I believe there are two areas of focused development that are absolutely crucial to the future of the church. The first is leadership development and the second is artist development. Why leaders and artists? It is the leaders that will lead your groups and teams of 4-16 people. It is the artists that will lead and facilitate our large group worship and celebration service that will include hundreds and sometimes thousands.
At Community Christian Church we have been very intentional about the development of artists. Our artist development falls into two categories: a formal process and an informal process for developing artists.
Formal Artist Development
The idea of a School for the Arts came to me several years ago when I heard about a Rock School sponsored by a local music store Rock School was designed for the person who once played in the school band or maybe a garage band, but now that you are an adult you don’t have a way to connect with other artists. Once signed up they would take a guitar player and put him with a bass, percussion and a couple vocalists and they would be a band. They named their band and the music store had instructors that worked with them to develop a music set they could perform. At the end of the semester and weekly rehearsals instead of a recital they had a rock concert. The store rented out a small auditorium complete with sound, lights and smoke machines. Everyone invited their family and few friends; and with about 7 or 8 bands they ended up with a crowd of a couple hundred people! Next, they brought in the local cable TV to add some hype for the concert and everyone got to be a rock star for a night! I loved it! I began to imagine what if a church sponsored this and then was able to use the best of these musicians?
I shared this dream with Eric and Rachel on our creative arts team and they loved the idea and wanted to make it happen. About five years ago we started the CCC School for the Arts. The School for the Arts has offered lessons for the Bassoon, Clarinet, Flute, Guitar, Oboe, Percussion, Drums Piano, Saxophones, Trumpet and more. You can take Voice, Acting, Painting, Playwriting, Stage Presence, Intro to Photoshop or Web Design and more! The School for the Arts currently has over 400 students and is now self-supporting. We believe so much in this idea that we built a $2 million Children & Arts Center at our Romeoville site.
Informal Artist Development
Part of our philosophy at CCC is that we never hire people who are just artists. You may be thinking, “hold it, I thought this was a stump speech for churches to value artists.” We only hire people who are both leaders and artists, or perhaps a leader with a love for artists. It is these leaders that make sure that we constantly apprenticing or shadowing. Apprenticing and shadowing is our informal artist development process.
At one of our celebration services recently, you would have heard the worship leader say during a transition, “for the next chorus I’m going to have my apprentice Chris come forward and lead this song”. Then, the person who you thought was singing back up and playing the guitar came forward and leads just one song while the more experienced worship leader backed him up. That kind of experience is invaluable for the developing artist. This kind of shadowing happens with musicians, producers, actors, tech people and more. This highly relational and informal development is crucial for raising up artists.
When our Student Community made the transition from a single site ministry to multi-site they developed a brand new band for the new site. How did they do it? First they asked everyone in the band to find an apprentice; someone who would be an understudy in playing the same instrument. Some of the band members found understudies quickly, others needed some help from the Student Community staff. Over the course of the summer at every Student Community large group they would have the “first string” band play a set and then they would have the understudies play a set. This gave new musicians a chance to practice their art in front of a crowd. The result of this process was a tremendous success as our Student Community ended up with two bands to lead large group worship experiences at two locations rather than just one and were able to reach a lot more students!
In the last 8 years Community Christian Church has gone from a one location church with two services and 800 attenders to a multi-site church with eight locations, twenty services and about 4500 attenders. The only way we can provide that many worship experiences every weekend is thru our ability to attract artists and being intentional about developing them.