Is Creativity in Decline?

Brad M. Griffin | Jul 13, 2010

One of my favorite things about the neighborhood where we now live is the communal space where all the kids play.

Its an experimental urban mixed-income project made up of townhomes and rehabilitated historic homes, and the design includes a few courtyards that have become the hub of excitement for my kids. The most-asked question on any given day (especially in the summer) goes something like, When can we play outside? followed by Can we ask (insert the name of any favorite friend of the day) to play?

One of the things I love about that is the ways this communal outside play fosters creativity. The neighborhood kids are forever dreaming up schemes of all sortsspy plots, bug hunts, weddings, school, and the like. Sometimes theyre a little too ambitious with their creativity, in fact, and weve had to shut down some over-the-top plans.

This recent article from Newsweek highlights the importance of such play in kids lives. While IQ scores have been going up with each generation, creativity scores are now falling among American kids. The most serious decline is among K-6th grade kids since 1990. Yes, that means our youth groups (and younger staff/volunteer teams) are impacted by this decline in creative thinking. The authors point out:

Preschool children, on average, ask their parents about 100 questions a day. Why, why, whysometimes parents just wish itd stop. Tragically, it does stop. By middle school theyve pretty much stopped asking. Its no coincidence that this same time is when student motivation and engagement plummet. They didnt stop asking questions because they lost interest: its the other way around. They lost interest because they stopped asking questions.


As we face our own students in ministry this week, lets be sure were not just another place where questions get squashed and information gets pushed. Lets also not settle for the entertainment backstops that fill time and space like so much other unimaginative fluff in kids lives. Instead, what if youth group becomes the place where creativity is unleashed, where questions are welcomed, and where Gods Kingdom dreams are dreamed?

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, writer, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of over a dozen books, including 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and Can I Ask That? Brad and his family live in Southern California, where he serves as Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries at Mountainside Communion.


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