Fuller Seminary/Brehm Center, Maria Eugenia Fee

Pasadena, California

To establish and facilitate a series of arts-based leadership development workshops for pastors and church leaders in order to introduce them to the formational value of the arts in worship and invigorate arts-based worship practices in their faith communities.

Researcher(s): Dr. Maria E. Fee 
Academic Discipline:  Theology and Art

Project Summary

This project comprises the establishment, facilitation, and evaluation of a series of art-based leadership development workshops involving pastors. The purpose of the program is to enhance pastors’ leadership abilities through interpersonal art experiences, and to further ascertain how said encounters specifically nourishes the worshipping life of the church. The workshops comprise rudimentary art making and art analysis exercises to mobilize pastors as “agents.” Through an art-based model, leaders encounter a holistic approach to faith and culture (W. Dyrness, 2008, p. 3), a type of active reflection, which subsequently benefits communal worship rousing pastors to employ tangible methods that broaden the church’s praise lexicon. 

What questions about worship and your discipline will be guiding your project?

The research explores art’s impact on pastoral leadership as a way to import creativity into corporate worship. Questions include: can minimal art-training sharpen pastor’s meaning making and problem-solving skills? What cognitive and social benefits are gained by the church when pastors are trained in the arts? Based on similar research results, can pastors’ experiences help congregants activate personal and collective agency and engender the ability to hold multiple and opposing perspectives? 

How do you envision this project will strengthen the worship life of congregations?

This study anticipates that art training will increase pastors’ appreciation for the arts thereby, they will more readily apply creativity in worship. Minimal art training will empower pastors to transfer new found skills and experiences into corporate worship to create tangible conduits of grace, promote social connection, and visually project theological ideas and their community’s ethos. Workshop art assignments are both pedological and art examples that can be used in corporate worship. 

What do you expect might be your greatest challenges (or challenging opportunities)?

Research challenges include: 1) promoting genuine community and learning opportunities through the digital Zoom platform. 2) Making sure each workshop participant is comfortable enough to share, and feels heard within the limited time frame. 3) Rationing workshop content and craft making when there is so much to teach and practice. 4) Helping pastors transfer workshop lessons and experiences into their leadership context and worship. 

What do you hope to learn from the Grants Event and other grant recipients?

The workshops I have developed are dependent on interpersonal transactions. Correspondingly, I look forward to learning from peers. I come to the event eager to discover the ways in which communities are addressing worship creatively. A gathering on the topic of worship is especially necessary in the midst of cultural changes, collective trauma, and the isolationism we are all experiencing. The event will provide a window of hope by viewing God at work through the various grant presentations.