“Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.” – Stella Adler
I recently came across this quote from the late, Stella Adler, American actress and acclaimed acting teacher. It forced me to stop and reflect on what it meant for me as a Service Program Director for our church community. Every week, people walk through our doors who feel broken, beaten down, and crushed by life. And every week, we have an incredible opportunity to proclaim the truth of God’s love, drenched in grace, that carries that power to lift people eyes up toward heaven and experience hope. But if we were all honest with ourselves (even just for a moment), we’d have to admit that some of the services we lead couldn’t be described as hopeful, inspiring, or life-giving. Those who walked in feeling crushed, walk out feeling the same way.
Here’s the big question: How can we write God’s story on a continual basis while using art in our services to lift people up who feel beaten down by life?
Let’s explore a few things I’ve been learning along the way.
1. Create a Culture of Change
Everything that’s healthy changes. If you had a child who didn’t grow, increase their vocabulary, or improve in their social skills, would you say that child is healthy? No. Most parents would be concerned and would seek medical advice, because we all intuitively know that change is a natural byproduct of all things healthy.
So if we know change is healthy in every other area of life, why are we resistant to it within the Church?
There was once a day long ago where the Church set the standard for education, music, and art. It was the Church that led the way and kept their foot on the pedal of change. But for some reason, those days have slipped through our fingers and left us with sameness, status quo, and the fear of anything new.
But this doesn’t have to be your story. You can change it.
Creating a culture of change has to be done cautiously, but intentionally. Start with the simple things: service order, stage layout, and song choices. Then move into other areas like stage design, lighting, seating layout, and communicators. You’ll soon notice that change isn’t such a hard sell as long as it’s thought out, intentional, and moving you forward.
The key in creating a culture of change is to never change the why of what you’re doing—just the how. Be you. But be the best version of you that you can be.
Creating a culture of change contributes to the health of your church community.
2. Release Others to Create
As hard as it is to admit, I don’t always have the best ideas. I don’t always design the best graphic, come up with the most innovative stage design, or communicate a story as compelling as another. But one thing I have learned in my 10+ years of full-time ministry is that I don’t have to. Or better yet, I’m not supposed to.
It’s taken a while for me to get this, but my primary role as a Service Program Director (Worship Leader, Creative, Communicator, you fill in the blank for you) is to release others to create. If our goal is to keep things fresh and continue to create a culture of change, I need other voices speaking into what that could look like and what could be done. Otherwise, things would begin to look the same, turn status quo, and life would begin to drain from our community.
I’m learning that it is my role (under the authority of our lead pastor) to say, “This is where we are going.” This sets the direction and rallies the team around a common vision. However, it doesn’t stop there. That phrase is followed by the question, “How can we get there?” By including others in the process, you invite fresh ideas and shared ownership in the journey. Then it isn’t just me pushing to keep things innovative, it’s 10 of us dreaming and pushing to see the vision come to life in new ways.
By releasing others to create, you invite fresh expression that contributes to people experiencing the power of God’s story.
3. Create for Christ’s Sake
We were created to create and we create to reveal the Creator. It’s really that simple.
As Christian creatives who serve the local church, we don’t create for art’s sake, we create for Christ’s sake. We tell stories, write songs, illustrate messages, and design environments, not just to find ways to spend our time, but to design unforgettable opportunities for people to experience God. We create art that proclaims the wonder of the One who called us out of darkness and into the glorious light.
I’m learning when I spend less time creating art to impress the creative community, I can focus more attention on creating environments that inspire those who walk through our church doors each week. I create art to motivate our community to lift their heads and see a God who is bigger than their current circumstance. I design our service, not to impress pastors and church leaders that I’ll never meet, but to connect with the single mom in our community who needs to be reminded that God’s love will never leave her and that with Him, nothing is impossible—as hard as it can be at times.
By remembering why we create and who we create for, we begin to piece together an experience that is full of life and that reminds our church community God is still God, even when they feel life is crushing down on them.
These are a few things God is showing me about infusing life into our services. What is God showing you? How do you infuse life into your services? Let’s start the conversation.