5 thoughts on pastoring artists

I've copied here the contents of a handout of a presentation I gave today to the seminary students at Duke Divinity. I commented on each point as I moved down the list. I also took questions to clarify things. As per usual, things are more complicated than a simple handout can convey. But, still, it's a decent summary of tendencies I've observed over the years.

The images scattered below, excepting the shepherd pic, are from work that Phaedra made for a wedding recently, including wreaths made out of book pages.

“Five Thoughts on the Pastoring of Artists”

1. “Isn’t it obvious what it means to be an artist? Aren’t you either a dancer, actor, musician, painter, architect, writer, poet or filmmaker?” No, it isn’t obvious. The kinds of artists and the different interests that they investigate in the fields of art are as varied as the members of the Body of Christ. Point for pastors: Pay attention to the details of an artist’s life. And be careful not to assume that the categories which either the art establishment or church present are the only ways to be an artist.

2. “What do you mean you want to be a painter? I thought you were a dancer?” Artists figure themselves out differently in different seasons of life. They don’t stay static. Point for pastors: pay attention to the station and season of life in which an artist finds him or herself and be careful not to narrowly pre-define an artist’s life. Keep listening to the Spirit along with your artists. (EX: Rick Van Dyke.)

3. “Why do we need arts pastors? Why not engineering pastors? Or business pastors?” Good question. One possible answer, among many and not all equally persuasive, relates to the way in which art is implicated in every dimension of human life and then equally much shapes every dimension of human life, influencing people for better or worse. This dimension of human life requires shrewd, humble shepherding. Point for pastors: you’ll want to commit to regularly communicating a careful understanding of the aesthetic dimension of your community’s life. (NB: David Ley's tour of the history of ideas in the architecture of Vancouver. NB: in principle we don't need arts pastors on a church staff. Much better is an aesthetically informed pastoral staff all across the board.)

4. “Why are artists so special?” This is another way of asking, “Why are artists so moody and volatile and needy?” Because a) at some level, unique among human occupations (though not exclusively), artists are working intimately with the data--as well as the forces--of matter, affectivity, imagination and with the ways that these shape individual and communal self-understanding, and b) the requirement to remain intimately connected to the wildness of matter, affectivity and imagination causes artists to have to remain vulnerable--vulnerably open, vulnerably attentive--to these forces, i.e. moody, volatile and often needy. Point for pastors: the good pastoring of artists is not that different from good parenting. (See Barbara Nicolosi's chapter in my book.)

5. “What does it mean to pastor the artist as a person?” This is another way of asking, How do we shepherd their identity in terms, for example, of their nature and ambition? Point for pastors: help clarify for artists a vision for their life, an intention to stay steadfast in that vision, and a method for sustaining that vision in health, i.e., open to the Spirit so that artists will learn to flourish in whatever season or station of life they might find themselves. (See Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart.)


Kenny Miracle said…
Good points, David. I especially like #5, as it seems that artists need direction in which to express their creativity. Sometimes direction comes from others, but when it doesn't. Artists should know why they are doing what it is they're doing.

As a creative team leader, I relate to those points. It can be tough shepherding artists. They can appear resistant, but really they want people to empower & believe in them.

Thanks for sharing!
That's great, Kenny. Thanks for sharing. All the best to you in your leadership of creatives.
Buddy Eades said…
Thanks David - I find myself wondering how to pastor the artists and then I remember that I have a wife and two daughters who are all artistic. Even as a musician and creative person, I have realized that I am not very self aware. It is good that when you put yourself in a place to be used by God he puts people into your life who provide opportunities for learning. Pastoring artists just like pastoring anyone requires that you begin as Jesus did and make yourself available to others and see who decides to become part of your life as well. Jesus ministry for a whole year was at first defined by building relationships. The gospels are sketchy at best with regard to the details of his first year of ministry but it is clear that he went around doing ministry and building relationships. By God's grace, I want my pastoring to be close to Jesus' ministry. I figure the close I get to Him the less I can screw it up!
thanks for the post
cardiphonia said…
david. I may have an inordinate love for this post. That concerns me. I'm going to go pray about that right now.
Buddy: thanks for your comments. They're great.

Bruce: your comment made me laugh out loud just now. Oh me.
Michelle said…
These are great - important to keep in mind as a teacher of the arts, too. I sometimes find that teaching painting and drawing is a much more personal, pastoral experience than teaching other subject matter because of the intimacy you speak of.

I also appreciate these points as an artist, #4 in particular as I constantly need to be reminded of the intimacy and vulnerability of what I do in answer to that question: "Why am *I* so special/moody/needy?"
Colie said…

Thought you would like this. It is a video on the process of creating...(it filled me up like a good meal!)
it was shown at Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa, CA
What a lovely video, Colie. Thanks for sharing it.

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