Releasing Creativity

Does the church encourage creativity and innovation? Are we helping people discover their talents and gifts and encouraging their creativity?   These are the questions asked by Dan Kimball in his recent blog post titled “May the church (and seminaries) be part of helping change how we teach and educate”.

Dan was inspired to write this post after watching this interview with Sir Ken Robinson who says our education system works like a factory in a post titled “Why Teaching is not like making motor cars” appearing on the CNN Opinion page. Robinson states that our current system of education is based on models of mass production and conformity that actually prevent kids from finding their passions and succeeding.   In other words we educate the creativity out of people.

This past week, I took my daughters to what I had been told was a “Creative Arts program” for inner city youth being hosted by a local church.  I was expecting art, drama, dance, and music but instead we realized too late that it was simply a Sunday school lesson with a craft at the end.  There was absolutely no creativity involved.  The “teacher” shared the lesson, asked a few questions, broke us into discussion groups with more lessons to read and questions to answer.  In the last three minutes of the “lesson” we did a quick well defined craft with little creativity involved.

My spirit grieved as we left at the end of the class.  What these urban youth so desperately need is to be heard, to be known, to discover their unique talents and gifts. Instead we simply dispensed information and took no interest in who they are or what they have to offer the world.

I watched the young urban youth all around me.  One youngster fell asleep next to me, another spent her time braiding my daughters hair, another played with my cell phone.  They all tuned out the teacher as I myself kept looking at my watch waiting for the end.  It is not that the teacher was unprepared, or unkind.  I could tell she really wanted to connect with the kids but the way she had been taught was how she was teaching these young people.  This is exactly what Robinson notes in his talk on TED titled “Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity” Robinson shares a number of wonderful stories that demonstrate the value of creativity.  Both video’s are well worth your time.

One of my favorite quotes from Robinson is this “If you are not prepared to be wrong you will never come up with anything original.”  Robinson stresses that our emphasis on getting it right is educating people out of their creative capacities.   Sadly I see this in my own children who are hesitant to try if they do not know the “right” answer and I myself still have a fear of being “wrong”.

In working with urban individuals, the lack of imagination and creativity among adults has been startling to me.  So many of our friends have difficulty imagining their world being different than it is today.  I hear so many reason’s why things can’t be done and so little creative problem solving skills.  The system is so focused on conformity and control that we are handicapping people and preventing them from being co-creators with God.

However, I have seen the power that creativity has to heal people and breed hope.  Just ask my friend Yolanda who defeated her drug addition and credits liturgical dance for helping to save her life.  This week we talked about gifts in our East End missional community and I heard the pride in Richard’s voice as he shared his artwork.  He shared how as a boy he had loved to draw but had not drawn in years.  Now he was regaining hope as he started to draw again.  I know from personal experience the power that writing has to helping us heal from difficult circumstances.  Yet, our society places far more importance on math and science than on writing, dance and art.

I encourage any of you who teach or are involved in Christian education to watch both these videos and share your thoughts on this subject.  I was blessed to be a part of a very creative youth ministry when I lived in Texas and I know the tremendous joy it brought both me and the young people who participated in it.  I truly believe as the educational systems in our area are cutting back on the arts, the church should be expanding in that area.  I believe if we want to reach this next generation, it will be through the creative and performing arts.

If there is an institution that should get the importance of creativity it is the church.  Shouldn’t we reflect the essence of our Creator God?


Filed under Urban Ministry

5 responses to “Releasing Creativity

  1. Hi, Wendy, truly a blessing to read this Blog. I felt the presence of God as I read it. Truly I agree with you, the only way we can reach these kids is going to be through their gifts and talents, after all God created the world with a spoken word, so when he breathed into man’s nostrils, the breath of life and man became a living sole, He breathed into him the gift of creativity! How awesome is that, to God be the glory great things he has done. I am all for creativity.

    • wmccaig

      Yolanda – let’s be praying that God open the door to creative youth opportunities. I can’t wait to see what God does with your wonderful gifts and heart.

  2. Tom


    Good stuff there. Obviously, we can’t read much Brueggemann without being brought face-to-face with the important role of prophetic imagination in bringing Life to any community.

    This quote was particularly appropriate:

    “If you ask almost any adult about the impact of church school on his or her growth, he or she will not tell you about books or curriculum or Bible stories or anything like that. The central memory is of the teacher, learning is meeting. That poses problems for the characteristically American way of thinking about education for competence, even in the church. Meeting never made anyone competent. Surely we need competence, unless we mean to to dismantle much of our made world. But our business is not competence. It is meeting. We are learning slowly and late that education for competence without education as meeting promises us deadly values and scary options. And anyway. one can’t become “competent” in morality or in Bible stories. But one can have life-changing meetings that open one to new kinds of existence. And that surely is what church education must be about. . . . Our penchant for control and predictability, our commitment to quantity, our pursuit of stability and security – all this gives us a sense of priority and an agenda that is concerned to reduce the element of surprise and newness in our lives. And when newness and surprise fail, there is not likely to graciousness, healing or joy. Enough critics have made the point that when experiences of newness are silenced in our lives, there is no amazement, and where there is no amazement, there cannot be the full coming to health, wholeness and maturity. (Walter Brueggeman, Living Toward a Vision, (New York: United Church Press, 1987)), pp. 167-71.

    • wmccaig

      Tom I LOVE this quote; especially the emphasis on surprises and newness…”When experiences of newness are silenced in our lives, there is no amazement.” WOW…what truth! I have not read this Brueggeman book… is it worth getting?

  3. Pingback: Surprise: Setting out on an Adventure « Wendy McCaig

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