When I first arrived to Los Angeles, California (circa 2004) to be a high school pastor I was surprised with the large majority of students in my youth ministry who were young artists. The problem was— I was a white guy, who grow up in the suburbs of Minneapolis, and was an ex-jock and ex-frat dude who wasn’t artsy and didn’t have much exposure to other students clusters. Bottom line: the young artists made it very clear that they didn’t like their new “jock” youth pastor. Needless to say, the first few months of ministry was rough because many of my young artists made fun of my jock-tendencies/style and I had a difficult time connecting with the young artists. I kept asking myself: How will I ever connect with these young artists when I am not an artist?
Something had to change– either I resign or I figure out how to minister to this group of young artists.
So I decided to spend a lot of time learning about the young artist culture. LA is filled with a lot great opportunities for a young artist, so I had a lot of fun exploring environments young artists hang out at. In fact, I began to really learn to love what my young artists valued. Slowly, I started to not only understand this young artist student cluster but started to deeply appreciate what they offered the church.
David Kinnaman in You Lost Me argues that there is a cluster of students that the Church is losing. This cluster of students are the designers, young artist and musicians. Why is the Church losing the young artist? Maybe because ministry leaders are not sure how to connect with artists and unsure how to give artists avenues to create and express their artist talents?
For some reason, our youth ministries have not allowed the next generation of artists and creatives to unleash their talents. I will admit– it is very difficult understanding artists if you are not one. Artists only hang out with other artists. Artists are highly opinionated and see the world and life very differently– which makes them great artists.
The church needs to find the young artists in our youth groups and empower them to create so they can influence both the church and culture at large.
Justin Bieber got his start at 15. Picasso got his start at 17. So let’s give our aspiring and young artists in our churches opportunities to create.
So how can youth pastors and youth ministries enable creative Christian students to express their God-given creative talents?
My 2 part answer: 1. Get to know the artists in your youth group 2. Create space for them to create.
Here are some practical ways to give young artists opportunities to create:
- Buy video production and graphic design software. Get the appropriate software and empower students to edit videos and handle all the graphic design for the youth ministry. Get them to produce and edit youth group videos. Get them to design youth group brochures, websites, t-shirt, etc..
- Buy musical instruments. For some odd reason, students gravitate towards musical instruments namely, guitar, drums, piano, keyboard, etc. Just give students an opportunity to express and showcase their musical talent.
- Buy canvas and paint. Go to Joanne Fabrics and get a lot of canvas and paint. Encourage students to paint and create images that reflect who God is and does.
- Offer lessons. Invite professional artists to give lessons at your church. This will allow students to explore and hone their artistic talents. Here are some possible lessons to offer: guitar, drum, painting, graphic design and pottery.
- Host a talent show. Students always love to show off their talents. So once a year encourage students to showcase their abilities. In fact, invite the entire church and community so everyone can see how artistically talent this next generation really is. Also make sure a student films the entire show.
My 2 questions to my youth pastor friends:
1. Do you have young artists in your youth ministry? If so who connects with them? And how do you connect with them?
2. How are you creating space for them to create?