God’s creativity back in the driver’s seat, right where it belongs.
These three elements – intentionality, connection, and attention to God – allow leaders to address the ongoing tension between convergent and divergent thinking. They give us clues about what should come next.
Ministry comes in seasons. And there are times we have to change things up. When your creative team is attentive to God, connected with people, and intentional about the task ahead, they’re more likely to find ideas that resonate.