I could have titled this post “How to Make Art Work”, but I hate the double-entendre. Art shouldn’t work. Art sings. Art plays. Art pokes. But, for all that, sometimes nobody sings along, and few people enjoy it when they’re poked during church.
Here are 5 ways to keep from being fired, sidelined, or defrocked because of your art.


1. Tell people what you’re doing before you do it. Create anticipation, but also create space for them to wonder why this matters and what it might mean. If you’re going to write a weird western science fiction novel, you might make people aware of a couple of key themes in the novel beforehand. Let your people know you’re thinking about some deep stuff before you show them the weird stuff. Then, when they ask why your art “has to be so weird”, you can deal with the weirdness all on its own.


2. Explain why you’re doing what you’re doing. Tell your people what results you’re hoping for—honest conversation, cultivation of an arts community, provocation, etc. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that even though our ideas are out of reach for most people, they love them! But the truth is, the weirder you get, the more boring you are to the vast majority. Too often we create something unintelligible and pretend it’s interesting.


3. Find a “way in” or a hook to sell your idea. For example, if your idea can be connected to current events, scripture, or a significant occurrence in the life of your church, then make that connection. It’s not enough to simply make art. You must create an audience also.


4. Pre-populate your event, display, or unveiling with interested people. There are people in your church who will love what you’re doing. Tell those people about it beforehand and ask them to gather other likeminded people. Let everyone else see their excitement. Make your supporters part of the experience itself. Turn everything into an event—even a painting should have a crowd of people gathering around to see it for the first time, eagerly live-tweeting selfies, and inspired copycats. But, even more importantly, something like a website must absolutely have at least a thousand visitors to the beta before it goes “live” to everyone else. Don’t make people feel like they’re visiting a ghost town. Show them they’ve just stepped into the Cirque du Soleil.


5. Model what’s next with your project. Tell stories about what the art has prompted you to do with your friends. Teach people how to teach others about meaning in sculpture and film. Give them tools to help them pray differently because of artistic provocation.