Integrating Visual Arts in Worship

There’s no denying it: We live in a visual age.

Statistics show that only 10% of people remember things they hear and only 20% remember things they read. But, a remarkable 80% of people remember things they see and do. (source)

Visuals play a huge role in how we learn and process information. Did you know that our eyes process visuals 60,000x faster than text? (source). Understanding the power of visuals and the role they play in our everyday lives is crucial to planning and creating meaningful, engaging worship services.

”The visual arts used in worship bring the gospel to life.” (source)

Modern worship is informed by a rich heritage, a collection of sacred symbols and icons, and tangible things like bread and wine. How can we integrate visuals into our worship services on a more regular basis? How can we depict the story of the gospel through art and media? How can we enhance the spoken Word, the prayers, the rituals, the music with visual art forms?

From books to articles to digital media, here is a collection of inspirational and practical resources on integrating visuals arts in worship:

Books

01  |  Visuals for Worship (Elizabeth Steele Halstead)

In this book, the author includes her own original linoleum block prints paired with descriptions of the seasons and symbols of the church year, related Scripture references, and occasions for use. See a preview of the book here

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02  |  Creating Holy Spaces (Delia Halverson, Karen Appleby)

With suggestions for visuals for every Sunday of the year, a topical index and scriptural index, and descriptions of all the readings in the Revised Common Lectionary, this book is a great resource for worship planners, leaders, and visual artists. 

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03  |  Unceasing Worship: A Biblical Perspective on Worship and the Arts (Harold M. Best)

A theological and biblically-grounded perspective on worship, Harold Best posits that worship is an everyday act. Sundays, then, are a time of continuing our worship in communion with others. 

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04  |  For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts (ed. W. David O. Taylor)

Practical and theological, this collection of essays reflects the diverse perspectives of its authors as they explore the relationship between the arts and the church. An inspirational read for today’s church and its leaders. 

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05  |  Creative Church Handbook: Releasing the Power of the Arts in Your Congregation (J. Scott McElroy)

A how-to manual on unleashing creativity in your congregation, discovering and uncovering the artistic gifts within your congregation, and enhancing worship (including ways to add creativity into sermons). 

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06  |  Liturgy As a Way of Life: Embodying the Arts in Christian Worship (Bruce Ellis Benson)

A reflective read on liturgy as everyday living. Bruce Ellis Benson highlights new connections between liturgy and the arts and explores the role of improvisation in art and worship. 

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“What if you began to see your art as something other than your idea? What if it was less lofty and more necessary to your daily rhythm? What if your art is part of a bigger picture, part of a daily grace God has in mind for someone else?”

- Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways

Articles

How to Incorporate the Visual Arts into Worship Life (Shannon Sigler)

A few helpful guidelines and practical ideas for bridging the gap between the church and its artists and engaging the congregation in worship through visual art. Read Part I and Part II.

8 Tips for Using Visuals in Worship (Ruth Everhart)

Practical tips and real-life examples for using visual art and media in worship. Read it here.

Not Just for Looks: Practical Suggestions for Choosing Appropriate Visuals for Worship (Chris Stoffel Overvoorde)

A step-by-step guide for planning and incorporating visuals in worship, including examples for Advent and Christmas and a few practical suggestions to keep in mind. Read it here.

The Work of Visual Artists in Worship (Ashley M. Calhoun)

An invitation to experience your worship space with new eyes, plus a biblical perspective on including visuals in worship, planning resources, and a useful bibliography. Read it here.

Visual Arts in Church: Making the Invisible Word Visible (Joan Huyser-Honig)

Real-life examples from churches across the country, plus next steps for planning and creating artistic elements for your worship services. Read it here.

Discipling the Eyes Through Art in Worship (W. David O. Taylor)

"The visual arts, by fixing our sight on concrete objects—canvases, sculptures, installations, architecture—invite us to look at the world as it is or maybe as it shouldn't be.” It’s all about learning to see, with clarity and vision. Read it here.

Visual Arts Bring Life to Worship (Karla M. Kincannon)

"Using symbols, colors and textures instead of words, worship visuals interpret the good news. They are a means of 'preaching the gospel at all times.'” A reflection on using visuals in worship and Insight into the planning and creation process. Read it here.

Why Does Visual Imagery Belong in the Church? (William Dyrness)

“The question is not whether, yes or no, we should use images in worship, but whether the things we see during worship enhance our worship or obstruct it.” A look at how visuals can support and serve the proclamation of the Word, spiritual growth, and the message shared in worship. Read it here.

Effectively Using Visual Arts in Worship (Dwayne Moore & Kyle Gordon)

A reflection on the art inherent in creation, opportunities to glorify God (and show others God’s glory) through our own art, and the means to do this in the context of worship. Read it here.

“Art is when we do work that matters, in a creative way, in a way that touches [people] and changes them for the better.”

- Seth Godin, Graceful

Resources

Church Art Online
This site features over 40,000 photos, PowerPoint slides, motion videos, bulletin covers, and illustrations, plus newsletter, postcard, and flyer templates. Subscriptions start $5.99/mo.

Pixabay
A collection of royalty-free photos, vector graphics, and illustrations to download, modify, distribute, and use in print and online materials.

re: Worship
A free resource featuring a collection of prayers, calls to worship, benedictions, confessions, affirmations of faith for the liturgical year.

Art Index
A (free) art concordance catalogued by scriptural reference, lectionary date, and biblical theme.

I hope this post inspires you to integrate more visuals into your worship services. Know of other helpful resources on this topic? Please share them in the comments!

*This post includes affiliate links, which means if you purchase through some of the links above, Amazon.com will pay me a small fee for referring you to them at no extra cost to you. Win-win!

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