Creatives, this is how to serve in church and not burn out
Lizzy Lee // February 28, 2019, 5:37 pm
Creatives tend to get a bad rep for being difficult, emotional, unpredictable and, on occasion, a nightmare of pride and/or insecurity. All of which I have been accused of (not unrightfully), so that puts me in an apt position to write this, I guess?
So let’s get started.
7 STEPS TO STAY IN THE GAME
1. Take a position of humility before honour
“A man’s heart is the proudest when his downfall is nearest, for he won’t see glory until the Lord sees humility.” (Proverbs 18:12 TPT)
The worst thing you can say whenever anyone is trying to give you feedback or constructive criticism is “I know”.
Yes, it’s true that many good creatives tend to have an inflated sense of self-worth. Because we know we are good at what we do. But being good doesn’t make us right. Nor does it endear us to anyone just because we think we know better.
Favour flows to the lowest places.
Because if you think you know everything, then no one can teach you anything. Especially young creatives, this is less about your skill or the mastery of your craft, but about your attitude towards others and how you treat them.
You’ll find yourself surprised that you can be super talented yet super unlikable because no one wants to work with the smartypants know-it-all.
Favour flows to the lowest places. And a creative that is able to entreat and take a journey with people who don’t yet understand, who is able to walk people through the decision-making process till the choice can be owned by the team and not just themselves, will earn honour that cannot come by being the smartest person in the room.
2. Don’t take things personally
“If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise.” (Proverbs 15:31 NLT)
Or: How to take feedback well.
Firstly, please remember this. People who don’t care about you don’t have to put themselves in the uncomfortable position of telling you that you’re wrong.
Fair-weathered friends can agree with everything you say and avoid confrontation forever, even if they judge you behind your back. So please understand that anyone who cares enough to tell you something you may not want to hear, knowing that you might not respond in the most gracious way, loves you enough to point out the blind spots in your life that may be evident to everyone else except yourself.
People who don’t care about you don’t have to put themselves in the uncomfortable position of telling you that you’re wrong.
I know we creatives tend to tie a lot of our self-worth to the quality of our craft. But before you identified as being a creative or had any skills or strengths to bring to the table, you were already God’s beloved child who didn’t need to prove anything or be anyone to be 100% accepted, cherished, treasured and loved.
And that’s still who you are, no matter what anyone says about your work.
If it’s a feedback point that will help you grow as a human being, take it. If it’s a feedback point about how you don’t seem to be meeting the brief, seek to understand the brief. Remember, you’re not designing this to prove what an amazing designer you are. Or that you are a calligraphy queen. If the brief doesn’t need calligraphy, figure out what it does need.
Because at the end of the day …
3. This really isn’t about you
To serve as a creative in the house of God isn’t about proving how good you are, or how amazing you are at a very specific type of design, filmmaking or (insert your field of creativity here).
Our lives are about raising one name — Jesus. And when you signed up to do this for the church, you’re saying: God, let only one name be glorified, and it isn’t mine.
4. Embrace your portion
“(By the way, their reputation as great leaders made no difference to me, for God has no favourites.) Instead, they saw that God had given me the responsibility of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as he had given Peter the responsibility of preaching to the Jew.” (Galatians 2:6–7 NLT)
God doesn’t have favourites, but He does have portions. He calls our pastors to the platform, and He calls us to the supportive work of creative ministry. It is not about whose portion is better, but what He has placed in your hand.
Flowing in the portion He has called you to will bring you greater success than pursuing what might look like a shinier (or more visible) platform that you were never called to own.
Importance is scarcely measurable by how many people stop to appreciate you.
We’re creatives. We’re the behind-the-scenes people. Our names will seldom (if ever) be credited publicly.
Sometimes when the powers that be remember the roles we played, we’d get appreciated. But a lot of the time, people aren’t going to remember that someone bothered to make PowerPoint slides and fussed over the readability of the font size for the verses, or that there’s a giant welcome sign hanging at the doorway.
This doesn’t mean what we do isn’t important. Importance is scarcely measurable by how many people stop to appreciate you.
People see the preachers on the stage, so our pastors get the most visibility. But please remember that they can do what they do because we do what we do. We get to fuss over font sizes so that our pastor doesn’t have to. He gets to focus on bringing the Word, and we get to support him by making sure people can see the words. Aye?
5. Don’t be ruled by your emotions
“So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are. Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23 TPT)
Yes, I get it, we creatives like to start our sentences with “I feel”.
We feel a lot of things. We feel all the time. We channel our feels into broken offerings of art that are vessels for all our feelings.
Being able to feel, being empathetic, being more aware of our emotions (and everyone else’s, which explains our hypersensitivity) is a big part of being “creative”.
We can create work that brings people hope despite the state of our world.
But, as I often tell my team, being “feel-sy” is not an excuse to get away with “creative behaviour” (i.e. tantrums). While I agree that our ability to feel allows us to create work that can evoke an emotional response in others, I don’t believe that this gives us permission to be perpetually emotional or to claim that we can only create when we have negative emotions.
A lot of the world’s art comes from that source. But God is the originator of all creativity. If the world creates their best art when they are sad, can’t we create even better art when we are filled with a revelation of His love for us?
In their sadness, artists create work that makes people pensive and despair at the state of the world, but we can create work that brings people hope despite the state of our world.
We can be led by our feelings or we can be led by the Spirit. Creativity can be born from the flesh or it can be born from the Spirit. It can come out from the “I feel” or it can come out from the “I believe”. It’s your choice.
6. Don’t stop believin’
“… Yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day.” (Joshua 14:11–12 NKJV)
With all the practical advice I’ve laid out above, you might be thinking: In that case, are you asking me to not think, not feel and just accept everything that is thrown at me whether I agree with it?
Most certainly not. The same way we aren’t perfect, the teams and the leaders we serve with and under won’t be too.
But when we find ourselves getting angry at others, ourselves or the “system” for being the roadblock and reason why we’re not seeing the success we want, are we then placing our expectations on Him or on the circumstances to work in our favour?
Taking a position of humility doesn’t mean you can’t have dreams. It just means we trust less in our ability to strive our dreams into being, and more on His ability to bring our dreams to pass in a restful way.
Be bold to dream, to pray, to expect, to hope and to desire more, but keep your heart focused on the Lord and not on the dream.
7. This is a marathon, not a shuttle run
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
I know we have a lot of enthusiasm and a whole lot of heart. But there’s a difference between excellence and perfectionism.
It’s not how well we plan one event (and almost kill ourselves and everyone else getting there), but the consistency with which we run our race that will come to represent what our ministry stands for.
Ministry is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not about how bright you blaze (and burn out), but being a sustainable, reliable light in the darkness.
Proverbs 24:10, in The Message version, reads: “If you fall to pieces in a crisis, there wasn’t much to you in the first place.”
Don’t have a ministry that is constantly in “nitro” mode. No one wants to be the one that everyone is secretly relieved not to have to work with.
A sustainable ministry looks like knowing what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to. Knowing that you don’t need to overextend yourself to prove anything to anyone. There’s no point being the one-hit wonder if you’re too burned out to do anything else for the next 3 years after, or if everyone who works with you ends up with PTSD.
Instead, have a ministry that’s like this verse in the Psalms:
“Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears, they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain. He gives to them a brook of blessing filled from the rain of an outpouring.” (Psalm 84:6 TPT)
A ministry that is so anchored and washed by the Spirit that even in the valley where everyone else can only see darkness, you will enjoy the cool refreshing blessings of His shelter. That when everyone else is feeling the heat, your ministry can be a refuge for others even in the day of despair.
But how do we cultivate such a ministry? We come right back to point 1: Humility.
“Wisdom will exalt you when you exalt her truth. She will lead you to honour and favour when you live your life by her insights. You will be adorned with beauty and grace, and wisdom’s glory will wrap itself around you, making you victorious in the race.” (Proverbs 4:8–9 TPT)
Humility to entreat, to ask for wisdom, to run the race knowing that you’re in this for the long haul.
May you not be a light that burns fiercely and brightly but not long enough to make any real impact. May your ministry and influence be long, reliable, sustainable and enjoyable for many years to come.
This article was first published on Lizzy’s blog, and is republished with permission.