Over the last 20 years as a worship leader I’ve had the opportunity to lead and serve alongside some incredible artists. I’ve played music beside some of (I’m convinced!) the most talented people God has ever created. I’ve seen painters, video producers, photographers, singers, poets and graphic artists put their amazing artistic talent on display in a way that led to some jaw-dropping moments – for the glory of Jesus and for the sake of his kingdom.
I’ve also come across artists and leaders-of-artists who have squandered their opportunity, squashed inspiration and frustrated creativity – stop me if you’ve heard this before!
So whether you’re an artist in the church or one who leads artists in the church I do believe there are some principles we can agree on which can result in powerful, Jesus-exalting, God-honouring works of art which are created in an environment of Christian discipleship, healthy boundaries and visionary leadership.
And like most things you’ll read on leadership, please don’t consider me a faultless expert on this. There’s no way I get this right all the time but think of these principles as the lighthouses by which we’re being guided. These are the principles I’m trying to put in place for the dozens of talented, trail-blazing, Jesus-loving artists I’m leading in my current role.
So with the hope that these principles may lead you to your own lighthouses, let me offer to you three principles for leading artists effectively:
The Principle of Priority
Artists will produce their best work when they feel their work and creativity is a priority for you, your event or your organization. When art is treated as more than decoration artists will respond with creativity and passion.
Conversely, artists must understand that their own creative work and artistic freedom are not the first priority of the leader, the event or the organization. We all serve somebody and artists and leaders are called to serve one another as a demonstration of submission to Jesus.
The Principle of Purpose
Leaders who can include artists in conversation around purpose will find the emotional, relational and artistic results will far outweigh what would come as a result from artists being given a simple work order or a request for delivery.
Again, artists who serve leaders in achieving the purpose and vision they are working toward will gain the trust and assurance from leaders which will result in more opportunity and more freedom in the future.
The Principle of Pressure
Artists perform well with a deadline but they don’t perform well under pressure. Leaders who can give artists a long runway (especially for prioritized, purposeful projects!) with multiple stages and deadlines will get the most creative work from artists every time. Leaders need to learn how to manage the pressure they’re putting on artists so that the end result is great art and a great relationship.
Artists who can learn to identify the difference processing and procrastination will understand that their best work happens through refinement and iteration. Our first draft is rarely our best and so we need to break artistic projects into multiple stages where we can give time for our best work to develop.
At the end of the day the heart of the issue is respect for and from artists and leaders. As we serve each other we demonstrate first our submission to Jesus and we show the world that the gospel really, truly is good news for every person.