When I was a sophomore in high school, I went on my first church retreat with my youth group. I was put in charge of writing a series of sketches about a girl (played by me) who went through a Catholic Mass doing everything wrong.
Her friend (played by my real-life friend Dariush) corrected her every mistake. We made people laugh (even the priest!) but at the back of our minds, we all knew we were watching our faith in action, and that was what made it so popular.
At the time, we were mostly just having fun. What I didn’t realize until looking back was that we were displaying characteristic behavior of creative churches. Creative churches snatch up every opportunity to turn a creative activity into a spiritual experience by injecting music, art, theater, and new technology into their worship.
Sketches, plays, videos, seminars, and visual arts can help pump some life into your church. Creative churches draw more members to their congregations and spread their uplifting messages to more people. So what are their habits that you can emulate in your own church?
1. Let the music play
If your church is anything like mine, your music goes through a cycle of low quality, medium quality, high quality, and back again. The most creative churches have a robust enough ministry that they can stay above this cycle. Now when I say “robust,” I don’t mean physically large. I mean they have a few very passionate people who are dedicated to bringing great music to their congregation’s worship experience.
How do you grow in quality if you can’t grow in quantity? You need a space with good acoustics and volunteers who are good at teamwork and have a passion for music. And if you’re really strapped for musical people, you can always recruit a volunteer DJ and some hype people.
At our sister church down the street, they have a small dedicated choir and then a bunch of people whose job it is to run down the aisles and get people pumped up for the song. It’s surprisingly effective, even for introverted worshipers like me who just want some peace and quiet.
If you’d like to go the equipment route, you’ll need a good sound system and a choir to match, no matter how small. That’s it. You don’t need the highest-quality instruments, or even any instruments at all. The player, not the instrument, makes the music great. The best choir I’ve ever heard was an eight-person a capella group. You can make it work with the right people.
2. Get the youths involved
Now here’s where my church fails me. After that church retreat, I had to leave the youth group (and not because I broke up with the boyfriend I met there). Everyone was very clique-y and it was difficult to make friends or engage in any of the activities.
Avoid creating an “in-crowd” by making your youth group more accessible to outsiders. Have a monthly meet and greet for new members, a youth group publication or podcast, or a youth group-only service. Create a book club, a Bible study group, or a crafting club.
It’s easy to plan events for the louder, more social youth group members. By providing quieter, lower-stakes activities, you can draw in introverts like me. Making your group more accessible can take away some of the stress of walking up to the sign-in table.
Your youth group can also be a great source of creative production. Videos, sketches, plays, visual art, social media… your youth group can help you create content geared toward your congregation, potential members, and young people looking for comfort. They can help you design a lighting or sound program to liven up your services and programs. And the technologically inclined among them can help you design an application or website to help reach more young people and other potential members.
3. Check your tech
Speaking of technology, my church back home worked with Windows 1998 until very recently. Your budget might constrain you to only a few technological updates, but if you do nothing else, at least update your website. Bring in some younger volunteers to help you make your site look less like it could be an exhibit in Jurassic Park, and more like it’s a portal to your congregation’s spiritual community.
Live streaming your services is another great way to give your technology a boost without throwing your budget out the window. Live streams open your church up to people who can’t make it to the service, people who are interested in getting to know your church, or people who may not be religious or spiritual and are just looking for a taste of the experience. It’s a great way to start getting your name out there so you can attract more members to your congregation.
If you’re anything like me, you love playing around with graphic software. Free graphic design sites like Canva, PicMonkey, and Stencil can help you craft a unique brand as well as flyers and posters to add an extra layer of professionalism to any event.
Social media management tools like Hootsuite and Buffer help you grow and maintain your social media presence with scheduled posts crafted just for your church. WorshipExtreme offers great free music and lyric projection software for your services or music performances. And Church Motion Graphics provides a huge database of free graphics for every church-related occasion.
For those with swollen wallets but few ideas, you might want to invest in a creative team to help you brainstorm and implement those ideas that you think would improve the experience for your members. The creative team can handle your social media, help update your website, create an application, design shows, performances, podcasts, webinars, videos, blogs… the options are limitless.
4. Put the arts in their hearts
There’s nothing quite like walking down the hall to the Sunday service and getting a glimpse of the local preschoolers’ artwork. But maybe you’re looking for something a little more advanced than pinning kid’s hand turkeys on the wall.
If you need some inspiration for your arts program, look no further. The Church at Convergence has an initiative to give artists a space to work in. Encouraging artists in your faith community is a great habit to cultivate, since the artists in your midst can help make your church a more creative place all around. Plus, you wouldn’t have to commission an artist to paint a beautiful, vibrant mural. Offer volunteer incentives, a couple of brushes and paint, and let your artistic masterminds make your church wonderful.
If you don’t have the space for a mural, there are plenty of other options for your church’s art program. You can offer weekly art classes, outdoor painting sessions, or art contests. You could offer DIY crafts (Pinterest is rife with them!) or finger painting for the kids in the congregation. If these ideas seem small, know you’re laying the foundation for an arts ministry in your church that will last as long as the artistic spirit. And that’s as good a place to start as any.
Creative churches have a habit of encouraging the artists in their midst, whether that means commissioning art for the church or simply providing them an opportunity and space to create freely. Whatever encouraging the arts looks like to your church, your community will be better for it.
5. Educate the masses
The most creative churches have a habit of sharpening their intellectual minds regularly. If that sounds stuffy and boring, don’t worry! There are several different options for educating your congregation outside of religious education.
Weekly themed sessions—often delivered in packages of four, six, or eight weeks—are extremely effective tools for keeping the spirit alive in your church long after the Sunday service. Most sermon packages are free, and make a great centerpiece for any worship event. If weekly sessions sound too intense to plan, a monthly seminar would do the job just as well. If you have the personnel, you can divide sessions into different groups and host them on different nights of the month or year.
If you think your congregation is getting a little cabin fever, retreats are amazing opportunities to educate, inspire, and grow your members’ faith and creativity. There, you can provide all kinds of spiritual entertainment, worship, services, and seminars to round out your members’ spiritual life.
Podcasts and webinars are another great way to educate and inspire on a low budget and without ever leaving your building.
As Kellen Roggenbuck, a church youth director from Wisconsin said, “never stop learning. Listen to ministry podcasts, read the blogs, try something new frequently, and network with those near you that are doing ministry.”
Creative churches make sure their congregation can access their resources across multiple platforms. Having an application specifically for your church comes in clutch here, but if you can’t spare the resources for one, a podcast or webinar will do just fine. Podcasts are easy enough to record if you have iTunes. If not, there are tons of great free podcasting alternatives. You can find an abundance of the best user-friendly webinar software to get you started on your webinar journey.
What are your ideas for a creative church?
What are your tips for churches to be more creative? Please share them in the comments.
And if these ideas have gotten your creative juices flowing, check out our church technology blog for lots more!
Looking for Church Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Church Management software solutions.