“Only God can make something out of nothing. That’s the amazing thing about how God makes things. He has the best imagination. He thinks up all the things we love in creation and makes them out of nothing—just with His words. Only God can make things this way. Do you realize that when God made a giraffe, there had never been one before? Not only can He make something from nothing, with only His words, the things He makes are TOTALLY unique! God has the best imagination. There had never been a bear before God made the first bear. There had never been a person before God made the first person.”
Mike Cosper, Sojourn’s Pastor for Worship and Arts, wrote those words for a lesson entitled, “God Has the Best Imagination” that our children’s ministry taught during the Fall of 2009. The truth in these words is simple, but it is also profound—God has the best imagination. But not only that! God has given us imagination so that we can be His image to the world. In other words, God wants the world to be captivated by His goodness and greatness. He wants to capture the world’s imagination. He gave us an imagination that He could capture, so we could join Him in thinking up ways to capture the imaginations of others.
That is one way of describing what we do in children’s ministry. We’re seeking to capture kids’ imaginations with the goodness, greatness, love, and mercy of God as He has shown it to us through his Son Jesus Christ. Here are ten ways we’ve been seeking to join God in capturing imaginations at Sojourn. I hope some of these ideas capture your imagination, too.
1. Illustrating God’s Wisdom. The book of Proverbs offers moving insights that confirm our own observations about the world and call us to clearer vision and action as well. The concept for this project was simple. Kids picked a single proverb from the book of Proverbs and illustrated it on a 5” x 7” piece of cardstock. We had Bibles available and opened to Proverbs. Kids searched on their own, or they worked from a printout with some especially fun proverbs to illustrate. We glued the typed text of the verse at the bottom of the card and filled a whole wall with the creative responses in frames. This project was created by artist Michael Winters.
2. Imagined Animals. This project corresponds with the “God has the Best Imagination” Bible lesson. Our kids gathered to listen to the Bible lesson and scripture passage from Genesis 1. Then, the kids were shown images of animals in nature, and they were instructed to use their own creativity to imagine new animals—ones they have never seen or heard of before. They brainstormed their ideas onto computer paper and then drew their ideas onto cold press watercolor paper. Once finished with the drawing, the kids painted the images. To finish the project, the kids collaborated with youth and adults in our community to name the animal, write a description of its character and habitat, and elaborate on the images by adding other media. This project was designed by Sojourn member Scott Ramser.
3. The 930 Art Center. In 2006, Sojourn Community Church (a 4-year-old church plant at the time) purchased the old Isaac Shelby Elementary School from Louisville’s public school system. It was our first building, and we didn’t want it to go unused every day of the week except Sunday. Because of the high concentration of artists and musicians in our community’s demographic, creating an art and music venue in our building was a natural way for us to extend our resources and gifts as a blessing to our city. So, we now own, operate, and meet on Sundays in an art gallery/music venue that we call the 930 Art Center (because it is located at 930 Mary Street). In our children’s hallway, the art center feel continues with kid-directed and kid-created art displayed throughout.
4. Creation Days. The first installation piece that we put in our children’s ministry hallway is the “Creation Days” paintings by Sojourn artist Sarah Hall. The paintings depict children acting out the days of creation in elaborate costumes as part of a play. The paintings capture what we believe about creativity and imagination in an amazing way. God creates, and He makes us with creative imaginations so that we might show his image to the world. In one of our classrooms, Sarah also designed a “water parade” mural, and our kids painted it—a giant paint by number—during one of our Sunday children’s ministry gatherings.
5. Advent Cyanotype Window Art. During Advent season, we’re reminded about how Jesus comes into our darkness as the light of the world. For this project, we taped cyanotype fabric on the ground, and children were encouraged to lie down around the fabric to reach toward the center. Then, they were traced by an adult leader. After exposure, the center of this fabric is bright white. It’s like the light of Christ! When we were finished, we were able to see an outline of each child reaching in celebration towards the light! This project was led by artist Katherine Valentine Groce.
6. Easter Crowns—From Suffering to Glory. For an Easter Sunday art project, we collected paper crowns (some from Burger King and some from a craft store). Then, our kids cut out thorns from brown construction paper. They glued the thorns on one side of the crown as a symbol of Jesus’ suffering and death. We talked to them about how His suffering led to glory. Then, we made the other side of the crown shine with jewels, glitter, stickers, markers, and crayons. The last step was fitting the crowns to little heads and using tape to keep them in place. Artists, Danielle Hammon and Jenna Schrock, designed this project.
7. Shrinky Dink Easter Cross. This project, like the “Imagined Animals” project was a collaboration between Sojourn visual artists and our children. The artists welded a freestanding, three-dimensional wire cross sculpture from copper wire. It was later decorated with Easter-themed Shrinky Dink art ornaments. The Shrinky Dink artwork was made when the children drew and colored on thin 4” x 5” sheets of Shrinky Dink plastic with bright colored pencils and/or permanent markers. The children were instructed to make colorful drawings related to the Easter and resurrection themes—a cross, Jesus on the cross, the empty tomb, Easter lilies, or pictures that represent life, love, spring, new life, dawn, “He is Risen!” or “Hallelujah!” Holes were punched in the drawings. Then, they were heated in an oven, shrinking them to one-third their original size. Finally, the artwork was attached to the sculpture cross. This project was designed by artist Robin Tillman.
8. Old Things Made New. This project teaches about how God takes our old broken selves, and He makes it new again (2 Corinthians 5:17). It involved collecting old toys from our kids. Then, we put the toys together in sculptured window boxes that are hung in our children’s wing. The colorful arrangements on the blue window boxes also include hidden Bible verses spelled out with toy blocks. This project was also designed by artist Robin Tillman.
9. What is the Church? Artists, Danielle Hammon and Jenna Schrock, collaborated on this learning center installation for our pre-K classroom. They built a table and painted it white with grey roadways. Then, they added wood models of buildings from our neighborhood—a grocery store, a school, homes, and the 930 Art center. Next, wooden pawns were painted red and placed among the cityscape to represent people. The interactive learning center was used to teach kids that the church is the people called out by Christ (painted red). The church is not a building. The church gathers at a building, and it can also gather in homes or at a workplace.
10. Art in the Park. Sojourn members have been taking their creative impulse out into our neighborhood for as long as I have been a part of our church body. One way we have done this is through “Art in the Park” events, where artists work with kids in the neighborhood on a collaborative art project. One project involved instructing children to paint a picture of a home on a canvass. Then, the canvasses were joined together to create a picture of the neighborhood.
“Instead of making things from nothing, with just our words, we make things with the stuff that God has made. We take clay and make sculpture. We take crayons and markers and draw pictures. We take wood and steel and make instruments to play music. We can’t make things like God made, but we can use what God has given to us. God has the very best imagination, but He’s given us great imaginations and great things to work with, too.”
The point of this article isn’t just to share what we’ve done. I hope that these ten projects have caused your imagination to run. Cultivate that impulse. Stop right now and write down your ideas. The Lord has given you imagination to capture His goodness and greatness. Schedule a time to come back to your ideas, and dream up how you can put them into practice. If you get stuck, find some more inspiration at sojournvisualarts.com. May the God of wonder and imagination be with you as you create!