Do you remember the last time you had a good case of goose bumps? The hair on your arms levitates. Your heart rate quickens. Your skin tingles with delight. Something touches you deep within and your senses respond. I often think of creative expressions as spiritual goose bumps. A moment when I catch a quick glimpse of God’s image.
God designed our bodies to respond to creativity. He gave us our senses to experience His world and enjoy His many inventions, from a sonic boom to a cleansing summer rain. In fact, these expressions of creation are so important to Him that He spends every moment of every day forging life and creating uniqueness.
Sensory experiences also reveal aspects of God’s character that go beyond our traditional perceptions. When we view creation through a broad lens we discover that God is playful, humorous, detail oriented. He is a culinary artist, entertainer extraordinaire and a master of color and patterns. The list goes on, but the bottom line is that our senses are a gateway for experiencing God.
Leonardo da Vinci characterized the five senses as “the ministers of the soul”. Of all the senses, he described sight as being king. Vision is our window to the world and our window to God. No wonder our culture is so riveted by imagery, graphics and media.
The motivating passion of my life is to touch people through creative expressions, particularly through the visual arts. A craftsman of goose bumps, if you will. It is through imagination and artistry that I feel most connected to God. Over time I have come to understand that this passion is a God-gift, and through discipline and exploration it has the potential to express worship and to point people toward God.
Train your mind to be curious like an olympic athlete trains his/her body for competition. Think of it as calisthenics for the imagination. It takes devotion, persistence and old-fashioned elbow grease.
Begin by establishing a routine of observation. Deliberately stop during the day to notice all that surrounds you. Pay attention to the broad strokes and the smallest of details. Marcel Proust describes observation thusly, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Investigate shapes, patterns, color, texture, sounds, scents, the way that objects fill space, the effect of lighting, shadow and reflection. Let all of your senses become your gathering tools.
Questions have the ability to take us on a journey. They stimulate creative movement and open up alternate ways of thinking. Question reasoning, history, culture, style, perception, feelings and relationships. Ask questions using your senses. Ask questions that are absurd. The following exercise is designed to stimulate creativity by using thoughtful provocation. Take a moment to process and simmer.
How would your service look if it were only 20 minutes long?
Invent five new ways to use the color red to demonstrate sacrifice.
You can no longer receive offerings. How will you facilitate giving?
Describe an emotion in visual form without using cliches.
Reinvent your service to minister to Eminem, Britney Spears, Brad Pitt.
How is your ministry like a garden?
You can no longer meet in your church building.
Choose a new setting that encompasses all five senses.
Describe five unconventional ways to use silence in your services.
What message could you deliver from a redwood forest? A bakery? A greenhouse? A turkey farm?
Develop a worship service that excludes words or speech.
What would your service look like if it were designed by Steven Spielberg? Pablo Picasso? Walt Disney?
Invent new ways to pray using each of the five senses.
the visual experience
The most significant way to influence people is through visual mediums. This vehicle can communicate emotion, information and truth. The advent of affordable technologies has opened the door for the modern church to shape peoples hearts in new and innovative ways.
Developing visual style filters will focus and strengthen the impact of your ministry. Begin by establishing the objective. The second step is to define the concept. This often leads to the devel-opment of a metaphor. For the purpose of illustra-tion, I will reference a recent church series that I developed titled, “Change Me”. The objective for this project was to lead people to Christ and the metaphor was a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. This concept emphasized the beauty that change engenders. See example 1.
Implement a style filter by listing the stylistic ele-ments and features associated with your concept. Segments of this filter should include color palette, font usage, shape/icon descriptions and any materi-als that are specific to the style. “Change Me” used a distressed treatment with hand crafted text using indian ink. We wanted a gritty, human feeling so we used warm orange and brown tones and a “candle lit” environment. A personal journal was used to give a sense of intimacy and transparency. Our goal was to motivate people to expose their hearts to God and allow Him to convict them. Example 2 shows a variety of screen shots from an intro video that was played prior to the message.
Use the filters to bring unity and consistency to your presentation. Communicate the filters to every-one involved in the production process, including lighting teks, graphic artists and set designers. A thoughtful design process will lead to a meaningful worship experience.
One of the best parts of ministry is working with teams. Consider forming a creative team to plan and execute your services. This team should have both creative dreamers and practical thinkers. Here are some practical ideas for leading a successful team experience.
Distribute creative thinking exercises related to your series concepts. Ask team members to return with ideas, music, video content, research, etc.
Establish a creative facilitator who guides the team through interesting exercises and manages the design process. Look for a gifted communicator.
Use your creative time to give your skeletal ideas flesh and bone. Allow time for ideas to simmer while remaining open to the unusual or unique.
Program your services with an element of surprise. Look for ways to reinvent your communications and artistic expressions. Variation is healthy.
Give careful consideration to transitional elements. A dead spot can bring a well designed service to a screeching halt. Talk through transitions.
Once you have a service order, think through the location of players and elements. Plan a color scheme to flow from element to element.
Consider the spiritual and emotional journey of your service. Take extra care to craft a program that takes people on a journey closer to God.
Assign every aspect of your service from writing copy to securing a prop for the speaker. Use your creative team to distribute the work load.
Make sure that every team player has a clear understanding of their role in facilitating the big picture.
Evaluation is a vital tool for improving the quality of your service. Take time following each service to examine the strong and weak points of your pro-gram. Review the emotional experience, spiritual impact and the technical aspects of the service. Use the following questions to assist in your weekly evaluation.
What were the strongest and weakest elements?
Was the concept and message clearly communicated?
Did the music, drama and other content reflect the concept and mood appropriately?
• Were there any technical problems or issues? How can they be addressed?
• What life change occurred and why?
• Was every person and element lit properly?
• Did the service have moments of surprise and originality?
• Was the message/teaching effective?
• How could we better support the message/teaching?
• What was the impact of the environment prior to the service?
• Were the transitions seamless and appropriate?
• Were there any awkward moments in the service?
• Were there any distractions in the service?