If the goal of creativity is to bring clarity, then what does that look like in our service planning? My hope in this post is to share some of my current thoughts on how to implement this principle.
This Summer I had the opportunity to plan 3 worship services for students called Remix United. I was speaking, so I got to create the teaching series, help pick the songs, make some videos, and figure out what props could be used to help communicate my bottom lines. (I’m a fan of Andy Stanley’s one point concept. Rather than teaching multiple points in a message, just teach one. You can read about that in his book Communicating for a Change).
As I was working with Michael Bayne on the service planning, we stumbled on to an idea that I think I’ll use the rest of my service-planning career. I was reading him my summaries for each of my three messages for the Summer, and he asked me to summarize each of them into one word. We always break the message down to one point, but he asked me to break it down to one WORD.
So the 3 messages went like this:
Everything I was talking about in each message was condensed to one single word. That allowed us to plan the entire service around a single idea. We started asking questions like, “How can we use the word “complicated” throughout the service to illustrate your one point? We don’t have to say the word from stage over and over, but what can we do creatively to build tension around this word? How can we set Nate up when he starts speaking to where everyone in the room is already thinking about things being complicated?”
Asking these questions forced us to channel our creative planning towards communicating with clarity. Rather than enhance an experience, we were able to clarify a message.
The key for this to work is finding the tension in your communicator’s message. What is the tension he (she depending on your church… haha) wants the audience to be wrestling with? Once you find that, figure out how to condense it to a single word. Then start using your creative energy and planning to work that into your creative avenues (drama, video, song selection, game if you’re working with middle schoolers, message bumps, etc.)
This is just an experiment, but I really do think there’s something to the idea of breaking everything down into a single word. What’s the word that the entire service is hinging on? This can work in any environment. We used it in our kids’ environment for our current virtue. My word was “problem”. Everything revolved around the fact that there was this huge PROBLEM called sin. One idea… one word.
For church creative teams, I think that means that the communicator needs to be actively involved in the creative process. Just as Orange attempts to break down the silos of family ministry, I think service programmers and creative directors should be attempting to break down the silos in worship gatherings. The creative process needs to point everyone towards one message you want to communicate. Having the band cover a song that somehow relates to the message is not cutting it. That’s old and been done (it can still be effective, but really? That’s the idea every series?). We need to start figuring out how the communicator can incorporate the creative ideas your team is coming up with to more clearly communicate his (or her) big idea. If you have a creative team, you probably think you’re already doing that, but what I’m talking about is channeling ALL creative ideas around one idea. This is a lot of pressure on the communicator, though, because he or she has to know where they’re landing and what the tension is a few weeks in advance, but it can and needs to be done.
What do you think? One word service planning? Good or bad idea?