How Many of These 10 Problems Do You Experience In Church?

Len WilsonArtists, Church, Creativity, Leadership, Marketing, Strategic ThinkingLeave a Comment

Len Wilson Worship Arts

How many of these problems do you experience in your church or organization?

  1. Disengaged members and attendees.
  2. Plateaued or declining attendance and involvement.
  3. Mediocre or poor quality worship.
  4. Lack of biblical knowledge.
  5. Lackluster spiritual formation.
  6. Little sense of beauty.
  7. Poor hospitality or guest experience.
  8. Inward focus / lack of outsider perspective.
  9. Lack of strategic thinking.
  10. Communications confusion or chaos.

For a long time, church leaders have tried to attack these seemingly intractable problems, with varying levels of success.

I believe there’s a common spiritual root to each of these problems: lack of creativity. Innovation that leads to growth and vitality can happen in a variety of settings: strategic thinking, leadership, worship and arts, communication, mission, discipleship, and more. But the foundation is the same. The key to vitality is to move yourself and others from consumption, where we are conformed to patterns of decline, to creativity, where we are transformed by our God-given impulse and calling to make things new.

If any of this describes your church, I’d love to help. Click the button below to inquire about an event or keep reading for more details:

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Suggested Speaking Topics

The following three talks, each based on my book Think Like a Five Year Old, can live separately, as a keynote and subsequent workshops, or as a sequence, say for a retreat setting. They are ideally suited in the sequence in which they’re listed.

Think Like a Five Year Old (Part One): Reclaim Your Wonder and Create Great Things

Supposedly, since we’re made in the image of God the Creator, we have creativity in us. This may be theologically true, but most of us don’t know it to be so. In fact, the vast majority of us don’t consider ourselves to be creative at all. We’ve lost our ability to create. Maybe that’s why the vast majority of workers worldwide want to quit. Learn why this seems to be everyone’s story, the secret to reclaiming your creative wonder, and how to discover real innovations right where you live.

Think Like a Five Year Old (Part Two): The Four Expressions of Innovation

Whether you seek new ideas and vitality in your personal or professional life, creativity is about more than adopting best practices or reading someone’s life hacks blog post. It’s the natural expression of a more engaging and fulfilling life. Growth isn’t the target; it’s the result. In this session, learn strategies for creativity, how to overcome damaging misconceptions, and the four unique creative expressions with which we’re wired. Strategize new ideas for your setting and how to leverage these expressions for a more productive personal and corporate life.

Think Like a Five Year Old (Part Three): Techniques for Cultivating Creativity

Fostering more creativity ultimately comes down to the habits we form and lives we live. In this tactical seminar, learn creativity as a spiritual discipline: how to overcome the tyranny of the blank page, how to tame your schedule – and your mind – to leverage good ideas, best practices for more creativity, and more.


I also speak on a variety of topics related to creativity and communication in church life, such as:

Take Flight with Creativity: How to Build a Creative Worship Design Team

Church leaders in many congregations have attempted to form teams for the purpose of planning worship. Getting a group of people together in one room is fairly easy. But whether large or small church, staff or volunteer, most discover that it is difficult to form a team that actually works. In this session, learn how to be a part of a worship design team that works, including discovering a strategic approach to worship, tips for team composition, a look at how to overcome a series of obstacles that frequently keep teams from finding success together, and some of the usual “mechanical difficulties” that keep teams grounded.  Based on my book Taking Flight With Creativity: Worship Design Teams That Work.

Five Brand Secrets to Communicating a Compelling Vision

People don’t give time and money to pay your light bill, but to see lives changed. While we may cognitively understand this, we disagree in practice, because we communicate the process, not the vision for what might be. People don’t care about your process. This workshop focuses on the idea of your brand as a promise and five secrets to developing campaigns and leveraging technology that focuses on your shared dreams and aspirational possibilities.

Best Practices from 20 Years of Creative Worship

I’ve been practicing, studying and teaching about the visual arts in worship since 1995. Here is the best of what I have learned in the trenches of five churches and years of consulting, leading and teaching churches of all sizes and environments around the United States.

(For Creatives) How to Survive Working in a Church

The nobility of using your gifts for God’s kingdom inspires many lovers of Beauty to work for the church. Unfortunately, the turnover rate is killer. This session explores how to survive and even grow as a creative in a church environment.

(For Church Leaders) How to Make Your Church or Organization Awesome for Creatives

While many are talking about the power of story, few are creating a good corporate environment for successful storytelling to flourish. Instead, while leaders want more creative and dynamic environments, and storytellers and artists want a place to practice their craft, often the two groups can’t seem to work together. In fact, many leaders diminish creativity in their staff without ever knowing it. This session explores secrets to unlocking creative potential. How can you create an environment for creatives to flourish?

(For Communicators) Seven Secrets to Help People Remember Your Big Idea

Marketing is a hassle. You’ve got your cool creative idea produced and it sure would be a heck of a lot easier if people would automatically flock to it. Of course, this doesn’t happen. You’ve got to get the word out. To some extent, other people can help you do this, but when it comes down to it, the number one champion for your big idea is you. The first step is to admit your ownership. Say to yourself: I am responsible for marketing my own big idea. There, that wasn’t so bad. The rest is cake. Just follow these seven strategic approaches.

(For Worship Leaders) Ten Common Questions About Using Screens in Worship

Whether novice or seasoned veteran, these are the basic questions that everyone needs to know in order to use screens more effectively in worship. Consider this a crash course on screen use in your church. Based on my books The Wired Church and The Wired Church 2, and two decades of experience working in the trenches of church communication.

Jesus Marketer: How to Craft a Message That Changes Hearts and Lives

Many of us think of marketing as a necessary evil that comes after the more noble and meaningful work of creating the big idea. We like to pretend that how we present our idea doesn’t matter. And yet our efforts often float away without reaching those who so desperately need it. The package matters. Lucky for us, Jesus had a marketing strategy. The question is, in addition to communicating about Jesus, what if we began to communicate like Jesus?

 

A Little Bit About Me

My calling is to use creativity and effective communication to share Jesus Christ and advance God’s kingdom. I have been practicing my craft since 1993, and in 1996 I began to write and teach others to do the same. Along the way I have honed a philosophy and strategy for what I do and have developed a variety of hard skills for improving creativity and sparking innovation.

Think Like a Five Year Old Len WilsonI have spent the bulk of my career in the local church, joining with colleagues to develop creative and storytelling congregational cultures, the kind of places that artists want to join. My theological education and field experience, coupled with my ongoing research and writing on creativity, uniquely positions me to speak on creativity and the life of following Jesus. My wheelhouse is a passion for fostering personal and community creativity, for turning dreams and ideas into real innovation and change, and, tactically, for helping your church communicate the gospel more effectively through art and design.

I have written ten books. The most recent, Think Like a Five Year Old: Reclaim Your Wonder and Create Great Things, comes out through Abingdon Press on June 2, 2015. Click here to learn more about it.

My beautiful wife Shar and I have been married for 23 years. We have four children in school, which makes for a busy and fulfilling life stage.

Learn more about me, read a longer bio, and view my ministry and educational background at the link.

 

What People Are Saying

Len’s work at Midnight Oil was my first glimmer of hope that I could change how churches communicate.
 - Michael Buckingham, Creative Director, Victory World Outreach and Owner, Holy Cow Creative

Few authors have foreseen the future of language. Len captures not only the prophetic union of technology and worship, but the first glimpse at a new way of thinking. Without a grasp of this new language, I can not see how the church can survive. That’s how important Len’s work is.
 - Thomas Hohstadt, Conductor, Fulbright Scholar

Len is a master wordsmith and communicator.
– Will Willimon, Author

Len’s writing and insights for the church go far beyond media; they extend to how we effectively communicate the Gospel to generation that has largely dismissed what the church has to say.
 - Jordon Cooper, Founding member, resonate.ca

Len is an artist and thought leader.
 - Gary Molander, Author, Pastor, Owner at Floodgate Productions

Len’s vision for the effective use of media in worship has transformed worship experiences in numerous congregations around the country.
 - Warren Pattison, First United Methodist Church, Lakeland, FL

Len is a creative master.
– Grant Hagiya, Bishop, United Methodist Church

Len Wilson is an incredible speaker and a gifted minister of the Gospel. He is able to effectively communicate his vision for using media to reach people for the Kingdom of God!
 - Phil Graves, Web/Graphic Designer at All Saints Media

The first time I heard Len speak on his passion, I knew he was the real deal. Len speaks from the heart and works hard to help church volunteers and staff create an atmosphere for worship.
 - Darell Jordan, Software Support Specialist, Hewlett-Packard

As Senior Leadership Editor at Abingdon Press, Len brought heft and breadth to our acquisitions.
 - Neil Alexander, President and Publisher, United Methodist Publishing House

Len possesses a rarely-seen combination of creativity and attention to detail which together make his work both strikingly original and highly correct.
 - Rebecca Burgoyne, Director, Publishing Operations, United Methodist Publishing House

Len took over a fledgling ministry at Ginghamsburg Church and developed it into a nationally recognized program of innovation and effectiveness by producing some of the most effective tools for communicating deep theological concepts in ways that informed, inspired, and entertained.
– Mike Gibbs, Missions Pastor, Ginghamsburg Church

Len literally wrote the book on the development and use of engaging multimedia communications in worship.
 - Steve Fridsma, architect, Grand Rapids MI

Len’s insight, design sense, and communication skills are limitless.

 - Myca Alford, Strategic Marketing Manager, United Methodist Communications

Len consistently brings creativity, professionalism and a high level of expertise to the creation and effective use of media, creating a “digital stained glass window” that enhances worship in powerful ways. Len also has a clear understanding of the value and mechanics of team building, and the significance of spiritual relationships in the worship design process.
 - Claudia Lavy, Vice President, Deepening Your Effectiveness, Inc.

 

My Books

I published my first short story at age 14 and my first church leadership book, The Wired Church, at age 28. I have been lead or solo writer for nine books to pastors, church leaders, communicators, and worship leaders. In addition, I have written 40 journal and magazine articles, maintained this blog since 2007, and occasionally contribute to other blogs and websites. My tenth book, Think Like a Five Year Old: Reclaim Your Wonder and Create Great Things, is a mass market trade Christian book on creativity. It officially releases on June 2, 2015. Learn more about my books here.

 

My Speaking Experience

I have been honored to conduct over 200 keynote addresses and workshops in venues of all sizes, either solo or with partners in ministry. Highlights include:

  • 44 US states and 4 Canadian provinces
  • Disney Creativity Conference (2 times)
  • World Association for Christian Communication
  • Festival of Homiletics
  • ShowBiz Expo
  • Break Forth Canada
  • NAB: National Association of Broadcasters (3 times)
  • NRB: National Religious Broadcasters
  • Worship Leader National Conference (3 times)
  • Ginghamsburg Change Conference (4 times)
  • Church of the Resurrection Leadership Institute (5 times)

 

Upcoming Events

Additional dates are in development; check back soon or click  below to inquire about an event near you!

 

Contact Me Now

Invite me to speak at your next event! Click the button below to start a conversation on how I can help your next gathering.

Inquire About An Event 

About the Author

Len Wilson

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Writer. Story lover. Believer. Branding philosopher. Breakfast chef. Tickle monster. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Creative Director. Occasional public speaker.

Len WilsonHow Many of These 10 Problems Do You Experience In Church?

What`s your story?

Len WilsonChurch, Faith, StoryLeave a Comment

Story_1920x1080
The other day a stranger greeted me with the ice-breaker question, “What is your story?” Although it may sound like small talk, his question is one of the most important and revealing things you can ask somebody.

Most of us go through life with a negative view of our own story.

We remember our mistakes; we’re convinced we’ve screwed up. We think we come out of dysfunctional histories – our families, our hometowns, our money or lack of money. We think we have made, and continue to make, bad decisions. We know what Eric Clapton means when he sings, “I must be strong and carry on, ‘Cause I know I don’t belong here in heaven.”

The circumstances change from chapter to chapter, but the same nagging problem remains: there’s something about our own story we don’t like.

When you meet somebody and you ask them, “What’s your story?”, you’re not just throwing out a colloquial, how-ha-doing greeting. You are asking that person perhaps the most important question you can ask, and their answer says a lot about how he or she understands their own life. Your answer to the question says a lot about how you see your own life.

We see our story, and our identity, as the sum total of our life experiences.

Many of us define ourselves by our life experiences; we think who we are comes from what we’ve done. We adopt the unexamined idea that our identity is in our history. But maybe our problem isn’t the plot twists and turns of our life, or the characters and scenes we’re stuck in. Maybe the problem is that we don’t understand, or that we have forgotten, our real story.

What if our story is more than just our seemingly random set of life choices?

What if we’re not actually alone, making our own life’s scenes up as we go like a crazed screenwriter? What if there’s a bigger story unfolding all around us, and we’re a small but crucial part?

See, I believe that following Jesus is about learning that neither the idea that we are the director of our life purpose, nor that our lives are devoid of meaning, is true. Instead, we are created by a divine God, made in God’s image, and that we have a story, and that in spite of everything that has happened, our story is a good story. And that in Christ Jesus, we have the opportunity to rediscover the story for which we are made. We’re not alone, writing our own future as we see fit, but we actually have a divine director who wants to show us what happens next.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ…2 Corinthians 5:17-18

Art and inspiration for this post come from The Story, a sermon series at my church, Peachtree. Learn more here.

 

About the Author

Len Wilson

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Writer. Story lover. Believer. Branding philosopher. Breakfast chef. Tickle monster. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Creative Director. Occasional public speaker.

Len WilsonWhat`s your story?

Stop Looking to Habits of Famous Creative People

Len WilsonCreativity2 Comments

creative-circles

A popular book and Internet blog topic has been the study of lifestyles and habits of famous creative people, such as this and this. I’m bored of them, and today I realized why: to look at creativity as a set of techniques or tactics robs us of a deeper understanding of creativity’s power.

It’s oft-stated in the church community that God is Creator, and that, since we’re made in God’s image, we are thus creative. Consider: If creativity is part of the essence of what it means to be human, is it something we can easily distill into a simple recipe, heat and serve, like Ten Habits of Famous Compassionate People?

Or is it much deeper than that?

In my book Think Like a Five Year Old, I note that our unique perspective on life is in fact the origin of our creativity:

Creativity is about listening to, and living out of, the voice in your inner being – your heart, mind, soul and strength; in other words, creativity is about being attentive to and acting in response to the combination of ideas and reactions and preferences that form your view of the world. This perspective, this unique form of expression, is the identity given to you by God and the origin of your creativity. We come with it preloaded. We’re each born an artist. We’re made to be creative. As an image of God, when we exercise our heavenly impulse, the result of our expression, regardless of our field of endeavor, is art. This power, which reflects the essence of God, reveals itself in the passions we feel.

This passage suggests that, if we’re feeling uninspired or fatigued, the solution isn’t something extrinsic – to change our circumstances or surroundings or self-identity, or to adopt a famous creative’s set of habits from a blog post or list.

Of course, looking at famous people’s habits is fun, and I don’t want to overstate its value by complaining about it. But I also don’t want to subconsciously spy on the creative routines of well-known people out of a hacker’s mentality that if we can uncover some common thread and apply it to our own lives, we’ll improve our lot. This is magic in the worst sense of the word, a replacement of identity and faith in God with an easy trick or set of tactics. Instead of looking to other people’s habits, if we look inward to rediscover who we are and how we’re made, from this place of wisdom we might recover not a grab bag, tactical creativity but an expression of our human identity.

Rather than adopt new routines, or look to the habits of well-known persons, what are the implications of looking inward to find our creativity?

About the Author

Len Wilson

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Writer. Story lover. Believer. Branding philosopher. Breakfast chef. Tickle monster. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Creative Director. Occasional public speaker.

Len WilsonStop Looking to Habits of Famous Creative People

On creativity and artistic sensibilities

Len WilsonArtists, CreativityLeave a Comment

paper bulb copy
Play a word association game with me. What do you think of when you hear the word “creativity”? One of the associations I hear most often is the word “arts,” such as when people say something like this recent social media comment:

Everyone is creative but not everyone is artistic.

This statement is perhaps meant to affirm artists, but it’s unsettling, because of what it implies.

Someone can hear this and experience a range of emotion: the high of thinking she has gifts to offer – “Oh, I’m creative?” – followed by the deflation of realizing she doesn’t – “Oh. I’m not artistic?” Her shoulders slump, because she wants to be creative, but because she’s not an artist she thinks her ideas don’t count. I have heard variations of this story on several occasions.

Or, another response, as someone compares himself to friends and colleagues: “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” When in fact what he really means is, I don’t make films or do graphic design or paint or draw.

People associate the words “creative” and “artistic”.

We meet artists, and we label them creative, and their work – painting, design, writing, music – as art.

But is this a precise association to make?

Consider this statement:

Everyone has legs but not everyone is fast.

Humans are bipeds. We stand on two legs. This is a fairly universal attribute. But some – perhaps only a few – have physical giftedness that position them to pursue athletic achievement.

The former – legs – is universal; the latter – strength and speed – is a specific gift, given to a few.

Creativity is more universal than the gift and skill of artistry.

Creativity is as intrinsic to being human as having two legs – even moreso, because while tragedy might rob or alter our bodies, creativity is in our spirit, put there at our inception.

It’s fine if artists care a great deal about creativity. They should, because it’s central to what artists do, just as athletes should care a great deal about leg strength. But that shouldn’t slow down everyone else, who can learn and benefit from a greater understanding of creativity.

  • What are the implications of disassociating creativity and “the arts” and thinking of creativity as something deeper and more intrinsic than having a specific skill?
  • Seth Godin uses the word “art” as the product of our unique creativity. He challenges our definition of “art” and our association of creativity and the arts. Has the association of creativity and the arts inhibited you? How?
  • What ways can you see the benefits of creativity in your life that have nothing to do with what are traditionally considered “the arts”?

 

About the Author

Len Wilson

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Writer. Story lover. Believer. Branding philosopher. Breakfast chef. Tickle monster. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Creative Director. Occasional public speaker.

Len WilsonOn creativity and artistic sensibilities

The Only Three Times Most of Us Are Ever Creative

Len WilsonCreativityLeave a Comment

beeker
I can feel it when my Creativity leaves.

It happens most days, sadly. I watch it walk out the door like a dour, fuzzy muppet, oversized face down, dragging its suessian hands on the floor. It passes the line of people at my door who stand in queue with questions and messages and needs and just so many needs. Need #31. Need #42.

The books, and I’ve studied them, say that most of us lose our Creativity because we self-inhibit. In fact, educators have a name for this. They call it the “fourth grade slump” because that’s about the age when most of us develop an acute awareness of other people’s judge-y-ness.

And judge-y they are. To overcome this oppression, we try to be neutral and avoid actual, out-on-a-limb expression, but if we’re honest, other people can be just as judge-y about how to compile a spreadsheet or allocate a resource. So there’s no escaping it. But people can be really judge-y when we try to actually suggest a new idea or make something. Being creative is like raising your hand in a fluorescent room full of people staring at the floor.

The really good ideas are at first fragile. They require hands cupped in protection. We can do low level creative things like doctor a photo or write a tweet, but the really great Creativity leaves when the room gets crowded with Needs and judge-y-ness.

The other day, when the Needs lined up at my door again, and I watched Creativity drudge off, it occurred to me that there are only a few times in life when most of us are really creative.

 

The first is when we’re completely ignorant.

This is the beauty of being a five year old. Completely, blissfully, wonderfully ignorant to the demands of the world. A fellow five year old has a negative opinion about your new art. Who cares? An authority figure wants you to organize something instead. What? It’s time for bed or to come to dinner. Hang on, I’m busy.

Of course, we eventually turn six, then 31, and we cannot unlearn what we learn, and cannot unhear what we hear, about life and the world and other people’s opinions.

Perhaps this is why there are so many stories of outsiders blowing up an industry, like Louis Gerstner, the cookie executive who is credited with turning around IBM in the 1990s. It’s only the ignorant and unconnected who are able to fully ignore the forces of stasis, no matter how well-meaning, whose “concerns” apply gravitational pull to new ideas, stifling innovation and effecting in some cases horrific launch pad disasters. (Actually, one study suggests that outsiders do best when the company is in crisis, which says something about the constancy of our chaos.)

It’s why the first 100 days in a new job are so critical. Yea, when you’re new and ignorant, you get knocked over a lot and make some embarrassing mistakes, but so what. Embrace your newfound, temporary ignorance. It’s an opportunity to actually make something, and it doesn’t last long. It’s also the beauty of risk. New environments re-ignorance us from the monotocrats.

But of course a person can’t change jobs every two years — or homes, or marriages — and we can’t go around pretending to be ignorant to entice our dearly departed creativity back. So ignorance doesn’t really work as a strategy for more creativity.

 

The second is when we’re completely desperate.

As the great Don Henley pined, freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.

Some people treading the long tail of decline say they’re desperate, but they’re really not — not yet. As long as you still have a steady paycheck for the foreseeable future, you’re not desperate. Your big idea failed on launch, but stumbles along with small market share. The second month in, you know you made a bad decision, but you decide to tough it out. You end up hanging on to the old thing for much long than you any reasonable scenario would suggest in the hope that it will, of its own accord, reignite. (The most nonsensical reaction is when purveyors of decline actually make badges out of their consumption and stasis, like a pastor who proudly proclaims that the dusty sanctuary is God’s design for the church.)

Desperation doesn’t darken our door nearly as often as we think it does. It only really appears when the perceived pain of change becomes less than the present pain of insufficient funds notices we’re getting on life. The scary moments, when they do come, become the megaphone to rouse us from our consumer slumber.

Desperation can lead to great things, so I’m not opposed to this under special circumstances, but I’ll pass for now on pursuing despair as a strategy.

 

The third is when we’re completely secure.

This leaves the third and final option — complete security.

For a period of time I consulted with teams of people attempting to design live event experiences in church settings. One of the aphorisms I’d cite, in an attempt to help teams create a sense of personal intimacy and goodwill amongst each other, was that insecurity is the first destroyer of creativity, because the really good ideas are tied to a sense of self and identity. Our best stuff can be almost unrecognizable at first. Good ideas sprout with the affirmation of others, at least until we’ve become so experienced that we can recognize it ourselves, although I’d really say that even then, or at least in own life, years of experience and titles and prestige and fans don’t foster complete security in our own ideas.

It’s stereotypical and likely off-putting to use football anecdotes, but I can’t help but think of the career of NFL hall of fame coach Tom Landry. Landry, who retired in 1989 and passed away in 2000, is considered one of the greatest innovators in football history. Several of his big creative ideas are still in use 25 years after he left the league.

In today’s sports climate, I wonder if any of this would have happened. He didn’t win a single game in his first year, and finished with no more than 5 wins in his next four. After five straight years of 5th, 6th and last place finishes, most coaches would have been fired. Instead, the team owner gave Landry a ten-year contract extension. He didn’t have another losing season for 22 years, a record that stands today.

We need healthy environments — people, job situations, financial security — to foster creative thinking and behavior. And while each of the three is to some degree out of our control — that is , not something we can make happen tomorrow — security is really the only scenario we can hope to make a long term reality.

So next time your Creativity leaves the room like a dour Muppet, ask yourself how secure you are. And if you like the answer, or think you might be able to like the answer, then make some decisions based on it; in other words, begin to adjust your schedule so that it’s not built on fear for job security or status or future paycheck, but on what you need in order for Creativity to stay in the room a while.

 

About the Author

Len Wilson

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Writer. Story lover. Believer. Branding philosopher. Breakfast chef. Tickle monster. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Creative Director. Occasional public speaker.

Len WilsonThe Only Three Times Most of Us Are Ever Creative