Suzybower's Blog

Creative ideas for church and youth ministry.

Archive for art

Shibboleth: Theological Reflection using Art

A little while ago there was a piece of artwork in the entrance hall of the Tate Modern called ‘Shibboleth’. In essence it was a giant crack in the floor stretching the entire length of the space. It was pretty impressive! I was inspired by the meaning behind this piece and based one of my Sunday morning youth group sessions on it. I think it was particularly suited to young people aged 14+, but some of the younger ones did engage with it. I also think it would be suitable for an adult audience. Have a little look for yourself what the art is all about (check this out), and then feel free to use the study I created for it:

Information sheet – Work through the blue boxes first, followed by the pink then the purple.

Blank sheets for people to fill in

The Tate Modern often have really impressive pieces of art in the Turbine Hall, so if you’re interested then keep checking up on what they have there. I plan to take my YP’s sometime if they want to go.

Pixilated Jesus: creative corporate worship

This is a corporate worship idea which involves everyone doing a little bit of painting. Everyone gets a little slip of paper which looks something like this, and has a code on the back (e.g. A1):

They paint what they see onto a piece of A4 card. The code on the back is then used to put the finished paintings in order, onto a grid on the floor. As people add their pictures, it slowly becomes clear that what they have painted is a small section of a picture of Jesus. When everyone has added their painting there will be a giant montage of Jesus.

Here are some possible themes and reflections you could draw from this experience:

– Body of Christ: That individually we make up different parts of the same body (1 Cor 12).

– Creation: At the end of most days in the creation story God said ‘it was good’. But when creation was finished with everything together God said that ‘it was very good’. We were also created in the image of a trinitarian God, and we are therefore intrinsically relational. We were made not just to bring glory to God on our own, but instead called to worship God together. The combined effect of the finished mural was far greater than the individual parts.

– Sometimes we can’t see the point of what God is doing at the time, but looking back it becomes clear He knows where He’s going with it all. He’s got the big picture in his mind.

So here’s the detail of how to get it all ready…

– Find a detailed picture of Jesus. Either a close up of his face (like the one used for the Passion publicity), or one of him on the cross would work well.

– Make the picture greyscale, and perhaps increase the contrast so that it is easier to distinguish the grey areas.

– Split the picture up into a grid and blow it up.

– Print it out, cut it up, and write the code on the back:

Thanks go to Kat Orr who used this idea at Leading Edge a few years ago.


Psalm 139

What an amazing discovery, I’m pretty excited.

It’s a bit like a doodle, but with words = wordle.

Basically there’s a website where you can type in some text or a url and get a wordle (e.g. the image shown above). You can then edit this and make it into whatever style you like.

My initial thoughts were that this would make a great accompaniment to a reading or sermon/talk. Or you could print them out onto card so that people could add their own wordles/doodles as you’re speaking. I’ve always been a bit of a doodler, so I love it when people leave space for that kind of thing on their handouts.

Anyway, have a little play at

Thanks go to Steve for introducing me to this wonderful thing!

Shooting Jesus: Easter Resource

Jesus' triumphant entry

For the past couple of years I’ve used a resource over Easter called ‘Shooting Jesus’. Check out the website to find out more about the inspiration for the project and about the people behind the whole thing. But basically it’s a collection of 6 photos portraying scenes from the Easter story in a modern day setting. There are discussion questions to accompany each photo, and a resource pack with ideas about what it can be used for (including primary school assemblies/lessons if I remember correctly). The photos can be downloaded free, or you can buy the pack.

I used this resource a couple of years ago as part of an easter alternative service. We explored the story through the photos, discussion, sung worship, and a video clip from Jesus of Nazareth (with the sound muted and another song played over the top). It seemed to go down well, and was particularly engaging for the table of young people. Some of their comments were really perceptive (and they loved all the conceptual arty stuff!). I used the resource again the following year in a youth group setting – and again it went down well.

If you want to use the resource for an audience older than primary school age, then it may be a good idea to alter some of the discussion questions. Let me know if you want a copy of the ones we used.

Something that would have been nice to do if we had the space and the right setting would be to put the photos up at different stations around the room. Then at each station you could have discussion/creative worship/multimedia stuff. I think it could be quite powerful to feel like you are walking with Jesus on a journey through his last few weeks on Earth.

The Resurrection and Ascension

Again, thanks go to Ben Bell for being part of this project, then introducing it to our PFG meeting and letting us have a little sneak preview.

Answers on a postcard (icebreaker type thing)

Things needed: lots of postcards or images

You have to be fairly dedicated to the cause for this one as it involves a slight obsession with Paperchase and other similar enterprises (which, if you’re anything like me, is not such a chore).

Basically, for the last couple of years on passing the aforementioned shops I have made my way to the postcard stands and brought a few which caught my eye. The ones that are fairly abstract, or could be interpreted in a few different ways work well.

Once your collection of postcards is fairly sizable you can use it as great tool to spark of discussion. Put the images out on display and ask people to choose one which represents their answer to questions such as:

– How has your week been?

– What is your personality like?

– What is your relationship with God like at the moment?

– How do you see God?

– How do you see church?

– How have you found this session?

– How are you feeling about this weekend away.

– etc. etc. You get the idea.

Once people have chosen a postcard to answer the question, ask them to share their thoughts with the rest of the group, or with the person next to them. That’s it – simple as.

This is a very visual and conceptual activity, so try and make sure there are other things in the rest of the session to engage with other learning styles.

Thanks go to Ben Bell for planting this idea during a PFG meeting some 2 years ago.

Another String Thing

Things needed: String, paper, cellotape.

The other week at our cafe style service, we were focussing on the story of the woman at the well. The theme of the service was an encounter with Jesus, leading to sharing the good news with others. As a response to this people had the opportunity to respond in a number of different ways – one of which involved string again….

I encouraged people to think about their journey with God, and to map this out using a piece of string on paper. So for example they could map out moments in their lives when things weren’t so great with God by making that bit a messy ball of string. Or the string could go along flat at times when their faith in God was fairly stable etc.

We then asked people to tell their story to one another using this as a tool. Some great conversations came out of this time, and I was particularly touched by my young people’s honesty in talking about some of the high points and low points of their faith.

Also, if you’re looking at the story of the woman at the well, then there’s a brilliant video by Student Life that can be found on the Kore website:

Using creativity for reflection

Things needed: general arty bits and pieces, nature.

Having arty materials on hand so people can respond to, or reflect on sessions is a great way for people to express what’s being going on inside their heads. People all learn in different way, so it’s not always good for everyone, but I’ve found that there are always some people within each group who really value having space to respond creatively.

Our church recently had an away day, where we were looking at the ‘centrifugal kingdom’ – in a nutshell, not being inwardly focused but instead looking to how we can engage with people outside of the church. For the last session of the day people had the option of how they wanted to respond, including in an arty way, or through discussion, or just going for a walk either with a group or on their own.

I had been asked to run the arty thing, so I just brought along a load of different paints and materials. I didn’t direct people much, but instead let them respond in whatever way they wanted to. One lady wasn’t arty in a painting and drawing way, so I suggested that she collected different things from the grounds, and did something with them. We also had a couple of children who wanted to do the arty stuff, which was great.

Overall I guess my reflections were:

– An arty response can be so simple to facilitate, and if left really loose can enable people to be as creative as possible.

– It engages all ages.

– It’s not only for people who can draw or paint. Everyone is creative because we were made in the image of a creative God.