~Joel’s Blog

Creative Genius Revisited

In a blog I published two years ago this month, I wrote about the high calling we have as parents for nurturing our children’s creativity. As created beings, made in the likeness of the Creator, all of us feel an urge to create. How could we not?  Genesis 1:27 declares that we are made in God’s image. Ephesians 5:1 calls on us to be “imitators of God.”

So why don’t more of us engage in being creative?

Answer: the same reason we tend to fail at nurturing creative genius in our children. We don’t value creativity in ourselves.

As The World Turns

Unless you have been asleep over the past two decades, you can’t but help but notice that the world’s economy has shifted away from industrial manufacturing. The primary driver is knowledge. Not labor.

As an example of this, let’s consider the same people I listed in my first blog. The most successful entrepreneurs in recent years are known for their creative genius. Consider Steve Jobs, of Apple. Bill Gates, of Microsoft. Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook. Warren Buffett, uber-investor of Berkshire-Hathaway. Elon Musk, of Space X and Tesla. Richard Branson, of Virgin. Even JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter “empire.” Many more names come to mind.

In the two years since my first blog on this subject, most parents wouldn’t express gleeful delight in better funded or performing schools. Most parents would not be inclined to say things have improved for their children’s education. More often than otherwise, schools are still managing with less than they did 6-8 years ago. And even if things had improved for the educational system tasked with teaching your kids, are you willing to delegate everything to the school system?

Of course not. Schools are stretched thin. So are the educators in them.

Truth be told, parents are also stretched thin. Still, of all the things we’re called on to lean in hard for, raising our kids to be as successful as they can be is at the top.

Look at the list of names again. They all have inspiring stories of approaching challenges in an unusually creative way. They became hugely successful because of their creativity, not in spite of it.

Genius Begins At Home

A fertility specialist told my wife and me that we would never have kids. God had other plans. Our daughter recently started college. She is majoring in engineering but hasn’t decided on a specific discipline. What is fascinating to many is that she is minoring in graphic design. Left brain, right brain. Scientific. Creative

She is a bright girl, typically getting good grades. Our focus as parents has always been to encourage her to dive into what interests her. Because she saw her parents intentionally engaging in creative pursuits, she did too.

As a consequence, she became an accomplished visual artist; she grew up observing me draw and paint. Because she started much earlier than I did, her skills advanced quickly.

She learned the violin and guitar because she grew up listening to her mom’s music (20+ songs on iTunes), singing and playing along.

She knew I’d loved ceramics in high school; she lettered in AP Ceramics, becoming ever so much better than I ever got.

She listened to us read to her since she was in the womb. By the time she was ten, she enjoyed and absorbed great, epic narratives from C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Rowling and others. So she created her own wonderful stories in her grade-school GATE class.

When I finally engaged a lifelong dream of getting published, she watched me work very hard for many months to get my first book (a youth minister’s survival guide) published. Then we collaborated as a family on my 2nd book (an inspirational book about our dog, Watson). She saw me dive into world-building a fantasy story, with the protagonist modeled after her. It inspired her to retrieve a writing project from junior high and turn it into her first novel. Her award-winning book, NeverSeen, was published about a year after her dad’s.

None of these things make us better parents than others. It also doesn’t mean our daughter is smarter than other kids. All it means is that with some mindful, consistent encouragement, we can nurture creativity in our children, grandchildren and the other kids we have influence over.

5 More Steps to Nurture Creative Genius

As parents, we own the primary role and responsibility of nurturing creativity in our children. But it is just as important to be a supportive adult to all the kids in our lives: neighbor kids, friends of our kids, kids at church, etc. So really, all grown-ups—youth ministers, volunteers, clergy, counselors, parents & grandparents—play a significant role. As I said in my first blog, we can impact how deeply and how far kids engage their creativity.

We know the world will continue to get more challenging. Our young people will inherit it. Nurturing a habit of creativity will enhance not just the lives of those creatives but those they influence.

These additional five steps might seem simple or obvious. But consider what impact greater intentionality would bring.

  1. Model

Make sure you carve out time to engage in the things that get your creativity flowing. You’ve seen that in our home that includes music, writing, painting, and ceramics. Perhaps in your home it’s woodworking, crafts, or car restoration. No creative pursuit is better than the other. What is important is your kids seeing you responding to your creative yearning. They see you imitate the Creator.

  1. Expose

Get those young minds away from a screen (computer, TV, tablet, phone) and into museums, scientific exhibitions and anything that will blow their minds. When I recount for you 18 years of parenting, it makes us look brilliant. We’re not. We just tried to get our daughter seeing and experiencing new things. She loved the Discovery Center but also enjoyed watching monks making a mandala. Art museums were always fun. We took her to a ballet performance. It wasn’t long before she became a ballerina.

  1. Introduce

Whenever possible, introduce kids in your life to the people doing whatever they are interested in. Your kids (and you) will discover normal people doing wonderful things.

  1. Expand

If you can make it fit your family’s budget and time constraints, provide your kids ways to keep pursuing their creativity. By borrowing a book from the library or getting age-appropriate training videos, you’ll continue nurturing their creative genius.

  1. Let Go

It’s a good thing when the creative genius in your kids exceeds your own. It can sting a little, but you’re not in a competition. It’s a privilege.

Nurturing the creative genius in those God gives us to raise into His imitators is an extraordinarily high-calling. Welcome it! This calling is not one of those oughta-gotta-shoulda duties to be avoided or feel guilty about. We celebrate in creative genius even as we nurture it in our kids.

If you’d like to see the first five steps for nurturing creative genius, go here.

What do you think? Is creativity essential? Or over-rated? Do you think our world has switched from an economy built on labor to one built on knowledge? Or not so much? Make your case.

Engage here. We’d love to see your comments in the discussion panel below.


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