Overcome Your Troubles and Learn to be Your Own Creative Leader

This is the third in a series of posts called Church Like Pixar. The goal of the series is to aid you with the strategic decisions you need to make in order to create a world-class creative environment in your church. These are ideal for a communicator in a new position, but anyone could start implement these ideas today. This one is about becoming your own creative leader. Here is part one and part two.


Most church creatives and communicators I know suffer from too much to do and not enough time to do it. We like to suggest that this problem is the result of being under-resourced and under-appreciated. While I don’t want to suggest that these feelings are entirely a figment of our imagination, I do want to suggest that there’s something most of us do that doesn’t help, and in fact makes the problem worse. That is the fact that most of us don’t know how to be our own creative leader.


It starts with taking ownership and responsibility for your creative environment.

If you’re in a creative or communications capacity in a local church, you may tired of having to produce quality work with little time and barely any money. How do you improve your creative environment?

Most church creative and communications environments are day-to-day. Requests come in and overwhelmed designers try to create something decent with very short turn around time. One designer I’ve worked with called the typical cycle of church work “churn and burn.” It’s a reactionary, distracted, under-resourced and ineffective environment.

Getting out in front of the relentless cycle of demands is the first order of business for a church communicator. This begins not with working harder –  14-hour work days – but with naming and building your future. It starts with learning how to be your own creative advocate – how to take control of your own environment.


Most churches operate like a Kinko’s.

When I was at that graduate school in the 1990s my wife worked at a Kinko’s Copy Center. People would come in with the most ridiculous demands. They’d want Kinko’s to turn their terrible flyer into something great. Sometimes people just wanted help and didn’t know what to do. Almost everyone needed help immediately. All she and her colleagues could do was react to people’s problems.

Kinko’s was for emergencies.

Sadly, many churches operate as a church like Kinko’s. Pastors and ministry directors don’t engage with creative and communications expertise until it’s too late.

Creativity, and creative people, never last in church-like-Kinko’s environments.


The lack of a healthy creative environment is a complex problem.

Some of the problem is tactical, like where or when to meet and who should be in the room. These decisions are important, but I think there’s something even more important. Creating an environment where creativity flourishes and creative people want to be requires more than just changing a few methods such as the day you meet or who’s in the room.

Some of the problem is strategic, like how far ahead to meet and what sorts of questions to ask in the planning process. But having a plan isn’t sufficient, either.

Some of the problem is systemic, such as the continued influence of models of knowing and being based on print culture, which has several qualities that are antithetical to creativity.

But don’t lose hope! There’s something specific you can do.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – attributed to Peter Drucker

The issue isn’t about workflow or what software you’re using or how difficult your projects are. The issue is about culture. The solution starts with Fostering a healthy culture for creativity. The power of culture is greater than the power of strategic planning or great everyday tactics. If you make the culture great, the end result will almost always be great.

“Making a culture” sounds lofty and fuzzy, right? Lucky for us, we’ve got Pixar. Specifically, we have a great case study for building a creative culture.

To become your own creative leader, focus on culture, not tactics.

I call this ideal “Church like Pixar” because of Pixar’s reputation for quality work combined with their reputation for creative freedom. The mythology of Pixar is that it is a creative’s dream – a place where an artist wth a good work ethic can be given the time and money to produce excellent work.

Pixar got there not because they were good at tactics, but because they were outstanding at culture.

If you want a great space to work in, make one. Become your own creative advocate. Focus on culture, not tactics.

A church that operates like Pixar finishes work on time, and it’s usually excellent. They support the creative arts with people and money resources. People love what they do, and lives are changed. Creatives want to work at this kind of church. They buy into the vision of the organization, partner with other ministries, and collaborate to define and tell the story of the community.

If you want some specifics of things you can do to start creating a more healthy culture, click here.


About the Author

Len Wilson

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Christ follower. Storyteller. Strategist. Writer. Creative Director at St Andrew. Tickle monster. Author, Think Like a Five Year Old (Abingdon).