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Seizing Creativity

This column is the final in a series of lessons on creating with intentionality!

One of the most creative things I’ve ever done in ministry is start the college outreach at Ridge Road Baptist Church in Raleigh. This was in 1970 when I was 28.

I was minister for youth and college students but we had no college students. We had nothing.

It started with some freshmen from NC State and from nearby all-female Meredith College. Eventually, we had more than 100 every Sunday. It was hard work – creative work – and among the most rewarding I’ve ever done.

I was able to motivate adults in the church to help, which was a key to success. The Krispy Kreme doughnuts I provided each week at a special discount of $4.80 for 10 dozen helped. I also got the address of every freshman from Meredith and NC State and wrote them a personal note. They never forgot that.

We started a coffee house in a building adjacent to the church. We had 200 on opening night. It was a creative venture that carried a high risk that some church members would not understand what we were doing. Our continued operation of the coffee house actually came to a vote and this unique outreach ministry was overwhelming approved.

That was a period of creativity backed with passion and an ability to get people to do what I wanted them to do. It was the first time I realized I had leadership potential. After I left that church staff to become a pastor, I met with my students from those years annually for probably 15 straight years.

Several are in ministry careers and one is on my trustee board now.

Nothing requires creativity like starting something from nothing.

When North Carolina Baptists shifted their focus for ministry among a rapidly-aging population away from residential facilities, they asked Baptist Children’s Homes to come up with a plan – and to be responsible for whatever we created.

This was an opportunity to put a stamp on something completely new: There was no template, no model and no precedent. This would be pure, utter, 100 percent creativity. In other words, I salivated.

We brainstormed and imagined. We came up with a name that itself exudes energy: NCBAM – North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry.

We’ve gone from nothing to providing year-round service for hundreds of frail elderly adults that enables them to stay in their homes. Our staff is minimal, and its primary function is to organize volunteer labor across the state, with the hands-on labor being provided by local church volunteers.

All these volunteers needed was a central clearinghouse, which we provide, and off they go to minister.

We’re growing and expanding.

We sponsor a conference every year for retired ministers. We help with conferences for aging that other entities conduct. We’ve established three Aging Adults Innovating Ministry (AAIM) regions and help churches establish better senior adult ministries.

We had a mandate to meet a specific need. BAM(!) – that’s when the creative juices flow and good things arise from nothing.

The social conditions that called Baptist Children’s Homes into existence in 1885 did not remain stagnant. Through the decades, we’ve developed services and created ministries – in addition to traditional residential care – to meet changing needs.

We began a home for teen mothers and their babies; a ministry to developmentally disabled adults; family care for hard-working moms and their children; early childhood education; specialized group homes; and outdoor year-round camping programs for both boys and girls. We’ve established a relationship with an orphanage in Guatemala and helped sister institutions in Brazil.

Timing is everything. I had been approached many times over the years by elderly parents with adult children who were mentally unable to live by themselves. The parents’ greatest concern was what would happen to their children when the parents were no longer around to care for them.

With much investigation and some seed money, we established one by one a network of homes where these adults can live and age with caring supervision. When the brass ring comes around, you’ve got to grab it.

Don’t be discouraged if your ideas don’t go anywhere. Sometimes, they do need to be pushed.

Mastery of the creative process is rarely an accident. What is absolutely critical is to be aware that:

• Creativity requires inspiration.

• Inspiration demands action.

• Action expresses creativity.

#MichaelCBlackwell #MyThoughts #NCBAM

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