“God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them.” Genesis 1:27 CEB
The creation story is a guiding Scripture for the new Jackson Arts Ministry (JAM), an outreach program of Jackson UMC. Children of all ages are invited to explore their creative gifts by engaging in fine arts, crafting and performing. JAM is committed to “seeing the arts in Jackson flourish and grow unlike ever before.”
Jackson UMC was started more than 26 years ago by a group of smaller churches coming together for family focused worship and ministry. The congregation has a number of people with creative gifts in the arts. The church’s senior pastor Rev. Joseph Tiedemann stresses, “The overall concept for everything we do is designed to introduce people to Jesus Christ.”
In that context, JAM is a natural new ministry to further engage the community in creativity and fun.
Piloting the program in April with three lead instructors, JAM is one way that the church lives out its belief “that faith should be more than just a Sunday service; it should be a journey that helps to build your relationship with Christ.”
Tiedemann explains, “The idea of JAM evolved out of a number of classes we had offered individually throughout the years and we decided to package them together.” He continued, “The design of the arts program meets a need to help adults and children grow in the arts while bringing them into a Christian setting and introducing them to Jesus Christ. It gives us a platform to engage creative adults as teachers while inviting them into the church.”
One teen offered a testimony on the JAM website about her experience with the performance arts that combine faith, dramatization and music while connecting her with friends from the community. She said, “The church plays helped bring me some new found confidence I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.”
Tiedemann explains that JAM is an opportunity to invite children and adults from outside of the church, into a faith-based artistic environment and build up their leadership. It offers youth, particularly middle and high school students, a creative outlet in a community that is threatened by drug abuse. Through JAM, churched and un-churched children, youth and adults discover their God-given talents and are nurtured to “develop excellence for an expressive life.”
Nearly 20 children and youth participated in the ministry’s first seven-week class “Musical Theatre, Stand-up Comedy and Improv” this spring. Led by professional performer and singer, Denise Tiedemann, students “developed their comedic timing, their ability to think creatively on their toes and explored stand-up comedy routines.” They presented two showcases of songs, skits and comedy with younger children on June 26 and middle and high school students on July 5.
A Resource for the Whole Community
A hallmark of the arts ministry is that anyone in the community can participate. While the actual cost of each class per student ranges from $20-$80, the tuition is voluntary. Tiedemann says people pay “what they can, when they can” and others make donations to cover the costs. People who otherwise would not be able to access a high quality arts program now have the opportunity to tap into their creative spirits.
JAM programs invite all students regardless of religious affiliation. The ministry leaders are trained to offer a prayer and devotional at the beginning of each class and are encouraged to design classes through a Biblical lens. They commit to intentionally praying daily for God’s blessing on each student and family. JAM participants and supporters are also invited and welcomed into the Jackson UMC church family.
When the full ministry program is rolled out this fall, there will be creative opportunities on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday nights to fit every age and interest. From adults sketching colorful mandala prayer wheels, to singers joining voices in a community choir, to young children crafting culinary delights or sewing projects, to youth and young adults making a joyful noise through comedy or musical theater, the Jackson community will be “empowered to discover gifts and talents that change lives.”
Greeters from the congregation will present the face of the church and will welcome people from the community. A secondary benefit of JAM is that it offers the opportunity to evangelize through radical hospitality.
Tiedemann says that the JAM website platform is set up in a way that it can grow through collaboration. “It would be great to work with other churches in the area and offer additional classes.” He continues, “We are happy to share what we have learned and provide training in a multi-church dynamic that would expand our reach to introduce people to Jesus Christ.”