Our well of creativity has not run dry, we’ve just been taught that the life that it provides is not worth drinking.
Dear Pastors and Church Leaders —
I feel you. It’s been a time.
As I take a breath to reflect on these past 18 months, it has become abundantly clear that, in attempting to faithfully lead a congregation during this pandemic, my creativity has been ever so slowly withering away. In fact, the very act of writing this post on creativity has been painful and plodding with the reading and re-reading my own words straight up making me sleepy.
Not good, not good at all.
The truth is, I have forgotten how to flip my creativity lightbulb switch to “on” and am mortified that I am unable to express myself beyond terrible appliance metaphors. The saddest part is, not that I believe my well of creativity has run dry, but rather I have clearly succumbed to the idea that the life and energy that creativity provides is not worth drinking.
If you are like me, I too often buy into the idea that creativity is an inefficient, self-indulgent, “Only if you have time after all the tasks are completed.” luxury that can only take the form of writing retreats, expensive getaways, or Etsy-level, artistic endeavors far beyond the reach of mere mortals.
But wait, Bruce you have done X, started X, the church you serve has not revolted (At least I don’t think that they have.), and what the hell man, you are giving presentations about all this cool, new, funky, “hybrid church” stuff. Yes, like many of you, I have enjoyed tapping into some skills, gifts, and ideas, but the adrenaline of “crisis breeds innovation” ran out sometime last spring and it has become painfully obvious that my “bag of tricks” probably ran out well before that.
I have been competent, but I have not been creative. Huge difference.
The sad fact is that what most people perceive as creativity has really just been thoughtfulness and competency, and now the drive to deliver programs and the need to manage our way into the future has begun to creep into the realm of toxic productivity.
If we keep this up, if we have not already, we ARE going to burn out.
We have become so enamored with deliverables, technical proficiency, and the idea that we can plan our way out of a pandemic, that we now threaten to tear down so much of what has been sustained and built up over these past months.
Make no mistake, the draw of toxic productivity is insidious and seductive — and unless we tell it to back the hell off, it will win.
It does not matter how long any of us have been at this pastoring thing, if we do not nurture the creative and holy that dwells deeply in our souls, we will falter. I have been ordained for over 25 years and this, by far, has been the most challenging time in my ministry. My ego has taken a ton of hits, I’ve lost confidence in my instincts, sleepless nights are the norm, and have given up the joy that I get from creating content, capturing images, and putting words down on “paper.” Fortunately, the lovely humans around me: family, my leadership coach, and many in the church I serve, have helped me to remember that creativity: mine, yours, and ours is what beckons us towards the holy and makes wide the path to knowing the divine in all of us.
To be clear, I blame no one and no one is really at fault here. These past 18 months, whether people wish to believe it or not, and in a myriad of ways, have been taxing on everyone. While weariness, anxiety, and disappointment seem to rule the day, We have done our best to provide services the best we could and pastored people through trauma. This is not a castigation of what you should or should not be doing, but rather a commiseration about the struggle it is to lead and a plea to find ways to seek and experience the creativity and new life that can be borne out of times like these.
At the end of the day, it’s pretty simple — if we are going to be and become who God hopes and intends, we must not view creativity as a luxury that can be put off until there is time, rather we must embrace it as means by which we each experience the holy in ourselves and will enable us to help others to do the same.
Again, you are not alone.