Being Embraced: Helpful Hints for the Creative

Posted: March 6, 2018 in books, church art ministry resources, Thoughts on art ministry and life
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One of the key functions of this ministry is helping the church to embrace creatives and creativity. Occasionally though, I feel the need to remind creatives how to end up being embraced. This two-part post from my upcoming book, The Imaginative Church is designed to that end.

He is well known in Christian art circles and he is brilliant, one of the best artists in this realm. He’s worked with international ministries and some of the most influential churches in the U.S. He’s kind of a hero of mine, but on this day I was a little disappointed. He was doing a live-webcast and he started talking negatively about how churches only want to use artists for the obligatory Noah’s Ark Mural in the church. He went on to talk about the ways churches misuse artists and he had some great points. Churches do need to treat their creatives well and value their services and talents, maybe even demonstrating that value financially. (Supplies are expensive, people, and the majority of us as artists are not rolling in cash.) My fundamental disagreement was with the Noah’s Ark Mural comment. Here’s why I think he was wrong, at least on that front.

My first reason was sentimental. My first art “job” in the church was painting a backdrop for Vacation Bible School. While that’s not exactly the same, I believe it’s comparable and the end result of that one project was everything I am doing today. That one little project was transformative, and I have no doubt that God used it to change he course of my entire life.

The second reason is even more important. I see this even more clearly now that I have lived on both the artist and the pastor sides of the aisle. The arts (especially the non-musical arts) in the church is a risky thing for the pastor. He is taking a risk and that risk could be substantial. The reason why is pretty simple. There are a lot of people with a lot of strong opinions in a church and the arts are subjective. When the pastor wants to empower you to use your gift to serve the church, he is taking a risk with the rest of the congregation. This is why that entry level project is so important and how we handle it matters.

Chances are, your first project will be one with less risk. Often this will be found in the children’s area. Most children’s ministry resources are visual based and artistic, so to use images and stories is a little safer there. The pastor is walking a bit of a line here. He or she is opening a door for you and giving you a chance. He or she is giving you his/her endorsement to the rest of the congregation an that is no small thing. The best thing we can do is look the project over carefully and count the cost. Does it fall within your skill set and can you accomplish what is set before you? Now, to be clear, it may not be exactly what you want to do, or the most fulfilling thing you’ve ever done, but understand it is an open door and it may lead to more opportunity, and the opportunity to do more of what you want to do.

So let’s say you decide to take the pastor up on the offer. The next step is to deliver. Remember Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being, for the Lord and not for men, 24because you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as your reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving… This is key and crucial. There is no such thing as “good enough for the church” as in “Well it’s not my best, but it’s good enough for the church.” Remember, we always are supposed to offer our best to God. While you’re at it, remember the risk your pastor is taking on your behalf. If you’ve ever over-delivered, now is the time. Also, deliver on time. Meet your deadline or “die” trying. Take care of the building, keep the mess to a minimum and make the most of the opportunity.

Further remember the risk your pastor is taking on your behalf and listen to them. You don’t know the pressure they might be under, so give them what they ask for. Your pastor is in authority over the church for a reason and when we work within the context of the church, we need to come under that authority. We give them what they ask for and if you have a different idea, run it by them before your start. The general rule is earn their trust, get more creative freedom on the next project. Even better do something so amazing that the congregation gets excited about your work.

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