The Best Solution for Creative Fatigue

It’s Monday, but Sunday’s coming.

I’ve heard that before. In fact, I live it. You just finish an amazing weekend of worship services and, before you know it, you have another one to plan. You can usually handle this for a few months, but after awhile it becomes tiresome. Reading through the post Creative Service Planning Flow Chart by Jeff McIntosh, it became apparent to me that planning creative services can easily become “one more thing” on our to-do lists. Unfortunately, we fall into a creative rut (which we later feel) if we don’t plan to do our absolute best in service planning and design.

The Answer for Creative Fatigue Lies in Advance Planning

It seems counterintuitive to us creatives, but it’s true. Advance planning fuels creativity by creating the lines within which to create. Planning takes the blank page and creates an outline that begins to focus our creative energies. Once you take the blue-skying process off the table, the real creative work can begin: gathering ideas, writing scripts, designing the look and feel, etc. The more creative you want to be in your services, the further ahead you need to plan.

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365 Steps Ahead

The easiest way to get ahead is to use a one-year calendar and begin to plan your sermon series by themes or concepts. I usually start with inserting general calendar dates I want to be aware of (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas) and then adding specific church calendar dates to that (Baptisms, Child Dedication).

Once I have that general road map, I work with my Senior Pastor/Teaching Team to plan by concepts. For example, September is Back-to-School month, so we may plan a vision series. May and June have two great family celebrations (Mother’s Day and Father’s Day) so we may do an 8-week series on Relationships. At this stage, we’re not writing titles or scripture verses on yet, simply themes and concepts. However, once these are locked in, you’ll be amazed at how easily you’re able to flesh out the concepts.

Drilling Down at Half a Year

By six months out, you want to begin to have your series title and individual sermon themes and scripture verses worked out (you don’t necessarily need sermon titles yet). Once you have the series title, you can begin to work on graphics, videos, set design, metaphors, and even some big creative moments per sermon (i.e., video testimonies, interactive elements, response moments etc.).

If you want to accompany your series on prayer with a book of prayers or answered prayer from your congregation, you need this much time to gather, edit, layout, and print that book.

T MINUS-4

Finally, four weeks out is where you want to have your sermon titles and scriptures locked in. This is where you begin to add the song sets, creative readings, skits, videos, and other creative moments into your services. I recognize that sometimes “week of” things happen, but you want to try and limit these as best you can.

Whether you’re a large or small church, if the aim is to have creative elements in your services, this is a schedule that you need to get on. For those of us working with leaders who are 11th-hour planners, it’s important to let them know that advance planning is crucial to pulling creative elements off with excellence. Be patient, be encouraged, and put your efforts into getting ahead rather than catching up.

Jeremiah Raible is a creative service planner who serves at Mill Woods Assembly in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and is the Creative Director of Hands & Voices Productions.

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  • Jon Lockwood

    I love this! As one of our church’s creatives (and being only part-time at that) I see how not being organized leads to all kinds of problems. My question becomes as one of the person(s) doing the creative side how do you respectfully get your senior pastor to move in this direction of organization? I feel he is very much a “move with the Spirit” kind of planner. The biggest problem I see with this kind of planning is we can spend countless hours thinking of “ideas” or running down rabbit trails that never come to anything. Is this the creative teams topic to run with and start planning the calendar or the senior pastor’s job?

    • Jeremiah Raible

      This is EXACTLY why I wrote this post as this tension is so very common between expectations on creative / technical components of the service and the actual planning / content by the key communicator (in most cases the senior pastor). ADVANCED PLANNING is THE key to success so …. it may not be your role to plan the calendar, but you can help your pastor plan ahead by staying ahead of him/her with regular meetings to plan ahead. This way even if they are “move in the spirit” types, you can plan “around” some of the key components. Including your senior pastor in regular planning meetings (weekly) is key. Ultimately, though, if they want creative, technical, or thematic elements in their services, they have to see the value in advanced planning. Show them this post and begin the conversation; talk honestly about the pressure it puts on you and your team when there isn’t a clear direction and try and work towards getting out in front of the Sunday.

  • Jason Bueno

    This was really helpful as I’m Creative Director for my church and I’m always looking for ways to improve planning. I do have a some questions for you. The church I go to and serve at is 3 years old. http://ethostulsa.org/ I am not paid and I’m serving 6 to 12 hours a week on top of my actual job. I get frustrated because I see such opportunity for growth and things we could be doing with media. Do you have any advise for when a church should bring on full-time a Creative Director? Do you see a benefit to doing this as early as possible? To me it seems there isn’t much research in the benefits of hiring a Creative Director or Communications Director and it’s difficult to lead the Pastor in this direction because he doesn’t see the need to justify the cost to bring me on. You can check my work out here https://www.behance.net/jasonbueno I believe we are outputting high quality, creative, and emotional content at such a beginning stage. I just want to do more.

    • Jeremiah Raible

      Sorry I just saw this now …. typically the music / creative arts pastor would adopt a role like this in the early stages. If there is only a senior pastor on staff, then they need to build a team of people around them to serve in this area. If you’re putting in 10-12 hours as a volunteer then I’d say you’re at your limit. In order to grow, you’ll have to build a team. And, in fact, this isn’t a bad thing .. HOWEVER, it can’t be done with out the Senior Leaders’ involvement. They need to lead the way and the more organized and ahead of planning game they are, the easier it is to get the team going on stuff. Even if you pick one service a month or every 6 weeks to make your “creative service” (i.e, more than worship & word) and see what you can come up with. That would be my advice..