Multiplication Center

The Challenges of Developing Artists in Multisite

November 25, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I posted some initial learnings from my conversations with numerous worship arts pastors and directors, independent artists, and coaches/consultants regarding multisite artist development.  If you haven't read it, you can catch the first post here:

How Multisite Churches Develop Artists

This week I want to focus on some of the challenges that multisite churches face when it comes to engaging and developing the creatives in their pews (or folding chairs).  This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but rather a brief mention of some of the common obstacles that many leaders face.  If there are others that you feel are significant, please include them in the comments below.

Common Challenges in Multisite Artist Development
While every multisite environment is unique, there are some common challenges that leaders face when it comes to identifying, engaging, and developing artists in their churches and communities.  Some of these challenges can be overcome by the practices I highlighted in the previous post.  Others require a creativity of their own to adequately address.  Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Lack of time to actually nurture artists spiritually.  Multisite Worship/Creative Arts Pastors have production deadlines that come every week.  This reality can create significant challenges in artist development as the urgent of the weekend worship experience trumps any desire to feed the souls of their artists.  The result: weak art that is merely a reflection of the culture rather than truly creative work.  “The best and brightest artists gravitate toward churches that are doing something original.” (Michael Neale, recording artist and author of The River)  When the art in your church becomes nothing more than a redressing of others’ creativity, your artists will look elsewhere to find outlets for their inspiration.
  • “No one in the church understands artists because they’re ‘different’.” (Stephen Brewster, Creative Arts Pastor @ Crosspoint.tv) Because the church doesn’t know how to handle creative types, they often find their way outside the church.  As a result, artists often “bail” on the church prematurely because they struggle to find their place as they pursue creativity.  This leaves a void of artistic talent that is difficult to fill. 
  • Churches that try to “go big” every Sunday often burn artists out.  Right or wrong, the weekend worship service is the pinnacle of many church goers’ week.   This reality brings an inherent pressure to raise the level of the experience week after week.  Doing so puts added stress and strain on those creating art in each service.  “There needs to be margin for “rest and breathe” time in our churches.” (Sam Mahlstadt, author of Creative Theology)
  • Too much structure becomes stifling.  When trying to create systems for developing artists, the very structures intended to bring them together can inadvertently drive them away.  “Artists get weird if you put too much structure around them.” (Stephen Brewster)  Churches are left with the challenge of creating just enough structure to be intentional, yet at the same time keeping things organic enough so that artists come together naturally.
  • Most churches don’t really know what they want from art, and what they sometimes get can leave church leaders (and members) uncomfortable.  “Art is there to ask us questions, not give us answers.  Sometimes people don’t like the questions it asks.” (Scott Erickson, former Artist in Residence at Ecclesia)  Open, creative expression can often stretch the boundaries of what feels ‘safe’.  This puts leaders in the difficult position of inviting creativity while managing expectations.  Erickson asks: “Do you want to be pushed by the honesty of our humanity or do you just want to show redemption?”  A fair question.

As you can see, there is a variety of challenges, both practical and cultural, that confront churches trying to identify and develop the art within them.  If a church chooses to tackle these challenges head on, they reap the reward of becoming an outlet for creativity that impacts their church and influences their community.  These leaders also run the risk of encountering artistic expression that tests the limits of their comfort zones.  However, choosing to steer clear of these challenges leaves many of our churches enjoying a sense of ‘safety’ while struggling through a shortage of talent.

What About You?
What challenges do you face in developing artists for your multisite church?  How are you addressing these challenges successfully?  Where are you ‘stuck’?  Please share your thoughts and questions below.

If developing artists in multisite is a priority for your church, you may want to consider joining our upcoming Multisite Artist Development InnovationLab that launches February 25-26 in Dallas.  For more information, click on the link below.

Learn More About the Multisite Artist Development InnovationLab

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