Shepherding Creatives

There is a desire many young artists have to write worship music, create graphic art, dance, paint, etc. And it’s a wonderful thing that must be encouraged. In fact, research shows that the younger we encourage imagination and creativity, the more creative people will become. Of course, along with this desire, there comes the desire for people to see and laud the work.

This desire is coupled with the temptation of an accessible audience. Most local churches have one. Most local churches have a captive audience for at least one weekly meeting. The desire to perform art in front of people will then push our young artists to want to perform it in front of our church body.

What’s the problem with that?

Nothing inherently. As long as the motives are correct. If the motive is to worship and glrify God, to edify and equip the body, it’s a great place to do so. But so often that is not the case.

So often the motive is, “look at me!” “Listen to this song I wrote and then tell me how great I am for writing it.” “Look at this picture I took and tell me how talented I am.” Basically, what it boils down to is, “look at me, I’m awesome!”

I can hear you saying to yourself, “that’s a rather jaded perspective, David.” I know. But I also know how I was as a young artist who wrote songs. I wanted people to hear them and tell me how great they were. I wanted to sing the songs that had the biggest high note so people would be impressed with my vocal skills. I wanted to play the flashiest piano solos so that people would tell me how great I was. In fact, I remember one compliment I got after an offertory: “You were all over that piano like a pack of wild dogs on a three legged cat!” I felt good.

I’ve also been a worship pastor for quite some time. I get a lot of request from people, young and old, whose primary motivation is that people will see them and tell them how good they are. It’s hard to correct when they are adults, because they’ve often been given this opportunity from a very young age.

We have to balance our desire to see young people worshipping God with our desire to raise them and train them for a lifetime of success.

We really love seeing young people up on stage, using their talents to glorify God. But, is there a price we are paying when we don’t treat this the same as we would an adult?

I am not saying that we should hold youngsters to the same expectations when it comes to skill. However, we shouldn’t set them up for real-world disappointment by so exaggerating their abilities that they believe they are the next American Idol. You’ve watched the show, you know how painful it is when someone gets before the judges who isn’t actually able to sing. And yet, for some reason their families and friends continue to speak of them as though they are the greatest!

What I propose is that we encourage and support our budding artists. We should encourage them to ensure that we have another generation of artists who are producing great art. At the same time, we need to lovingly help them see where they are weak. We need to help them see where they can improve. We need to coach them into excellence. We need to correct their incorrect theology.

Just like they receive coaching and training on the athletic field, they should receive the same from us. We aren’t doing them any favors by allowing them to believe they are the next big name in music when their skills, abilities, talents, etc. are not where they could be.

What would it look like if we started intentionally coaching the next generation of artists? Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could bring this creative generation under our wings and bring them into maturity as adults as well as maturity as artists within the body of Christ? We may have missed this great opportunity in the past, let’s not miss it again!