Written by Jenny Potter, creative director at Willow Creek.
I am someone who loves traditions. I didn’t always think it was especially important, but the older I get and truthfully, the older my kids get, the more I realize how powerful these traditions are, how they help tell what is important to us because we choose to keep returning to them month after month, or year after year.
Special Friends weekend has become without fail one of my favorite traditions at Willow (I’m sure I’m not alone). Process-wise, it has what I believe are two essentials to a really good collaborative experience: 1. Trust in your collaborators and 2. Shared Vision.
We trust each other.
Our team has worked with the Special Friends ministry for 6+ years, and in that time we have been given the privilege of sharing stories from their community and tackling some pretty ambitious projects together. Doing that work together year after year has built an incredible amount of trust between our teams, which makes everyone involved want to give it their all because we actually know and care for each other and because…
We have a shared vision.
I remember one Special Friends weekend a few years ago when we heard from a speaker talk about the body of Christ (referencing the passage from 1 Corinthians 12-27). The teacher went on to share that when those in our congregation with physical or emotional limitations are left out, that doesn’t leave the rest of us stronger, it essentially leaves us without a foot, or an ear, or an eye, without that kid, or that parent or caretaker, without that perspective, or that voice, or that wit. It leaves us disabled.
This annual weekend serves as a time when we get to use the amazing platform we’ve been entrusted and share it with many who don’t usually get to be in the spotlight. And it pushes us all.
As I sat backstage with the cast, I watched 60(!) cast members get makeup from a volunteer makeup team of about 20 volunteer makeup artists (some who literally just wandered into the room and saw that they could help so they grabbed some face paint and went to town), I saw anxious kids calmed down and reassured by a parent or mentor, and I saw directors and technical and visual artists co-create a really beautiful and meaningful production not just for our congregation, but also for each other and for the cast. An incredible amount of collaboration took place to bring that performance to life. I find myself really thankful to witness such a clear expression of the body.