By Rod Padgett
When I saw hundreds of people standing in line for hours to see the latest
installment of "Star Wars," I took it to mean they were searching for
entertainment. On second thought, I believe they were searching for more.
We're all searchers. We're looking to find a connection with something
larger than ourselves. Along the way we make small discoveries from a variety
of sources. And something in the popular arts is striking a chord with people.
I submit to you that the arts help people glimpse the reflection of God in our
lives. Without even realizing it, these people are seeking to attach themselves
to the larger story.
One of the easiest places to begin adding creative elements in a
worship service is with a digital projector.
In addition to projecting song lyrics or sermon points, you can project art,
visual illustrations and video clips. Many churches are using their digital
projectors to add creative elements to their worship services with resources
You can also produce your own clips. Instead of having a drama or testimony
onstage, videotape them. If you don't know how to do video editing, just grab
the nearest teenager who'll be glad to help.
Recently we began making music videos of our mission trips, retreats,
fellowships and other special events. We mix art with still images and add an
mp3 file to make the ministry report a multi-media experience.
Don't stop with finding background art for your songs or video clips for
your service-use photographs to support your sermon illustrations. You can find
just about any photo by going to www.google.com, clicking on "images" and typing in a keyword.
If you decide to show excerpts from a commercial DVD, remember that you need
a license to show it in public. For more information, go to www.cvli.org.
Go to www.freshministry.org/creative to find links to these and other
websites plus free access to "Get Creative," a one-hour video excerpt from my
Future Church Conference.
As architects of the church services these searchers enter each week,
worship leaders have a special responsibility. We must prayerfully seek to
create moments of discovery. A proper use of the arts can do more than help
people worship-it can help nonbelievers see God's presence and work in all of
The church seems to have lost much of its passion for the arts and for
artists. In too many churches we've traded creativity for predictability. When
I look at nature, I'm in awe of a Creator who is limitless in imagination and
variety. And I wonder why more worship services don't reflect this?
I'm not talking about style. This observation goes well beyond traditional,
blended or contemporary worship styles. I'm talking about energy and attention
given to creativity.
Creativity can be incorporated into many different areas of the
church-whether it's a typical Sunday morning service, a children's worship
service, a special youth event or a drama/worship presentation you're planning
for a mission trip. Here are some steps to help bring more creativity to your
worship service and other church events.
As with anything in life, we must have a target we're trying to hit. So our
first question is: What do we want people to walk away with today?
Maybe for your church on a particular Sunday you want people to have a new
sense of ownership in the church's vision. Maybe you want to help them
understand an aspect of God's character. Whatever it is, have a target. Every
element should count, so don't just put random elements together and expect
people to walk away with a specific thought or experience.
From the smallest to the largest church, I think it's safe to assume that
one person does not execute every aspect of a worship service. It truly takes a
team to carry out the plan. So, with that in mind, bring these people together.
Pray, dream and plan together. Then assign responsibility.
God loves excellence. Our congregations see it in many areas of their lives
outside of church. I believe we have a responsibility to bring that into our
services. I love Nancy Beach's definition of excellence-"doing the best you can
with what you have." In many cases, the difference between mediocrity and
excellence is in the planning, communication and rehearsal along the way. Give
attention to details. It will pay off in the end.
One of our church's core values is that we will be a learning organization.
The only way we'll improve is to evaluate and learn from our successes and
mistakes. Our worship planning team meets every Monday and debriefs each detail
of the previous day's services. I usually come out with a list of things I can
improve. Many times these are small details that were missed or improperly
Using the arts in worship has an obvious prerequisite-you must have artists
in your church. Here's a word of encouragement-you do! I believe that artistic
people are sitting in every worship service-musicians, painters, sculptors,
writers, graphic artists, actors, dancers, videographers, photographers. In
many cases they use their art outside of church.
For the most part, the church hasn't given its artists opportunities to use
their gifts within the context of the church. It's our responsibility to seek
them out, to cast a vision for how God can use their gifts and to cultivate,
encourage and train them. Using the arts in worship can have a major impact on
the church body and on the individual artist. But we have to do the hard work
of turning dreams into reality.
Is this kind of artistic initiative limited to mega-churches? The short
answer is no. This is not a function of size. I left a large suburban church in
Atlanta, Georgia, to help launch a new church in suburban Dallas, Texas.
Because of a large dose of God's blessing and a passionate vision, we've
attracted many artists and are using the arts effectively from week to week.
From original worship and theme-oriented songs to drama scripts to original
video productions, we incorporate much of the artistic skill and imagination of
our church. We're still a small church by many standards (400 and growing).
Yet, we continue to attract artists and are cultivating a true art
If God gives you this vision, you too can begin the journey. If you do, it
will be fraught with obstacles and hard work. But our individual churches, the
Kingdom and our greater society will be better for it. May the God who sculpts
mountains and paints sunsets and orchestrates thunderstorms inspire you to
design worship services that reflect His creative beauty.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC