If You Have to Choose Between Clarity and Creativity…

Clarity and creativity are both admirable qualities. People seek both when creating a resource, when delivering a message, when leading a team, and when designing ministry strategy. Authors, artists, song writers, communicators, ministry leaders, and a plethora of other people desire for their work to be both clear and creative.

But if you have to choose between clarity and creativity, choose clarity. Another way to say it is: Be sure your creativity doesn’t distract from your clarity.

Some examples may be helpful…

  • A kids ministry wants to offer a Vacation Bible School-type event for families in the summer, but the team doesn’t want to call it VBS because it sounds “too old school,” so the team works really hard on creating another name. But when they announce it, parents are not sure exactly what it is.
  • A well-known author confesses that what he believes to be his best, and even most important work, was the least received because the title was too clever and simultaneously unclear. People weren’t sure what the book was about. The creative title trumped the clarity of the message.
  • A pastor and creative team spend hours dreaming up and designing an elaborate illustration to kick off a new teaching series. It is super creative but little time is invested in ensuring the creativity is clearly connected to the main teaching point. Thus, people walk away remembering the illustration but struggling to remember its point.
  • A team works incredibly hard on a communication piece. The artwork is beautiful. The use of fonts, colors, and white space is intentional and well-designed. But after the piece is mailed and digital versions are shared online, people realize the substance of the message was unclear.

Creativity can enhance clarity; it doesn’t need to be the enemy of clarity. But if leaders and communicators take their eyes off the value of clarity, the creativity can fail to communicate. You can have both creativity and clarity, but if you must choose one, choose clarity. Marcus Buckingham stated it well: “Clarity is the preoccupation of the effective leader. If you do nothing else as a leader, be clear.”