LAB ALL AGES: How can a church affect culture through the arts by “going upstream?”


What happens in culture upstream can affect the whole river.

-Makoto Fujimura.
Overview:

The LAB All Ages program invited an entire music community to take residence at Convergence free of charge. The volunteer led arts incubation program and all ages music venue became home to the local “DIY Punk community” of emerging artists and musicians. LAA featured an open mic, band showcases, sound-studio/rehearsal space, Fest Too Arts and Music Festival and the LAA Collective. Each event was chaperoned, affordable and alcohol free.

A Convergence member and local musician, Jay Smith leveraged his connections in the DC music scene to create an alternative venue space for all-ages shows in our underutilized Lab building. By matching experienced bands with newer ones, he developed a mentorship training ground and hoped to engage in community service projects together. The music venue then expanded into the Lab All Ages under the direction of Dan ABH, a local music promoter and figure in the local “Punk DIY” community, who partnered with us and lead the program.  Dan, who was a non-Christian, non-church member was hired to be the “youth leader” to lead LAA. He served as the “bridge” between Lab All Ages and Convergence.


Our Approach:

Convergence committed to going “upstream” locally by connecting with young people at the beginning of their artistic careers in order to expose them to a biblical perspective of the human experience and to encourage a curious, open and respectful attitude towards faith in general and Christianity in particular. We wondered; “What difference would it make for a generation of artists to grow up believing that church was a place to be nurtured and developed as an artist? How might that impact the larger cultural narrative down the road though the art and music they would create throughout their lives?” The LAB All Ages was an opportunity for a different approach to missions. Even though these kids were in our space, we were agreeing to enter into their culture and simply be present as salt and light; living life in front of them. We did not impose any censorship or recruit them to come to church. Instead, we recruited people from the church to go to them. We gave no formal evangelistic presentation, but sought to model it in our lives while serving them by using their own “DIY ethic” as a common ground for conversations about Christian ethics.  (Their published rule of thumb was “Respect the Space” and “No alcohol, No weapons, No assholes.”)





Convergence and the Lab helped me by encouraging me to be free, and to try things outside of my comfort zone…It was always unbelievably safe and loving, and for that I’m immensely grateful.


Hayden, Co-founder of The Moments Collective


Results:

While it is impossible to know the ultimate impact on culture by going upstream, there is no doubt that Convergence as a church has made an indelible impression on the lives of the young people who participated in LAA. They have been loved, nurtured, encouraged, developed as artists and as people by a church; within their own context and on their terms. We believe this witness is being used by God. In some cases, we see it in the work these young people create and, in the best cases, in their approach to life. Hopefully, it has laid a foundation of an increased awareness and openness to the importance of their spiritual lives.

One of the biggest gifts of this experience was to develop a deep kinship with Dan ABH. As he “lived life” with us and observed the spiritual journeys and struggles of Convergence members his curiosity led to next steps on his own spiritual journey; leading to his baptism several years later.  He now serves on staff as Community Coordinator for the entire organization and his influence and mentorship of the young people of LAA continues to have profound impact in their lives. Because of his dedication, those relationships continue to develop even as those “kids” have become young adults pursuing careers and lives elsewhere.

Together, we were able to:
  • Provide mentoring to young artists, many of whom are now actively and successfully pursuing music or art careers, have attended premier music schools and are creating their own “Lab” spaces.
  • Make deep and lasting relationships with many of the Lab All Ages “kids,” now, young adults.
  • Give young people a positive, nurturing of experience of church and Christians.  
  • Invite these young people to participate in leading our worship services and give testimony to their experiences.
  • Discover bridge language to connect the “services” of the church (pastoral counseling, space for silence, purpose finding, community, etc.) with the needs of young people.

Additional Resources:
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npDIF-Fi0r4&t=8s
  • https://www.facebook.com/groups/thelaballages/