Core Elements for a Creative Team

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By Stephen Brewster

There are few tensions more real than the tension that teams have in trying to serve their pastors well, while making their absolute best art. The desire exists to not only make amazing stuff, but also make amazing stuff that connects with our pastors, in order to set them up to create their absolute best as well. With all this desire it is so easy to fail. The truth that lives inside this tension is that there has to be trust built between the creative/communication teams and the senior leadership of our organizations. Every pastor is different, just like every artist is different; and that difference is where the really good stuff can come from! I am so blessed to get to work with a pastor who is not only a great pastor, but a great man and an awesome friend. We have been intentional to work to get on the same page, to have honest conversations, and to define mutual wins for his office and our creative team.

As a creative arts pastor, I understand what is needed in the relationship between the Senior Pastor and the CA Pastor. Let’s look at five core elements that a creative team needs from their pastor:

1. Permission to fail. No one enjoys failure, but the reality is that if we want amazing and truly creative experiences, there is a very solid chance that at times we are going to fail. Real art is not safe. Safe stuff is created in the middle, but really amazing stuff, the stuff people remember and can’t ignore is created on the edges. Sometimes when we are creating on these edges, we may fall in the ditch. Knowing that we are allowed to fail from time to time creates the safety to really experiment. That does not give creative teams permission to be lazy, but really places a healthy pressure on us as creative teams to create unforgettable vehicles for the amazing content that pastors are communicating. We have the greatest story of all time to tell, so we should utilize the greatest vehicles for that story.

2. Communication. Never be afraid to communicate what you like and what you dislike. Be clear and very candid. Being aware of expectations helps to create clarity for what should and should not be created inside your organization. Another key in communication is the ability to articulate where you are headed with your content. Give as much info as you can, as early as you can, so that the creative team can dig in and find the best tools to help share the amazing content God is placing on your heart. When a team has a week to execute your vision they will not create as great of an experience as they would if they had a month.

3. Celebrate victories publicly and criticize in private. Creative teams by nature are going to be emotional and get attached to their creations. Besides you as a communicator, no other department in your church leaves as much personal DNA on a weekend as your creative team. Criticism is healthy and necessary, but protect your team and it will build an amazing amount of equity between both parties. Communication will make or break your creative process.

4. Trust. We have to trust each other. There is a song that we have in our rotation right now that is not Pete’s favorite. I love the fact that he trusts us to continue to try to work the song and he trusts that we have a purpose behind why we are trying to make the song work. Pete also trusts that if the song does not work, we are going to pull it and not risk negatively impacting the momentum that God is building around Cross Point. Trust goes beyond music. It is also vital to external communication, creation of vehicles for content, and the hustle both parties are putting into what is being created. Trust is also necessary in the creative meetings. In our meetings we need to make sure the playing field is level and everyone is trusting, not focusing on titles or position. If that trust is not there, people will be afraid to communicate their true feelings about ideas, concepts, and impact.

5. Inclusion. Pete is great at this. Keep creative arts included in the conversation. Knowing what is going on and eliminating surprises as much as possible helps everyone plan, be prepared, and create our best stuff.

6. Space to create. As a pastor and a boss, be as involved as you can be in the process; but once you feel you have contributed to the process, allow the team to create. If you walk by the creative suite and wonder why half the team is lying on the floor with Hillsong music playing and the other half of the team is playing ping pong, understand that may be part of their process. When expectations are set and clear, allow the process to be worked out in the methods that allow creative teams to be their most creative. What works for one person may not work best for the next.

Pastors, what are some of the things that you need from your creative teams? If you are not willing to sit down and tell them, there is a strong chance they will never be able to achieve the goals you have for your ministry or theirs. Also, as weird as we may be some days, our intention is to serve and serve well.

Creative team members, show up every day and give your best! Your pastor, your church and your community needs your best. The art you make, when connected to your pastor and his vision, has the potential to change your world!

Stephen Brewster is the Creative Arts Pastor at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN. His 13 years in professional creative environments include music marketing and management, artist development, creative team leading and art directing. It is Stephen’s desire for the church to regain its position as a leader of the creative frontier. He lives in Franklin, TN with his wife Jackie and their four amazing kids. You can follow Stephen on Twitter at @B_rewster or on his blog www.StephenBrewster.me.