J Scott McElroy

Posts Tagged ‘Church Art’

Creative Conferences on the Arts in the Church are Full of Inspiration

In Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Christian Arts Conference, Church Art, Creativity, Uncategorized on June 23, 2012 at 2:12 pm

“I think it will take me a lifetime to fully understand and express what God did during the Creative Church Conference. …(it is) allowing so many of us to finally find our creative tribe!!!! The effects this will have in the kingdom will ripple through eternity.” Tammy, Duluth, MN

“The sheer number of gifts that I received at the conference are STILL being revealed! God’s blow’n my hair back!” deAnn, York, PA

When The Creative Church Conference Indianapolis: Embracing the Arts in Your Church wrapped up, it was evident that God had pulled off something special. From the eclectic mix of speakers and their unique perspectives, to the practical, inspiration-packed workshops, to the extras like the Creative Room, live painting, poetry, dance, live music, the Prayer Ministry Rooms, the wonderful art gallery, the Spontaneous Prophetic Art, it was a conference full of surprises, inspiration, connections, and healing. As we had hoped, the conversation reached across denominational boundaries, bringing together leading practitioners from different traditions and backgrounds and we all learned from each other. But more than that, being together to talk

AnnaRose McCabe dancing during worship at the Creative Church Conference Indianapolis. Cathy Feeman paints behind her.

about and experience what God is doing with the arts provided priceless creative fuel and refreshing for the journey ahead.

The theme of the conference, “Embracing the Arts (and Artists) in Your Church”, was based on the concept that God IS creativity, that He designed the arts and creativity as a way for us to encounter and know Him, and the embrace of these things in the local church will mature the Body of Christ and change the world.  The wide ranging discussions all touched on this theme in some way. Jessie Nilo, in her blog post about the event took a shot at describing what went on:

” (Friday) Scott challenged us to do art for the sake of maturity in the Church. Beth Booram (Awaken Your Senses) opened our eyes, ears, and senses, and our imaginations were primed to soar through being present. Rory Noland (Heart of the Artist) melted our hearts with humble encouragement, speaking on some of the challenges of being artistic. (Saturday) Joe Boyd (Artist/Pastor)… well, this improv actor had us laughing hysterically, then  slammed us with clarity and truth on behalf of artists in our churches. Theresa Dedmon (Bethel Church) joyfully led many in the room into healing; spiritually, artistically, and even physically.

“The Arts in Community Outreach” Panel Discussion. Left to right, J. Scott McElroy, Joe Boyd, Kyle Ragsdale, Theresa Dedmon, Jessie Nilo, Christopher Greco

The workshops were riveting, filled with practical advice and spiritual experience on integrating the arts into the local church.  The discussions were electric, and nobody wanted them to end! The panel discussions and creative brainstorming were vital to all the churches represented in the room as we all pondered the future of the arts in the church.

This is a true movement of God.” (Excerpts edited.)

If you missed the Creative Church Indianapolis, a full DVD and cd collection of the sessions and workshops is now available!  Click HERE.

 

Continued Momentum at The Creative Church Boise, July 13-15

Manuel Luz

Less than a month later we did it all again with the Creative Church Conference Boise. This conference had a different personality than Indy, but was undeniably infused with God’s presence, as well.  Rory Noland, Jessie Nilo, and I spoke at both conferences, but Boise also featured Manuel Luz (Imagine That) a wonderful  “Renaissance Man”( he probably wouldn’t like that description, but it’s true) who delivered excellent messages and also led us in an amazing arts and worship time on Friday night. It was so enjoyable to watch him freely contribute his talents to the weekend.   Brie Tschoepe came in from Austin to instruct and enlightened us on the powerful gifts of drama and physical movement, and her presence alone added a unique sense of soul to the weekend. Rory Noland, a mentor to so many Christian artists, spoke from his vast experience of working with artists in the church. His talk on “Leading Artists” was remarkably practical and helpful.  And Dave Blakeslee, a former pastor and gifted potter who illustrates with clay as he speaks, completely floored us with unique insight on the relationship between pastors and artists. It was like he opened up a treasure chest of wisdom on the subject and started doling out rare gems. (I’ll post the text from that talk soon.)

A drama exercise. These people froze in position to illustrate the disciples in the stormy sea.

We knew from the beginning that the two conferences would have different vibes.  With Boise’s large and established VineArts Ministry to artists we thought that conference would lean more toward artists, and Indy’s proximity to a much larger population and more churches would skew it more toward arts and church leaders. These assumptions were generally true, but the way everything wove together at the individual conferences was truly astounding. There was a wonderful balance of ideas and insight for artists, arts leaders, and local churches at both conferences. It was clear that the Holy Spirit had inspired and guided these events, and there was clear affirmation that the movement to integrate the arts into the church–this New Renaissance–is God’s idea.

Now the question we hear continually, “When are you going to do it again?” We’re committing that question to prayer, and we’ll let you know as soon as we do!

As the words on the conference poster said:

A historic movement is underway.

A movement that will connect artists

with the ultimate Creator,

awaken creativity in the average person,

Invigorate the local church, and convey

God’s love to the world in authentic and creative ways.

It’s a New Renaissance,

And you have a part in it.

The Creative Church Conferences were sponsored in part by The New Renaissance Arts Movement. For more information on The New Renaissance Arts Movement go to http://TheNewR.org.

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Creative Church Conference Updated Schedule!

In Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Christian Arts Conference, Church Art, Creativity on June 4, 2012 at 5:56 pm

We just posted an updated version of the Creative Church Conference schedule, June 15-17 in Indianapolis. It’s gonna be fantastic!

 

Check in and last minute registration starts at 8:30am Friday morning. The first session gets underway at 9:30am.

Friday and Saturday will focus on teaching and workshops, with panels and round-table discussions.

Workshops include:

  • “Releasing the Healing Power of the Arts”—Theresa Dedmon
  • “Creating Sacred Space Roundtable”
  • “Awakening Your Senses: Cultivating Sensory Worship in a Congregational Setting”–Beth Booram
  • “Painting Live During Services”–Cathy Feeman
  • “Starting an Arts Ministry and Building Arts Community in Your Church”–Jessie Nilo
  • “Opening and Maintaining an Art Gallery in Your Church”–Jessie Nilo, Kyle Ragsdale
  • “Having Standards, while Being Inclusive: Helping all Levels of Creativity Flourish in Your Church”—Jessie Nilo, deAnn Roe
  • “How to Create a Drama Ministry in Your Church”–Amy Christie
  • More!

Rory Noland will be the main speaker Friday night and Saturday morning.

Theresa Dedmon will be the main speaker on Saturday night.

Then on Sunday morning we’ll “take over” both services (9:30 and 11:30) at the Indy Vineyard Community Church! It will be a time to dream what it might look like for the arts to be fully integrated into Sunday services, with a healthy dose of experimentation, as well! The conference will end after our Sunday services.

All three days will feature loads of inspiration, prayer, and encouragement for artists and art ministers, with practical, creative ideas on ministry, and open discussions where you can share what it looks like to love God and people through the arts in your church.

We’ll explore questions like: How can our churches manage the tension between inclusiveness and excellence in the arts? How can the arts be used in outreach? How can we be intentional about giving artists a place in our churches? How can we disciple and encourage them, and avoid burning them out? How can we facilitate true community among artists?, and more.

There will be opportunities to share and hear different ways churches can embrace the visual arts, film, street art, dances, writing, poetry, theater, and much more.

We’ve designed this conference to be not only a unique time of gathering ideas and inspiration from creative leaders, discovering resources, and sharing with peers, but also a time of spiritual and mental refreshing. In addition to the many valuable workshops, each day you’ll  have the opportunity to take a creative break in the Creative Room, connect with other attendees, or get specific prayer. And from the time you register for the Indianapolis conference, someone will be praying specifically for you what God has called you to.  We hope you leave spiritually energized and full of new ideas and inspiration.

Here is a schedule of the conference timing and main sessions topics.

Creative Church Indianapolis

Conference Schedule

Friday, June 15

9:30am- 10:45am            Session One—J. Scott McElroy–“A Vision for the Flourishing of Art and Creativity in the Local Church”

10:45am-11:00am            Break

11:00am-12:00pm           Session Two—Beth Booram–“Awakening Your Senses: Cultivating Sensory Worship in a Congregational Setting”

12:00pm-1:30pm             Lunch Break

1:30pm-2:30pm               Choice of:

  • Workshops
  • Peer Round Table Discussion
  • Creative Room
  • Prayer Rooms

2:30pm-2:45pm                Break

2:45pm-3:45pm                Choice of:

  • Workshops
  • Creative Room
  • Prayer Rooms

3:45pm-4:00pm                 Break

4:00pm-5:30pm                 Session 3–Panel Discussion–“The Power of the Arts in Community Outreach”–Theresa Dedmon, Jessie Nilo, Joe Boyd, Kyle Ragsdale, Christopher Greco

5:30pm-7:30pm                  Dinner Break

7:30pm–8:00pm               Worship—Steven Potaczek and 1000 Generations (Plus the Grace Community Church drama team)

8:00–9:30pm                     Session Four—Rory Noland–“Thriving as an Artist in the Church”

Saturday, June, 16

8:30am-9:30am                (Registration for single day attendees only)

9:30am- 10:45am              Session Five—Rory Noland–“Cultivating the Heart of the Artist and Dealing with Perfectionism”

10:45am-11:00am              Break

11:00am-12:00pm             Session Six–Joe Boyd–“Telling the Kingdom Story Creatively: Thoughts from an Artist/Pastor”

12:00pm-1:30pm               Lunch Break

1:30pm-2:30pm                 Choice of:

  • Workshops
  • Creative Room
  • Prayer Rooms

2:30pm-2:45pm                 Break

2:45pm-3:45pm                 Choice of:

  • Workshops
  • Creative Room
  • Prayer Rooms

3:45pm-4:00pm                 Break

4:00pm-5:30pm                 Session Seven–Panel Discussion–“Group Brainstorm: Ideas and Inspiration for the Arts in the Church”–Rory Noland, Theresa Dedmon, Joe Boyd, J. Scott McElroy, Jessie Nilo, Christopher Greco, Cathy Howie, deAnn Roe, The Audience

5:30pm-7:30pm                  Dinner Break

7:30pm-8:00pm                 Worship—Jason Barrows and The Heritage

8:00-9:30pm                       Session Eight—Theresa Dedmon–“The Creativity of God Released in His People to Change the World”

Sunday, June, 17

9:30am-11:00am                 Special Arts Service

11:30am-1:00pm                 Special Arts Service

1:00pm                                  Conference officially ends

A Little Justification for Art

In Art, Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Church Art, Creativity, Family on March 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Rookmaaker in the classroom.

In 1977 noted Christian philosopher Hans Rookmaaker wrote a small book titled Art Needs no Justification. His premise was that art, creativity, and beauty have inherent value simply because God gave them to us. In a general sense, art doesn’t need a reason to exist, any more than a tree needs a reason to exist. (I included a larger quote from it here.) It’s an inspiring thought.

But it is nice to have a little justification; an occasional confirmation that our artistic endeavors are on the right track.

Scott speaking at Bethel ’11.

Last spring, during a speaking trip to California, my daughter and I were at the Bethel School of Supernatural Creativity in Redding to lead a workshop. One of the interesting  things they do at the school is set up an “Encounter Room”, where attendees can experience a number of forms of creativity that are designed to be led by the Holy Spirit. I’ve written before about the prophetic culinary table, where chefs create a delightful treat in front of you while interpreting the meaning of each ingredient.  There’s also an area where dancers will do interpretive prophetic dance as you sit and pray, and a booth where children from the Bethel elementary school will pray for you then ask God to give them a picture or a word about your life. It’s amazing how powerful those innocent little crayon and colored pencil pictures and words are.

This kind of risky, out-of-the-box creativity is at first disorienting, then thrilling to watch. “What if it doesn’t work?” you might think. Well, what if it does! These people trust that God will inspire their creativity so that others can experience a unique personal encounter with Him. It may sound downright strange to the uninitiated, but it’s certainly not any more unusual than much of performance art you see in the world, some of which is designed to shock and disturb. This is designed to spread God’s love.

One of the encounters at this event involved a roving drama troupe that would walk around the “Encounter Room” looking for people whom God seemed to highlight. The actors would address those people and perform a little improv drama. When this troupe came across my daughter they gave her some encouraging words, then handed her a branch from a bush that they felt God had led them to collect earlier. It was some sort of holly I think, with shiny, thick leaves. This was a meaningful experience for Hailee, for reasons she couldn’t fully explain, and she kept the branch, carrying it during the last leg of our trip in California then on the plane back home to Indiana.

Somewhere along the way we noticed that the branch actually had a strange growth on it, like a very hard and reptilian-looking cocoon. At home we decided to put the branch in water and see how long the leaves would stay green, and then we pretty much forgot about it.

A couple of weeks later my wife started noticing dozens of pesky little green bugs around the kitchen. There’s nothing that Danielle hates more than bugs in the house, so my mission became to eradicate them and find the source of the infestation.  As I took a closer look at the little pests, I realized that they weren’t gnats or average, run-of-the-mill bugs; these were actually baby praying mantises! Yep, that odd cocoon had a little rip in it. They were Northern California praying mantises that had survived the multi-day journey home and a couple of weeks in our kitchen, to hatch when and where God intended!

This little miracle was a confirmation for Hailee of how God loves and cares for her and of His appreciation for her unique personality.  She loves random and odd occurrences and this turn of events brought a sense of joy and wonder to both of us.  When she looked up the meaning of a praying mantis, what jumped off the page is that they can be interpreted as a symbol of direction, to point your way home. As a 20-year old in a confusing world, she needs direction, and this was God’s confirmation that He will bring it. That He sees her.  It also served to affirm some personal things He’d been speaking to her.

This special message for my daughter started with a group of young artists, many Hailee’s age and younger, who were nurtured and encouraged by the ministry of a risk-taking church. They asked God for a little inspiration and stepped out to make an unusual improv performance art piece, hoping that it might have some impact on someone. It did, and neither of us will ever forget it.

Dear Artist of faith, keep working in the areas, on the projects that God is compelling you to. Keep seeking Him, asking for ideas and inspiration. Keep aspiring to collaborate with Him, keep taking risks. The making of art may need no justification, but sometimes, in surprising and whimsical ways, God gives it.

A baby praying mantis on Hailee’s finger.

J. Scott McElroy is the author of Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity (Destiny Image), and Founder and Director of The New Renaissance Arts Movement. Reach him at: Scott@TheNewR.org.

The Art of Not Taking Offense

In Art, Christian Art, Church Art, Creativity, Uncategorized on March 8, 2012 at 3:39 pm

"I do not think it means what you think it means."

One of my favorite lines from the Princess Bride comes when Inigo Montoya addresses Vizzini about his constant use of the word “Inconceivable!” saying, “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

That came to mind today when God led me to read me the story of Jeremiah and the Rekabites. In Jeremiah 35, God instructs the prophet: “Go to the Rekabite family and invite them to come to one of the side rooms of the house of the Lord and give them wine to drink.” So Jeremiah got some special cups and bowls and set them out nicely before the clan, doing exactly what the Lord told him. I wonder if he had some idea of God meant to do. Maybe he thought, “It’ll be nice to get to know these folks. I hope they notice I used the good wine.”

But when the Rekabites arrived and Jeremiah invited them to drink, they actually seemed sort of angry. They said, “We do not drink wine, because our forefather Jehonadab of Rekab gave us this command: ‘Neither you nor your descendants must ever drink wine!’” Duoh! “This is awkward,” Jeremiah might have thought, “Did I mishear you, Lord?”

As an artist, I’ve had this happen several times. Times when I’ve felt like God clearly instructed me to do something; to make a piece of art or work on a particular project. I’ve prepared everything just right, like Jeremiah did, only to have the whole thing seemingly jump the tracks. Maybe the reaction is the opposite of what I expected, maybe someone drops the ball or the project implodes, maybe my execution doesn’t come together or the presentation falls apart. I’m left shaking my head, wondering if I heard God right. My natural reaction is to get offended; at others, “They have no appreciation for how hard I worked!”, or God, “How could you let this happen when I’m serving you!” And if you work in any creative capacity in the church, you know that satan will bring along endless opportunities to get offended.

I heard Patricia King say, “Offenses aren’t given, they are taken”. It’s true. It is our choice whether or not to agree with satan’s suggestions to get offended about the “raw deal” we got. And taking an offense is a great way to hinder the progress God is making in your life and work. You can get stuck as you brood on it. That old artist’s lie that “no one understands me, it’s me against the world” can pop up.

It’s important to immediately give these thoughts and feelings to God when they appear. Forgive quickly, if that is needed. Remind yourself that your identity is in God, not in your work or what you can do for Him. Actually, Jeremiah was probably pretty good at that; being a full-time oracle of God he was used to the Lord’s unusual methods. For us it can be more of a challenge.

In the case of Jeremiah and Rekabites, God’s plan for the encounter was more than just a little wine tasting with the nice family from down the street. He used the Rekabites negative reaction to highlight their faithful obedience in following a generations-old command to their forefathers to not drink wine (and a list of other things, as well.) It was a perfect juxtaposition to the extreme unfaithfulness of the Israelites. In spite of having generations of prophets to guide them, the Israelites continued to rebel against God’s good plan for them.

In my case or yours, when we encounter an unexpected twist in following God’s leading, He may just be cooking up something that we couldn’t imagine. We may never know exactly what He was doing. Or it may be about our personal growth. Either way, if I choose to take offense at how things seemingly turn out, I miss out on the joy of the adventure God is including me in; that joy of letting go of control, going with His flow, and trusting Him with the results. If things happen to go south, refuse to take the offense. Things probably do not mean what you think they mean. But we can trust that God’s plan is better than anything we could come up with.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

J. Scott McElroy is the author of Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity (Destiny Image), Founder and Director of The New Renaissance Arts Movement, and Director of Arts at Vineyard Community Church, Indianapolis, IN. He blogs at https://jscottmc.wordpress.com. Reach him at: Scott@TheNewR.org.

Visual Design in the Church

In Art, Christian Art, Church Art on February 25, 2012 at 11:57 pm

Just posted to the New Renaissance Arts Movement blog, a fascinating video about visual design in the local church by Betsey Steele Halstead, from a class she led for Sojourn Visual Arts. She shares several inspiring examples of design in churches.

I’m always looking for ways to improve the stage and sanctuary design of our church and this talk gave me some good ideas. It’s a full 55 minutes, but very interesting. See it here!

Growing a Paradise for Creativity and the Arts in Boise

In Art, Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Christian Arts Conference, Church Art, Creativity, Family, Uncategorized on May 31, 2011 at 7:09 pm

The first thing I noticed when I walked out of the airport in Boise, Idaho was an unusual sweet scent in the air, kind of like marshmallows and flowers.  My hosts didn’t smell it so I wondered if it was my imagination or maybe the hand soap I used in Salt Lake City. Either way, I like being greeted by a nice scent in a new town. Aroma travel. Sounds like an idea.

That weekend with the community of VineArts artists from Vineyard Boise Church was truly wonderful. We started with an exquisitely fun Friday night workshop, brimming with enthusiastic artists, at Irene Deely’s amazing Woman of Steel Gallery–which is just as robust and creative as the name suggests. We covered a lot of the material I share in these situations: the New Renaissance in the arts, collaboration with God and hearing his voice, and did several hands-on exercises, but the expectation in the room took the event to a most enjoyable level. I think everyone came away with a new understanding of God’s plan for creativity. I know I did. When the meeting was over Jessie Nilo (VineArts Director) and I prayed specifically for anyone who wanted prayer. The affirming words and pictures from the Spirit  flowed like a mountain spring.

Jessie and I met in 2009 at the CIVA Conference in Minneapolis and our mutual interest in bringing the arts into the local church sparked a friendship.  Later, her group had fun studying  my book, Finding Divine Inspiration, and when it was time to plan their Biannual arts gala, they asked me to speak. This workshop was just supposed to be an add-on, but for me it was the first of many highlights.  Dinner and late-night conversation with my hosts Judy and Dean Estes, whose gifts of creativity and hospitality overflow into every room of their house, followed.  Then, on Saturday, there was a tour of the wonderful VineArts studio and gallery and the Arts Gala in the evening. Artists created throughout Heritage Hall, Vineyard Boise’s large public space, during that event.  There were painters, sculptors, culinary artists (incredible treats with spiritual meanings!), musicians and more. Jessie founded VineArts in 2004 and they use the Gala to showcase their many programs and try to raise some money.  Their ministry has grown to include a large art studio that is open multiple times a week for workshops, open studio time and meetings, regular arts outreach to nursing homes and schools, and more. (See more about what they do here.)

With all they’ve accomplished, the thing I love the most about VineArts is the sense of community these artists have. I felt it in their enthusiasm and expectation at that first workshop and I benefit from it every time I sign on to Facebook or get an encouraging email. I think it comes not only from the culture of their church and its leader Tri Robinson, but also from the fact that they’ve really collaborated with God in every step of building this ministry.

Some time over the weekend, I took a little drive into the mountains that border the city and hiked a bit. I hadn’t realized until I got there that Boise is in the high desert, so I was anxious to get out and touch the rocks and vegetation. I like to do that everywhere I go because its something that helps me connect to a place, to make the experience more “real”. The desert is one of my favorite places to do that, probably because its extremely different from my green Indiana landscape.   That day the sky, the light,  the hills and the rocks with their colorful lichen–everything–was beautiful. And as I broke off a piece of a desert bush, I smelled that fragrance again. It was sage. Sagebrush. Boise smells like sage.   That sweet fragrance summed up the whole trip.

Since that first trip, I’ve spent time with some of the VineArts leaders and I feels like we are family. Jessie Nilo recently joined me on staff at The New Renaissance Rising, and we led two workshops on the arts in the Church at the National Vineyard Leaders Conference in Phoenix in May. ( You know I got in a good hike in the Arizona desert mountains!)  We’ll do prayer ministry in June at the CIVA Conference in LA, and are working on a book called The Creative Church that will help churches release creativity in their congregations through establishing and maintaining arts ministry. Just a few days ago I was with a VineArts team at the Bethel School Of Supernatural Creativity in Redding, CA. They befriended my daughter, Hailee and cheered me on when I led a workshop. If I could have been in two places at the same time, I would have joined a second Boise team in Texas at an arts pastor’s retreat at Laity Lodge. (Watch the http://revelatorart.com site for an update on that.)

May the grace and joy with which VineArts and Vineyard Boise embrace the creativity and the arts in their church become the standard for the New Renaissance in churches around the world!

How to Start an Arts Ministry in Your Church

In Art, Christian Art, Church Art, Creativity, Uncategorized on February 1, 2011 at 7:05 pm

By J. Scott McElroy and Jessie Nilo

The ceiling of the Florence Baptistery in Italy. It dates from 1225 and tells the gospel story and other stories from the bible. It has impacted millions of people over hundreds of years, including many Renaissance artists.

Just imagine if the local church became the place in culture to experience beauty, creativity, and transcendence. Hundreds of years ago churches were, in many ways, centers for these experiences. Somehow, over time we’ve abdicated that role. Now, many churches are moving in that direction again and there’s a growing desire to begin developing creative arts programs (see Notes 1).

Many Christians are recognizing that God is calling us to reclaim the arts and renew the use of them in our churches. In many cases this means an “arts ministry” will be created to develop artists and projects.  Some activities that might fit under the title of “arts ministry” in the local church include: creating performance pieces for services (e.g., drama, dance, spoken word, etc.),

Dance and live painting during worship at an Indianapolis church.

creating live visual art for services (e.g., live painting during worship), creating gallery spaces for enjoyment and meditation (see Notes 9), creating art that is positioned permanently or seasonally behind the altar or around the sanctuary, creating interactive art, sensory, or “sacred space” experiences for the congregation, using the arts in community outreach (e.g., taking arts performances to nursing homes, shelters, schools, etc.), employing the arts as learning tools for youth, using the arts in counseling and therapy, using the arts spontaneously as  a mean of conveying “prophetic” messages, offering arts classes and workshops, and much more.

Most churches around the world don’t currently have much in the way of arts ministry or programs, though there are talented artists in their congregations. If God has been nudging you, speaking to you about incorporating the arts into your church, below are a few thoughts on how to get started. Part One offers tips for artists, Part Two for pastors and leaders.  It’s important to note that we believe the best way to develop a thriving arts ministry is to first build a strong arts community—a fellowship of artists—in your church.

Part One: For ARTISTS who want to start an arts ministry, program or outreach at their church

 1. Start praying now for God’s guidance. First, it’s important to take some time to pray through what role God would have you play in starting or facilitating an arts ministry. Ask Him to check your motives, prepare your heart, and confirm if He is calling you personally to initiate or lead. It’s good to be clear about this because there will be challenges ahead. You may encounter increased spiritual warfare, so you’ll need prayer support. Ask someone else to pray with you about integrating the arts in your church and for God to open the doors. You want this to happen naturally, in God’s timing, and to not be forced. God has a plan for the arts and creativity in your church, and if you listen and wait He’ll share it with you and others (see Notes 2 for prayer inspiration and direction).

2. Talk with someone in leadership about integrating the arts into your church. Connect with leadership. Your senior pastor may or may not be the person to approach to start this dialogue; it may be the worship pastor or an elder who “gets” you.  It’s common for churches to be entrenched in the “way we always do things,” so you need to be patient, respectful, and trustworthy in your approach. Try to determine what is important to your church and its leadership (e.g., outreach, discipleship, justice, community, etc.) and imagine how an arts ministry can further that mission. Put that in a presentation that makes sense to leadership. See if there is an official process for starting a ministry in your church. There may be an application you need to submit. If your church is more open to the arts, explore where leadership would like to go with the arts in the future. Ask for dates when arts projects would fit in to services. Get permission to hold a meeting for artists, if that seems to be the next step.

3. Invite artists to meet and pray. See if you can put a notice in the church bulletin inviting interested artists and creative types to meet at the church or a nearby coffeehouse to pray and talk about what integrating the arts into your church might look like. Use the time to pray, get to know each other, talk about possibly starting an arts ministry, gather contact information and circulate a survey (see Notes 3 for survey). Pray for needs, for healing, for projects, for commissioning. Maybe anoint each person with oil, if you do that kind of thing, or have everyone place

Artists discussing arts ministry.

their hands on the person being prayed for. Foster connection! If you have a large group, break up into groups of four people or so. Talk about dates for another meeting, possibly a repeating time once a month or once a quarter. Try to make future meetings a time to connect and be authentic with other artists

4. Start off by doing a multi-week book study. When you start meeting regularly, it’s a good idea to build community and camaraderie among artists before launching into projects. One excellent way to do this is to start with a book study. This will help build relationships in the group; you’ll learn and grow together and create a unified vision. Great books for study are Heart of the Artist (Noland), Finding Divine Inspiration (McElroy)(FindingDivineInspiration.com for the workbook), Imagine That (Luz), The Creative Call (Elsheimer), and The Artist’s Way (Cameron). Unlocking the Heart of the Artist (Tommy) and Born to Create (Dedmon) work well for a more charismatic approach. Imagine (Turner), Walking on Water (L’ Engle), and Art and the Bible (Schaeffer) are classic books to read together, though they’re not necessarily designed for a book study. (See TheNewR.org bookstore for more books on art and faith.)

5. Initiate some projects. After you’ve built community and gotten to know each other for at least a few months, start exploring projects or ideas you might try as a group. It’s important to give your growing group of artists a project to work toward. Go back to Step 2 and think about how you can assist in the mission of the church. Take some time during the meeting to brainstorm and listen to God together, asking Him how you can collaborate with Him in the arts (see Notes 4). There are many project ideas that can get your artists, the congregation and leadership involved (see Notes 5 for ideas) and enhance the church’s mission. You may need to start slowly with projects that are easily grasped. In many cases you will be educating the congregation and/or leadership in how to engage with the arts in a church setting. After you develop some ideas, invite your pastor or a leader to a meeting to talk about how they might work, and about setting a vision for the arts in your church.

Other things that will activate the talent and enthusiasm of your artists might include having some of them offer a workshop on their area of expertise to the congregation, or starting an art gallery in the church (see Notes 9 ), or you might collaborate to put together a special mid-week arts service, or design holiday services. Even if no specific church projects are immediately available, you can still build momentum by continuing to meet and/or setting up monthly or quarterly “creative days” where artists eat, create, and encourage one another in their creative callings.

Part Two:  For PASTORS AND LEADERS who want to start an arts ministry, program or outreach at their church

1. Seek God for His plan. Ask God to give you a vision for what He wants to do through the arts in your church. Just as pastors have specific messages from God for their congregations at specific times in history, so it is with the artists He has planted in your congregation. If you teach them to hear God’s voice they will bring powerful messages that enhance what He is doing in your congregation (see Notes 4). You might read a book like Heart of the Artist (Noland) or Finding Divine Inspiration (McElroy) to better understand how to disciple and encourage artists. The arts have endless applications in ministry; they can enhance worship, illustrate or enhance ideas and concepts, stir emotions, add beauty, enliven outreach, intuitively communicate God’s messages and more. God will use them in unique ways to convey His love to your congregation (see Notes 5 for ideas).

2. Pray for the right person to lead your artists. You want an arts ministry to develop naturally, in God’s timing, and to not be forced. Arts leaders can be difficult to find. Your ideal arts leader will probably need to be a mix of pastor and administrator. Their pastoral tendencies will be important to shepherd, encourage and understand the artists, and administrative skills will provide the follow-through that artists and artistic projects need. It’s helpful if the leader has artistic talent, but not mandatory as long as they understand the creative temperament. Make a commitment to disciple this person; they will be a huge asset to you and your church (see Notes 7).

3. Invite artists to meet and pray. When you have an arts leader, or at least someone who feels led to spearhead an arts effort, put a notice in the bulletin inviting interested artists and creative types to meet at the church or a nearby coffeehouse. Invite them to pray and talk about possibly starting an arts ministry. Use the time to gather contact information and circulate a survey (see Notes 3 for survey). Share the vision God has given you for the arts in your church. You might also take some time during the meeting to brainstorm and model how to listen to God together, seeking to collaborate with Him through the arts to bring His messages to your congregation. It’s very helpful to share the vision and values of the church with the artists and ask them to think about how the arts might enhance those.

4. Understand where they are coming from. Many artists have been offended by the church or Christians. Just spending time with them in this group setting will help them heal. You will bless them immensely if you take the time to pray for each of them individually at some point during the meeting. As these artists flourish, your congregation will flourish. When the arts and artists begin to integrate into a church, that congregation becomes more complete and mature because the Body of Christ is operating as it should, with each part and gift building up the other (Romans 12:4-6) (see Notes 8).

5. Help launch the ministry. Later, when you have an arts leader and they have built community with artists in the church, have them call another meeting—which you attend—to talk about specific arts projects you and they want to do. Your attendance will help commission them and clarify direction. NOTE: It is important to meet at least occasionally with your arts leadership. Discuss difficulties, challenges and dreams they have. Give them a list of dates, topics or services you’d like to see the arts integrated into, and reiterate the church’s mission and values. MAKE SURE you’ve spent time listening to them first. If you give them ideas first they may be overloaded. Help them to set up a plan for discipling the artists in their care. Let them know you and the church stand behind them.

With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, an arts ministry can open new doors of experience and understanding for your congregation and may become one of the richest and most enjoyable ministries of your church.

A historic movement is underway. It’s a movement that will connect artists with the ultimate Creator, awaken creativity in the average person, invigorate the local church, and convey God’s love to the world in authentic and creative ways.

It’s a New Renaissance, and you and your church have a part in it.

Notes:

  1. See a growing list of churches with Arts Ministries at http://TheNewR.org under “The Arts in Your Church,”  “Church Arts Ministries.”
  2. “Prayers for the New Renaissance” provided at http://TheNewR.org in “Material and Ideas.”
  3. Arts Survey available at http://TheNewR.org in “Materials and Ideas.”
  4. See the book Finding Divine Inspiration (http://FindingDivineInspiration.com) for more on leading artists to hear God’s voice.
  5. See “Materials and Ideas” at http://TheNewR.org.
  6. For more information, ideas and resources go to The New Renaissance Arts Movement at http://TheNewR.org.
  7. Revolutionary Leadership by Tri Robinson is a good book to read and pass on to arts leaders. See this article: How the Church can Embrace the Arts: Pt. 2 for ideas on how to integrate the arts and maintain a standard of quality. (from https://jscottmc.wordpress.com)
  8. See this article, “The Arts and the Maturity of the Church.” (from https://jscottmc.wordpress.com)
  9. For great advice on church art galleries see this article: “How to Start an Art Gallery in Your Church” by Christopher Brewer (under “Articles” at http://TheNewR.org).

J. Scott McElroy is founder and director of The New Renaissance Arts Movement, the author of Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity(Destiny Image) and director of arts at Vineyard Community Church, Indianapolis, Ind. He blogs at https://jscottmc.wordpress.com. Reach him at: Scott@TheNewR.org.

Jessie Nilo is director of church-artist connections for The New Renaissance Arts Movement, founder and director of VineArts, the arts ministry of Vineyard Boise Church, and a teacher at Fresco Arts Academy, Boise. VineArts operates with a team of 13 leaders that facilitates arts workshops, mission trips, outreaches, studies, a gallery and more. Their permanent studio is open weekly and provides space for the visual arts, writing, culinary arts, film, and design. Reach Jessie at: Jessie@TheNewR.org.

A Weekend of Kingdom Creativity

In Art, Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Christian Arts Conference, Creativity, Uncategorized on December 29, 2010 at 9:53 pm

I led an overnight creativity retreat in early October, and had high hopes for what would happen when a group of artists got together for

Sunrise and Mist at Teter Retreat Noblesville, In.

a weekend of listening to the Holy Spirit and creating art. The reality actually exceeded my expectations.

Thirteen artists from Indiana and Ohio met at  Teter Family Retreat in Noblesville, IN, a  hidden rustic compound ringed by cornfields and forests and within walking distance of the shallow White River.  I’d never heard of  it even though it was 40 mins from my house.

Friday evening started with worship from our friend Jason Barrows, a talented local singer/songwriter.  I spoke about what God is doing in the arts, our place in the New Renaissance and touched on some of the concepts in Finding Divine Inspiration.  We did some creative exercises, and spent time praying for every person present, while Jason created acoustical magic with his guitar. The Holy Spirit’s presence was sweet while we went around the room praying and blessing each artist. Jason said he just kept getting interesting ideas and riffs from God and kept playing until the last person left for their cabin.

Artists at riverside.

Saturday morning we walked through the process of learning to listen to God, with plenty of time to practice each step. Developing the skills for learning to listen to the Holy Spirit is the foundation of everything we do in these creativity seminars, and it always creates a sense of peace and centeredness that often surprises people.  Creating art is a wonderful experience, but seeing artists really get how loved they are but their Father, no matter what they do or don’t do, no matter if they never make another piece of art, brings the greatest sense of fulfillment. Later in the day we took that sense of love and acceptance and a heightened sensitivity to His voice and did create art. And these artists were ready fly!  Every one came loaded with materials and expectations, and jumped right in to the collaborative exercises. First we paired up and took a moment to pray for our partner, asking God to give us a picture for them.  Then we took a few minutes to sketch or paint, etc, what came to mind, trusting that it might be from God. Then, partners switched to pray for the other person and repeat the process.  One pair burst into uncontrollable laughter in the middle of their exchange, leaving the rest of use serious, earnest folk to wonder what could possibly be so funny in such a moment.  Later, the two came up to show the pictures they’d drawn for each other. They struggled to contain themselves as they explained that they had prayed the night before for several specific things and the drawings they did for each other had–incredibly–referenced each thing. These were women who had never met before this weekend and I don’t believe had ever done an exercise like this.

I had encouraged everyone the night before to ask God to speak  about what seemed to be holding them back in their creativity. One of

Work in progress.

these laughing girls said that she asked God why certain things were not happening in her life, and she felt He said, “Because you haven’t asked!”  So she made a list of four things she wanted to see happen. The picture her partner drew was amazingly detailed, full of symbols and images, and it addressed every single thing on her list!  Laughter broke out around the room. The other woman had a similar experience. Her picture illustrated and affirmed words and prayers that were spoken over her the night before that her partner knew nothing about.

There were similar stories from others and I was thrilled once again to witness how God loves to speak to and through us when we trust that He will.  By the end of the retreat there was this wonderful sense of community that had developed among us. We really did get a taste of the joy and promise of Kingdom Creativity. I really didn’t want the weekend to be over.

Thanks to the folks at The Church of Praise for providing the food for the retreat, Betsy Potts and Cathy Freeman for organizing it, and Betsy and John for all their hard work.

For information on speaking engagements, seminars and retreat weekends, contact me at scott@FindingDivineInspiration.com.

The Teter Retreat group.

Story Conference Chicago, 2010

In Art, Arts Conferences, Christian Art, Christian Arts Conference, Creativity, Uncategorized on December 29, 2010 at 6:21 pm

In summer of this year a packet of  mysterious and highly creative postcards arrived in the mail. They announced a creative conference that seemed almost too good to be true: Story Chicago was billed as an event “for the creative class in ministry”  with the goal of  fueling “the producer generation of ministry leaders who live to communicate the greatest story ever today–the gospel.”  The postcards claimed,  “You’ll hear from some of the best creative practitioners in both ministry and the marketplace. From filmmakers and authors to actors and musicians, these presenters will help you engage people in the most compelling and effective way.” Very interesting stuff. But the knockout punch came when I  went to the website. The Story website is very possibly the most creative faith-based site I’ve ever seen. Every creative person I’ve showed it to utters, “Whoooaa.”

The site was created by the insanely inventive Pixel Peach Studios, and their founder  Gary Dorsey spoke at the event.  Other featured speakers at the conference  included authors Dan Allender and Leonard Sweet, the Producer of  TV’s “Roseanne” and “Home Improvement”, David McFadzean, Charlie Todd, the guy who founded Improv Everywhere,  and David Hodges, formerly with the band  Evanescence. The whole event was the brainchild of Ben Arment,  author and New Renaissance man.

Well, you know where I was the when the conference started on Sept 23rd, 2010. Firmly planted in a seat at  Park Community Church beside a couple of Indianapolis friends. The 500-seat conference was officially sold out, but my friends Jonathon “JT” Tremaine Thomas, founder of Eastgate Studios here in Indy, and Steven Potaczek, lead singer of 1000 Generations were able to a get some tickets from some folks in Michigan who couldn’t make it.

One of the first things we noticed was the oddly configured stage (hard to see here), a platform for creating giant holograms designed by Clark.  This was a tricked out version of some of the technology that large churches with multiple sites use to create life-like images of teachers who are actually speaking from another location.  Faith-based holograms. Very impressive.

In many ways, Story lived up to its amazing promotional material. Not only was it possibly the best designed and packaged conference (visually) that I’ve attended, but many of the speakers were excellent.  Dan Allender’s message of discovering and telling the story God has written in us was brilliant, Charlie Todd (though not focusing on spiritual aspects) unpacked a suitcase full of inspiration when he showed us several of his Improv Everywhere skits.  Blaine Hogan, Creative Director at Willow Creek Church in the Chicago suburbs, contributed some wonderful dramatic presentations. (By the way, you can see some of Blaine’s work from the 2009 Wonder conference Here, and a story about Willow’s unique Christmas pageant Here.)  We left feeling refreshed and re-energized, all three of us deep in thought and brimming with  possibilities.

Thanks to Ben and his team for raising the bar for what creativity in the Church can look like.  I’ll be back for more Story in 2011. Keep watching the New Renaissance Rising website (http://TheNewR.org) for updates on this and other creative conferences.

By the way, If you enjoy creative websites like the Story’s, check out the site of  artist Daniel Baltzer, founder of the Limner Society.

Do You have the “Spirit of Creativity”?

In Art, Christian Art, Creativity, Uncategorized on November 9, 2010 at 4:16 pm

For Christians, it’s certain that God is the most creative being in the universe.

A celestial doodle from God's exquisite imagination

From the inconceivably beautiful/bizarre celestial formations seen through the Hubble telescope, to the impossibly complex and equally beautiful universe inside a single cell, His creativity and imagination leave us in awe. He paints a million constantly changing masterpieces in sunsets and cloud formations everyday. His brilliance in conceiving, designing, growing and sustaining living beings like humans and animals will never be eclipsed.

And, as they say about family traits, His creativity runs in the blood of His children. Jesus, our brother if you will, said we would do even greater creative acts and miracles than he did while He was on the earth.   For most of us that is hard to imagine, let alone achieve. Why is this?

Creativity runs in the family?

I think there are several reasons why we don’t feel we live up to the family legacy of creativity. First is the misunderstanding of what creativity is.  Many who think that they aren’t  “creative” or “artists” don’t think that they can flow in the spirit of creativity.   Actually, a major part of creativity is problem solving and decision-making, things that we each do every day.  Creativity is involved in how we respond to people and situations.  Prayer, led by the Holy Spirit is incredibly creative, often calling things into existence that are only seen in the imagination.   The Holy Spirit is present and involved in each of these activities, and He loves to whisper and nudge and partner with us in them. And when we listen and respond, that IS flowing in the spirit of creativity!

Taking this thought a step further, the fact is; we were all designed specifically for creative collaboration with the ultimate creator! We cannot live without human creative collaboration on the natural level; it is essential for everything from the conception of life, to relationships, to work.  Even something as simple as watching a TV show requires collaboration; the actors and writers and technical people not only collaborate with each other to make the show, but they must have an audience to collaborate in watching it.  Apply the concept of collaboration to our relationship with God, Who knows every iota of our personal potential and is “especially fond of us”, and you have the makings of the most fulfilling, exciting and productive flow of creativity imaginable. He beckons us to get to know His intimate voice and then partner with Him wherever we happen to be at any given moment, collaborating to bring His kingdom and redemptive creative solutions into the world, often in simple, ordinary ways.   And while we partner with Him, He reveals more of His incredible design and loving intentions for us as individuals.   The truth is, God craves creative collaboration with us, and there is joy for Him and us in it!

Exterior of a single cell

The skill of listening for God’s voice is at the foundation of flowing in the Spirit of creativity.  It’s the way that we begin to tap into the family legacy, the family business, you might say.  Jesus claimed that He didn’t do anything on his own, but only what He heard the father speaking to Him. In other words, the only way that He did all the creative miracles, came up with all the creative answers and stories that stumped the learned men of the day, was through collaborating with His (and our) Father in every situation. That creativity is available to us when we learn to listen for God’s voice.

One of the great joys of my life has been God’s gracious leading down the path of this creative collaboration with Him. In my book, Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity I share what He’s taught me and explore practical biblical keys for developing that all-important skill of learning to hear His voice.   I pray that you would experience more of the flow of the creative spirit in your life and the joyful creative collaboration you were destined for!

J. Scott McElroy is the author of Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity (Destiny Image), founder of The New Renaissance Rising arts renewal movement (TheNewR.org), Director of Arts at Vineyard Community Church (North) in Indianapolis and a national voiceover artist. He speaks and leads workshops around the country on his book, learning to hear God’s voice, the renewal of the arts in the Church and more.  Contact him at:  scott@FindingDivineInspiration.com