Archive for the ‘church art ministry resources’ Category

Literally anything we create and post could be considered content generation, and so the possibilities are literally limitless. There is something however that is not limitless. It’s time. We’ve already addressed the idea that your create is limited and the importance of making good choices on how to invest that limited time. This is of the utmost importance, but there is another side to this coin. Your audience’s time is also limited. Add to that the fact that there are countless people vying for their attention and you begin to see the issue. Generating content is one thing, generating something people will actually consume is something else entirely. If you have limited time to generate content, and we’ve already established we all do, why would we want to invest that time in things no one will see, read, look at or buy.

One of the best ways to get past this is to generate something people need and a good way to find that need and solve it is to look for problems that need solving and solve them. That is what I am trying to do here, but there’s a problem. I’ve spent most of my adult life creating things for people to read, whether it be ads, signs, articles, publications, books, etc. and one of the conclusions I have come to is people don’t read.
I came to this conclusion early in my art “career.” I was working in a sandwich shop that was not long for this world. Business was extremely slow. The management knew I was artistic and so in our vast amount of free time, the manager would have me make signs. One of these was a sign telling the customer which soup was soup of the day. We had limited materials, mainly paper pens and tape, but I made what I would consider to be a pretty impressive sign. I had just finished it and was standing directly behind the sign as a customer came in and asked, “What is the soup of the day?” I literally wanted to cry. The point being we don’t just need to meet their need, and solve their problem. Further, even if you do your best, there are no guarantees. What we need to do is get their attention. Then once we have their attention we need to make sure our creation was worth their limited time.

Basically there are three things we need to look for. First we need to find a need that we can meet. Is there something you know a lot about that a lot of other people need to know? Next you have it ask the question how will you deliver the information. Where do the people who will want your content go to look for it. Finally you need to figure our how to get their attention. Your audience is literally bombarded with messages every day of their lives. The question is how will you stand out from all the rest. Of course over and above all of this is generating the very best information you can.

Remember the content you’re generating is supposed to be a blessing. Finding the biggest audience you can spreads the blessing further. You just have to get their attention.

Author’s note, while I know all of this to be true, I’m still having some difficulty getting the attention of a larger audience. So I ask you, person who cared enough to read this post, how can I go about making this information more spreadable.

Theologian Charles Spurgeon one said “Discernment isn’t knowing right from wrong, it’s knowing right from almost right.” Well our content creation has a similar need for discernment. It’s not necessarily that we need to know right from wrong, though if you’re creating stuff you know Is wrong you need to stop that, now. No, the discernment we need is, as my friend Timothy Wallace says, between the good things and the God things. Case in point:

Since last fall I have participated in three daily art challenges. It all started when I discovered Inktober, a challenge to create an ink drawing each day for the month of October. Well one of my primary art forms is cartooning, which relies heavily on ink, so I jumped in and it was a lot of fun. I’m a pretty firm believer in creating every day to keep your skills sharp so I thought it was a good thing and I got connected to a few people through it. Then in March, I found out about Marchartoon, a similar challenge more specifically tailored to cartooning. Once again This one was a good time and I later found out it was created by some folks that run a youth sports club in Croatia. They liked my work and it led to me getting to speak, via video, to the club in one of their meetings. Then finally I thought, why to create your own, and so I came up with the one I am currently working through Art MAYhem, which has been a real blast, even through I have only one regular participant besides myself. My temptation is to create a different challenge for each month and try to build up a tribe of creatives under my Facebook page The Daily Creative.
The question is, is this a good thing or a God thing? To this point I am undecided.

On one hand I have a mission to help creatives, and as stated earlier I am a firm believer in creating every day to keep your skills sharp and growing, but I don’t just want to keep them busy, because while sharp skills are important, my mission is more than just getting people to create, it’s creating to the glory of God and helping creatives and the church to work together. For this reason I have some decisions to make. While these activities are really fun and I have been able to figure out ways to glorify God in them, they are also really time consuming. Time is the great equalizer in our lives. We all only have 24 hours, and since most of us do something else for a living, and all of us need to sleep, not to mention the other responsibilities, those hours are often really diluted. If we only have a few creative hours a day, is a daily creative challenge really a God thing or just a good thing? The answer is not as easy as you think.

The challenges have taken a lot of time, which may take me off task, but they have also opened doors into the world beyond the church, especially the art world, which is clearly part of my mission field. I’m reminded of the biblical proverb, “Do you see a man skilled in his work, he will serve before kings…” What if this time consuming art opens doors for me to glorify God? It’s already happened, Cost benefit analyses don’t often work in God’s Kingdom and economy. It is for this reason that we need discernment when entering into projects. It all starts with prayer.

Ask God to help you to stay on mission…

More coming soon

Okay so yesterday I made myself into a case study. If you missed it, go ahead and check it out. This won’t totally make sense without it.

Now you may have read this and thought, (especially if you’ve been around for a while), “This is nothing new, it’s even the stated objective of the website. That is true, but believe me when I tell you, this revelation has been desperately needed in my life. Even with a clear picture, there have been times, especially recently, where I have felt like I am way off task. There are a thousand things I could be weighing in on, that are oh so tempting and yet far off task. In fact some of these things have been so tempting that I have considered starting new blogs o deal with them. At times like that, I have some real discernment to do, and we’ll talk about that tomorrow.

Today I want to turn it over to you.

Let’s start with the basic question: 
What is the discontentment I am trying to help others to overcome?
and we’ll add the follow up question:
What is my discontenment?

While reading this blog probably means you have an interest in the church and creativity, it’s highly unlikely that your mission and calling is exactly the same as mine. You might be an artist/creative, looking for how to use your gift to advance the mission of your church or how to minister in the world/marketplace. You might be a pastor, who wants to learn how to work with/recruit/etc. the creative people in your church. Your calling might be evangelism or teaching or preaching or discipleship, or you might just want to make art that communicates your love of Christ in unconventional ways. These are just a few of the reasons you might seek this blog out. What I want to do now is help you to hone in on your mission/ministry and begin to narrow your focus. So start with the above two questions and when you have answered them to your satisfaction, it’s time to add two more.

What’s my calling? and What are My gifts?

When you start to have some clarity on that, there is one final question.

How will I deliver what I am creating to the world?

Needless to say, the first step in this is prayer and it will also take some time to answer these questions, but the work is worth it and leads to a life of purpose.

More tomorrow…

If you missed yesterday’s, go back and check it out, this one will make no sense without it. It’s okay… I’ll wait.

Today let’s put yesterday’s post to work. We’ll start with the question I asked yesterday, and then I will answer it. Please keep in mind this has been a major revelation for me and I am actually working through it as I write. The question is:

What is the discontentment I am trying to help others to overcome?

My answer to that question is ultimately I want to make the world a better place. Great, so does everyone else. Obviously, that’s too broad, so let’s narrow it down.

I want to use my talents to make the world a better place. That’s a little narrower. Now I know some of the tools I will use to accomplish the goal—in my case, art, design, and communication. A little better, but still way too broad, so let’s hone it down a little further with another question.

What is my discontenment?

In other words, What do I want to do? Why do I want to do what I do? How will I make the world a better place? What’s wrong that I want to make right? What needs fixing? What is that thing that makes me say “Someone should do something about this?” This leads to something that I really haven’t touched on yet—calling. This is the divine element that needs to be considered. Look the truth is there are a billion things that would make the world a better place, and you obviously can’t fix them all, but what is the thing that lays on your heart? What is the thing that burdens you?

For me, it comes down to one thing. I believe in the power of the Gospel to change lives. I believe every time someone receives Jesus, their life is changed forever and changed lives will change the world. I believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, beyond all the eternal benefits, is a great force, the greatest force, for positive change in our world. I believe this because I have seen first hand the good that it has done in my own life. Now we’re getting somewhere.

So I want to help people to come to know Jesus. This, in and of itself, is a lofty goal, but, for me, there’s more. I’ve already identified the tools I can and do use. I could be very satisfied (content) just doing that for the rest of my life, (and I no doubt will) but I feel a broader calling. You see I know I am not alone. I know there are many others in the world with a similar desire. They are creative and they love Jesus and they know He is the answer to solving the world’s problems, but they are banging their heads against the wall (at least metaphorically) trying to figure out the hows and maybe the whys. What if I could help them too? Is there a way to unify our efforts to creatively point the world to Jesus?

Further, God has called me to pastoral ministry, to church leadership. I believe the church is God’s chosen instrument for taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Is there a way that I can unite these two worlds I live in, artist and pastor? Can I help churches to embrace creativity (and creative people) while helping creative people to embrace the church and to empower it (as far as any of us can)?

To be continued.

My wife found a podcaster/blogger/coach/etc. who communicates on a topic that really interests her. My wife has shared this person’s content with me from time to time and I have to admit she is very interesting, but it’s not just her content that interests me. It’s the sheet volume of it. This person is a content generation fiend, and I have to admit I’m impressed. It’s not just the volume she generates, (which is staggering) but it is clear, she does her homework and she has clearly become an expert in her field. Not only that, she has a strong consistent message and is building a pretty strong business around it. She is clearly helping a lot of people and I have to admit I’m impressed, and a little daunted. This is the kind of thing I have been trying to do, but at times I feel like I have been inconsistent and in fact, at times, I have been.

Now clearly, I generate a volume of work. Between the various things I do, I work a lot and I generate a lot of content. Creating messages, sermons, posts, and a ton of art across several platforms in this quest to get people creating, and especially creating to the glory of God, is a passion for me and I love it, but it feels like there is an element that is missing if I want to be honest. Tonight something hit me, and I am hoping it will hit you as well.

Think about the title of this piece. Content Generation. The first assumption is that it’s about generating content, but it could have a secondary meaning. Content as in finding contentment and generation as in a generation of people. Somehow I think both meanings are interconnected. What if, as communicators, (and we’re all communicators) our content generation could be used to create a content generation? At it’s core, I am beginning to realize that is exactly the purpose of what we do. This communicator my wife follows has found an area where thousands, maybe millions are discontented, and she has made it her mission to help people to meet their goals and find contentment. Isn’t that what we’re really all trying to do?

Personally, I think my discontentment at the moment (and I am fairly content overall) is found in a question. Clearly I am doing a lot of work and generating a lot of content, but is it really helping or am I just “scratching my own itch” (my need to create and be creative)? And so tonight, I am asking a question that I hope will help me to focus and more importantly help you.

Is my content generation helping to create a content generation?

In other words, what is the discontentment I am trying to help others to overcome? Once we have answered that question we have a filter with which to test our efforts. This will help us to hone our messages and refine our efforts, so that more of our time will be spent on mission, or more simply put, it will help us focus. And who couldn’t use a little more of that?

Stay tuned.

I was contacted by a fellow artist in Croatia and she asked if I could Skype in to talk to a group of students she works with. Unfortunately with the time difference, their meeting would at a time when I am really unavailable. I made this video for them instead about how I use the internet as an artist and minister.

I’ve been feeling for a little while that it is time to start a new project devoted to encouragement. I’ve felt it. I’ve known it, but the problem was I was dealing with some discouragement and so I was feeling a little under-qualified. I’ve decided it’s time to put that aside and get to work. I have no idea what this will lead to. Will it be a book, or a video, a collection of podcasts, some art? I don’t know, but that’s kind of the thing we need to remember. We don’t usually have all the pieces and all the answers when we start a thing, we just have a calling and from there we need the courage to start. So here we go.

Even as I wrote the words “the courage to start” I could see the start of the road. I’m sure there is a wonderful definition for the word Encourage somewhere, and beyond a doubt, I will have to look it up and work through it as this project moves along, but let’s start simply. The last seven words of the word “encourage” are in fact “courage.” The most basic of definitions then for the word “encourage” is to give “courage.” It’s almost as if you take some of your courage and impart it to the person needing encouragement, and in fact that is precisely the case. There will come a time in every person’s life when they feel inadequate—as if they are not up to the challenge before them. You, as the encourager, come along and demonstrated your belief in them and, if everything goes according to plan, some of your courage, your belief, rubs off on them. They were lacking courage, but receiving some of yours they have the courage to move on.

In the Bible there is this epic scene. Jesus’ disciples have gone on ahead of him. Jesus has just performed the miracle of feeding 5,000 people with one little boy’s lunch. After this, Jesus dismissed the crowd and went off to pray. Experienced sailors that some of them were, the disciples sailed off without Him. In the middle of the night a storm kicked up such that these very experienced men were terrified and thought they were going to die. For all their experience, they suddenly found themselves in “over their heads” metaphorically and if something didn’t change they would also be in over their heads literally. As if they weren’t terrified enough, soon they saw what looked like a ghost walking across the water.

Of course we know, it wasn’t a ghost at all, it was Jesus walking on the water. Do you remember what he said? “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27 NIV) Do you see it? He was, quite literally, giving them some of His courage, encouraging them and we know that, for at least one of them, it worked. Seconds ago all the men were terrified but now something has changed. It’s as if they thought, “Oh it’s not a ghost, it’s just Jesus doing something impossible again.” But Peter goes a step further. He realizes that if it is possible for Jesus, and Jesus commands, He can do it too. It is for this reason Peter says “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:28)

Now Peter’s courage was short lived, but the encouragement caused Peter to at least attempt something that seemed for all the world as if it were beyond him. That’s the power of encouragement. I doubt anyone of you will ever call someone out to walk on the waves, but you may be used to call someone out of comfort and safety, into walking in God’s will.

Who needs some of your courage today?