“Life beats down and crushes the soul
and art reminds you that you have one.”
– Stella Adler –

I recently came across this quote from the late, Stella Adler, American actress and acclaimed acting teacher, and it forced me to stop and reflect on what it meant for me as a Service Program Director for our church community. Every week, people walk through our doors who feel broken, beaten down and crushed by life. And every week, we as church leaders, communicators and creatives are given this incredible opportunity to proclaim the truth of God’s love, drenched in grace, that carries the power to lift people eyes up toward heaven and experience hope. But if we were all honest with ourselves (even just for a moment), we would all have to admit that some of the services we lead wouldn’t be described as hopeful, inspiring or life-giving. Those who walked in feeling crushed, walk out feeling the same way.

Here’s the big question: How can we tell God’s story on a continual bases while using art in our services to lift people out of feeling beaten down by life? So to begin the conversation, let me throw in a couple lessons I’m learning along the way.

1. Create a Culture of Change
I was reminded recently that healthy things change. Think about that for a moment. If you had a child who didn’t grow, increase their vocabulary or improve in their social skills, would you say that child is healthy? No. Most parents would be concerned and would begin seeking medical advice because we all intuitively know that change is a natural bi-product of all things healthy.

So, if we know change is healthy in every area of our life, why are we resistant to it within the church?

There was once a day long ago where the Church set the standard for education, music and art. It was the Church that led the way and kept their foot on the pedal of change, innovation and creativity. But for some reason, those days have slipped through our fingers and left us with sameness, status quo and the fear of anything new.

But this doesn’t have to be your story – you can change it.

Creating a culture of change has to be done cautiously, but intentionally. Start with the simple things: service order, stage layout and song choices and then move into other areas like, stage design, lighting, seating layout and communicators. You’ll soon begin to notice that change isn’t such a hard sell as long as is thought out, intentional and keeps you moving forward.

The key in creating a culture of change is never change the WHY of what you’re doing – just the HOW of what you’re doing. Be you, just be the best version of you, you can be.

Creating a culture of change contributes to the health, vitality and constant growth of your church and community.

2. Release Others to Create
As hard as it is to admit at times, I don’t always have the best ideas. I don’t always design the best graphic, come up with the most innovative stage design or communicate a story as compelling as another – but one thing I have learned is that I don’t have to. Or better yet, I’m not supposed to.

It’s taken a while for me to get this, but my primary role as a Service Program Director (Worship Leader, Creative, Communicator, Lead Pastor, you fill in the blank for you) is to release others to create. If our goal is to keep things fresh and continue to create a culture of change, I need other voices speaking into what that could look like and what could be done. Otherwise, things would begin to look the same, turn status quo, and life would begin to drain from our community.

I’m learning that it is my role (under the authority of leadership) to say, “This is where we going”. This sets the direction and rallies the team around a common vision. However, it doesn’t stop there. That phrase is followed by the question, “How can we get there?” By including others in the process, you invite fresh ideas and shared ownership into the journey. All of sudden, it isn’t just me pushing to keep things fresh, new and innovative, it’s 10 of us dreaming, creating and pushing to see the vision come to life in new and creative ways.

By releasing others to create, you invite fresh ideas and expression that contribute to people hearing and experiencing the power and hope of God’s story.

3. Create for Christ’s Sake
We were created to create and we create to reveal the Creator. It’s really that simple.

As Christian creatives who serve the local church, we don’t create for art’s sake, we create for Christ’s sake. We tell stories, write songs, illustrate messages and design environments, not just to find ways to spend our time and build our reputation, but to design unforgettable opportunities for people to experience God. We create art that proclaims the wonder of One who called us out of darkness and into the glorious light.

I’m learning that when I spend less time creating art to impress the creative community, I can focus more attention on creating art, moments, and environments that inspire those who walk through our church doors each week. I’ve been convicted of this and need to be reminded of it constantly, that I create art to motivate our community to lift their heads to see a God who is bigger than their current situation or circumstance. I design our service, not to impress pastors and church leaders that I’ll never meet, but to connect with the single mom in our community who needs to be reminded that God’s love will never leave her and that with Him, nothing is impossible – as hard as it can be at times.

By remembering why we create and who we create for, we begin to design and piece together an experience that is full of life and reminds our church community that God is still God, even when they feel life is crushing down on them.

Creating a culture of change contributes to the health, life and growth of your services. - Adam Fry
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Those are three ways I’m learning to create life in our services. What are you learning? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

About Adam

Adam is the Executive Pastor at Lifecentre in the Ottawa. He is incredibly passionate about the local church and designing unforgettable opportunities for people to experience God.

Adam lives in Ottawa with his beautiful wife, Wendy, and their twin boys, Carter and Hunter.