Church #45. Meet Julie Blum. She is the solo pastor at Maple Leaf Lutheran Church in Seattle, Washington. Maple Leaf is an urban congregation that worships about 85 on a given Sunday. Blum said, “What I love about this church is how they partner with the community to make Seattle a better place!”
With an affluent community to the south and a transitional neighborhood to the north, Maple Leaf has an onsite shelter for people experiencing homelessness, they support holiday gift giving for over 500 families, have an afterschool tutoring program, and sponsor community gardens. Maple Leaf approaches ministry with creativity and renewed energy. That’s where Blum’s influence comes into play. She is known to some colleagues as the “Pinterest Pastor!” With worship at the core of what a church is Blum said, “When I am bored and not energized by worship, neither are the worshipers!” Worship should stimulant the people, and ministry is the response. That’s evident in the Maple Leaf community.
Sermons, Blum admits, play an integral part in worship, and every once and a while a preacher has a knock-it-out-of-the-park sermon. But she says, “Preaching the same way – in the pulpit with a 10 page manuscript of heady words – each week does not happen at Maple Leaf. Instead, we know people learn in all different ways so why would we not vary how sermons are delivered?” That’s what this Pinterest Pastor does! She serves up sermon spice:
- Discussion questions. It’s the famous “Turn to your neighbor, and share…” Blum says, “Congregants are theologians, too!” Her advice is to plan the questions in advance and give people time to respond to them in the sermon. Not everyone likes to talk during worship so give people an out such as rereading the Bible story or to pray.
- Use media and Images. Blum suggests short video clips from sites like Sermon Spice, The Skit Guys, or The Work of the People as vignettes to support sermons. Her advice is to use art or video or photos to help image-driven people connect with the Bible story.
- Drama or Skits. Instead of reading the Bible story, act it out. Blum’s advice is to start a drama team, use a confirmation small group, or ask for volunteers on the spot. She often uses a skit to introduce the sermon. For example, Blum is working on a skit for the Prodigal Son about the eldest brother. In the skit, the older brother attends a support group called M.E.S.S – “Meeting of Eldest Siblings for Support.” Can you tell the direction of her sermon for that day?
- Responsive Prayer. Give people time to reflect on the sermon by writing a prayer, and then use the prayers as part of a visual. Her advice is to give people some kind of prop to write the prayer on such as a tag, a bandaid, or a post-it note. After the sermon, they write a prayer. The prayers are then brought forward and placed on the altar, a crutch-cross, or a refrigerator door brought into the sanctuary:
- Don’t forget Pinterest! Blum is a pinterest professional, and she often peruses creative sites not only for ideas but to also spark imagination. Just looking at photos of what other people are doing can prompt a new idea for a sermon.
Being creative in worship helps the Bible story to stick with its listeners, it gets people out of their seats, and builds community. But for Blum, she has a personal reason for relinquishing the typical sermon into a more interactive process. Family time for her is sacred, and she doesn’t want to miss one day of her daughter’s life. This creative approach to sermons has allowed her to balance life and work better.
Besides the personal reasons, why does this creative approach to sermons matter? It matters because this is what Jesus did. Jesus used visuals to help people to understand God’s love. He played in the mud, he talked about seeds and fig trees, and he used things from everyday life to help God’s people understand faith. Think of all the details in the Gospel stories! The Gospel writers remembered the stories through the visuals and the tangibles. The story didn’t go in one ear and out the other but was remembered in their hearts. “Go and play!” says the Lord.
For more information, please contact Pastor Julie Blum at firstname.lastname@example.org or (206) 524-2448.