Today I read an article about finding the next Steve Jobs. It makes the point that many companies are incapable of finding such a person because “creatives” are natural “non-conformists” who get weeded out by the hiring process. Creative-types tend to throw up red-flags which reveal how they won’t fit in the corporate structure. This of course, is their most valuable asset to any company which hires them.
Having read the article, I can’t help but agree that church too-often functions the same way. Churches, of any theological stripe, are naturally “conservative.” That is, they tend towards a static reality. This is true of congregations all along the theological continuum – from fundamentalist and progressive. Congregations tend to get locked into a mind-set, and deviations from it are typically demoralized or expunged, praise God.
What does it mean to be a “creative” though? Often times, congregations make the assumption that taking part of the latest and greatest “new thing” means “being creative.” Political protests, best-selling books, and worship music-style become the gage of a church’s “creativity.” The problem is, this isn’t true. In fact, most of what churches typically call “creativity” is really more of a sign of consumerism.
Creatives aren’t fad-seekers, nor are they necessarily concerned with being part of the “latest and greatest.” Some of the most creative people I know, in fact, are part of high liturgical traditions. On the flip-side, some of the least creative people I know are concerned with using the most current songs/programs/public beliefs.
So what makes someone a Creative? Simply put, a Creative is simply someone who is able to look at problems from angels which aren’t typically considered by others. From their unique vantage points, they are able to consider opportunities which others might not see, or solutions to problems which others wouldn’t consider. As one might expect, Creatives create. They write songs, think up new ways to teach people things they might think they know, or consider the best ways to communicate Truth to other’s.
While the article describes Creatives as “non-conformist” this shouldn’t automatically be interpreted as “unable to play nicely with others.” At their best, Creatives aren’t hostile to the notion of conforming to an existing system. Rather, their creativity allows them to work around and through conformity. This tends to have two effects. First, it allows Creatives bring their new perspective to others in a way which is not overtly threatening. Second, it affords Creatives a way to highlight the strengths and weaknesses which a given system has. Such highlighting is what allows Creatives to help systems to flex when confronted with situations it isn’t prepared for.
In the challenging transition which is facing many churches, it would be good if we encouraged Creatives to bring their different angles to the table without fear of the system closing in around them. In this way our churches might begin to see opportunities where most see only obstacles.