My name is JJ Clark and I am the Service Programming Coordinator for Overflow, the college ministry at PC3. I also drum on our worship team here at the church.
I’m currently about to round the corner of my fourth year at Overflow. When I came on staff, I only had my experience on the worship team to guide me. Since then, I have observed and learned a lot in regards to how we creatively engage with our college students.
When we talk about creativity, we want to make sure we understand that creativity is the means by which we seek to solve problems. As we’re looking for solutions, we must remember that creativity isn’t exclusive. As believers, it’s important to ensure that we don’t compromise our creative pursuits with our natural concern for our own agendas. Sometimes our need for self-approval or affirmation can prevent us from using creativity in the way God intends. Our creativity is a gift that the Creator has given to us in order to point others to Him. Creativity isn’t for our own gratification, it shouldn’t be self-seeking. I believe creativity can lose it’s purpose if used solely to entertain. I feel it's important that we allow ourselves to be confronted with this conviction as we seek to create safe environments in an effort to help others experience Christ’s presence.
This is a challenge we face with our current cultural climate, and one the Overflow ministry is definitely confronted with as we seek to consistently engage college students.
When I stepped into my position at Overflow four years ago I had a lot of goals and aspirations. I was new to production and the technical dynamics involved in creating a service. I was over my head and constantly laboring over ways to be impactful and forward-thinking. My desire to do creative things was often halted by my technical abilities and my low production acumen. I relied heavily on others for help and drew all I could from my experience on the worship team.
It was in this humble place where God revealed some very valuable lessons to me.
I had a stressful first few years. I worked myself into the ground trying to create at a high level. I was striving to deliver content that I couldn't quite achieve (in my opinion) with my lack of technical skills. It wasn’t long into my tenure on staff that I realized I needed to address my creative goals and choose them based on intention. Instead of attempting creative ideas simply for the sake of being creative, I began to ask myself the "why?" behind it all.
I’ll provide an example:
Towards the end of our spring semester in my 2nd year our team began to notice students retreating from the first few rows, close to the stage. No matter what I did (moving chairs, striking different rows) they refused to sit near the front. After much discussion with our staff, we all agreed this was a problem. I assured them I would test out some possible solutions in an effort to do something about this new issue.
My first task at Overflow is to help steward student engagement. My goal is to make sure we accomplish this in a way that ensures our college students trust us and feel safe during our Tuesday night environment. We realized that this effort could be in jeopardy if we continued doing some things the same way. I began by casting a vision for what it might look like to implement some creative solutions for this issue. We made some moves and began the process of shifting how we utilized cameras, programmed our service, and used creative graphic visuals. Some things worked well and some things didn’t. I believe God used this process to teach me that both success and failure are okay, and that He works in great ways through our ordinary obedience. We celebrated the things that worked, and we continued to enhance the areas that needed attention. Through it all, the mission never changed — “to reach college students and help them walk with God” — just the way in which we worked to accomplish the mission.
I’m not someone who, at my core, likes change. Many of us can experience something, feel good about it, and be content with it remaining the same. There are things in my life that fall within that way of thinking. However, change is good. I do believe God calls us out of our comfort zone. He asks us to get out of the boat. To trust Him. Sometimes in these moments of doubt we learn that our creativity, the abilities God has entrusted to us, are only limited by our way of thinking. If we accept that creativity isn't exclusive, then we can continue to adapt, accept creative influence, ask for help, and seek new ideas. No one person holds all of the creative cards. No singular creative idea supersedes all the others.
In our creative efforts, we must remain steadfast in the truth that God does His extraordinary work through our ordinary obedience. We must avoid coming to the assumption that we have figured it all out. If our own personal, spiritual progressions rely on the redemptive motion of us moving towards Christ, might we consider a creative motion that seeks to do the same? We're called into this sanctifying process, continually seeking ways to better ourselves, becoming more like Christ. Our processes and the ways in which we create should model that same motion. We must push creative boundaries, pursue safe ways to engage, and understand the incredible value of doing so collectively, as one body. Create for the Creator, not for the sake of creating.
In us nothing, in Him everything.