When someone makes profession of faith at our church, after all of the important theological questions are answered, my favorite question to ask is, “What talents or abilities might you be able to share with others in our church?” The answers are what you’d expect: “I like kids, so I’d be good working in the nursery or teaching Sunday school”; “I own a business, so I think I could be a good deacon”; “I can sing, so perhaps I could join a praise team.” But never once have I heard, “I can paint” or “I can sew banners” or “I take great photographs.” That’s too bad, as visual artists have much to contribute to our worship of God and our work in God’s world. Here’s one way to involve people with those kinds of gifts.
Create a Photo Club
Our club typically has fifteen to twenty members, ages fifteen to sixty-plus. Meetings cover all kinds of topics: composition, color, shutter speed and aperture control, portrait photography, and macro (very close-up) shooting. According to Brad Patterson, a member of the club, it works best when there is some structure to the meetings: “We sometimes do a monthly ‘scavenger hunt’ to give people something to focus their photography on as well as to push us into learning new skills and techniques. Then we all share our photos at the next meeting.”
One of the highlights for club members is seeing their work on the “big screen” during worship services. “The fact that the photos can sometimes be used to tie into the theme of a worship service is really cool,” said Brad.
One ongoing assignment is to submit photos that speak to the concept of “transformation” to illustrate our church’s tagline: “Being transformed to live and love like Jesus.” The chosen photos are then used as backdrops for the standard set of projection images.
Another recent assignment was to illustrate two very different psalms with photographs: Psalm 104—a psalm of praise, and Psalm 39—a psalm of lament. The idea was for the images to stay on the screen while the words of the psalm slowly appear superimposed below the image—helping worshipers to meditate on the psalm.
As with so many things we do, joy happens when we have opportunities to use our abilities as God intended.