Arts ministry is an outreach to graduate and undergraduate students, as well as faculty, in music, creative writing, dance, visual arts and design, film and media, theater – creating witnessing communities for these often under-served population groups. The arts ministry also invites these artists to help in our communication to the whole campus – finding new and creative ways to tell the Jesus story to today’s contemporary culture.
Arts ministry is an outreach to graduate and undergraduate students, as well as faculty, in music, creative writing, dance, visual arts and design, film and media, theater – creating witnessing communities for these often under-served population groups. The arts ministry also invites these artists to help in our communication to the whole campus – finding new and creative ways to tell the Jesus story to today’s contemporary culture. Here are some examples of arts ministry on campus in the Great Lakes West Region:
Indiana University (IU)
Michelle Robinson reports: “I’ve continued to be thankful for our monthly arts dinners in the fine arts school. Our November dinner was another exciting time . . . as my students and I were serving the meal that night, we looked at each other and said: ‘I don’t recognize most of these students.’ God is using these humble dinners to allow us to engage more and more students in the fine arts school.”
There are two witnessing arts communities, with weekly meetings, functioning at IU now. One primarily serves visual artists and media/film folks, while the other serves music students. Michelle’s “Spirituality and Art Discussion Group” has seen great outreach fruit, both to Christian students and to spiritual seekers.
Columbia College, Art Institute of Chicago, and Roosevelt University
Dave and Erin Foster are creating a very interesting arts community that simultaneously serves students from many colleges at once. They have weekly Large Groups which all students attend, plus many Bible study/small groups scattered among the various campuses.
Dave and Erin are participating in the national “Chapter Planting Cohort Program,” and are working closely with Dr. Colin Harbinson, international specialist on the integration of faith and arts, as their “planting coach.” The relationship-building aspect of the community that is forming in Chicago’s Loop is genuine, and benefits from dinners, which the Fosters host in their home, as well as retreats and special training times.
Two groups of music students, who had organized weekly Bible studies, have become an active part of the InterVarsity work on campus. One group meets at noon, and is primarily designed to reach out to non-believers. The other meets after dinner, and is a mix of undergraduate and graduate students. In addition, a large number of artistic students are involved in the on-going chapter activities, not to mention the Gospel Choir activity that Latina Williams serves. Latina Williams and Phil Nordquist are the staff at DePaul. At a recent Saturday lunch planning session, ten student leaders eagerly planned for the arts ministry work during the next school year.
Northwestern University (NU)
For the past three years, there have been weekly meetings of the NU Arts Group. This year, this group was led by two grad students in music, both of whom are highly respected musicians, as well as being energetic spiritual leaders of the NU InterVarsity arts community. The group primarily serves music students, although there have been theater/film and journalism students involved as well.
Forming real community, with a special desire to reach out to include non-church students, takes several forms. One is simply social: post-recital/performance parties are a regular occurrence, as are outings to see performances together. This group also discusses very practical arts subjects, such as performance anxiety, handling the stress of auditions and rejections, at its meetings. These discussions not only connect the students to what the Bible says about stress and rejection, but also serve the felt needs of all arts students. Including faculty and professional working artists as guests in these discussions has proved very exciting, especially since there are many famous performers in Chicago and on NU’s faculty.
University of Illinois
Eriko Ishitsuka reports: “While attending School of Leadership Training during the summer of 2007, Sophia, a junior violin performance major, realized that she was called to build up a community among artists on campus. Praise God for her obedience in organizing the group this semester, and for the enthusiastic response of artists that are eager to support each other through prayer and Bible study.”
University of Illinois–Chicago
An arts group has already started meeting, headed up by a senior film major named Jerry, who is also the Large Group coordinator for the UIC Asian-American Chapter. There are many students at this university that are majoring in non-arts subjects (engineering, pre-med, accounting, etc.) but who still have a real passion to use their arts gifts. So Jerry has started a bi-weekly meeting to serve his chapter friends, whether they are planning careers in the arts or pursuing arts as a secondary interest.
University of Evansville and Southern Indiana University
Staff workers Kevin and Esther Wilson report that they have had small groups of theater majors meeting at both schools for several years. These groups are student led arts communities that pray and study the Bible together.
Arts Community serving the Great Lakes West region:
At Wisconsin’s Cross Training Fall Conference
For the seventh year, the conference included a track to equip artistic students to live out their calling to be Christians and artists. But more important, the seeds we have been planting in Wisconsin arts students and their chapters are bearing great fruit.
During the plenary sessions, there were some excellent dramatic sketches – performed by students from Milwaukee School of Engineering– that communicated powerfully about the practical realities of being a Christian on campus. There was also some powerful on-stage worship drawing done by a senior from Carthage College, as well as an arts corner at the back of the room, where students could go to express their worship and their prayers – and dozens did so.
Bob Wolniak in Milwaukee and Chad Britten at Carthage College have been nurturing the use of drama, dance, and visual communication for years, and the impact of their work is clearly seen.
Through Resource Sharing
There was a half-day meeting in Evanston in October, 2007, at which staff from around the region discussed the need to share resources about communication and meeting/event planning. Shannon Marion and Robert Burdett have been encouraging the formation of this resource network for years. Jeff Yourison and Scott Wilson, both from our National Service Center in Madison, have agreed to help us create a simple and practical plan to share good ideas from one campus to another.
Across the Region
More and more chapters are experimenting successfully with visual and dramatic sketches as part of evangelism. To name just a few: at Valparaiso University, Purdue University, and Indiana University, chapters have created outreach events that allow for interaction among our InterVarsity students and those who are attracted to the activities presented. During chapter camps at Cedar Campus, many plenary coordinators have been creative in the way they add to the power of the expositions through application questions and activities, which are often visual and/or interactive. At many chapters, Large Group Coordination teams regularly utilize film clips, visual arts, and dramatic sketches as part of their presentations.
Many of us hope that what we are now seeing in ministry to artists and ministry using the arts to improve communication is just a beginning. Let us pray that InterVarsity’s ministry will continue to grow in the expression of God’s creativity which he has shown us in his Word and the world.
You can make a direct financial donation to support InterVarsity’s Dick Ryan and his work with students in the Arts in the Great Lakes West Region by following this link.