student ministry, youth ministry, artist, creativity in youth ministry

The Artist’s Tango

By Guest Contributor April 3, 2014

By: Kyle Rohane

Every good artist paces. As soon as he picks up a brush or pen or stick of charcoal, he falls into that comfortable motion—not in circles, but back and forth, in and out, near and far. What motor drives this rhythmic compulsion? Perspective.

The artist leans in toward his work. He ticks away with a precision instrument to add fine detail and crisp embellishment. Just as his nose nearly touches the still-wet canvas, he blinks, sets his tools aside, and takes three steps back. He rocks back on his heals, head cocked and eyebrow raised in appraisal of his work-in-progress. He strokes his chin and bites his lower lip. Are his lines leading the eye where it’s supposed to go? Do the colors convey the right tone? Only from a distance can he make the most important, large-scale decisions. He nods, satisfied with his progress, and once more approaches the canvas.

Do you practice the steps of the Artist’s Tango? Back and forth. Back and forth. How often do you focus in on the minutiae, the details, the “nitty-gritty”? Detail work excites and infuriates leaders. It’s meeting one-on-one with students and balancing the budget. It’s finding the perfect sermon illustration and confronting lazy volunteers. Precision leadership is rewarding, exhausting, and consuming.

But every once-in-a-while you have to break the gravitational pull of micromanagement to survey your ministry as a whole. Do you ever pull the wide-angle lens from your leadership camera case? With the entire scope of your ministry in view, you can cast vision, evaluate past decisions, and if necessary, redirect course.

Most likely, you drift toward one of these two extremes. Perhaps you enjoy getting your hands dirty. You chose ministry because of the relationships. Leadership meetings bore you and separate you from direct contact with students.

Or maybe you prefer the bigger picture. God gave you a message that needs to reach as many ears as possible. You want to see the ripples of influence when you adjust your ministry’s vision, and managing from the top down yields the greatest impact.

Remember that an artist who neglects her painting’s details will produce a blunt image with little nuance or emotional resonance. If she’s too afraid to get in close, her painting will turn out cold and dull, like a mallet to the head.

But an artist who spends his time in the minutiae, fixated on specifics and tweaking details, will realize too late that his painting has gone off-course. Without a broader vision, he wastes the time, energy, and dedication he pours into the process. His painting will only confuse and frustrate.

Take the time to step out of your sweet spot. Train yourself to move back and forth from the details to the big picture. Every good leader should have a microscope in one pocket and a telescope in the other. For the sake of your students and your ministry, practice the steps of the Artist’s Tango until they’re as natural as breathing in and out.


About the Author

Guest Contributor

The LeaderTreks Blog is proud to share the hard-earned wisdom of student ministry leaders from many different backgrounds and professions. From time to time, we will feature guest blog posts from writers other than our regular contributors. We include these posts to provide additional perspectives and insight that we’re sure will help develop you and your ministry…  Read More