I have been a part of small churches for most of my life. There is a richness of experience, and always ongoing challenges, in being a small church family. Unfortunately, many small churches eventually close, most of them certainly due to circumstances unique to each situation, but also often due to the common dilemma of wanting to grow yet being challenged in making changes to help that to happen.
As we have experimented with different approaches to worship at Gateway Christian Church, we have used the Fifth Sundays in a year to experience worship in different ways. While our worship attendance still fluctuates with the expected ebbs and flows as with most congregations, these unique worship experiences have helped to foster vitality in both our worship gatherings throughout the year and in other areas of church life. We have found that most people do not want to miss these unique Sundays.
I have published a small book entitled, Transforming the Small Church: Fifth Sundays and Beyond. It suggests a process for transforming worship, since that is the largest common experience in small churches. It also offers ten Fifth Sunday Worship Gathering suggestions as a way of prompting the reader’s own creativity. My hope is that some of the resources will be useful just as they are, and that others will be a starting point for other churches to create their own unique experiences. It is available through Amazon.com.
One of the unique opportunities that small churches can embrace is that of holding an art exhibition. Our church has coordinated four exhibitions in recent years, and I am getting anxious to do so again. There are a variety of ways to approach this, and I will write about some of what we have done in a future blog. But one option is to rent a collection of art for a period of time. CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts), about whom I have posted items in the past, is a good resource for such exhibitions. Their current one is entitled, The Beautiful, and details about the rental, as well as images of the artwork, can be found by going to civa.org and clicking on the link for “Exhibitions.” I am certain that their coordinator will provide information about the rental, insurance requirements and shipping of the exhibit. Since they do this regularly, they would be a good organization with whom to work if this is your church’s first time to host an exhibition.
Experiencing Works of Art
It requires time, patience and discipline to engage with artistic expressions, three qualities that our hurry-and-get-it-done-now world neither appreciates nor encourages. To walk past a painting and pretend that we have perceived it, is to deceive ourselves. To watch a movie while talking with friends, unless we have seen the movie before, removes the depth of experience that the filmmaker is offering to us. To look at pottery in a potter’s showroom, without carefully feeling the nuances of the form, is to miss the joy of the work and the connection with the act of creation.
To receive the impact of a work of art, one must engage that work, and then integrate the response into one’s thoughts and meditations. This is nothing less than the careful discipline that any other form of spiritual nourishment requires, in order to fully receive the gift that is offered in that moment.
Welcome to my website. I hope you will discover a connection to the life of small churches, and the richness that the arts can bring to these churches.