How To Make Your Services More Creative Without Selling Your Soul To The Devil

Have you ever visited a church years after your first visit, and noticed nothing changed? Sure some of the people had a few more wrinkles, but the music, the building, the service all felt…like it was stuck in time.

Have you ever visited a church that attempted a creative element that left you feeling…”What was the point of that?” Or maybe, “They are trying to hard to be relevant.”

We should engage our culture, but by the time the church finds out what is relevant it’s often changing. We are left with a copy of something popular in culture.

No matter how cool you are very few churches can pull off a great cover of Mumford and Sons. If you can then go for it. But copies are rarely as exciting as the original. No matter how amazing a Beatles cover band is they will never create the hysteria that surrounded the original Fab Four.

Creativity is needed in church, but if it’s not done right it feels like we’ve spoiled the sacred.

So pastors that have a desire to reach the unchurched are left with a tension of not moving so fast that you leave behind the current people at your church, but not moving so slow the service feels more like a museum of what once was.

“Tradition is frozen success.” – Miles Munroe

Traditions are great, but at some point they become a reminder of what was. Traditions that never change reflect the past success of what once was. We shouldn’t be afraid of some traditions, but we also shouldn’t become married to them.

I love the phrase Andy Stanley coined, “This is a tension to manage, and not a problem to solve.”

We must hold both of these ideas in tension.

To force creativity a church will come off a cheesy. To not be creative a church will come off as the frozen chosen.

So how do you live in this tension and lead your church to embrace creativity?

Great question. Thank you for asking it.

How To Make Your Services More Creative Without Selling Your Soul To The Devil

1. Understand and lead others to understand what creativity is.

Creativity is not playing a secular song in church just to play one (not that I’m against playing songs heard on secular radio). It’s not trying to relate to culture. Unchurched people come to church looking for something different. In order to be creative we have to shape culture and not just copy culture.

Creativity is finding uncommon solutions to common problems.

Creativity is finding uncommon solutions to common problems. Click To Tweet

So address what a common problem is and then tackle how to solve it in an uncommon way. The answers you come up with inspire creativity.

Here is an example of this.

People love watching movies, but don’t love having to go out to the store to check one out, and then have to pay for late fees if you forget to check one in. In the 90’s video businesses where booming, but no one loved the process.

We want to watch what we want to watch, when we want to watch it. So what’s the solution?

Netflix offers a streaming service and within a few short years stores that rented movies went out of business.

That’s creative.

In the church there are a few key elements that happen every week. You have some songs, you have some announcements, and you have a sermon. There are a few other elements depending on the church, but that’s the main ingredients.

When people know what’s coming their brains check out. To help people check in we must offer an element of surprise. Too much surprise they will be caught off guard and feel it’s inauthentic. Too little surprise and they zone out. Problem.

So creativity happens when you start tackling this problem.

What can we do to help people check in to the familiar elements of our service? If no one is listening during the welcome, that’s a problem. Creativity is the solution. If people seem disengaged during the sermon that’s a problem, and creativity is a solution. If people are participating with worship that’s a problem and creativity is the solution.

Take a familiar song and introduce a new instrument to it and people will wake up. We had someone who played the harmonica during a familiar hymn. It was such a little part of the service, but people were blown away because it was a fresh idea. We’ve introduced the banjo, steel guitar, a spoken word in the middle of a song, and, a rap during a worship song. For one of our favorite worship songs that we played to death, we re-introduced it with a new bridge. The bridge was from a classic U2 song. It fit perfect and made an amazing song that people were checking out to become interesting again.

All of it felt authentic to us, but was seen as creative.

Any time you have something that has been done multiple times ask your team what is a new way to introduce it. We did a Christmas sing along with traditional Christmas songs. Our church is not traditional, but people love to sing the classic Christmas carols.

The catch was we built a tiny stage and had our singers move to the center of the room. All of the sudden it felt like a sing along and not like a spectator event. It was not the most creative thing we did in the service, but it was the most talked about.

A new take to a familiar element creates excitement.

A new take to a familiar element creates excitement. Click To Tweet

Think of it this way. Our culture loves Coke. Coke constantly tweaks what they do to stay relevant. But when they introduced Coke 2 with a whole new formula Americans rejected it. You know the people at your church. Creative is finding uncommon solutions to common problems. If people are bored during the sermon what are some uncommon solutions to wake them up? Mix up the formula, but don’t change it completely. Coke added people’s names to their bottles and it became a massive cultural hit.

Same Coke, but with a creative twist. Coke 2 mixed with the formula and people rejected it.

When you refuse to accept that problems can’t be solved, creativity is the outcome.

When you refuse to accept that problems can't be solved, creativity is the outcome. Click To Tweet

2. Engage don’t entertain.

Entertainment creates spectators and an endless cycle of “How do we top that?”

Engaging is different.

The definition of engaging is “interesting, engrossing, gripping, involving, absorbing, fascinating; bloggable.”

Jesus was engaging. Every time he taught a crowd He used a parable. He involved the people. He used their senses to teach.

You don’t have to entertain people, but you do have to engage them.

The Bible is incredibly interesting!!! It’s boring if you don’t know how to read it, understand the culture, or see it’s relevance, but it comes to life when you engage it.

I want people to be engaged when they come to church. I want them to think, “That was an interesting point. I’ve never thought of it that way.”

Entertaining causes people to sit back and consume. Engaging causes people to lean in and participate.

Engage don’t entertain.

3. Invite the right people to the process.

Because we are created in the image of God everyone has the potential for creativity. When brainstorming, however, not everyone has the capacity to dream big.

Doers, by nature, think about what it will take to get the work done.

A doer will shut down a dreamer in a creative meeting.

They will focus on how much work, how much money, and why it can’t be done.

Remove doers from creative brainstorming meeting.

Invite dreamers to brainstorming meetings.

You have some dreamers in your church. They don’t have to be staff.

Some of the best ideas are sitting in the chairs of your service every week. Help cultivate their creativity and give them permission to dream.

Find the people that are saying, “What if?”

Gather the dreamers to brainstorm ideas. Once the ideas are well thought out bring the two to three best to your doers.

When the doers get to see a couple options it will help them feel a part of the process. They then get to help decide on which one gets finalized. And they will do the work so they will bring up some ideas, concerns, and thoughts to make the idea better. They don’t get to shut everything down. They get to pick.

Present two to three ideas that the creative team likes almost equally. Whatever is not chosen can go into an ideas bank and saved for another time.

Once you have your creative team make sure that you help them understand what creativity is and then…

4. Define the creative goals.

Creativity needs some parameters or it will go off the rails. They say, “No idea is a bad idea, but that’s not true.”

The ideas you want to unearth are the ones that are true to you, and help accomplish your goal.

So what is the goal of the creative meeting?

Present the problem first.

A blank space is too much space for dreamers.

For example, present to the creative team that you want help making a series on discipleship engaging.

The last command Jesus gave to His followers is often the most ignored. How do we fix this? How do we present this in a way that will engage and inspire people to want to participate in the discipleship process.

Now, ideas are geared towards a specific problem that this series is going to fix.

You will eliminate random creativity that leaves the church feeling like you are trying to hard. Instead, you will engage people who will become excited about your services.

5. Don’t get married to it.

A key phrase I use in meetings is “Don’t get married to it.”

One thing that eliminates creativity is when someone is so tied to their idea they can’t hear anyone else’s.

During brainstorming, don’t get married to it. There are multiple uncommon solutions to common problems.

The goal is to unearth the best idea. Any idea that doesn’t get used gets put into an ideas bank for later.

The first Indiana Jones film was supposed to include jumping out of an airplane in an inflatable raft, and an epic chase in mine carts. Neither idea made the final cut.

When it came time to make the sequel, Temple of Doom, the filmmakers pulled from great ideas that didn’t get used the first go around.

Don’t get married to it. It’s not no, it’s not yet.

We’d love to hear from you. What practical things have worked for you to include creativity in your services?



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