Creative Church

Make. Create. Wonder.

Collaborative Murals Aren’t That Hard… Really

DISCLAIMER: I am not a “painter”. I don’t know color theory. I don’t know (yet) which paint brush is appropriate for which type of paint. Working with canvas is a whole new world to me. If I can guide people in creating something like this, you can too!

My congregation created this 4 foot by 8 foot mural for Advent this year. Our Advent theme was “I Will Sing” and we invited the congregation to think of why they still sing in the midst of it all, and to claim their God-given song. I wanted to create a large community art piece that fit the theme but could be hung year-round (so, not super Christmasy). I came up with the broad design of the words we sing to the world flowing out across the painting and the colors moving from dark to light.

The mural is made of 4 separate canvases, using acrylic paint, paint pens, and metal letters of the Hobby Lobby variety. I set out the canvases and paint in the fellowship hall (our gathering spot) and invited people to pick up a brush before and after worship while they were chatting and drinking coffee. Some people (kids especially! They are great for leading others into creative adventures) dove right in. Others needed some convincing. Still others didn’t want to participate and that’s totally ok. This was a very open ended project, but even with open ended art, some guidelines are useful when working with groups. (see below)


My guidelines:

  • I drew the shape that would contain their words before painting day. I explained that only words could be written within those lines, and the surrounding area is where they could paint.
  • I asked everyone to sum up the song God gave them in one word, and write that word, using a paint pen, somewhere within the lines.
  • I pre-selected a color pallet for each panel and asked folks to use only those colors on that panel.
  • As for WHAT to paint, I simply asked people to think abstract as opposed to particular pictures. Think lines and shapes… we still ended up with some flowers, but they are really beautiful.

That’s it! Those were the only “rules” I gave them and this is what they created. I was blown away!

If you have some people in your congregation who like to paint or draw, it’s good to bring them in as helpers. They can encourage the people who don’t know they are artists yet, and redirect the 3 year old about to dump the red paint on the green panel. Inevitably, someone won’t follow directions. That’s ok! Everything is fixable or workable. I had to paint over and redo a misspelling and do some color touch-ups later. It’s more important that people feel welcome to join in and create something together than for them to get things right.

Come to think of it, that’s a great approach to church in general…


Wise Words

Make an empty space in any corner of your mind, and creativity will instantly fill it.


(The same applies to congregations and church buildings.)

Old hymnals? Make them new again.

Lots of churches have old hymnals lying around. Nobody really wants them but everyone feels a little guilty throwing them out. Maybe they aren’t as useful for Sunday mornings anymore, but old hymnbooks are still full of beauty. Theological truths, historical connections, familiar songs that trigger old memories and feelings… plus, the pages themselves can become a canvas!

You can watercolor paint right onto the pages and still see the music beneath it! My daughter (pictured) and I used this as a nightly devotional for a while. Our goal was to paint a page together every day, and while we painted, we talked about the words in the song or sang it if we new it. My then 1 year old son even joined us sometimes. Anyone can paint with watercolors!

This makes a great retreat activity too! Have folks pick a hymn that is meaningful to them, let them make it beautiful anyway they choose, share it and send it home with them. Sunday School or Afterschool children enjoy this activity as well. Just be prepared- hymn lyrics can inspire some big theological questions from kids.

(If this connects with you or someone in your congregation, make sure you check out the world of Bible Journaling. Amazing!)

So I started this blog…

The God of the Bible is a maker. A creator. A wonderer. An enjoyer. If we are made in God’s image, then we, too are all of these things. As individuals, we are creative beings, whether we know it or not. And certainly as the church, the very body of Christ, we can make, create, wonder, and enjoy collectively. Worship itself, that weird thing unlike anything else we gather together to do each week, is an endeavor in creation and drama! Simply being together, being this thing called church, requires us to take risks and to imagine, to seek beauty in the ordinary and to wonder what it is that God has in store for us.

Guiding people in that imagining is what I love to do. Grown-ups, kids, worshipers, retreaters, staff… people of all kinds in most any church-related setting. Somehow, I managed to find myself in a ministry position doing just that, among a congregation that puts up with my crazy ideas and jumps into the bucket of paint along with me. I’m learning how God can speak through art of all kinds (not just the professional and polished kind), through exploratory acts of worship, and many times through the simple act of making- together. At some point along the way, as I watched this little congregation joyfully participate in God’s making, creating, wondering and enjoying, it occurred to me that I should probably be writing all this down. I want more churches to experience the beauty of becoming a creative church.

Any church can be a creative church. Really, ANY CHURCH.  You don’t have to have “young creative types” or skilled artists (though you probably have more of those than you realize). You don’t have to have a certain style of worship or particular kind of sanctuary. Any church at all can be a creative church if you have some willing hearts and hands and some ideas to get you started. So that’s why I’m starting this blog. Ideas. I’ve borrowed my share of ideas (can we all take a moment and thank God for Pinterest??) and I love to see God bringing my ideas to life in new ways in other congregations. It is my hope that you will find something here that connects with you. Something that looks fun or meaningful or inspires you to take a risk and experience something altogether new. I’ll do my best to respond to questions, and if you try something, let me know how it goes!

So have fun. Get messy. Make something beautiful. Encounter the One who made you -beautiful YOU- from the muck and the mud, and created the cosmos from the fabric of chaos. I promise, it will be great.


Stones Into Bread

Matthew 4:3-4

The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”  Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

During a worship series on the temptations of Christ in the wilderness, we invited the congregation into the story in a powerful way. The real temptation here was less about bread and more about trust and power, right? Jesus was being tempted to use his own power to fill in the gaps, to meet his needs, instead of waiting on God. We asked the congregation this question:

What places in your life does the voice of evil convince you it’s too risky to rely on God?

They were asked to write their answers on stones that they picked up on their way into the sanctuary and bring them forward to place on the communion table, offering that place in their life back to God. What resulted was a powerful visual of the things that weigh us down, fears that grab ahold of us…

 paying my bills ~ my diagnosis ~ finding a job ~ racial equality ~ my daughter’s addiction

all laid upon and held by the table of the sacrament of communion. A reminder that in all things, we can trust God, who poured himself out to overcome even death on our behalf. A few things to consider:

  • Supplies needed: Rocks. Permanent markers. Containers for rocks. Table covering.
  • Where to get the rocks: Resist the urge to get little pebble size stones. The heaviness of the rocks help folks to make the connection. Larger stones can be expensive at your average home improvement/garden store, but in many places that may be your only option. Weigh cost vs size in the way that works best for your church. In Charlotte, we have a large scale landscaping supply company called Blue Max Materials.They have tons of styles and sizes of rocks and materials that are sold by the ton (yes, I said ton). They are used to selling dump trucks full of rocks, but they will sell any amount by weight, and you can drive up to the giant pile of rocks you are interested in and handpick them! I got about 100 handpicked rocks this size for a little over $3. AND I got to drive my minivan on the truck scale, so there’s that.
  • Preparation:1912156_10151909839767038_237947056_n
    • Wash the rocks first. No one likes unexpected dirt on their Sunday best. 
    • Place the rocks in buckets/baskets/containers of some sort at the sanctuary entrances and tell the greeters to instruct folks to pick out a stone as they enter.
    • Have markers available in a way that works for your space and people. You could place them in the pew racks, have them grab a marker too as they enter, or have them at the table for people to write on their rock when they bring it forward (keep in mind this will take a little longer).
    • Prepare the communion table by covering it to both look nice and to protect it from getting scratched by the rocks. Simple and stark is better here. We just used burlap.

This act of worship can be adapted to many scripture and themes. Make it work in your context. And let me know how it goes!

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