Working With the Creative Genius

by Dick Hardy

Q. I have an unbelievably creative staff member but her disorganization drives me crazy. How do I work with creative people who do not have administrative or organizational skills?

A. When God puts our personal gifts together, He frequently does not give administrative and organizational gifts to off-the-chart creative types. Scripture teaches that we are parts of the same body of Christ. Some are the hand; some, the foot, the eye, the arm, the heart, etc. Those who have administrative gifts think the world needs to function like them. If this were the case, the world would be organized, but very boring.

We need the creative genius God gives the church through musicians and youth and children’s pastors. At the same time, we grouse about the creative genius’ lack of organization and administration abilities. We want both gifts in one package.

I suggest you find ways for your creative people to flourish in their assigned roles, while not leaving the church at risk with their disorganization.

  • Talk to them. Do not assume they are aware of your displeasure with their disorganization. They do not think like you think.
  • They do have gifts. Ask them to tell you what they believe their gifts are and how they best can express them within the community of faith.
  • Ask them where they think they could use some help. Do this even when you do not have money to pay for more administrative help. Get creative people to articulate their problem. If they cannot identify their weaknesses, then you may need to do so for them.
  • Maximize the value of their creativity. When possible, arrange administrative support for them. I suggest you make this available at the beginning of employment. The creative mind often needs the support of the administrative mind. Provide that support at the outset to better maximize the value of their creativity.
  • Creative people ask, “Is there a problem?” Acknowledge the gift of their creative minds while challenging them to recognize their shortcomings in organization. It is easier for an administrative-type person to recognize lack of creativity than for creative-type people to acknowledge lack of organization. Often creative people do not even see lack of organization as a problem.

They must be able to do three things:

  1. Identify their shortcoming in administration or organization. Ask staff members to articulate what they define as a shortcoming.
  2. Articulate how their shortcomings might play out. In other words, if they tell you that organization is their shortcoming, they need to be able to tell how it might manifest itself when planning a youth outing that requires parent permission forms. They might not have all the forms, and yet they conduct the outing anyway.
  3. Articulate what might be the consequences of their shortcoming manifesting itself. They may say that if an accident occurs with a student who did not have a parent permission form, the church is liable for a lawsuit.

    Consider personal development. Help creative people see your concern for them as further development of them. Consider sending them to a conference that focuses on order and organization. Their DNA is set, but you want them to grow and develop personally outside of their creative side.

Maintain an attitude of acceptance when dealing with creative people. They may never match your expectations. At the same time they will do things for your ministry that your black-and-white-straight-line-policy-procedure mind cannot fathom.

Do not get into a situation where a staff person with a creative mind sets you up for perpetual frustration. Clear that during the hiring interview. Go into the employment relationship with your eyes open. While the staff member is with you, be sure she understands that you value her. At the same time, make sure she knows you expect her to play by the same rules everyone else plays by. Set your expectations, and then make sure you and the staff member live by them.

While you express gratitude for these creative types, I encourage them to value people like you who read to this point in an article. They laughed after the title and moved on to something more fun.