Five big principles for brainstorming (well, at least they’re big for me):
- Nothing increases my ability to brainstorm like seeing how others do college ministry. Even interviewing one other college minister about his ministry or viewing one other ministry in action can unlock the door to many new methods. Just think about what widespread collaboration will do!
- Springboarding is easier than spontaneous generation. I would imagine that most (or all) people find it easiest to “get creative” with something we’re familiar with, than to imagine something altogether original. (That’s why I’m such a big fan of the “Exploring the Edges” method.) There’s no shame in a tweak that makes a method more effective, or a reimagining of something you’ve seen before; in fact, this can often not only be easier to brainstorm, but also easier to carry out – and even more effective. (See #3.)
- Creativity isn’t its own reward. “Circular creativity” – creating something new simply for the sake of its “newness” – isn’t productive or wise, but I can certainly be captivated by it. Creativity is a terrible goal, but – sometimes – it’s a helpful bridge to good goals. There is no inherent value in being creative, only value in doing things that better hit your targets. (See #4)
- Brainstorming must begin with – or at least be evaluated by – your purposes. When we brainstorm, purposes should either be our starting point or be the “bouncer” for each and every one of our ideas. Further, being sure about our purposes will actually help our brainstorming: The mother of invention is necessity, and you’ll be amazed how creative you can get when your necessities are clear and urgent. (More on this purpose-priority process here.)
- God is more creative than any of us. Why wouldn’t we pray about what we name our ministry, or where to go on mission trip, or when to hold our large group meeting? Somewhere in the middle of high school, I learned to pray for His ideas on things as simple as school projects. Since that time, I’ve seen God regularly provide deeper, better results in my ministry brainstorming as I’ve acknowledged Him in even this way. And it’s pretty hard for Him not to get the glory when He’s not only the Builder but also the Brainstormer.
Or if you really want some more, there’s always the “brainstorming and creativity” category…