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Four ways to support Christians in the arts

Expert advice and ideas on how to support artists in your church or local community

In July 2018 we hosted a roundtable for Christians working in, or supporting those in, the arts. This included church leaders, filmmakers, Christians in fashion and the fine and performing arts, and representatives from Morphē Arts and the Arts Centre Group. 

The conversation revolved around three main topics: what leadership in the arts looks like, the challenges facing Christians in the arts, and how churches – both as a body and a collection of individuals – can support and encourage those in the arts. 

If you’re looking for ideas on how to support artists in your church or local community, here are four suggestions, based on our conversation with the experts at the roundtable. We have found that there are some elements of an artist’s life that require tailored leadership development plans. 

1. Emotional support 

Many artists feel that their church community does not understand or value their work. Consider reading a book or magazine read by Christian artists, to find out more about their influences and understand the world in which they live. One example would be the Art and Christianity Journal, which is £3 per issue or free for their members. 

Support artists in your community by attending their plays, concerts or gallery exhibitions. If there are no artists in your community, take a look at Morphē Arts to find Christian artists exhibiting near you.

Welcome artists into your church and provide affirmation of their vocation, whether they are working on explicitly Christian projects or not. Where appropriate, profile and share their work just as you would do for Christians in other positions of public leadership. 

2. Practical support

Many artistic careers require a large amount of physical space which can be hard to find or afford. Do you have office, rehearsal, studio or exhibition space that could be rented at low cost to artists in the community? 

If teenagers or students are considering a career in the arts, make your church a training ground by asking them to direct the Nativity play, create a sculpture for the church atrium, or design t-shirts for the holiday club team. Connect emerging artists with more established artists in your area and with networks like Morphē or Christians in Entertainment.

3. Philanthropic support 

With many artists working on commission or hopping from job to job, not knowing what their next project will be, one of the biggest needs is financial. There are ways to support artists financially that aren’t simply digging into your purse. 

If you or the church can afford it, can you provide office or studio space for free? Can you provide free advice on issues like marketing or taxes, or connect them with people who can? Do you know people who might be interested in serving as patrons to artists?

If you have artists in the church who are still emerging talents, could you commission work from them or help them find tent-making jobs to supplement their income? Could you fund them to go on a course, or attend an exhibit or performance that would enhance their interest? 

If you would like to ask an artist in the congregation to do some pro bono work for the church, don’t forget that this will take time away from their day job. Consider how you can honour their time and servant-heartedness by setting a time limit on their pro bono work or focusing on the most important project. 

4. Theological support 

In some parts of the arts sector, one of the challenges faced by artists is working alongside other artists who have political and activist agendas that do not match their own. Christians can find themselves engaging on issues that they feel ill-equipped to deal with. In some cases, this causes them to draw away from Christ. 

Christian artists need theological, academic, philosophical education to equip them to be voices for Christ in that environment. If you have a large group of artists in your church, could you hold an event or Bible study group specifically designed to equip them theologically? Can you direct them to books, journals, podcasts, etc. that would aid them? 

Are you a Christian working in the arts (whether that’s fine art, performing arts, fashion, or another discipline)? Read our article on five ways that Christians can be leaders in the arts.

About the author

Abi Jarvis is the public leadership coordinator at the Evangelical Alliance, seeking to equip Christians with the skills and confidence to be leaders in the places where God has called them. She has a BA in Ancient History and a MSc in Political Communication. Abi loves going to the theatre, watches too many American TV dramas and somehow became responsible for daily office exercises despite her hatred of all things sporty. Much to her dismay, she ticks the box for pretty much every stereotypical feature of a PK - a pastor's kid.

See more from Abi Jarvis

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