Roger and Dianne Smalling
At a missions conference in Georgia, the Sunday school teachers wanted the younger children to understand what a missionary does. A couple of the teachers felt that five and six year olds might be too young to grasp the concept of missions.
The problem turned into an incredibly creative solution. One teacher owned a shower curtain with a map of the world printed on it. During the conference, they took the shower curtain to the classes along with a can of shaving cream. They squirted a generous dollop of shaving cream on the part of the map representing the USA, along with a few other countries, which send out missionaries.
The teachers explained that the cream represented the message about Jesus. They showed the kids that these were the countries where the Gospel is preached. Then they asked the children why there was no shaving cream on other countries. The teacher explained something about the people in those countries and that they hadn’t heard the Gospel. Somebody must take the Gospel to them. How?
They had the kids take off their shoes, step into the piles of cream, pick up some on their feet and walk it over to the countries in which there was none.
Toward the end of the conference, the pastor asked the five year olds, “What is a missionary?” The kids responded, “A missionary takes the message of Jesus to places where people don’t have it.”
Those teachers solved a problem that some originally assumed impossible. They used creative thinking.
One of the key characteristics distinguishing genuine leaders from mere managers is creative thinking. It explains why some leaders seem content to maintain the status quo.
Definitions and Elements
Creative thinking is the ability to invent original ideas for accomplishing goals. The source of creative thinking is our imagination. This is a faculty of mind given by God that He expects us to use.
Why are we not better at creative thinking?
Thinking is hard work. Creative thinking is hardest of all. Just ask a novelist. Most will tell you they only write three or four hours a day because it is too exhausting.
B. Wrong theology about guidance.
Christians sometimes have wrong concepts about the mind. They wait for God to give Divine revelation, while God waits for them to use the faculties He gave them. Result: Nobody is moving and nothing gets accomplished.
C. Repression of creative faculties.
A high-school teacher drew a small dot on the board. Then he asked the class what it was. The students all agreed that is was merely a dot. The teacher replied, “I did the same exercise yesterday with a group of children. One thought it was an insect egg or perhaps a bird’s eye. Another thought it was the head of a bald man seen from an airplane.”
Why the difference? In the years between kindergarten and high school students were discarding their imagination. They were learning to be ‘specific’ about things, learning the ‘right answers’ and learning what is ‘realistic.’
Absorbing facts is not the same as exercising the mind. In some countries, the education system is based on rote memorization. Students write down verbatim what the teacher says, then copy it neatly into a notebook at home. This is supposed to be education. It is not education. It is brainwashing.
D. Fear of failure or ridicule.
Nobody wants to make a fool of himself. The temptation toward this becomes stronger as we advance in leadership. We think, “If my new idea fails, I’ll look like a fool and people will lose confidence in me.”
E. Negative thinking.
What is the difference between a leader who gets things done and those who only manage the work of others? The former ignores the reasons why it can’t be done and does it anyway.
Great entrepreneurs rarely ask, “Is this going to work?” Instead, they are challenged by, “How can we make it work?”
F. Comfort Zone
We confine ourselves to comfortable limitations. It seems so much easier to do the familiar. Sometimes it is good to stretch out of our comfort zone, and attempt what we may not feel gifted in.
At a meeting in a paint company, technicians were seeking new ideas for removing paint. One man humorously suggested mixing dynamite with the paint. That way years later they could toss a match at the painted wall and blow it off.
Once the laughter died down, the group took this bizarre idea and came up with a surprising solution: Mix a chemical with the paint that could react later with the paint if pasted over it to dissolve it. This is how paint remover was invented.
Is there any reason a group of Christians cannot excel in brainstorming? A stroke of genius is sometimes modified stupidity. Knowing this may help us break through inhibitions.
Creative thinking entails using our imagination for inventing original ideas to solve problems. Barriers exist in this process. Effective leaders overcome them.
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About the Author
Dr. Roger Smalling is a missionary theologian with the Presbyterian Church in America. Roger and his wife Dianne are prolific writers with helpful books and articles at http://www.smallings.com/
Their seven books can be viewed at Kindle Store under “Smalling”
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