The second quality Cameron identifies that will help organizations prosper is an emphasis on engagement.
But just when we think we are beginning to catch up, the economy has shifted again. Those who wish to survive must think, not merely in terms of experience, but of participation—an economy where value will no longer be consumed but where value will be co-created. Let me say that again: in the future, value will no longer be consumed. Value will be co-created.
We are seeing the emergence of a class of amateurs doing work at a professional level—a group dubbed elsewhere as the Pro-Ams—a group whose work populated YouTube, Film festivals, dance competitions and more. They are expanding our aesthetic vocabulary even as they assault our traditional notions of cultural authority and arts organizations. In thinking about the future, how do we think, not only about presentation, but about engagement—about interacting with this growing tsunami of creative energy that typically exists beyond the purview of our classrooms, our buildings and our performing arts centers?
This sense of co-creation is an invitation—an invitation to dismantle irrelevant (not germane) distinctions between professional and amateur, a status once exalted as more precious than professionalism, capturing as it does in its etymological roots the love of practice. This is an invitation to dismantle arts education programs and replace them with community engagement programs. This is an invitation to seeing our mission, not in creating products to be consumed, but in offering experiences that will serve as springboards to our audience’s own creativity—to nurture what Henry Jenkins calls a Convergence Culture, utilizing multi-platform narrative and marketing, inviting everyday people to reassert their right to actively contribute to their culture, channeling creative energies to come together. This is a call to a field to see ourselves, not as presenters, perhaps, but as activators, engagers, harvesters of creative energy.
I would love to believe that there is an energetic cadre of “Pro-Ams” out there just waiting to be set free for creative ministry in and through the church. But what I see mostly are people whose lives are enormously challenging. Many people I meet have a hard time finding the hours in their day to meet their basic family and professional obligations. I am not sure there is a lot of time or energy left over to become “Pro-Ams” in the church.
As I look around at churches that seem to be “thriving” it appears they often rely on paid staff who initiate, coordinate, and in many cases, undertake the multitude of tasks necessary to keep the machinery of church life operational. I wonder how it might be possible in the church to become “springboards to our audience’s own creativity.” What vision of church has the capacity to so galvanize people that they would want to find a way to reorient their lives in such a way that ministry becomes a major focus?
Perhaps the problem lies in our definition of “ministry.” If view “ministry” as what happens in and through an organized church body, our vision may always be frustrated. But, if “ministry” is what takes place every time a person extends themselves in love and compassion to another person, then ministry is happening everywhere all the time.
We can all be “Pro-Ams” of loving compassionate care wherever God has placed us.
The question for the church then becomes, how can the organization of the church best support its members in seeing their entire lives as ministry. How can we recognize that teaching school on Monday is every bit as much a ministry as preaching a sermon on Sunday? How can we help people take deeply to heart the fact that they are ministers wherever their lives take them? How do we celebrate those ministries that take place in the world all day every day?
“Engagement” for a Christian does not mean retreating into the church ghetto and trying to draw others into our religious club. “Engagement” means living daily in response to God’s call wherever my life is lived. I am engaged when I pay attention to the realities of my life and determine to stay open to the prompting of God’s Spirit in whatever way that moving may be encountered.
What does “ministry” mean?
How might our understanding of “church” change if we came to see every moment of every person’s life a potential occasion for ministry?
How can the church support people in seeing their lives as ministry and growing in their ability to carry out that ministry?