In my years in ministry, and in the few different churches I have served in, I have experienced all kinds of different programs, ministries and ways of "outreach." I have seen and participated in some very creative events and programs and I have seen some very gifted and creative people living out their gifts and talents. But after a bit of time I have always felt like the same people or at least the same type of people are doing the creating and expressing. That we will pick a few genres, I guess we will call them, of talent and go searching for it. I think this is very prevalent in many organizations and businesses, but I'll chat at this from my perspective and time within the church. Obviously the music ministry is a top billed arena in the church, so we go looking for the musical talent pool and we might come away with a pretty strong music ministry or whatever you want to call it. Then there is drama, I myself have a passion for this and have often participated, so we go looking for actors, directors and the such, which can lead us to a pretty decent drama ministry. More recently we have had an influx of painting and drawing being sought after within the church, so we go searching for and inviting these types of artists into the realm. Now we might have a pretty good expression of this talent represented among us, which is great. With all of our advancement in technology it would be crazy if we didn't go searching for the "techies" amongst us and see if they could start up that certain kind of ministry. So recently when I was at the church planter's assessment center and we had to do the project of putting together a church plant, we were asked to put together the essential people to start our church. You know, the kids pastor, the worship (music) person, possibly a youth person, maybe a small groups person and maybe an administrator or two. I think this is good stuff and I have seen some very talented people and some amazing ministries doing their giddy up, but yeah I have a big but I need to share. But the thing that has bothered me, as I have thought on it and have had a tension build in me, I have noticed only SOME talented people find their voice and THOSE selected ministries prevail. Or I have seen many people misplaced and asked to fill these roles and so these ministries either fail or become mediocre. And then of course there are people who burn out and become disillusioned with the church, but that is for another time and topic. So now we might have upwards of thousands of people watching these few artists expressing their talents or we will occasionally invite everyone to participate in these ways of expressing themselves. Again I think this is good, but not everyone is an actor, musician , painter/drawer, or computer graphics person. So I guess they try this stuff or sit out? I wonder if it would look different if our value wasn't the arts themselves, but the people? What happens if we just said. "How do you express yourself, what is it that you love to do?" I wonder if our churches would become more diverse and more vibrant? If we took our facilities and said, "We are doing an arts camp and we are teaching whatever it is YOU teach." I'm not sure how this would all look or how how exactly it could be done. I'm just posing the question, maybe you could wrestle with me on how this might look. All I know is that God has wired each of us uniquely and given us all unique talents and gifts. So if we value people, all people, then we should have a pretty diverse and unique looking community, right? I know that for some time I have been frustrated with people just attending church, but I wonder if one of the reasons is because that's the only option they've been given. "Come and watch what we do and if you want to get involved with what WE ARE doing, then feel free to join us." It's a bit limiting, unintentionally or intentionally we have given them our options.
The community I am apart of has tried, with some really good success and some struggles, to value people and their uniqueness. We've probably done this the best with our kids and it has been a joy to see the beauty that has come of it. We're not perfect, but it has been a joy to throw ourselves into this arena. I'm hoping we will take even more steps this way with our middle school students this year ( My leadership here would probably help, being this is where I spend some time) and hopefully we will see this start to take place amongst the rest of our community as well. It's just been on my heart a lot lately and especially when I see people "sitting out" and not feeling they have a voice. This is probably one of the things that has haunted me since my childhood, seeing people being excluded unintentional or not. I hate it, I hate seeing the look on someone's face as they sit alone or feel left out. And sometimes it's not because they weren't invited to participate, but they might have been invited to participate in our thing, to which they have no passion or voice in. Going into a time of worship where we say, "Worship however you want or how you feel like expressing yourself," sounds kind of chaotic, but I wonder if there is a way. I'm hoping this fall within our middle school community we will empower, encourage, and at least seek to allow middle school students to be who God has designed them to be and not what we might have limited them to be. I don't want to give them a few options, but give them a place to be themselves and tell them not to have A voice, but to specifically use THEIR voice. We often seem to think that certain communities have more talent or better talent than we do, but maybe we just have limited the scope in which types of talent can be expressed? Maybe we have valued certain arts and talents above the rest, and we need to look to valuing people, all people? So instead of our definition of arts and talents we would, no matter how weird or quirky it might look, allow people to live out their God given artistic design and talents. I hope as the year starts and progresses for our middle school community, and our whole community for that matter, we will become very unique. Not because of what a few of us do, but because of how unique we ALL are.