It’s no secret that church membership is in decline. It’s also no secret that for many the church is a place of comfortable routines that provide a sense of security and reminders of God’s constant presence and steadfast faithfulness. In fact, that is part of the beauty of the church and the reason that attendance numbers often increase after tragic events in society. The rise in church attendance following the tragic events of September 11th 2001 is a prime example of this. People that had not graced the doors of the church in a significant amount of time, entered worship services looking for a place to find comfort and hope.
The problem that arises is when Christians become so comfortable that our spaces become stale warehouses where creativity goes to die and our future witness is thereby diminished. Church buildings ought to be a place not solely for solace but also where the faithful are encouraged to celebrate the gift of life and be reminded of being created by a creative and relational Creator God whose image we are called to bear.
Artists, musicians, and other creatives do this with ease. So how might Christians build relationships with creatives and be encouraged to become more creative ourselves.
1. Invite Musicians to Play for Special Services, Then Go Support Them at Their Other Shows. When they come to your service be sure to share your honest appreciation with them and ask where you can see them perform other times. Once you find out where they are playing go support them and again share your honest enjoyment.
2. Check Hashtags. The introduction of smartphone cameras means that more and more people are getting to share their artistic perspective with the world. This is happening not only in suburban areas but in even small rural communities. So hashtag your city, county, community. Then reach out and asks if you can use what you find for your bulletins, slides, website, etc. If you cannot provide monetary compensation but can provide exposure be upfront about that. Sometimes a simple redirection to their website or social media pages will mean the world to someone.
3. Invite your own. Advances in smartphone technology have increased accessibility to create great art. Thanks to the scale of production methods, Junior High, High School, and College Students are also producing quality once only possible by professionals. When it comes to pay. Pay them fair. Don’t worry about whether this is a side hustle or their age. If the artist is good their good. Oh, and don’t use the word “amateur”.
4. Provide Exposure. There was a time when the greatest musicians and artists of the age were employed by the church. Many of the great works we now call Classical were created because a church commissioned them. Due to tight budgets the church has ceased to be a major patron of the arts the way it once was. Instead when music or pictures are needed for a project they go to a royalty free resource platform like Pexels, Unsplash, or Bensound. This is helpful when you are starting out or need to save money but it fails to build relationships and deprives artists of support. If you don’t have the money to hire a local artist, and they have free works available, one of the things you can do is to provide them exposure. Let them know you are using their creations, what you are doing with them and how grateful you are that they have this free resource. Then let them know that while you don’t have the ability to compensate them monetarily you would like to help spread the word about their talents. Beyond including their site link in your media and marketing materials (i.e. bulletins, newsletters, website), offer to introduce them to your congregation during a large gathering (like worship) to help them get their name out there.
5. Host an event like an Art Fair. And don’t make it a fundraiser. In addition to word of mouth, use hashtag searches and royalty free sites to find artists you can invite to your event. The goal is exposure for the church as a place that cares about its community and an opportunity to shower unconditional love on your community. By the way, in my experience there is always someone wanting to give to such an event. For an event like this I suggest having a donation box in a far corner that you can . If someone asks, you can say, “We are simply doing this to love on the creatives in our community and bring them together. But if you want to help us with the costs of running the event there is a donation box in that corner.” Artists are used to having to pay If you can’t pay the artist, then highlight them. Give them
6. Send your artists out. Having your musicians and artists play or show in the community can organically build relationships that may bear fruit in the future. Dr. Heath Hollensbe says he used to require his worship staff to perform secular music in the community on a regular basis. This built their skill, stage presence, and helped them connect with other artists.
7. Don’t put them in a box before they even get started. As Dr. Hollensbe says, “Don’t make artists create on your terms. Artist do their best work when they are given parameters and are free to explore creating within those parameters.” When you ask an artist for something conveying a particular idea, hand them a word or an icon that conveys it to you. Then let their creativity fly and bring something new to life.
Remember, God wants us to be a blessing to those in our community. It is not our job to decide how God will bear fruit from the seeds we plant, only to be faithful to sow them.
How about you? What ways have you built relationships with the artists and musicians in your community? Let us know in the comments.