Churches & Creative Businesses -- What Sets Them Apart?

Posted on May 23, 2008

In working with creative artists for more than 23 years, I’ve learned there are at least three elements that cause them to thrive: 1) someone they trust on their team who provides structure, organization and a strong business acumen; 2) an environment that cultivates and promotes creativity, and 3) a place called home—a safe harbor that offers nurturing, accountability, care and a sense of belonging.

All of these elements can be difficult to establish, but the third one is often the toughest, and this is what a church or ministry can provide in a unique setting if they do it right.

1) A trusted partner who provides structure, organization and business acumen. The emphasis really is TRUST. I’m reading “The Speed of Trust” by Stephen M.R. Covey and he beautifully articulates many principles I’ve known in my gut for a long time. “Trust is absolutely key to long-term success,” says Jim Burke, former CEO/President of Johnson & Johnson (see my March 25, 2008 blog about Hillsong Music at

Most “creatists” are weak in the areas of business and organization. Many know they need help, but don’t know where to find or even look for it. For those few lucky enough to have spouses with these attribute (their complement), the answer may reside under their own roof, and hopefully trust is not an issue. But most have to look elsewhere and trust is usually the underlying concern.

You can find people or companies with financial, business and organization strengths, but trust is the glue that will build a long-term relationship. It’s important to be thorough in researching a company or individual’s track record. Talk to several of their clients (current and former) to hear how well they perform on time and in the manner they promised.

2) An environment cultivating creativity. There are many books that focus on how to develop and promote a creative environment. I’m not an expert in this area, but I believe a church/ministry can promote a creative space by honoring the creative gifts, providing time and place for the creative process (humor, trying crazy things, non-judgmental attitude), and providing stability and accountability. I'd love to hear your thoughts on how to cultivate creative space.

3) A place called home—a safe harbor that offers nurturing, accountability, provision, care and a sense of belonging. This element is probably the most vital to help creativity flourish. The creative process is often lonely and doubt-riddled, and a place of belonging provides a solid foundation for pressing through the tough times of discipline. It’s amazing how many creatists I’ve known who seek and find a home, but later experience devastating disappointment and crushed expectations.

A spiritual home should offer the discipline of accountability, the stability of regular income, sharing ideas and collaboration, and acceptance in failure and success. Not many commercial record companies and publishers can offer this type of home. Some churches/ministries may also be missing these components, but it’s important to intentionally and carefully build these elements into your foundation for long-term success.