What Animators Taught Me About Church Leadership

Posted by Aaron Buer on July 16, 2020

I’ve been watching a documentary on Disney+ with my family, called Into the Unknown.

It’s about the creative process and production behind Disney’s Frozen 2.

I find the culture and creative process of Pixar, and now, Disney Animation Studios, incredibly fascinating.

There’s a level of iteration, creativity, and humility I respect.

I first encountered Pixar’s culture in the book, Creativity, Inc., which I highly recommend.


Stay Committed to the Mission

As I watched Into the Unknown, I encountered something I believe we need more of in our churches.

The team members involved in the creation of Frozen 2 repeatedly said something that struck me.

The phrase goes something like this, “Whatever makes the story better.”

Or, when speaking about  the directors of the project, “I trust them to make the best decisions for the story.”  

What strikes me about this mindset is the commitment to the mission of the story.

It’s all about telling a great story.


This creates a high level of trust in leadership because of the leadership’s commitment to the same mission.

A moment in the documentary that really captured the commitment to the mission was after an audience screening a few months before the worldwide release date of Frozen 2.

Because of feedback captured from an audience of parents and kids, significant changes were made to the movie, including cutting entire scenes and songs.

I can only imagine working as an animator for several months on a scene, only to have it cut by the directors.

On the same day they received the news that their scenes were cut, they were assigned new scenes.

It’s literally like, “Thanks for your work on that scene over the last two months...we aren’t going to use any of it. Here’s your new assignment, which we may or may not use.”  

But, in these moments, the animators who had months of hard work cut, spoke of the importance of the mission and their trust in their leaders. Wow.  

I can relate to some of these challenges.

Through the last few months, as we have all struggled to lead through this pandemic, there have been many moments where I, or people on my team, have had to pivot away from work, practices, or models of ministry we have worked hard to perfect.

All the various aspects of an engaging in-person service are out of the window right now for us.  

Into the Unknown reminded me I need to hold loosely the ministry tactics, preferences, and models I love, so I can stay committed to the mission.

When the mission of the Church is my focus, I can be more flexible, humble, and creative.

Wrap Up

As we move forward into the literal unknown of this pandemic and beyond, we have a clear mission from Jesus: To go into all the world and make disciples.

I don’t know about you, but I needed a clear reminder that THIS is what it is about, not my particular brand of church.

The Church has been adapting, pivoting, and changing for centuries and always seems to do better in the midst of adversity.  

This week, I want to keep the mission central, trust the leadership of our Lord, and pour myself into the ministry He has called me to.

All the while, holding loosely to the tactics, practices, and models that I prefer.

I invite you to do the same.

Topics: Advice

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