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Artistry:  A Story to Tell

Don’t Do a Christmas Production!

(Build a Production Company Instead)

Currently Out of Favor

In many contemporary worship leadership circles big seasonal productions have fallen into disfavor. When I ask music directors and worship leaders why, several reasons for this are given:

  • Big productions demand too much of everything—money, time, talent, energy.
  •  They are designed for believers and are of no interest to unbelievers.
  • They are old school and their time is past.
  • They have been corrupted. They are: showbiz, not ministry; pride, not humility; performance, not worship.
  •  They take over the church calendar to the exclusion of other ministries.
  • They take too much energy away from regular worship services.
  • They just wear everyone out.

I agree with many of these criticisms. However, I am not an iconoclast—a reformer who destroys corrupted things and replaces them with new things. I am a renewalist—a reformer who seeks to purge impurities, restore artistic and spiritual integrities, and make wrong things right again. My views are based on the reform of big seasonal productions, not the destruction of them.

Can it be done? Yes.

Should it be done? Only you can answer that question for your own ministry.

The Secret to the Renewal of Seasonal Production Ministry

The secret is simple—Don’t just do a production—build a production company.
A production demands a company just as sports demand teams with all positions covered and all coaches and trainers in place. Building the production company is perhaps the most fun I have had in 40+ years of local church leadership. It has always been a thrill to me to find, to validate, to disciple, to collaborate, and to be enriched by the skillful craftsmen the Lord has given me to tell His story.

My model for a local arts ministry is the studio system in the Golden Age of Hollywood. In the 1930’s and 1940’s the major studios each produced a movie a week—50 films each year! Today’s Hollywood community cannot come close to this output. How did they do it? Each studio was a complete movie factory, totally contained in one company. Warner Bros, Paramount, MGM, Universal, RKO, and Columbia each employed their own writers, producers, directors, designers, technicians, builders, actors, and music producers. They all went to work every day making films.

My first dive into this talent pool was in 1980 when we formed Bethel Arts Ministries at Bethel Life Center in Wichita, KS. In our congregation I discovered our theatre director, our tech director, and our visual arts director. I appointed myself as musical arts director and we were on our way. We were our own “studio!” The Lord helped us establish “Bethel Arts” as a brand in the Wichita area.

This expansion of ministry is a simple matter of two things:
1. Finding the leaders already in the congregation and recognizing their callings.
2. Organizing them beyond the next production—creating a year-round production company.

What a joy it is to expand a “music ministry” into an “arts Ministry!” I call this a United Arts Ministry.

United Arts Ministry

Under the direct but expanded leadership of the Minister of Music, a United Arts Ministry should have four divisions:

  • Musical Arts Division
  • Dramatic Arts Division
  • Visual Arts Division
  • Literary Arts Division

In this way the wheel doesn’t have to be reinvented each time there is a production and the separate divisions can find their own ministries. Since much of this organizational work must be done to produce a staged major choir and orchestra event, music/worship leaders need to elevate their vision beyond production events to pastoral processes. Lay leadership is the key. A chairman is in charge of each division, thus forming a council to work with the Pastor and staff to make the creative talents of the church available to the ministry. Each Division would operate on its on schedule of events: concerts, exhibits, plays, publications, regular fellowships, training seminars and classes. Divisions come together for seasonal productions and for annual festivals and schools.

Here is the organization structure that has transformed our music ministries into arts ministries.

The missing link in Western theology is a deep appreciation for the incarnation and subsequent Christus Victor theme of how God incarnate won a victory over sin and death. Christus Victor was the primary atonement view of the early church…
(Webber, Robert E., Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative)


Musical Arts Division Chair                                                    Dramatic Arts Division Chair
Choir / Orchestra / Worship Teams                                     Actors / Directors
Youth and Children’s Music Leaders                                    Stage Craft and Tech People

Visual Arts Division Chair                                                       Literary Arts Division Chair
Artists / Photographers / Designers                                     Writers / Editors / Historian

From this group a leadership/planning team can be easily extracted:

Worship and Arts Pastor
Board Representative
Division Chairs
Divisional Representatives

A name for the ministry that communicates the passion and truth of the group is quite helpful. Here are names I have used:

Bethel Arts Ministries
Carolina Christian Arts
Southside Christian Arts
Cathedral Arts Ministries
Capitol Christian Arts

Ministry tag lines, mottos, and creeds are helpful in building the artistic community in the local church and a brand name in the outside community.

Touching Tampa Bay with Truth
(for in-house purposes I used this:)
Reclaiming Creativity in the House of God

Truth flows from the heart of God,
art from the heart of man.
When these two rivers flow as one,
light overcomes darkness and
some broken bit of creation is restored. (SRP)

We believe the arts are God’s gift to man for the expression of truth and beauty. We believe all truth is God’s truth and all beauty springs from His craftsmanship. We believe the Lord Jesus is the expressed image of God, the incarnation of truth and beauty and that all of mankind desperately needs this revelation of truth and beauty. As Artists United in Ministry, (ministry name) we pledge ourselves to empty our souls of sinful pride, to fill our hearts with Jesus, to join our hands together, and to infuse our works with truth. Holy Spirit, empower us and incarnate Jesus in our lives and our works of art.
Stephen Phifer


A permanent production company like this can go a long way toward countering the debilitating and corrupting influences listed above.

  • A permanent production company conserves resources—money, time, talent, energy.
  • Such a company establishes a “brand” of art in the community, attracting unbelievers.
  • This is a proven, multigenerational ministry—not old school or new—but a real school.
  • Under the leadership of pastoral artist, a permanent production company promotes ministry, humility, and worship.
  • A company like this organizes the church calendar around the mission of the church.
  • A permanent production company focuses energy on regular worship services, even in the holiday seasons.

Instead of wearing everyone out, the people are renewed.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer
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