EACH SUNDAY, JOHN HENDRIX BRINGS HIS SKETCH PAD TO CHURCH. IT’S EASY TO ASSUME THAT HE ISN’T PAYING ATTENTION AS HE SITS, HEAD DOWN, FOCUSED ON HIS OWN CREATIVE PROCESS. BUT HENDRIX IS SKETCHING TO CAPTURE THE THEME OF THE MESSAGE ON A SINGLE PAGE, TYING IN EACH DETAIL WITH PENCIL AND CHARCOAL.
Sunni Brown, doodle expert and BrightSpot ID owner, would encourage Hendrix’s creative efforts. By incorporating visual language into business practices and individual learning, Brown has discovered processes that change the way her clients understand and retain information. She likes to call it the “doodle revolution.”
PLAYING GAMES WILL BENEFIT THE CHURCH
Many of Brown’s clients are large companies or nonprofit organizations that have reached a dead end in their problem-solving process. Brown calls her consulting technique “gamestorming,” and outlines the concept in a book by the same name. This idea is something that the Church can learn from. She describes it as “visual thinking techniques in a group,” and summarizes a process that could inform the way we interact with each other and communicate as Christians. Group members map out their problems on a huge canvas, giving participants the opportunity to be creative. Games designed for the session, such as role-playing, allow group members to be improvisational in their thinking. They often leave the session with groundbreaking solutions to previously impossible problems.
This kind of creative brainstorming could also be put to use by church leadership. Even when leaders are in agreement over their vision and values, they often disagree on the most effective methods to accomplish their goals. They may even be divided on how much emphasis to place on each one. Using visual language to create a map for the future would aid communication and help unify leaders around the same purpose. If we know what the future looks like, we can unite around it.
During a session with leaders from the American Cancer Society, Brown witnessed a breakthrough: “They could say based on the resources of the community, ‘We know the five large-scale initiatives we need to pursue.’ Whereas before they had maybe 20, and they were kind of haphazard.” Everyone emerged from the session with clear goals.
STARTING TO GET VISUAL
Practicing doodling can help make visions of the future more tangible. As Brown points out, “We will be taking notes for the rest of our lives. You take notes in meetings; you take notes in classrooms.” Many note-takers might hesitate to employ visual language, since it will require time and effort. But Brown says that’s a good thing: “It slows you down, and you have to start listening for the important things. It has the effect of cementing the data you’re hearing into your brain.”
With practice, Brown says that visual note-takers can learn to hone in on important concepts. Trying something new may feel unnerving, but Brown argues that the status quo is due for a change: “It might be scary for someone to try because they are afraid of losing content, but they are already losing content by not including visual language.”
In order to begin the visual process, Brown suggests starting with something that you will not be tested on—like doodling in church on Sunday.
DOODLING TO GROW IN FAITH
John Hendrix’s “Drawings in Church” displays an artistic talent that not everyone possesses. But that should not prevent anyone from incorporating sketches or doodles into Sunday’s sermon notes. The practice of faith requires a great deal of reflection, and as Brown observes: “doodling is really appropriate for introspection.”
Spiritual and emotional states can play into our interpretation of a sermon. If 200 people doodled through the same service, each of their drawings would look different. And they all would give clues for understanding and application. Brown backs up this idea: “I would say a large majority of the way we behave and make decisions are preverbal; we don’t know why until it gets couched in language. By that time, the authenticity is questionable.”
It may be difficult to think of language as a barrier to self-discovery, but perhaps that’s because we spend our time hearing about faith in sermons and talking about faith in small groups and Bible studies. Incorporating visual language will take practice, but putting forth the effort is worthwhile if it helps us become more thoughtful, intentional Christians.
Brown was not always convinced that visual language was an effective process. “I was really skeptical at first,” she said about some of her initial experiences. “But after being exposed to it multiple times, I had to acknowledge how powerful it was.” And that sounds quite a bit like the practice of faith.