On the day God created humanity, he made them to resemble God
– Genesis 5:1 Common English Bible
Human creativity leads to innovation. Innovation leads us to doing things differently. When we cease to think creatively, we no longer innovate, and our progress is arrested. Stagnate is the next word that comes to mind, or maintenance mode. Then the inevitable phrase , “But we’ve always done it that way.” And now we are truly stuck for a time in a comfortable space, until attrition and boredom set in and all of a sudden we are in survival mode. Our next tendency is to desperately try to re-create something that used to work, hoping it will work again, stifling real creativity that may lead to innovation.
I heard a very compelling comment, once upon a time, from my friend and colleague Emily Slichter Given. As she was addressing a room full of church leaders she proclaimed, “If all you’re doing is maintenance and there is no creativity, please go do it somewhere else. You’re killing the church.” It was a bold and brilliant statement. And I took it to heart when I heard it three years ago. I invite you to heed her words as well. It’s time to find the colorful pencils and sharpen them, at least metaphorically speaking.
As the Formation and Vocation Ministries Team continues to explore the notion of Episcopal Generations and bridging gaps, we’re inviting you to identify the gaps in your faith communities, and then engage creative discernment to address the challenge. How are you going to bridge the gap? During a recent workshop at the Forming Disciples conference in the Diocese of Texas we recognized that bridging gaps can be challenging and often presents a conflict when addressed. We agreed that when conflict is well-managed, remembering that we are called to respect the dignity of every human being, it can provide a rich environment in which we can be creative and even innovative. But the facilitation must be balanced so that all passions and concerns are heard, discussed, and addressed, grounded in faith and trust.
A study of Exemplary Youth Ministry noted that “churches who are deeply influencing the faith lives of young men and women (have) a culture of the whole church that is most influential in nurturing youth of vital Christian Faith. The genius of these churches seems best described as a systemic mix of theology, values, people, relationships, expectations, and activities. It appears that a culture of the Spirit emerges with its pervasive and distinct dynamics and atmosphere that is more powerful than its component parts.” (The Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry, EYM Publishing, St. Paul, MN, 2010) From the same study it has also been noted that “Culture is transmitted from one generation to the next through language, material objects, ritual, institutions, and art.”
The workshop participants considered these findings and also spent some time identifying their own generational characteristics as described in our blog post, What is a Generation?. We considered our working definition of a Generation Gap, and in the following discussion agreed that identifying specific gaps and engaging creative methods for addressing them could lead to innovative ways to shift the culture of an entire congregation.
At my invitation, five individuals agreed to share with me gaps they had identified in their own congregations. I have pledged to pray for Stephanie, Suzy, Parker, David and Erin and their congregations. They have each identified gaps that they pledge to try to bridge in their home faith communities. They will share their stories with me to then share with you. They are working on everything from developing intentional community for elementary age children, to uniting different women’s groups around a single mission, to engaging ministry for the family as a whole, to taking on a technology gap, to making liturgy more accessible and meaningful for youth, young adults, and middle adults all at the same time. We have all acknowledged that failure is not an option; they will learn from the outcome of their efforts whether their goal is reached or not. Sometimes things come out differently than we desired or expected. If we acknowledge those moments with grace and utilize the opportunity to learn and to engage creative process again, then all is success.
What gaps have you bridged in your faith community? Please join me in praying for these five creative innovators and send your stories to share so that others might learn.