The Importance of Vision for Creatives

visionIf you are a pastor, you know that pastoring creative people can be a challenging task all on its own. Hiring them on your staff can be a journey to a whole new level of joy, frustration, and bewilderment, often all at the same time. This week I had the privilege of sharing in our team’s vision for a couple of days of off-site planning and strategy development. Being a “creative” and a leader of other “creatives”, I would like to share with you a couple of take-a-ways from this time. I am blessed to work with a great pastor who has an incredible vision for the lives of our people and for those in our community. Here are a few of my take-a-ways as it relates to the importance of vision to the creative people that you lead.

First of all, for fear of stating the obvious, vision provides direction to your team. Being able to see clearly what your church is all about, and what your team is trying to accomplish, helps keep the “big picture” in mind. This may seem obvious to most “type A” leaders (they would never think of doing anything without purpose, right?), but the creative people on your team will create, often just because they can. While creative people will often justify this attitude by claiming they serve the same God that created the platypus (and what purpose does it have?), they are freed to be more valuable to the team when they have purpose and direction to aim their creativity. While there is room in the Christian life for creativity for it’s own sake (when done with a pure heart as an act of worship toward God–it seems that God did), we will have more value to everyone in our world when we have direction and purpose for our creativity.

When most of us think of vision, we think of concepts like “out of the box”, “liberating”, and “defying the odds”.  Vision can definitely be associated with all of these things, but one of the areas that is probably most crucial to the success that vision can provide is the idea of boundaries. This may seem counterintuitive, but without them, most ideas remain just that–ideas. Ideas by themselves benefit no one until they are shared and put into action. Boundaries help us clarify what is really important and what resources should get the most priority. The fact that many of us usually cringe when we hear this word, we usually realize that we need them. While it may be fun to day dream about what we might do if money, time, and people were not a limiter on our ideas, the bottom line is–they are. None of us have unlimited time, money, or human resources. Vision helps us shape the boundaries that are necessary to put the best ideas into action.

Focus is crucial to the success of any worthwhile project. For me, this is probably the most difficult obstacle to overcome. My wife keeps insisting that I be treated for adult ADD. While I do admit that my mind can run in a million different directions at the same time, it seems that clear vision can help me focus in ways that no medication could. When we keep the main thing, the main thing, it is much easier to remain focused even when our pursuits seem derailed. When you are sure of your destination it is a lot easier to take the “quit” out of your vocabulary.

Having vision and direction to aim creative pursuits is an incredibly freeing experience. While using words like direction, boundaries, and focus, may sound nothing like the freedom of flying freely through the forest of our dreams,  for most of us, it is much easier to approach the “blank canvas” of our art when we have a clear vision of how we can benefit the team. A clear-cut vision can truly give wings to your creativity. One of the ways it does this is by refueling the sense of purpose that all of us have inside (whether creative or not). Like in aerodynamics, it takes several distinct forces acting in harmony to produce flight. Any of the necessary forces (gravity, lift, drag, etc.), when by themselves, can be dangerous, limiting, or worthless, at best. Clear vision can act like the heading and lift that not only makes flight possible, but worth doing at all. People are much more productive when they know that they matter to the team. Clear vision will give your creative team wings to be able to fly to the future of changed lives–both theirs and everyone they touch and inspire.


The Path of Michael Jackson

This past week I’ve had the opportunity to read a couple books. One of them is The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley. It serves as a sequel of sorts to his book The Best Question Ever, which deals with our daily decisions and how they influence not only who we are, but influence who we are becoming often more than we ever know in the moment.

The basic premise of the book is that “direction, not intention, determines where you end up”. It sounds really simple, doesn’t it? Not extraordinarily profound. Often, though, it’s the simple truths that confound us. It’s the simple truths that either gives us great leverage or become seeming thorns in our side. A minor turn here or there surely won’t keep me from where I want to go, right? We don’t use that logic when taking a trip. Why do we use that logic in life? There’s probably no better illustration of that than what is in the news right now with the passing of Michael Jackson.

Even a casual observer of his life could see the signs. “No, Michael, don’t go that way…it’s a dead end.” All of the allegations, quirky behaviors, and strained relationships along the way just illustrated how easy it was for everyone except for Michael to see where he was going. Most of the world excused him, though, because he was so incredibly talented. I mean, come on, he united people (“We are the world”…remember?), broke racial barriers, he entertained people, oh, and the voice…wow. He almost single-handedly shaped the popular music of an entire generation and beyond. In all of that, though, the path of his decisions led him right where he ended up. Remember, it is our direction, not our intentions that determine where we go in life. The Scripture tells us that the “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?”.  God is the only One that is deserving of our whole heart. Do not trust your heart to something or someone else, or you will be highly disappointed. The next time you are up against a major decision in life, ask yourself these three questions:

1. Does this option violate one of God’s laws?

2. Does this option violate a principle?

3. In light of my past and my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do?

I’m currently on vacation and am sharing the same beach with people that, fiscally speaking, are both poorer and richer than I. However, the road we chose got us both to the same destination (for whatever reason). The good news (and bad news) is that in God’s economy, it doesn’t matter whether you are Michael Jackson or Average Joe, the path you choose will always lead to the same place. At the end of the day, whoever dies with the most toys…still dies. The real question is, how do you want your story told?

Take a hard look at the man in the mirror… What legacy do you want to leave? Are you currently traveling the path that will get you there?

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

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