I know a lot of my posts recently have played to the right-brained among us, so here is some quantitative research for my left-brained colleagues….
Some churches in our tribe are more open to integrating the arts  in worship than others, but I wanted to know what people REALLY think about the arts in worship in Churches of Christ. So, in September 2016, I launched an online snowball sampling survey through Facebook as research for my Doctor of Ministry program at ACU. It was designed to explore attitudes and beliefs about the arts in worship by members of Churches of Christ. The goal was to collect between 300-400 responses but within one day the survey had grown to nearly 1,300 responses! I think I struck a nerve.
65% of the respondents were women, 35% were men, and 75% consider themselves to be artistic or creative on some level. However, when asked whether they feel creative at church their responses were mixed (Table 1). In the same way, Table 2 shows the mixed response to the question, “My church is welcoming and engaging of arts and artists,” where nearly one third of the respondents chose the neutral option. Both of these questions would have been more appropriate in an interview format where follow-up questions could have been asked. Further research is needed in this area and it would be interesting to compare the new data with the research of Andrew Greeley who argues there is a negative correlation between church attendance for Protestants and artistic imagination. According to his research, Catholics do not experience this kind of creative impediment.
Table 1: I feel creative when I am at church.
Table 2: My church is welcoming and engaging of arts and artists.
The results became more decided when respondents were asked about the ability of the arts to communicate, help worshipers engage during church, and remember the message of the sermon. Over 90% of respondents said they agree or strongly agree that the arts are able to communicate in ways other methods cannot communicate (see Table 3). Seventy-two percent of respondents acknowledged that the arts help them pay attention better in church, and 83% agree or strongly agree that the arts help them remember the message of the sermon. While 75% agree or strongly agree that creating art during worship helps children and teens better engage in worship (see Table 4).
Table 3: The arts are able to communicate in ways other methods cannot communicate.
Table 4: Creating art during church helps our children and teens better engage in worship.
The survey also addressed some of the objections to utilizing the arts in worship. Only 19% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that creating art on stage during worship is a distraction, while 55% disagreed or strongly disagreed. Nearly 26% responded with the neutral choice to this question, which could suggest they do not hold an opinion or they have not had the opportunity to witness art being created during worship. Only 9.5% agreed or strongly agreed that they perceive artists as performers who want attention, while over 70% disagreed with this statement. Finally, over 85% of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed that the arts have no place in Churches of Christ (Table 5).
Table 5: The arts have no place in Churches of Christ.
The views about the arts in the life and mission of the church were the most encouraging. Over 77% agreed or strongly agreed that utilizing the arts in worship will allow more people to use their gifts at church. A foundational belief of the Stone-Campbell movement is the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5). Therefore, encouraging artists to use their gifts at church will open up space for more people to participate in worship. In addition, 89% of respondents think the life of the church can be enriched by the arts. From a missional point of view, 86.5% of respondents agree or strongly agree that artists and churches should collaborate to spread the gospel (see Table 6), and 90% believe the arts can help our culture connect with God (Table 7).
Table 6: Church leaders and artists should collaborate to spread the gospel.
Table 7: The arts can help our culture connect with God.