Theological Design

J.D. Jump
Design for the Church and Theatre

            Since its beginning Christianity has held the idea of God as designer, which has been one of the arguments for the existence of God. The Bible and theology tell us that God creates out of nothing and anyone who has ever taken the time to enjoy the outdoors has seen the great beauty of God’s creation.  Vast mountain ranges, enormous oceans, great plains, and boundless deserts all of which have their own unique and rich color palate.  Even animals have a beauty that cannot be described by the words of man.  Any biologist or environmentalist would tell us that the beauty of God’s creation can only be matched by its functionality.  Perhaps the greatest example of this is the human body in all of its complexity.  The beauty and complexity of God’s creation prove that God is a designer at his very core.  As beings created in the image of God, humans have the ability and ultimately the responsibility to be designers in their own lives and work.  Throughout it’s history the Church has designed great buildings for their worship spaces and they have designed beautiful poetry and music for their liturgy.  Ultimately these design elements were designed to reach new people and bring them to God.  Today the church has an even larger palate of media with which to design their organizational structures.  The advance of technology allows churches to reach to their neighbors not just in their own neighborhoods but also throughout the world.  They have the ability to bring new and interesting art forms into the church building in order to draw people with different interests and experiences in.  With all of these new resources available the question for churches becomes, “how do we stay true to our past while still making the most of the new resources at our disposal?”  This is where the concept of Theological Design comes in.

Theological Design can best be described as a way in which churches make themselves more appealing to people in their communities while at the same time remaining true to the Gospel.  Many churches have started incorporate technology into worship and into their outreach to their local communities and the world.  The majority of these churches fall into one of two categories:  Churches who hire professionals to design the uses for their technologies, these churches are making full use of technology but these designers are not trained to think theologically.  And churches that use church people, and possibly theologically trained people who do not have a background in the technology, these churches generally stay true to their theology but they do not have as good a command of the technology or how best to implement it.  Both of these types of churches are at a disadvantage with regards to technology because they don’t have professionals who have knowledge and experience with the technology being used who stand within the tradition of Christian theology.  My goal is to discover what it means to design theologically, how theological design will help churches to reach out to their communities more effectively, and how people can be trained to meld theology, technology, and the arts in a way that helps and does not hinder the mission of the church.

            My vision for Theological design is a holistic approach to redesigning the church.  In order to draw people in while staying true to their roots and theology, churches need to implement new ministries that stay true to their mission statement and that do not hinder the ministries that they are already performing.  In addition, churches need to implement technology that supports both existing ministries and new ministries and helps both current and potential members to learn about what is going on at the church and how they can get plugged into the ministries in which they are interested.

            In an ideal situation, a church would have the resources to hire professionals in each area that they were trying to implement technology or new ministries.  In this situation the church would have a person overseeing the entire ministry of the church but there would be individuals that directly oversee the individual ministries and support mechanisms.  In this model, the head pastor would oversee a team who held traditional staff members such as a minister of outreach, a minister of Christian education, a minister of music, etc.  In addition there would new staff members such as a director of web ministries, a minister of liturgical arts, a lighting designer, a sound designer, etc.  In this model the staff would meet together on a regular basis to discuss the vision for the church and how each of their individual pieces fit into the whole.  This way the entire team would be working together to present a coherent whole for the church.