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Creative Church

Make. Create. Wonder.

Courage Required

A creative church is a courageous church. The beauty of art is that it can make difficult things both accessible and undeniable. When you touch, smell, taste, see the pain or joy of another, their life becomes tied to yours. New things break your heart. You can become brave in ways you never thought you could. A creative church seeks to bring that reality into worship, to help people encounter the truth of another, and so to encounter God’s love, God’s call, God’s healing.

A couple years ago, there was a rash of fires at African American churches around the country. Some seemed accidental or natural, many were arson. We had the unfortunate privilege of having one of the churches be in this city. So we asked how God would have us respond. There were lots of opportunities to give money and resources to help them rebuild and to support the outreach programs that had lost their home. Anyone could do those things. But how could we uniquely respond, as people of God, as brothers and sisters in Christ?

We could pray.

We brought their pain and heartbreak into our worship service with the literal ashes of their church. We created space in worship to name all the churches that had been burned. We claimed them as our family and tried as best we could to give voice to the worldly power of racism and fear of the other, while claiming the eternal power of God. We sent our congregation home with some ashes from that church, the names of all the burned churches, equipped with scripture to help them pray.

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It was painful. It was strange. It was holy.

 

Outdoor Advent Calendar

Advent calendars aren’t just for chocolate! For Advent one year, we jumped into the Advent Conspiracy and explored what it looked like to worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all. Our church is located at a busy intersection that sees thousands and thousands of cars a day. So we decided to capitalize on that with an outdoor Advent calendar.

(Aside: Don’t neglect your outdoor space, creative church! It’s a great way to get noticed, be playful, and use your collective voice for the Kingdom of God. Push yourselves to think beyond the church sign. In fact, outdoor art is a great way to get away from the church sign debate if that is an issue in your congregation.)

We used doors (got them from the local Habitat ReStore). One for each week. We attached a plywood panel to the back of each door, painted our desired image/message on the plywood, and opened 1 door each Sunday. There’s no end or limit to what you paint or say, what style of art you use, or who can help create this. In fact, one of our members came to help on painting day, and it just so happened that her brother was in town and he was actually a graffiti artist! Come on, Holy Spirit!

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Things to think about ahead of time:

How to get your doors to stand up: lots of options like a frame, a support, anchors…

Type of paint to use on the material of your doors, and a sealant since they will be outdoors for a month or so.

 

What to do with the doors after Christmas. There are SO MANY uses for cool doors in worship, prayer rooms, youth rooms, hallway message boards…

PALM Sunday

What might it look like to approach Palm Sunday with open hands instead of branches? Think of the palms of your hands…

Hands that serve…

Hands in praise…

Hands open to receive…

Hands to bless and anoint…

Hands that cling…

Hands that release…

Hands that join…

How could your Palm Sunday worship look different this year?

Try a YardGive!

Being a creative church doesn’t necessarily mean breaking out the paint or markers in worship. A great way to be creative is to take something you are used to doing and switch it up. Make it a little risky or surprising. Try a YardGive!

A YardGive is simple. It’s like a yard sale, but everything is free. Yep, free. No pricing or tagging. No counting money. No haggling. It’s the easiest yard sale you will ever do. AND it’s an exercise in letting go. Our first one grew out of a worship series during that time of year that everyone loves (apply heavy sarcasm)- stewardship season. We invited the congregation to clean out their homes. Things they no longer used, but also things they may still use but could stand to part with for someone else in need. We collected and sorted it all in our gym and opened the doors one Saturday morning to our immediate community.

This worked particularly well because our church is situated in a community with great physical need. We limited our advertising to several of the apartment communities right next to the church. Resist the urge to advertise in the paper or online if you’d like to build a relationship with your immediate neighbors. “Free stuff” ads will attract people from all over, and most likely more people than you can handle. But if you are worried about not having enough stuff, don’t be. Our church of a little over 100 people filled up our gym and we still scheduled a pick-up to donate what was left. Bottom line- your people have a lot of stuff.

The true beauty of the YardGive happens when the doors open. Most folks are in disbelief that everything is really free and it’s great to be the one that gets to reassure people of that fact. You and your church members also get to let go of the need to control who takes what and how much. If someone wants the whole table of dishes, find a box for them! If you think someone is taking the TV to sell it, so what? Maybe they need the money. Give them the specs so they can make top dollar. We’ve done this 2 years in a row and have yet to have anyone be rude or grabby. Mostly people are grateful, and you get to watch God redistribute your blessings. It’s incredibly freeing. AND you meet your neighbors. In fact, this year we invited our neighbors to donate as well and many did!

Out of all the crazy, wonderful days we have at The Grove Church, I think YardGive day is my favorite.

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I’ll just leave this here.

http://weburbanist.com/2013/02/19/abandoned-church-becomes-brilliant-urban-art-installation/

Come, Follow Me…

A Cloud of Witnesses

For All Saints Sunday one year, we asked people to bring in homemade Saint cards. Saint cards aren’t an official tradition you’ve never heard of. We made it up!

On the preceding Sunday, the church was asked to think about the Saints in their own lives- the people who had an impact on their lives and faith in significant ways. They could be people they knew or know, historical figures, anyone really that had meant something to them on their walk with God. We asked them to choose pictures or write the names of their saints on index-sized cards and bring them to worship. Creativity was encouraged.

During the week, I hung string between the windows along the sides of our sanctuary and filled the string with clothespins. (Our pastor called it “Holy Clothesline”) Early in the worship service on All Saints Sunday, we invited folks to hang their cards up. We had blank cards available for those who missed the message last week or just forgot. I also used this as an opportunity the week before to talk about Saints with the kids in our afterschool program. They made their own cards and we made a special trip into the sanctuary to hang their Saint cards up. This served double duty, both as a chance to share some Gospel with these kids and to help fill up the Holy Clothesline.

You could display your congregation’s Saint cards any way that works for you, but what was particularly neat about our set-up was that once the cards were up, we were literally surrounded by our own great cloud of witnesses.

Water Your Heart

To kick off a worship series on spiritual practices, we sent everyone home with a little heart shaped tin, filled with potting soil and wildflower seeds. We lined the window sills in the sanctuary with the tins before worship, and got people wondering as they entered. As a reminder to use spiritual practices to cultivate fertile spiritual ground in their lives, they were invited to “water their hearts” during the series, and post pictures and insights to social media.

I used these tins. They come with a sticker for the bottom, which is a great place to put the scripture verse for the day.

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Graffiti Pep-Talk Table

Got kids or teens that like to write on stuff? Turn that into something! In our children’s library, I covered a table in paper and left a jar with pencils and pens for kids to write with. The table says:

GRAFFITI PEP-TALK!

*Leave a positive message for the next reader*

The kids have left lots of great notes for one another. And this could be adapted for a prayer station, a favorite Bible verse table, a giant guest book for some type of special event… the possibilities are endless!

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