By Lilly Lewin
So why is it that little kids get to have all the fun in church?
This is a question I often ask in my experiential worship workshops. It’s rhetorical, but I really wonder why we think that kids are the only ones who need to have crayons and paper in a worship gathering. The church I grew up in was the kind that had offering envelopes and welcome cards in the pews, along with the little golf pencils that fit into holes especially made for them. During worship, I would draw pictures on every card and envelope in my area of the pew. As I got bigger and could write, I would draw pictures and often write notes to the pastor and put them into the offering plate. Having been on church staff I know the church secretary probably was not happy about my artistic enthusiasm!
That was back in the dark ages before coloring sheets and kid’s bulletins were even thought about. Today we have those, and even kid’s worship bags with goodies that help kids stay quiet during the service, and sometimes they are even related to the theme of the sermon. But those of us who are “big people” now, we are invited to just sit and listen. What about those of us who are not auditory learners? What about those of us who need to do something while we listen so we can remember? Just because we grow up doesn’t mean we grow out of our learning style! And most of us are not auditory learners!
I am on a mission to see that everyone gets to do art during worship if they so desire. This started several years ago when I was a part of a congregation that had a kid’s table in the back for children to use during the service. It had lots of colored paper and baskets filled with crayons and markers! That gave me a brilliant idea! Let’s make an adult art table! In that particular church, there were rows of chairs in the front of the sanctuary and then round tables in the back. So I started bringing art supplies and paper and putting them on the back tables. Then I would sit back at one of the tables and draw in response to the sermon. I used to be a copious note taker, but it’s much more natural for me to draw a picture in response to the sermon and/or the singing worship rather than just take notes. There was a young man in the congregation who was an artist by profession, and my humble art supplies encouraged him and gave him permission to bring his own sketchpad and supplies to draw with during worship.
We really do need to give people permission to express themselves in worship beyond singing! We need to say it constantly, not just once. It can take many months before people really believe that it’s ok, even encouraged. I honestly didn’t embrace my artistic self in church until the last few years. After leading workshops on art in worship, I finally gave myself permission to BE an artist in worship. Now I bring my sketchbook, colored pencils or crayons to church, and draw both in response to the singing worship and to the sermon. Sometimes I use words and pictures and these help me remember the message. Recently I set up an art station at a church here in Nashville and the pastor said, “why don’t we get clip boards and hand them out to people who want to draw?” A fantastic idea. So we bought a bunch of colored pencils (Crayola are inexpensive and have great color) and some inexpensive clipboards and I handed them out as people came into the church like one might hand out bulletins. I’d ask, “would you like to draw during church?” This surprised some people but made others excited. Some would leave their doodles on the clipboards, some took them home, some drew amazing pictures in response to the sermon and would bring them for me to see. I started posting my worship drawings on my instagram feed with the hashtag #artinworship and #sermonsketching so other people could catch the idea that they too could draw, create art, in worship.
Regardless of your church flavor you can start putting art supplies in the pews or have a basket of clipboards with colored pencils attached in the foyer or narthex and have someone invite people to use them. An actual, real person needs to hand them out and invite people “to play.” Also if you have room in your worship space you can set up an art table with other art supplies and invite people to use them during worship. And remember, it definitely matters if you have the invitation from whoever is up front. We need to give everyone permission to express themselves in worship beyond singing and encourage the artists among us to share their gifts.
find me on instagram @lillylewin and at freerangeworship.com