In the 9+ years that I have worked for a church doing live production, why, when, and how to use creativity and technology in the church has been a common topic of conversation. If I really think back, I’ve actually been having these conversations since the 90’s as a Junior High and High School kid, when Rock & Roll was finding it’s place within the worlds of church-going kids everywhere. I have been on both sides of the conversation. I have embraced the use of a live band, lights, and cameras within the context of church and I have been the one asking the questions or expressing concerns. There are many differing opinions on the use of production within the church — some are curious, some are sold out, some are offended. My goal here is to share where my heart is for those who are curious, to bring awareness to some threats for those who are sold out, and to give some perspective to those who may be offended. I will discuss some values we hold as a team and why I believe live production is an effective way to hold those values. I believe to my core that whatever I do, it should be used as a tool to invest in others. Production is no different. This conversation, to me, is 100% about what kind of impact we have on the lives of the people around us. In my world, this means two groups of people: those who attend our church and the volunteers who are a part of our team.
THE ENTERTAINMENT FACTOR
Most people who have reservations about live production in the church are hung up on the entertainment factor, and I understand why. If all we are doing is making people feel good then we are failing to be the church. But I don't think entertainment is a clear enough word to describe what is good or bad about using art and technology in church. Entertainment can be used for many different things. Some entertainment is mindless amusement. Some entertainment indulges unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. It can be used to manipulate or manufacture emotion — love, happiness, fear, anger. Some entertainment challenges the way we think about life. The art of captivating someone’s attention is a form of entertainment. Welcoming guests into your home and serving them is a form of entertainment. Entertainment can be a catalyst for community. Entertainment can cause us to connect emotionally with something. It can bring awareness to deep seeded beliefs and reveal things about us that we didn’t know were there. Entertainment can be a form of art and therefore a form of expression. It is used to process thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. It can be used to express joy, pain, and love.
ENGAGEMENT & EXPRESSION
As we unpack this, you can start to see the threats as well as the benefits of entertainment. So I prefer to use more specific words to clarify our values, goals, and vision. I believe we should avoid merely amusing people and we must be especially careful not to manipulate people's emotions. But I also believe we should be welcoming and we should be expressive. We should be serving people and engaging people. While we must acknowledge that we cannot always trust our emotions, we should also realize that God made us emotional beings. We are made to be creative and expressive. I have a hard time connecting my emotions to my beliefs. My natural state of emotion is to be worried, stressed out, or checked out. But that does not reflect what I believe about God and about life. Art can help me emotionally connect to my belief in the freedom God has for me. It can help me connect emotionally to gratitude and love. It can help me take my eyes off of myself and turn them toward God and toward others. It can help me process my own thoughts and fears. So we hold engagement and expression as values and we choose to embrace art and technology as a tool to encourage those things. For these reasons, I believe art and creativity absolutely have a place within the church and I believe we have to be incredibly intentional and careful about how those things impact others.
COMMUNITY & TEAM WORK
I do love that I get to work in a creative environment, but it is actually the opportunities to invest in others that I am most passionate about. It takes many hands to accomplish the tasks set before us which means we have a place for people to serve and become a part of what God is doing in and through us. While production is a lot of fun and very task oriented, we use it as a tool to invest in people. Our church is a big place and it can be very easy for someone to attend and never get plugged in. The production team provides a place for people to become a part of a community where they can be known, accepted, challenged, encouraged, and cared for. It provides us with opportunities to serve others and to grow in our walk with God. Creating an environment that leverages art and technology for creative expression requires a lot of coordination and team work. The production team creates an opportunity for people to develop skills they may not have otherwise had the opportunity to develop. It provides opportunities for people to learn leadership skills and to grow in character.
In summery, I love doing live production in church because it’s engaging, it’s expressive, it creates community, it takes teamwork, and it requires a posture of love and service to others. We must be careful that our motive is not to bring attention to ourselves, but to love others and to point people to Jesus. The conversations about why, when and how to use creativity in the church are healthy and we must continue to have them. I hope my perspective is helpful.