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Leading the artists in your church

By Sam S. Rainer III

Creativity is not necessarily art. Art requires creativity, but not all creative processes produce art. I like to consider myself creative (but not an artist). As a researcher, my creativity is different than an artist’s creativity. My spreadsheets are no works of art. I doubt they will ever be displayed in a museum. But I do take pride in creatively communicating statistics in ways people can grasp.

So an artist I am not, even in my most inspired spreadsheet moment.

But I do pastor several artists in my church, and leading them requires a different approach. Managing creative people is different than managing artists. Artists think differently, not just about what to create but also how to create.

Placing this leadership style within a taxonomy would almost butcher what it is. So rather than attempt to define it rigidly, I’ll describe what I observe in this fluid leadership style with an analogy.

The best analogy I can use is art itself. Leading a group of artists is like having everyone paint the same work on one canvas, all together and at the same time. Each artist has a unique perspective, style, tone and pace (and, inevitably, they will all want their own type of brush). The one leading the artists, however, is responsible for making sure everyone is painting the same work on one canvas, rather than a bunch of individual works on that canvas.

When the work is finished (is art ever finished?), it’s never what the leader would have done as a lone artist. It always looks different, but the leader’s responsibility is to make sure what was painted is cohesive.

The leader of the artists does not mesh all the individual works into one bland blob. The leader of the artists ensures that each artist’s unique contribution is seen within the whole. The leader of the artists figures out ways to manage those who paint a lot with big, bold brushes with those who paint small with tiny brushes. The leader of the artists knows how to gently massage the person painting out of color scheme back into the group. The leader of the artists knows how to incorporate new artists with those who have been painting a long time. The leader of the artists knows how to calm tempers when one artist paints over another artist’s work.

Here’s the catch: the leader of the artists has to be willing to set aside and sacrifice his or her own work to lead the work of others. It’s how an artist becomes a servant-leader.

Sam S. Rainer III is president of Rainer Research and senior pastor of Stevens Street Baptist Church, Cookeville, TN. (www.rainerresearch.com, www.stevensstreet.org)

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