Could you benefit from a little brainstorm?
Ask yourself: Do I need fresh ideas? Creative energy? New direction that can breathe life into my projects and ministries? If the answer is yes, than maybe it is time to make it rain.
Brainstorming can mean many things, but in the context of local church ministry, it is a way to intentionally reflect inward in an effort to solve a problem. The problem could be as straightforward as determining what sermon topics will best resonate this spring. It also can be as complex as how can you host VBS with only five volunteers.
Identify who should take part
Sometimes all you need is yourself and some calm, focused time and space to think freely. Other times, it could mean asking trusted teammates to help.
If you want a group effort, consider asking people who are creative and willing to help you move outside of your comfort zone. Also consider those who share the need to solve this problem. Pulling ideas from one or two people from both of these groups will boost your chances of success.
If you need to come up with great community outreach ideas, invite a congregant who has some marketing skills and a welcoming team volunteer to join you for a brainstorm. Drawing from diverse backgrounds and experiences can often lead to ideas you might not think of yourself.
Avoid asking too many people to join you — perhaps five or fewer — since it can be harder to be highly productive with a large group.
How to jumpstart the process
Get started with a prayer. Ask God to help you and the team be present and willing to lean into a spirit of creativity. Encourage everyone to take some deep breaths to help them feel centered and focused.
Next, clearly state the goals of your gathering. Remind everyone (or just yourself, if you’re on your own) of the problem you face. Lay out the rules. Really, there is just one: Share any and all ideas, no matter how ridiculous, improbable or unrealistic. You won’t uncover something new or brilliant if you don’t allow for the unusual.
Before tackling the real issue, consider completing a short warmup exercise designed to ignite creativity.
Don’t expect a constant downpour
Allow time for silence. People need a moment to ponder as they collect and prepare their thoughts. If you feel stuck or a lull in the discussion lasts too long, begin to ask “what if” questions to get the creative juices flowing.
Your questions might be:
- What if we held an event?
- What if we left our church property and went to where people already spend their time?
- What if people really understood how welcoming and supportive our congregation is?
As ideas flow throughout your brainstorming session, write everything down. Use sticky notes or large flip-chart lists or a computer/projector.
Make sure that everyone can see all the notes as solutions start to develop. This helps establish a pathway and assures that everyone’s ideas are noted as intended. Record ideas that seem completely unrealistic. These sparks of creativity often lead to more realistic ideas.
After “the storm” passes
Even after you feel that you have plenty of good suggestions, encourage the group to continue thinking about the issue during the next few days and to share further ideas. Sometimes the most inspired ideas come to us while we are not seeking them.
Step back and process the brainstorming experience. Decide on next steps. Review and evaluate the list of ideas. Choose ones that seem most on-point and exciting. Then narrow those down to a shorter list of ideas. Select ideas that are doable and offer the most problem-solving potential.
Keep your full list of ideas. Oftentimes, an idea might not solve the current challenge, but it might help solve another one. When your next challenge arrives, revisit your list(s) to identify potential solutions.
Not every idea will work the first time. You have to take risks and sometimes fail a few times before you find the right idea. Trying new things leads to new opportunities. This is especially true when you’ve bathed your ideas and plans in prayer. Try it and see for yourself.
Laura Buchanan is Senior Content Development Specialist at United Methodist Communications.