Using the Creativity of Students

Youth Specialties
August 18th, 2016

Think about the students in your ministry right now. How are you engaging their passions and creativity?

My youth pastor in high school was always a one-man show.

Every Wednesday night, my youth pastor would be the pre-service prayer leader, the chair set-up person, the sole greeter, the prayer leader, the worship leader, the game coordinator, the sound operator, the computer slide clicker, the speaker, and the end-of-service prayer leader. You name it, he did it. I’m not sure if he felt as though that was what his role entailed, but he very rarely involved the help of other adults and students.

One night I recall him speaking about the Church working together. He told our group, “Everyone has a role to play in the Kingdom of God. What’s yours?” It felt empowering. I realized I had a purpose other than being a spectator. Over the next few months, I attempted to figure out where I fit in and serve.

  • I asked if I could help lead worship. I was told I wasn’t a good enough singer.
  • I asked if I could help greet. I was told I was too hyper.
  • I asked if I could help set up chairs. I was told I didn’t know how to.

It seemed that every time I tried to utilize my passion within, I was simply shut down. That feeling of empowerment turned quickly into a feeling of dis-empowerment.  I grew up wondering if what I had to offer just wasn’t good enough.

I wonder how many students feel that way.

Think about the students in your ministry right now. How are you engaging their passions and creativity? What would happen if you cultivated an environment of empowerment? Every student in your ministry has something beautiful to offer, even if it’s setting up the chairs.

I went to a conference last year where the speaker shared a simple yet profound statement: “Revolutions need clipboards.”

With any revolutionary concept, there’s always the front-line people who we view as the creative people. For example, when you think about Apple, the first person you’re likely to think of is Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was an artist, and without his passion to be creative we wouldn’t have much of the technology we own today. However, sometimes we forget that there was another creator behind Apple’s rise, Steve Wozniak. Jobs could sell a product better than anyone. He knew what people would find eye-catching and desirable, but he knew nothing about the nuts and bolts of the products. That’s where Wozniak came in. Both of them were necessary for Apple to become Apple, not just Jobs.

Or how about another example? When you think about the Walt Disney company, you probably will immediately have one person pop in your mind. Walt Disney was a master at creativity. He dreamed impossible dreams and made them realities. One of those impossible dreams was Disneyland. Walt wanted to build a place where people could become cowboys, go on jungle adventures, or even blast off into space. Walt could dream, but he wasn’t so good at numbers. He was incredibly good at losing lots of money. Walt’s dream of a magical place wasn’t enough to make Disneyland happen. That’s where his brother, Roy, came in. You see, Roy was a numbers person. He could crunch numbers, budget, and fundraiser better than a lot of people. Roy kept Walt on track. There were many times in the construction of Disneyland where Walt would have dug himself into a hole financially if it hadn’t been for the behind-the-scenes work of Roy. Both Roy and Walt were necessary for Disneyland to become Disneyland.

Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s not limited to the three or four things we think creativity is. Within youth ministry, we usually think of creativity as being on the worship team or drawing a picture. Creativity is, quite often, nuts and bolts work.

  • Creativity is numbers crunching.
  • Creativity is slide clicking.
  • Creativity is greeting people.
  • Creativity is giving a message.
  • Creativity is even setting up chairs.

[bctt tweet=”Creativity isn’t limited, and yet we put limits on creativity.” username=”ys_scoop”]

Think about the story in Mark 14 of the woman pouring perfume on Jesus’ feet. She is passionately and creatively worshipping Jesus. However, the people around her are appalled. They can’t believe she’d waste such expensive perfume to simply be poured onto feet. Once outside, those feet would immediately become dusty again, and the odor would come back soon enough. The onlookers thought this act was a complete waste.

But Jesus didn’t.

Jesus immediately scolds the naysayers and praises her for this beautiful, creative expression of worship. Jesus didn’t care about the “right act.” He cared about the right heart. What he praised about this woman was that she was giving all of what she had and laying it before the Messiah.

When we choose to follow Jesus, all he asks of us is to come as we are. That means in the midst of all our imperfections and shortcomings, he still wants us. For us youth pastors, the beauty in that means that our youth ministries don’t have to be perfect! The Church works best when we all come together and do the thing we do best, not when we try to do everything. You have students in your ministry who are desperate for someone to ask them to live into what they’re passionate about.

I have a student in our ministry named Ethan. Ethan is awesome. He’s also terrible at clicking slides. He barely pays attention and misses clicks often. Despite that, he comes every week excited to click that button. He’s passionate about it, and that’s fantastic! Who cares if my slides are off? Does that really have an affect on people discovering Jesus? Nope. If anything, it shows Ethan how valuable he is to me, the Church, and to God.

No matter how great or terrible you may think a student is at something, if they’re passionate about it then let them do it. Let them be creative in the area that makes them come alive. Empower them. Help them know that they have value and purpose. Let go of your perfectionism. Church should be a messy place. Stop trying to make it so neat and tidy.

You need these students to be who God made them to be.

They need you to be who God made you to be. When we are giving what we have to give, which is ourselves, that’s where creativity explodes. Just empower students to be themselves, and you’ll discover how truly creative your students are.

Ryan_Schmall-819x1024Ryan Schmall is the Student Ministries Pastor at Redding First Church of the Nazarene in Northern California. He is married to his wife Jeanette, and together they have three amazing girls. Ryan is passionate about creating experiences and environments for people to encounter God in new and unique ways. You can follow him on Twitter or read his blog over at iamryanschmall.tumblr.com.

Youth Specialties

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.