ARISE: How an Art Program Created Unity

Jacob Eckeberger
October 4th, 2016

“I love art projects. I want to go to the art program! Can I go?”

The eager young pink haired girl looked excitedly up at her mother’s fiancé for his approval. There was a silence that pierced the air as I began cleaning up the leftover elements of our most recent game at the Hot Meals Kids Game and Craft Night that I ran once a month. “That’s during our dinner time…” her guardian began and as he responded I realized that on Thursday nights, when our art program ran, the Free Hot Meal was at a church across town. There would be no way for them to make it to the meal and our art program. Resigned and disappointed the young girl left the church with her family. Despite her dismay she still refused to leave until she could inform me of her excitement for my return the following month.

“How’d they do?”

One of our parents asked that following Thursday as they arrived to pick up their children from Cut and Paste, our Art Program. Naturally we were pleased to give good reports about their children and told the children we were excited to see them again next week. As our main art teacher talked with the parents I helped the other students put away our art supplies and asked them about how their projects were coming. Our art show was fast approaching and these little artists were more than excited to show off all their hard work. “When can I take my projects home! I want to put them in my room.” One student exclaimed in a way that made it appear he had had too much sugar that evening. “After our art show” was the go-to answer and it seemed to satisfy these always energetic and adventurous young artists.

The Problem:

Two groups of children. Two days of the week. Meeting in the same location week after week. How can we unite them? How can partner these two groups to most effectively reach these kids? These were the questions that I would ponder day in and day out as the Director of Family Ministry. As the Family Pastor I often wondered how we can become, as a church, more outreach focused. How we can live out the part of our mission statement that says we desire “to make Him known in the community and the world.”

The Solution:

Then one day it was all made possible. It was the beginning of summer and we were in between Terms for the art program. I was meeting with our main volunteer art teacher to figure out what the new school term would like look when she said those words I so needed to hear to bring about unity, “We need to change the night of the art program. I have prior commitments on Thursday nights.” This was the beginning of many conversations via email, coffee shop meetings, and during a massive clean up of our art supplies closet in order to re-plan when and how this art program was run. This volunteer, Sarah, volunteered hours of her own time to bring order to our art supply room and help coordinate and plan this new term. Through the relationship that I had already built with our wonderful and committed leader of the Hot Meals program we were able to coordinate the Art Program to function in conjunction with it to provide a structured outlet for the children who attend Hot Meals to learn and participate in art projects. We would not have been able to bring unity to these two groups were it not for the committed volunteers who give their time, energy, and creativity to the church week after week.

Our Goal:

Now we have revitalized an already existing Art Program to allow it to be a safe space for children in kindergarten-sixth grade to have a positive experience in a church, connect to the Great Artist through art projects and to learn how to use different mediums of art at no cost. Our Fall Term begins in a few weeks and already we have new students registered for this term. Already the change of the day is making our program more available to the community. We hope to be one after school program, among many, that allows those who attend to grow closer to having a knowledge and love of our Lord Jesus Christ and to then want to make Him known in the community and the world as is our church’s mission statement.

Tanner Cooper-Risser regularly blogs at thoughtsfromdust.blogspot.com and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Jacob Eckeberger

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.