Welcome to lenwilson.us.
People first experience the power of what can be not through analysis but through art.
This statement captures why I do what I do. Most of us – in church, in education, in pretty much anything – are moved first and foremost through embodied personal experience and not through abstract propositions and referential language. Yet those of us with ideas to share, the teachers and preachers and politicians and communicators, continue to deal in propositions and analysis, then wonder at the ineffectiveness of our work. When we ignore or misunderstand the role of art in sharing ideas and changing lives, we’re missing out on deep wells of powerful, life changing communication.
Learning how to communicate through affective experience, which comes from creative expression, is the primary goal of this blog.
Most of the time, this means I write about the intersection of creativity and the life of faith. My goal is to help you be more creative, and through your creativity to be a better communicator, in work and in life.
My career and many examples in my writing come from the life of the church and my life mission is to help the story and person of Jesus Christ to become more meaningful for people. (Here’s my post on why I do what I do.) Often, the solutions I suggest apply both to church and to other areas of life too.
My art is writing, and I like to keep an eye on the latest technology. I post at least once a week. My aim is that every blog post answers a question about one of the core topics of creativity, innovation, art, communications, ministry, and the faith life.
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I am the Creative Director at St. Andrew UMC, a large church in Plano, TX, where I lead a group of creatives and communications specialists. At St. Andrew, my goal is to communicate the gospel with beauty and power through story, and in the process foster a working environment where creatives want to be.
This short bio is good for use in publicity.
Len Wilson is an author, speaker, and creativity advocate. He is known for his pioneering work in visual storytelling and has consulted with organizations and ministries across the country. Len is the author or co-author of ten books, has been featured in dozens of articles for major religious periodicals, and has acquired leadership books for Abingdon Press, a division of the United Methodist Publishing House. He currently serves as Creative and Communications Director at St. Andrew, a large church in Plano, Texas. Follow Len at lenwilson.us or on Twitter at @Len_Wilson.
Here’s the more complete story.
I’ve created since I was a child, first through writing and drawing and then music.
While an undergrad at McMurry University, I discovered the intrigue and potential of communication as a discipline. I felt discontent, anger even, at the dishonoring and embarrassing way the church communicated the truth and beauty of the gospel, and devoted myself to fixing it. I developed a life mission statement which has guided my career decisions ever since:
To use oral, written and visual communication with equal effectiveness in sharing Jesus Christ and advancing God’s kingdom.
After graduation, I entered the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, still deciphering what was to become a calling to serve the church in the area of creativity and communication. After one year, I transferred and finished my master’s work at United Theological Seminary, then accepted a newly formed job as a Media Director at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio. (These moments sound tidy in retrospect but were actually scary steps away from clear job paths in to the unknown.)
From 1995-2000, I experimented with what it meant to communicate the gospel visually in worship, where a team of staff and volunteer cohorts and I produced weekly experiments in the use of creativity, image and the arts in worship and church life. Our efforts saw worship triple in size to over 3000 a weekend and attract international attention in the form of conferences, news media coverage, featured articles and book opportunities. While at Ginghamsburg I wrote my first church leadership book, The Wired Church: Making Media Ministry.
By 1999, colleague and friend Jason Moore and I began to feel the burden of many churches who wanted to implement similar ministries in their congregations, but didn’t know how. In 2000, we founded Lumicon Digital Productions through UMR Communications as a ministry to help churches learn to communicate visually. Two years later, we founded our own independent publishing house, Midnight Oil Productions. Together, we owned and operated Midnight Oil for nine years, until 2011. During this time Jason and I authored several books for church leaders on worship and the arts, including Digital Storytellers and Taking Flight with Creativity, and spoke around the country on the use of image and metaphor in worship.
While operating Midnight Oil, I also served as Creative Director at Trietsch Memorial UMC in Flower Mound, Texas from 2006-2011, where I led a worship design team that produced weekly worship.
In early 2011, I sold my share of Midnight Oil and moved with my family to Nashville, Tennessee, to join the publishing world and acquire church leadership books for Abingdon Press, the primary imprint of the United Methodist Publishing House. After a surprisingly short 18 months, I accepted a call to return to full-time church work as the Creative Director of Peachtree, one of the largest Presbyterian congregations in America, where I served for four years. In August of 2016, I returned to my home state of Texas and home tribe of United Methodism.
Since 1996, I have spoken with friends and solo at hundreds of conferences, seminars, consultations and workshops. I have written and co-written ten books on creativity, communication and the life of faith.
In 2012, I shifted my writing emphasis from Church Leadership to what publishers call Christian Life, or books for everyday Christians. My first Christian life book, titled Think Like a Five Year Old, published in June, 2015.
I hold a M.A. in Religious Communication, United Theological Seminary, 1995; a B.A. in Communication, McMurry University, 1992 (summa cum laude); and did Master’s course study at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, 1992-1993.
I am a preacher’s kid and have lived in seven states, but consider Texas my home state. I have been married to my beautiful wife, Shar, for twenty-five years.
If you are new to my site, consider some sample posts, listed by category:
How to Get Unstuck and Make Something Important
A garage used to be a metaphor for our innovation. Now it’s a final resting place for our consumerism. What happened to our creativity?
How to Gain Self Confidence as a Creative
Successful creatives have a distinctive style. How do you learn to find your version?
One of the Worst Demons of Creativity
To separate what I think I am supposed to say versus what I want to say is one of the hardest things I have ever done.
5 Ways to Crush a Creative Spirit
To totally ruin your creative person’s morale and drive to succeed, simply employ these five simple techniques.
On Faith, Church, and the Arts
The Unnecessary Tragedy of Artists and the Church
A tribute to a friend and a call for the church universal to understand the soul of the artist.
Why Most Visual Art in Worship Isn’t Really Art
Don’t confuse art and design. Each employs a different worldview. Designers create solutions. Artists create questions.
The State of Visual Arts in Worship and What Comes Next
Can we do more in the visual arts in worship than blobs and a brand?
Three Ways To Use Images in Worship Like a True Artist
An exploration of the three types of images in worship visual arts.
7 Secrets To Gain a Following For Your Big Idea
Advertise the fruit, not the seed.
Why Design is Essential to Effective Communication
Most dismiss design as the icing of a core object or idea. That’s a mistake.
The Epiphany That Saved Apple and How it Can Help You
The discovery that altered Apple’s communication, and how we can learn from it as we craft our messages.