By Jason Thacker
For nearly a decade-and-a-half, I’ve been serving in the creative field. From working with churches to non-profits, I’ve worked alongside some of the most talented people I’ve ever met.
I love seeing where my friends have ended up and I’m proud to say I knew them back when they were just getting their start. Together, we’ve produced countless magazines, photo shoots, videos, podcasts, and plenty of websites.
Creative work is fruitful. But it’s also hard and time-consuming, much like any other profession. And creative work is also difficult for others to understand—especially why something that looks or sounds so simple often takes an exorbitant amount of time and energy to produce.
In turn, creative people become frustrated and downtrodden throughout the process of creating—not just because it’s hard work, but also because it’s discouraging when others unknowingly discredit or overlook their creative work.
In all these years serving alongside various creative-type people, I’ve noticed two things I wish more people knew when it comes to supporting and caring for creatives—both inside and outside the church.
Honor creative work as you would in other fields
Over the years, I’ve heard many leaders complain or express frustration about working with creatives, and it often revolves around one thing. Because creative work is often visible and transparent, many people don’t recognize the immense value in quality creative work.
From the cost of creative work to the often lengthy process itself, frustrations can run high and creatives pick up on those signals. When we complain and express frustration over people’s work, we send the message to them that their work isn’t valuable or is, at best, second seat to more important work.
I’ve seen countless organizations balk at the hourly rate of a creative, but turn around and pay double or more to someone doing trade labor like plumbing, roofing, or construction. These fields deserve their wages, but creatives tend to hear the pushback more often. Why is this the case?
We often don’t value creative type work like graphic design, videography, audio recording, and website development the same way we do other jobs. We see creative work as just making things look nice or as possibly superficial.
If something can be done quick and cheap, many people are okay with subpar work when it comes to creative design. But does that same standard hold true to the roofer you just hired? Are you okay if he just spends the time you think it should take to complete the job, rather than the time he knows it will take because he’s the professional? Would you tell him exactly how to do his job rather than trust his expertise?
All work is valuable because that’s how God designed it. Our work isn’t just a means to an end but serves an eternal purpose of making us more like Christ. Sin has made our work hard and tedious, but the work itself is meant to glorify God.
I’ve worked behind a desk most of my career, but my father-in-law has rarely sat down most of his working life. As a contractor, he’s built and remodeled homes for more than 40 years.
His line of work is extremely physically exhausting. My work, on the other hand, is mentally taxing in ways his work isn’t. Both our jobs are difficult, but in different ways. That doesn’t mean his work is more or less valuable than mine. We were both created to work and were given certain talents in order to honor God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-38).
When you work with creatives, recognize their work is demanding and taxing just like any other profession. Good work costs money, and you’ll need to make an investment to have quality creative work. We can’t expect every creative to donate their time and energy for free to an organization, just like we wouldn’t expect a plumber to plumb an entire house or office complex for free. Good workers deserve their wages.
Everyone has bills to pay and food to put on the table.All work is valuable because that’s how God designed it. Our work isn’t just a means to an end but serves an eternal purpose of making us more like Christ.Finally, trust creatives when it comes to their work. Most creatives love good and helpful feedback, because in the end it normally makes for a better product. But also know they’re professionals and do this every day. Trust them when it comes to certain creative decisions.
They might know something you don’t when it comes to how a design will communicate certain truths.
I’ve spent countless days and nights working by myself. From writing to designing, my work often entails being alone in a quiet space with nothing but my computer, a cup of coffee, and my thoughts.
I personally don’t like to work with lots of noise or music in the background because I find it distracts me from my work. While not every creative has my idiosyncrasies and habits, I’ve noticed many creatives do their best work in seclusion.
While seclusion might produce great creative work, it can also lead to loneliness and isolation. This is compounded by the mind-intensive nature of creative work—meaning the best creative products often come from deep inside us rather than from something we produce with our hands.
We have to think deeply about how things will come together and the best way to communicate truth. Creatives can easily get lost in their own minds and especially in their work.
One of the ways you can help combat loneliness and isolation for your creative friends is to be intentional about how you cultivate relationships with them and learn their habits.
While some will prefer to work alone (like I do), others like to work in groups. Not all creatives are the same. Seek to encourage them when you appreciate something they did. Tell them you’re praying for them during the process or treat them with a cup of coffee during a particularly tough season.
One impactuful way to encourage creatives is to celebrate with them when a project is done. My wife is a master at this and will often bake my favorite peanut butter blossom cookies with a Hershey kiss in the middle when I finish a large, taxing project.
Creative work isn’t more valuable than work in other fields. But it’s a unique type of work that involves many talented people. Because of the nature of our work, it’s easy to feel overlooked or not as valuable as others. But by doing a few things differently, you can show those around you that you notice them and benefit from their hard work.
You can remind them of the hope of the gospel we all so desperately need to hear when we’re tempted to think our work is central to our identity. We all need to be reminded our ultimate hope is Jesus Christ.
JASON THACKER (@jasonthacker) is creative director for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He writes regularly on technology, theology, and human dignity at jasonthacker.com.