A message from David A. Macfarlane, director of the EFC National Initiatives
Acts 25:23-25 “After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall. “
A serious and seemingly impossible problem faced the Apostle Paul and his followers: for him to leave the city with his life when all the gates were being carefully watched. To exit in the usual, customary, traditional way would have meant certain death. So they must have prayed till this creative solution came to them: lower Paul over the wall in a basket at night. This was certainly unorthodox, had “never been done before,” was risky, humbling and must have taken them well out of their “comfort zone,” but ultimately this “plan B” was an effective and creative solution to their dilemma. God was in it. Because of this action Paul’s ministry continued and flourished. As Christian leaders we have never needed to be more flexible and creative than today. New and challenging situations face us on many levels that require different and innovative responses - but how can we find these creative “basket over a wall” solutions?
When I worked for American Express, I led “think tank” marketing meetings for finding creative “plan B” solutions. Here are ten steps that I have found helpful for finding creative solutions in a ministry setting.
1. Gather a “creative team” (ideally no more than a half dozen people). Invite them for a one-time two hour meeting.
2. Pray together for wisdom and creativity. You want to hear from God.
3. Write a clear one sentence description of the problem you need to solve on a white board.
4. Answer these questions: How does what you want to discuss line up with your corporate mission and goals? Why is this issue important?
5. Announce that no one is allowed to judge an idea (this includes body language) till the evaluation time. Judging too soon will stop the flow of new ideas.
6. Ask the group to give you as many solutions as they can, no matter how crazy they might sound. Tell them that you want at least 50 ideas in the next ten minutes. Write them down on the white board or on cards.
7. After ten minutes, stop and move into the evaluation phase and separate the ideas with potential. Often two or three ideas can create a new one or spark a different solution.
8. Finish on time (creativity “bogs down” if you go on too long). Pray and thank everyone individually for their contribution as they leave.
9. Take these ideas to the implementation stage, keeping in mind that “trial runs” are often a very good idea.
10. Celebrate your success and give everyone credit. Paul did this by telling everyone about it: 2 Corinthians 11:33 “But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.”
May the Lord give you much wisdom, grace, favour and creativity as you “slip over your wall.”