Dodgeball, Sermons, and Screenplays

(...and why creating things is so important in your 20s)

On Monday we talked about going back in time to talk to young (22-year-old) Alex about Youth Ministry.  If you are fresh or new to Youth Min in any way I encourage you to read those words as if I were talking directly to you.

But I'm curious, if I had the chance to talk to myself 10 years ago, would I stop at giving best practices about my new career choice at that point?  I assume I would go deeper and talk about something at the core of all of us, so here's

3 things I would say to a 22-year-old about Creating Things:

1. For now, focus on what you know. 

My older brother and I used to make movies (read: "Short Films") together all the time! We spent countless hours and filled more VHS tapes than the entire Star Trek library with our silly antics documenting Super-hero Bass Players, a maniacal fork-factory worker, or a classic for the ages which was the basic storyline of Jaws but as a Zombie-movie!  

To name a few.   

When I got involved in leadership in my Youth Ministry, I naturally wanted to make videos.  It was fun for me, and seemed to be fun for those viewing.  

That grew from making funny announcement vids to more serious, thoughtful videos, to creating a weekend's worth of bumper vids for some large denominational retreats.  I expanded to some computer work and focused more on production quality within the church as a whole.  All of this took up a LOT of time, as creating videos tend to.  When really what came most naturally to me, was telling a story.  I wish I had spent more time on stage with 5 or 6 students that wanted to act in a skit than I did making a one-man video to advertise for Lazertag. 

Dear Creative (that's you, reading this): You have some natural gifts that will go a long way at this stage of your life.  Get really good at what you're already good at, then keep getting good at it.

2. Bring other people into the process

Austin Kleon talks about this a little bit in his book SHOW YOUR WORK when he reminds us that painters 50 years ago basically went into hiding for 18 months and then showed up in public again with a new piece of art, whereas today that just isn't interesting to us, we want to be brought along on the process of creating that artwork with our favorite artists.  We want to see the first brushstroke picture, we love to know that they're working on something.  

When I was young and still trying to figure out what I should spend my time creating and why I should do it, I typically went through it alone.  I would ask people to help with videos if I needed another cast member, but then would thrive off the 20 hours of editing alone late at night. People only saw the finished product, so few of them cared at all about the process to get there.

*One of the reasons I like developing sermons so much is because I only have to deal with me on stage, I can work really well with myself.  But if I'm interested in developing community (like I say I am) then I should be more willing to invite others into the process of creating things.* 

Dear Creative: Show us what you're working on.  Share it.  So many of us are afraid to start creating because we believe it has to be 'good enough' to sell.  Help inspire others by bringing them into your creative process. 

3. DO. NOT. STOP.

I have a friend that writes stories.  He has only been paid for his work a handful of times, but if you asked him what he does he will tell you he is a screenwriter.  For a while he took a break from working in the film industry to focus on a retail job, yet he never stopped writing; he never stopped seeing stories in the lives of the people he met each day.  I sincerely think it would not have been possible for him to stop even if he wanted to rid himself of this creative desire.  

There was a point in his life when tragedy struck and his response was amazingly enough to dive deeper into the industry - to write more and work in the field again.  

As for me, I nearly stopped creating out of my natural gifting altogether, but for a while was simply making programs and skits and videos and lesson-plans because they were in demand.  

Dear Creative: Find what you are naturally drawn to create and make space in your life for that.  If it's painting, writing, quilting, photographing, composing, paper-doll-making, whatever.  Don't stop. Please.  We need what you make. 

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By 20 you've likely dropped some of your early-childhood 'passions' like karate, ballet, and T-ball.  It's time to start to recognize what you love to do and identifying with that as part of who you are.  This is what you create. So go, 

Focus on what you know.

Invite others into the process of creating.

And never stop making.


Next up: At 22-years-old I had a wife and a 3 month old daughter, oh what I wish I could tell myself about the FAMILY!