10 Resources for Church Arts Ministries
Let me mention a few things before offering a top ten resources for churches who want to start or grow an arts ministry. The first thing is that not every church needs an arts ministry. While I might argue that every church should be thoughtful in the way they employ the arts, this does not mean that an arts ministry as such is needed for any given church to flourish.
The second thing is that an arts ministry may contribute to any number of areas of a church's life. Four categories of church life may, I suggest, require very specific, very careful attention:
1. The public worship of the church.
2. The community life of the church.
3. The mission of the church.
4. The specific community of artists who may participate in the life of the church (formally or loosely).
What the arts may or may not do to serve the worship of a local congregation depends on a host of factors, not least of which include the denominational, theological and liturgical convictions of that particular group of people. How the arts may edify a children's ministry or a small group ministry vary significantly from church to church. How the arts may be enlisted to advance the mission of a church hinges on the vision of the church's leadership for mission, evangelism and service as well as on the specific location of a church (whether in a large urban area or in the suburbs or in a rural area, for example). All of these things require careful consideration.
The third thing to say is that this list does not pretend to be comprehensive. I welcome any suggestions for other resources, practical or otherwise. But hopefully this list represents a good start for pastors, ministry and lay leaders, along with artists, to discern how the arts might serve the worship and mission of particular churches, located in particular places, serving a particular people, whether near and far from God.
1. The big picture on a church arts ministry. I'm biased here, of course, but I'd be remiss not to recommend the book I edited, For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts. Its express purpose was to offer church leaders and artists a "big picture" of the ways in which the arts fit into God's purposes for the church. The more practical chapters include, "The Artist," "The Practitioner" and "The Dangers."
2. A concrete picture on a church arts ministry. Michael Bauer's book, Arts Ministry: Nurturing the Creative Life of God's People, is an excellent introduction to the idea of an arts ministry. Chapter titles include "An Introduction to Arts Ministry," "Skepticism about Arts Ministry," "Arts Ministry and Human Formation," "Arts Ministry and the World," and "The Practice of Arts Ministry." This may represent, to my mind, the best one-stop-shop resource of the lot. Scott McElroy's book is also another possible resource.
3. The massive bibliography on everything you would ever want to know about a worship arts ministry. This is a bibliography that Mark Torgerson put together, chiefly to collect resources related to Christian worship. But if you look at pages 49-76, you'll find a whole host of resources related specific to arts and worship. Here is a collection of resources on the global church and the arts. Here is a collection of resources on the psalms and the arts. See also here. And here.
4. The book to read: part 1. I've used Rory Noland's book, The Heart of the Artist: A Character-Building Guide for You and Your Team, over the years and found it to be a helpful introduction to the sorts of issues (personal, relational, spiritual and practical) that artists regularly face.
5. The book to read: part 2. If you're looking for an accessible book that introduces church leaders and artists to a wide-range of issues related to the arts, then you can hardly go wrong with Steve Turner's Imagine: A Vision for Christians and the Arts.
6. The book to read: part 3. The one book that I consider required reading for every artist is Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, by David Bayles and Ted Orland. Every artist has fears, every artists needs to learn how to face their fears in a healthy, fruitful way. This is the book to show you how. Here is a list of resources for a course I taught on the vocation of artists.
7. The book to read: part 4. If you're looking for an accessible introduction to theological perspectives on the arts, then Jeremy Begbie's edited volume, Beholding the Glory: Incarnation Through the Arts, is the excellent place to start. Extremely readable, theologically clear-headed, and artistically wise. Here are 35 other books on faith/theology and the arts (not comprehensive, but a decent place to start).
8. A practical introduction to mounting a visual art ministry in your church. I recommend here two resources: a fabulous handbook developed by Christians In the Visual Arts, authored by Sandra Bowden and Marianne Lettieri, and a website that Kate Van Dyke created a few years ago, which offers practical helps for people wanting to launch a visual arts ministry.
9. Links to other good resources for arts ministries: part 1. Here and here and here.
10. Links to other good resources for arts ministries: part 2. Here and here and here.
If you follow these links, they'll take you to a host of other good resources, including a list of churches that are engaged with the arts in a variety of ways.
Again, if you think I've missed an important resources, please let me know and I'll begin working on a Part II to this list.