Too often we think of limits as things that hold us back. They stop us from doing more.
But limitations are powerful:
- Limits keep us safe: Speed limits literally save lives.
- Limits narrow our focus: Being limited to a certain area allows you to focus and go deeper.
- Limits keep us from doing too much: Whether it’s a budget or the end of the day, having a limit keeps you from burning through all your resources.
When it comes to creativity and communication, you need some limits to serve as guard rails and allow you to be more effective.
Let’s look at some useful limits:
- National Novel Writing Month: The annual effort to write 50,000 words in a single month just ended in November. National Novel Writing Month is a famous example of how a limit—writing a novel in 30 days—can help narrow the focus and get something monumental accomplished.
- Five-minute presentation: A few years back I participated in the Ignite Conference where presenters had to give a five-minute presentation using slides that auto-advance very 15 seconds. The limits of the format forced me to drop all the extraneous stories, comments, and jokes in order to focus on the main point.
- Twitter: The original 140-character limit on Twitter forced people to be brief. That was back before the limit expanded to 280 characters and people started stringing ideas together into threads. Back then a single tweet had to stand alone, and it required skill to craft a compelling thought that worked within the limit. Creative, inventive, and wonderful writing often resulted.
Limits That Prompt Creativity
Some other limits might not feel so useful, but they can prompt creativity:
- Old buildings: The physical church building is often a hard limitation communicators face. In some cases it may force you to stick with a print bulletin. In other cases it forces you to get creative to make an old space do new things.
- Budgets: We’re all familiar with the limitations of money. There’s only so much money and you can only do so much with it. You’ve got to squeeze the value out of those pennies, and that often means getting creative.
- Attention spans: In Rethink Communication, Phil Bowdle shared that the average attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds, but it’s only eight seconds for people in 2018. That can feel like a crushing limitation. But accepting the reality of it prompts creativity.
Limits Are Good for Us
Let’s face it: Life has some hard limits. The are only seven days in a week and 24 hours in a day. You can only go so long without sleep, food, or water. There are limits everywhere. And those limits are good for us.
The reality is there’s only so much you can do. The work of the church is ongoing, and you’ll never do it all. You can only tackle your small piece. You have to work within your limits.
As we approach Christmas, remember that God didn’t work an unlimited budget and pull out all the stops. He worked with what he had—broken people relegated to a barn.
Elevation’s Wade Joye said it like this a while back: “Let limitations fuel your greatest creativity.”
Now how about imposing some limits on sermons?
Kevin D. Hendricks wrote this originally at Church Marketing Sucks .