The Need for Art in Youth Ministry: Art as Mission

IMG_9826This is the third of three articles regarding the need for art in youth ministry. In previous articles, we explored how to create a prayerful art workshop and how to introduce Bible journaling. This post addresses how to use art as a form of mission.

Our culture is all too often rushed and consumeristic, and as a church, we have a unique opportunity to create sacred times and spaces for art and creativity to emerge. The act of creating something not only links us to our Creative God, it can also lift spirits and empower the powerless. I have been inspired by the art outreach ministries of The Art Project Houston and the art program of The Stewpot in Dallas, programs that are introducing art to people in times of crises in order to bring about healing and hope. These long-term art programs offer the time and space for people who are homeless or otherwise in need to create and work through their thoughts in art. The programs empower people not only through the process of creation but also through fundraisers and even job opportunities. While these mission programs are amazing, they may be beyond the average youth ministry’s scale, especially for a ministry that is beginning to incorporate art. With that in mind, here are a three simple ways to introduce art as a mission project for youth:

  1. Sell Student Art as a Fundraiser for Missions. Youth are innately creative. Tap into this creativity by having students create artwork with the intention of selling the art for missions. An easy way to start is to have students search on Pinterest for ideas of low-cost, painted crafts your ministry could duplicate (Here’s a pinboard to get you started). Another idea is to purchase small canvases, basic colors of acrylic paint and low cost paint brushes from your local craft supply store. Students can paint inspirational artwork, words, or phrases. Consider connecting the artwork to a theme that relates to your intended mission. To sell the items, either set an affordable fixed price or have a silent auction, allowing congregation members to bid on the artwork with proceeds going to the mission fund.
  2. Host an Art Camp for the Community. Instead of just having a traditional Vacation Bible School this summer, host an art camp. Have students and adults work together to teach local children art fundamentals such as the color wheel, drawing with dimension, poetry writing, whatever gifts your students would like to share. Invite both your artistic and non-artistic students to participate alongside the children. The most important outcome of this kind of camp is for children to build a positive connection with another Christian leader, and students get the opportunity to be role models. Provide a safe place to create and a few snacks. (Here’s another pinboard to get you started.)
  3. IMG_9823Host an Art Workshop in a Nursing Home. Painting parties with a host that teaches guests step-by-step to make a specific painting are popular and relatively simple to recreate as a mission experience. Whether it is a nursing home, homeless shelter, special needs group, or another oft forgotten community, your youth ministry can build relationships and create community through art. A few tips for success: Always practice making the artwork and guiding someone through it ahead of time to make sure you know how much time it takes to create at a relatively slow pace. Introduce the workshop by explaining that the goal is not perfection but to enjoy the process. This is ministry, so open in prayer and if possible, tie the artwork to a devotional. Have youth both lead and create alongside others. Allow for at least 30-45 minutes of set up and clean up plus 90-120 minutes of painting.

 

With the basic supplies you may already have around the church, even just paper and craft paint, you can open opportunities for creative expression. I hope you have enjoyed this three part series on the need for art in youth ministry. I would love to hear your stories and see pictures if you have found ways to make art a part of your ministry.

About Erin Sloan Jackson

Rev. Erin Sloan Jackson is a lifelong United Methodist, happily married to Dennis, and mom to four incredible kids. Erin is passionate about pastoral self-care, creating art, and coaching youth ministers. She is a certified youth minister, serves in young adult ministry, and will be commissioned as a Deacon this June.