Healthy Church Growth -Episode 10 – Justin Price

How to pivot.

 

Hosts Mike Mage and Justin Price discuss practical steps on how to pivot and reimagine what your church or non-profit could look like in the wake of a new reality.

 >> Episode 9: Kevin Ely

 


Transcriptions:

Mike Mage:
Welcome to the Healthy Church Growth podcast.

(Intro Music)

Mike Mage:
Well, welcome to the healthy Church growth podcast, where we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life. I’m one of your hosts, Mike Mage. We just really want to continue our conversation as we’re going through this Coronavirus crisis. Ah, and just I wanted to have a conversation with Justin Price, who’s our other co-host, and really just talk some or about things that we can do things that we’ve seen, things that we’re inspired by. Just maybe as an encouragement for you, our audience and maybe just to get some more ideas, maybe just to kind of feel like this whole thing is not trending downwards into nothing that people are really, um, you know, taking up the mantle and trying to be as resourceful and creative as possible. And for us is church creatives just like, you know, in this past podcast we have with Stephen Brewster. Um, and he said something that has struck with me over the past week or so. But church is not closed, just our buildings are, and that is something really, really good to remember. And that’s something we need to continue to, um, cultivate as you know, the thing that we have been doing for so long looks so so differently. So, like I said, I want to bring Justin on and for us to have a conversation because he is the head of a creative agency Vers Creative which deals mostly with non-profits and in the commercial sector. And so, Justin, I just wanted to ask you how have you guys been able to sort of pivot or re-imagine how you guys do your work in this really weird and strange time?

Justin Price:
Mike thinks it’s gonna be a fun podcast. I’m really, really looking forward to unpacking a couple of these things with you talking about the church, talking about some of the non-profits and some of the for-profits. Uh, and what is what we’re seeing happening. It’s gonna be a good a good time.

Mike Mage:
Totally.

Justin Price:
So you’re good.

Mike Mage:
I’m great.

Justin Price:
I love doing these podcasts with you. Can I just get that out there? Just thank you. You’re my favorite podcast host.

Mike Mage:
That’s good. I hope that gets some traction.

Justin Price:
Of all the co-hosts I’ve done podcasts with, you’re my top.

Mike Mage:
I’m writing that down. I know. I’m writing that down in my journal

Justin Price:
For today. Ah, man, there’s so many cool things to talk about. First of all, uh, somebody told me the other day she was like, Man, you know, I’ve been sensing a like I’ve been hearing God’s voice saying like, Hey, there’s a revival coming and she’s like and I’ve been excited about it and I’ve been like saying like, man, like our country specifically, obviously, we know this is bigger than our country, but our country’s in need of a revival. Yeah, it hit her as we were talking this week, she was like, Man, um, I forgot that one of the biggest catalysts for a revival is a crisis like this. And we look at the history of our country. In the last couple 100 years, we can see, like our country’s best revivals have come out of crisis. And she was like, Man, it just kind of, it sucks to be in it right now, but it’s also incredible as a Christian to be in it. If you can see it through the lens, that there’s a sovereign God who has, uh, who loves us and who is looking out for us and who has a plan to come out of all of this. There is so much hope, and I would just say, like, this has been. This has definitely been in its own way, you know, for me, you know, we’re not a massive company, but, you know, we, um we’ve got 16 employees and we have, ah, about that many contractors that we employ as well. And we’ve had to pause a lot of projects. It’s been awful. I mean, just thinking about every single, every single person we have had to say. Hey, you know, we’ve got to pause you right now has been a phone call I have made. That is, that is not fun at all. And so, like, it’s in the midst of that happening. I still get to see God doing incredible things every day. Maybe that’s just the hope of Christ. Like, maybe that is just that’s, that’s the thing. Like, that’s it. Is that he gives us hope and he gives us just enough each day like, no matter what we’re fighting through, whatever we’re dealing with, Ah, he does that. But, man, I would love to unpack a couple of the really cool things that we’re seeing. I’d love to inspire our listeners. With some of the cool things that God is doing and ways in which, you know, we could sit around and, like, talk about like, uh, how to capitalize on the Coronavirus, which even just even having that come in on that sounded wrong. Please cut that out.

Mike Mage:
No, I’m not going to because, like, I think that you’re right. I have seen too many, already, I’ve seen too many messages, sermons. So I saw one message series that said “I tested positive” and the tagline was “but not for the Coronavirus”. And like, you can’t do that. You can’t do that.

Justin Price:
No. That came from a good place. Like it came from somebody trying to be culturally relevant. Which that’s step one is to acknowledge what’s happening.

Mike Mage:
You have to

Justin Price:
But. So you know, Vers, we kind of work, we partner with non-profits and for-profits, and we come alongside of them as their advertising agency, as their branding agency, and as their marketing agency. We have kind of combined it to be a strategic agency, which really focuses on bringing value to them. We cover all three of those areas because we can integrate all of our services at much more cost-effective way and help them actually grow and help them reach their fullest potential while spending a whole lot less money. Um, and so that gives us a pretty big breadth of the kind of work we do. And it gives us a lot of variety with the kind of people we get to work with. And, you know, as we were preparing for this, you know, I thought, maybe there’s, like, three kind of cases that we can unpack and my hope and my heart here, Mike, pick any of these things apart, ask questions. I’m happy to share whatever I can. But, I wanted to start with, like, maybe the most difficult situation to be in the heaviest and then, like, work our way up lighter. That sound good?

Mike Mage:
Yeah, absolutely.

Justin Price:
All right. So the heaviest one of all our client groups are our clients that are in product manufacturing. Who are not deemed a necessary business right now. And so there’s two issues with it is the stores they’re selling to are closed because they’re not necessary business. The kind of company who makes something like an art instrument like a paint brush, right? And so, ah, paint supply store. Ah, paintbrush. The arts and crafts store is not necessary to stay open in most states, and so the store’s closed down the store can’t buy more and the supply chain looks like this. Like they have an inventory at their warehouse that is full. And if the store doesn’t sell them, the warehouse doesn’t have to ship it out to the specific store. And so they don’t make this month’s order back to our client, the manufacturer of the paintbrush. And so you’ve got maybe a, factory with a couple 100 people who make paintbrushes and they supply. You know, maybe they’re one or two of the largest paintbrush suppliers around the world. And what happened was back in February, their order from China slowed down. So with us, they said, Hey, um, we need a little bit of help. We’re gonna need to slow a couple of things down because we just had a $1,000,000 order just not come in from China. But it’s OK because you know that $1,000,000 was only like, 5% of our global sales. But then Italy got hit and so within a month, ah, Europe, the Europe market was dry and not making orders. And then the U. S. Market, the North American market followed suit. And so the three biggest markets that they have Asia, Europe, and North America completely shut down the stores, distribution. They can’t ship, but even if they could ship to these places, they can actually get those orders because they’re not selling them anywhere. And so what you’ve got is basically an entire factory completely laid off. You have ah, any of the internal marketing people, the sales people, like, what are they going to sell? Yeah, um you don’t think about, like, just the whole impact of this. And this is the reason why I wanted unpack this is because the reality is is like that paintbrush company still has a little bit of responsibility to keep some marketing going in the lights on online. So insert Vers.So now all of these people who work for this company are not getting a paycheck. They’ve been laid off and we’re still getting a paycheck. The weight that just shifted on our plates, like the VP’s who are not going to get a bonus. The people that are way smarter, way more important than us are not getting paid. And ah, and the little bit of work that has to be done is in our court, it’s our responsibility right now. So for manufacturing clients like that ah, and product, you know, clients that are selling products that are not necessary, or anybody who’s not staying open right now who made a product like that. Serving them at this point and being a good partner for them means we’re basically, uh, cutting our costs down the like, 90% helping them keep their lights on and then looking at every opportunity to reposition them to either make something out of this time or not. And so, um, you know, one of the things that that has done is it’s just caused us to say we have access to people like we’ve never had before. You know, uh, people were too busy, but we could potentially make actual sales call on behalf of the account to a distributor who was not available three months ago. But now that person sitting at home, we can negotiate new contracts. We can work on product videos in a studio right now. Um, and we can do crazy things with the extra time we’ve got in preparation to launch a new product. We can also refine the product. We could do product development. Um, we can reposition, Um, what the usage of the product is, you know? I mean, one of the things that’s gonna come out of this is people just being a little leaner, a little bit scrappier and so it’s like man, let’s just go back to the paintbrush analogy, but like, a smart manufacturing company is now going to focus in on their most, uh, their product with the most viability and the safest purchase. You know, experience. And so this is the idea that, like a let’s focus in on, like, really pushing our product, that maybe isn’t our newest product, but it is. Ah, it’s our best seller. It’s like it’s the trustee faithful product. And in a time of crisis, people need to go back to something a bit more reliable. Well, it’s safer.

Mike Mage:
So talking about this company and, um, you know, with a large business manufacturing business like this, you kind of said that, you know, you you got to get back to whatever. Your people have to get leaner, you gotta focus in on maybe something that’s a little bit more reliable. So what is from you as like a creative agency, Um and really, I mean, we could make this this tied to, like, a church creative department as well. Um, I honestly, I don’t feel like it is too different what you do and what a church creative department does, anyway. It’s just the product that a church is, um, marketing is the church. It’s the mission of Jesus, obviously. So, like in this time for your creative agency, what is like your lean focus? What’s the thing that you feel is the most reliable thing that you guys can sort of, um, I guess lean on if that… it’s a terrible usage of words there. But, um, what’s like the most reliable thing a creative agency that you can sort of fall back into?

Justin Price:
That’s a great question. So you’re asking, like, how did we get lean? What did you do? Well, so immediately when we saw our budgets starting to shift. We had, you know, manufacturing clients say “hey, it looks like we won’t be able to pay next month”. It looks like you guys could potentially, you know, a lot of the projects you have been working on. May be the last production we’re able to do for a quarter or two, so be smart. We finished those things up. We had to be very, very quick on our feet, I think. One of the things. So, you know, I spent 10 years as a creative director in the church. I was very reactionary in the church. It was just kind of like when the chips fell, then we would respond. I don’t as the with thinking about, like, 16 families relying solely from our staff on Vers staying open. I don’t feel like I have the opportunity. If I see one chip starting to tip a little bit, I need to be ready and prepared and I need to be thinking about the runway we have. And I started being lean and so I mean, there was purchases that we you know, we spend a few $100,000 a month as an agency, and so there was purchases that immediately I just said, hey, let’s be lean right now on purchases. And it’s amazing, we were able to produce just the same amount of work. And just as good of work. Um, we just we held off on a couple of purchases. So just immediately just looking and evaluating at the necessity of, purchases, we quickly shifted there before we lost any kind of work or anything was paused. Um, the other thing that we have tried to do as an agency is work really hard to contract work out that is not stable, long term work. And so you know, we have already had 20 – 50% of the work force we had working on a contract basis. And so if those contracts dried up, that part of the workforce, you know, didn’t have any work to do we weren’t on the hook. And so I think that’s a big thing for churches to take away from this is like, man, how big of a staff do you really have to hold? Like you really need to have three video guys on all the time? You probably can keep them busy, but do you need it? And, ah, is there a more efficient way? And is there some contractors that you could be using or some people you can outsource to, um, and maybe even be saving money and maybe have less overhead so that if, if your church was to be hit, that you’re able to kind of shift quickly and go, OK, well, that’s just a luxury we don’t have right now.Totally. So a question I wanted to ask you is coming out of sort of, that whole thing. Was, how do you as like a creative director, as someone who manages people, as someone who is taking a organization of some sort and moving forward. So, how do you become more proactive as opposed to just reactive? Like what are some steps that you can, sort of, begin to train yourself in doing to become more proactive, as opposed to reactive?That’s great. Um so one of the things that we do is every Monday, the first meeting of our week, we actually forecast. So, we forecast the projects we need to be working on. So we’re not daily micromanaging, ah, how to be proactive. But, we look at every account. We look at every project, and the project managers have the responsibility of calling out and flagging, ah, potential issue. And so how we’ve been proactive is it has been just burned into all of our account management and project management roles that it is their job, they’re the only ones with eyes on the whole field. And if they see something starting to go south, so if they catch, they, some of it is just like being, aware and intuitive of about what’s happening around you. And that takes a little bit of training to say, like, man, I noticed, you know, I started to look at the trend and say I noticed X, Y, and Z. So and so has been asking more questions lately. Well, that’s usually a sign of distrust. It’s usually, people don’t just ask questions because they get curious. They start asking more questions and wanting more explanation when they don’t trust you to do it on your own

Justin Price:
That’s like a super small example of something that we might say, like, hey, what caused the disparity in trust? And what can we do to rebuild that? What can we do to surprise and delight them? And so as soon as something gets flagged, they get put into a category of accounts that need special attention, so that just might mean a phone call. So how do you be proactive with your main income source? Um, you leverage what you have, your relationships, the work you do, the value you bring. And sometimes people just need to be reminded of that. Sometimes people just need to see that in a way that they maybe haven’t seen in a while. So sometimes you have to rethink what you’re doing for that relationship. So, um, you know this is a great the way I translate this to church is like if your church is not responding to the new thing that you’re trying to do and people are not really engaging it. You can’t just be reactive and wait till people stop coming to church. Right? You have to actually talk to people at church. You can’t live in a production bubble. You have to actually talk to your congregation. You have to actually, and I’m not talking about your little group of friends, I’m talking about, talk to the people who you’re the furthest away from demographically, um, talk to people who are completely different space than you. Um, talk to people who challenge you and complain about the things that you do. Listen, to why they’re complaining and stop thinking you’re so above them because when they leave and they stop supporting your ministry, you’re going to maybe say, like, there may have been some of those people that actually had something pretty valid. Think how you can be proactive and not reactive. It really starts with humility and listening to the people that you’re serving and that you’re around.

Mike Mage:
Right. Yeah. I just I just wrote down like you have to follow up and ask questions and then follow up some more. Um and yeah, I was I literally wrote down like something about humility or whatever, but because that’s basically what you’re saying in this whole thing is like you have to, you have to get yourself out of the way long enough to hear what someone else has to say about what you’re doing. Okay, well, that’s great. So what are some other, what are some other things maybe that you guys were doing in your agency?

Justin Price:
Oh, man. So we just talked about the immediate. So we staffed. We built the agency to be flexible, so we immediately we put to action right away, as soon as there was talk, we didn’t wait until we didn’t get an invoice paid. As soon as we acknowledge that, we said, Hey, we have to be smart. And the smarter, the faster we moved, the longer the runway, we maintained for the valuable staff that we have invested a lot of money in training and developing and finding and recruiting and getting on boarded, and all the time that goes into that. When we started the agency, I never could have imagined how long it would take to train and recruit and onboard. All three of those things are just ridiculous. And so I consider everybody that we work with as somebody who we’ve invested a lot into and I want to protect them. It makes us really slow to hire. So that’s been kind of a fundamental part of how we built the business in the first place. So that was very natural for us to react that way. And then the last thing that we did is we kicked in as a strategic agency. Ah, and this is one, maybe, I think that, you know, I’m even. I love doing this. I love talking about it, and I love helping people with it. And so I’ll just throw it out there, If anybody needs help talking through this for half hour, an hour, like, call me. We had to look at every single thing that we were doing, and we had to be accountable for that money to be the best partner that we could be. We had to turn around and we had to change. So for that manufacturing plant, it was like there’s new opportunities for you, even right now, and the little bit of money you’re giving us to keep the lights on, we could take it and we could hoard it and we could do very little for you. Or, we could actually try to get some market growth for you right now. Yeah, there’s still online sales, and people are still spending a little bit of money, and you might still need some paintbrushes while you’re home. Right now, that’s something you can do at home. Instead of letting the heaviness of the event stop you and handicap you, you can look at the event, and I think this is the glory. This is like the the message of the gospel is that, like in its darkness and in sin, is a light that gives us hope in the fact that Jesus is the light is the hope for us. It’s kind of ingrained into our staff as a group of believers that work together at Vers, that like, and there’s no situation that is too dark that doesn’t have something in it. And we, you know, we take it pretty personally as an opportunity for the people we work with that are not Christians, but the clients that are not Christians to be a light. And to find that that thing that is still there, that the good that could still come out of it. That’s what we’ve been doing. We shifted every single strategy. We either pushed pause or shifted the strategy, wherever it made sense.

Mike Mage:
Yeah, instead of you focusing on how much things are changing and how much the thing that you and really prepping yourself to do, you had to pivot, you had to shift. And what you shifted to was how this one thing that you are representing is going to add value to people in sort of a time of crisis. Which it will like, none of that is wrong. You know, and so I think I do think that’s a really good thing for someone in a church to really start to grasp if you haven’t already. Um, but we are way more than just our Sunday services and our buildings being open. And so how can we leverage what we have right in front of us to be able to do that. And there’s plenty of ways to do that.

Justin Price:
It’s amazing to see there is a ton of opportunities where we are watching churches just totally step up. Mik, you’ve been saying that quote a couple of times that ministries like, the church is not closed, the building is. But, there was somebody else who quoted, um that the church has been deployed. Yeah, it’s not been close, has been deployed. And I think I’ve seen the church do so many cool things in the last couple of weeks. That is just like, man, why were we not doing this before?  Why did it take this for us to start acting like the church to our community? Why did it take this for us to, like, speak up and say these issues matter, or we’re gonna be there and support people who are in need. Like there was people in need, like a month ago. Why were we not listening? The last point I wanted to talk about was, uh, such an exciting one, because it has taken a total 180. This is certainly the most challenging account we have. It’s a pregnancy care center. The topic of abortion in the advertising world is like, the most taboo thing. Um, and here I am, like a mid-thirties creative, and we have, we have to write creative that talks to sexually promiscuous 18-year-old girls. So this is a 180 story, and it’s absolutely beautiful. This is how I think God shines in the light of darkness so well. So we work with this pregnancy care center, and I thought it would be like a easy you know, we’ve done tons of ministry. Most of our staff have all worked at churches and been creative directors at churches and things like that in the past. And so I’m like, I take on this pregnancy care center, thinking like this will be great and we can do a lot of the things that we do in the secular market for them. Um, but the thing is like, even if you donate money to a pregnancy care center. You do not want to, like, do any kind of social awareness about it. Like there’s amazing people who are like, yeah, it’s not that I don’t care and I’m happy to give money, but, like, I’m not gonna share your post. I’m not gonna help you with your social campaign. As a donor, I will give my money, but not my voice to a topic as taboo as an abortion clinic. Or an anti-abortion clinic, which is like I’m just, like, paraphrasing like negative, uh, taboo thought around it. And like so that’s the client, right? That’s the situation is, like, very negative it’s very difficult. Like every time we talk about it, we have another ministry that helps single moms. It’s like the easiest ministry in the world to talk about. Everybody wants to help single moms. When in the last 25-30 years has, um, somebody with no money, that typically our demographic, that needs of a free pregnancy care center. Who has an unplanned pregnancy and needs free medical services. A, woman, a young woman. When has she ever had no entertainment available to her. Everything’s shut down. She can’t do anything except make babies. She has, uh, every reason not to go out and, like, you know, to use protection. Um, this scenario that this circumstance is causing is like, um is one of the greatest scenarios that this ministry has to capitalize on. It’s one of the greatest scenarios this ministry has to really live out their mission. And to love and to lead people who are walking in their doors to Christ. And to be able to help them walk through this crisis situation that they’re in. You know with the unplanned pregnancy. When has there ever been a time in the life of this ministry where it was ever more ripe? And so they have massive opportunities. Well, their clinics are deemed emergency necessary clinics that can stay open. They have four clinics in the Tampa Bay area. They’re a great ministry. They have a big staff. And so what we quickly talked about is like, man, you might be able to actually help more people, lead more people to Christ, and save more babies by doing telemedicine right now. And so they shifted, they have to shift, very quickly, into doing telemedicine, opening up only two clinics. One in each county that they’re in. And having people come into those clinics by appointment only. And they can cut their staff down by almost half. They can do more ministry with less right now. They can save more lives right now. And they can leave more people to Christ than they’ve ever had the opportunity to. But they have to quickly put in the technology. And people are willing to actually it behind this. So if you’re a donor and you’re watching all this unplay and the ministry goes, “Hey, we have to shut our doors were closing down our clinics cause our volunteers and our staff don’t want to be exposed” you know? But please keep giving. Are you gonna keep giving? You’re not. So the financial success of this organization is at jeopardy. But if they can be smart enough and they have been and they are, you know, they were amazing. They were jumping on calls, we were talking strategy very quickly, making these shifts. Like they can now go back to their donors and say, “We’re doing more than ever with every dollar that you’re giving.” We’re doing more than ever. And so there’s incentive for more people to give there’s incentive for those people to share about the great salvations that are being made, being had. And babies that are being saved. Every day there is something really cool that we’re seeing where God is clearly at work and he’s doing good. And I’m not saying God caused this. And I’m not saying that God wants this for us But I’m saying that his sovereignty is certainly greater than this virus.

Mike Mage:
I believe I don’t think that God causes these tragedies. I think that we live in a broken world and stuff like this happens. Um, just like Jesus actually died. Um and you know, But like, we serve a resurrecting, restoring, renewing God. And there’s always space, and there’s always a place for that. And so, like, you know, in these in these types of moments, you know, this shakeup that’s happening it’s almost like, um, you know, for you to plant anything of worth, you actually have to, like, disturb the ground a bunch. You know, you have to sew it. You have to dig it up. You have to move it around. You know, for something to grow and like, I really think that that’s part of what’s happening right now. This or that’s maybe that’s a perspective that we can have. Is this crisis is shaking us up, which it is. It is disturbing all of us, which it is. Ah, but like there is incredible opportunity for God’s restoration and renewal, to like take place. And if you are in ministry that’s the one thing that you can, capitalize on is, you know, like and at this point in time, because people are being so shaken up there might actually be more of an opportunity for you as a ministry to change and help people’s lives. Which is incredible because that’s the church’s, the church can do that, you know, right now

Justin Price:
I love it, Mike. So tell me a little bit about what it’s taken for you guys to be successful at Bay Hope. Give us a little bit of insight there because it’s been amazing to watch from the outside.

Mike Mage:
I think the first thing that you have to do is you have to define your reality for whatever is happening and be honest with your situation. Which I don’t think anybody is not being honest, that the fact that, like this is crazy and this is a crisis and this is all really weird. But that has to be a place that you start of of just the self awareness, and then simply asking, “What can you do?” And doing as much as you can within the the resources and abilities and talents that you have, and then trusting that God is going to do, whatever he’s going to do with it. So, like, we’re not called to make an amazing production right now. That’s not what we’re called to do. We’re not called to, you know, the stuff that we were doing six months ago, we’re called to be obedient with what God has given us. And so, we have, we broadcast our services every weekend, and so we just immediately went to this idea of like, Oh my gosh, there’s a lot that we could do online right now. About a year ago, we hired a digital pastor, which happens to be my brother, who did all of the hard work and understood the ins and outs of what it means to, you know, for the broadcast. So he’s been obedient for a year. So now, in just really putting in the hard work so that when a crisis hits, we actually have something in our tool belt to really make something happen. We set up a production schedule and a programming schedule and, we just said, You know, can we do worship every day from Monday through Thursday like, Yeah, we can do that. So that’s something we’ll do every day. What can we do, obviously, we need to have something for kids and for students. Well, let’s put that at 10 o’clock every day. So every day, 10 o’clock, we have some sort of message to students and kids. 12 o’clock is our worship time. At two o’clock, it’s a check-in with any pastor, we have a couple of different pastors on the platform. Or a couple of different pastors who are employed at the church. So that’s a two o’clock and then at four o’clock as we wrap up the day that is our lead pastor. That’s his time to sort of give, like a State of the Union address every, every day at four. So it was this, and then we started, we’ve started to see over time this consistency develop. So it’s almost like whatever you are planning on doing create some sort of consistent schedule because what we’re seeing is engagement through like, through the roof. Just not so much, you know, we’re seeing sort of the same amount of views. But we’re seeing the same people come back and then seeing them move to like deeper levels of engagement and inviting people to come into. So we’re almost seeing this, like exponential growth in engagement because of the consistency that’s happening. So then on top of that dude, and this is the thing that is like the craziest thing of all, is you’re seeing churches and businesses shut down. And you’re seeing people you know, lose their jobs and all that kind of stuff, and it’s terrible. However, our church in the month of March because of all of this stuff that we’re doing, it’s brought in, like, close to 90% of all of the of the money that we would need to keep the lights not, to keep things going, to keep people paid, to continue to do what we’ve been doing. To continue to bring value, and to continue the ministry that we’ve been doing. So we brought in close to 90% of what we needed. So on top of, like, all of our spending cuts, because we’re basically just not trying to spend any money. So on top of that, plus, you know, bringing in that much money, I mean, like, it’s a huge testament to what we’re doing. People are supporting it. People are getting behind it on so many different levels. And so based on that, you know, we’ve created a consistent schedule of programming, but then, you know, then it’s starting to branch out some more. So, like today, we had a home school class, one of our pastors, she homeschooled her kids and so she did an interview with our digital pastor, Andy. Just like an hour long conversation about the trials and the tears of what it means to home school your kids for someone who’s never homeschool before. Setting up prayer lines, setting up, you know, food drives and all that kind of stuff. So but, like, we’re thankfully at Bay Hope Church, we have, like, a relatively large staff, and so, like, it allows us to do, you know, a couple of different things. But, like, it could also allow us just because, like, oh, we have a big staff and we have a bunch of money and reserve like we’re just gonna sit tight and wait this out. You know, like there is very much. Because it’s not easy to try and create whole new schedules and whole new ideas of how you’re doing things and even why you’re doing them, you know, like I’ve come home the past three weeks more tired, and I mean, like, I’m physically in the building as little as I possibly can. Just because, you know, like of all the social distancing rules and all that kind of stuff, and we are very much keeping the six-foot distancing. In one room specifically, there is no more than 10 people. On the campus, I mean, like, we might have 15 people on the campus at it’s height anyway. So, like, you know, like, most of the people are working from home anyway. But, like, I come home every evening, like, more tired than I have been in, like, a long time. Just because we’re working, you’re working harder and like, that’s very much our reality. Right now, if you are a creative person in the middle of this crisis, like you are going to be more tired. And you should be because, like,

Justin Price:
You’re stretching the muscles. Yeah, you’re working out you that creative muscles hard it can.

Mike Mage:
Yep. So it is tiring and but like it is also, especially that first week and 1/2 like, you just get that thrill of like, you know, I mean this in, like, the most sensitive way possible. Like, obviously, the world is at a really tough spot. But from like a creative standpoint, like for those of you that get fired up about ministry and for those of you that get fired up about, you know, bringing people Jesus, wherever there at. Which is what we’re actually called to do. And figuring out new, exciting ways to do that and seeing people respond positively to it. Like that’s something that really lights a fire under your butt and makes you want to continue to do it. So, um, yeah, it’s been really cool, to see and to be a part of and to do, um, and super hard.

Justin Price:
I just I love that you guys air not stuck on like we can do our programming on Sundays.  The fact that you’re like offering more programming is really exciting to me. I think I haven’t seen a lot of churches be as aggressive as you guys are. Yeah, and that’s to me. Just super impressive to see how hard you’re working. And I wonder how sustainable it is. I wonder if it’s like, well, this is fun for now, but, like, how would you feel if you were doing this next year?

Mike Mage:
Sure. Yeah, well, and we talked about that, too. Like like we said, Like OK, if we know that we’re doing this and this is, you know, two weeks ago. If we know we’re doing this until Easter, we can keep up this pace. But like, if we have to go further than this, like, how do we make this sustainable? And so we’ve had discussions like that, and, you know, this is for, like, we don’t have a studio. You know, like we’re having to like, make stuff out of, you know, rooms that we have that aren’t being used right now. And, like take pieces of equipment that were in other spots of the church and bring them to certain areas. Thankfully, you know, we have equipment to do that. But like, you know, we started saying like, well, like. Kind of like in the Steven Brewster podcast, like the playing field is being leveled right now. You know, like you’re seeing Justin Bieber do a concert on his phone. You’re seeing you know, Brad Paisley do a concert from his phone. You know, like the production quality is not what people care about right now. Thankfully.

Justin Price:
As creatives who work with a lot of production stuff, I just I want you to say that again because, man, it’s just so hard for us to remember and think about. It’s so painful. It’s just so painful. To think about the money we spend because it’s like, well, that’s the level that it needs to be at. And then to be like, yeah, but if you just deliver the good content on a cellphone, people would be just as happy with that. And it’s just amazing.

Mike Mage:
Well, and it is, it’s doing, because you’re right. Like it’s doing some weird things to our preconceived notions as to like what “good” is anymore and so, like it’s having to. We’re having to redraw the end zones, you know, like the end zone is not this brand new light that I got for $3,500 and it could do this cool, gobo. And, uh, you know, I don’t know, like, if not this brand new guitar that I got that…

Justin Price:
This is coming from the guy who just got a 45 foot led wall in his church. Just for his spotlight shot, just like his A Cam shot.

Mike Mage:
Just for me. But it’s a nice,it is a good check, to like for you to remember that, like those are just tools. Like that does not make the good content that you’re doing. And so you know, and like it honestly. It frees you up to leverage the things that you can do, like, get involved in the comments section, or, you know, have somebody get in on, like, ground level, almost like guerrilla style marketing for your church. And, like, have a share campaign, you know, like, just share this crap wherever you see it. You know, just immediately click that share button. You have no idea who this is going to. So, um, it kind of like Like I said, it’s kind of nice to, like re-evaluate like how you’re doing things because of why you’re doing it.

Justin Price:
It’s amazing. We think about churches, when I think about churches, A lot of people think like, well, churches are scrappy by nature. But some churches have gotten bloated. Like some of us have gotten really spoiled with big budgets. And it’s really cool to see how we’re responding and how we’re able to do more across the board. It’s, also been amazing just to see, you know, some of the inspiration that’s coming out of it. You know, you mentioned some of the shows. I was just thinking about, you know, just the connection It’s gotten us to some of our our favorite talent. You know, um, John Krasinski’s piece has gotten press from everywhere. I mean, he struck the jackpot with piece. Everybody just loves picking that up. He was smart to include his daughter, props to him. His producer was smart… but you know, I mean, I think we all are smiling right now at those good, authentic things that are being produced right now. And I think, what’s interesting, you mentioned about leveling the playing field a little bit. I was thinking like, man authenticity has always leveled the playing field. We just have ignored it. We covered it up. You know, we’ve like we’ve smothered it with bacon and cheddar cheese. You put bacon and cheddar cheese on anything and it’s like you can digest it. It’s my life motto right there.

Mike Mage:
Not anymore, Justin.

Justin Price:
Not anymore. Bacon and cheese no more. But you know what I’m saying? There’s just so much good coming out of this. I hope that anybody who’s listening to this could be inspired. I really, I really do. If you need any help, call Mike, reach out to either of us. My email address is Justin Justin@verscreative.com. Mike what’s your email.

Mike Mage:
My email is MMage@bayhope.com. So just my first initial and my last name at bay hope dot com.

Justin Price:
I’m so glad you got rid of your AOL the sexy guitar player @aol.com.

Mike Mage:
Well, there was so many of them I had to have, like, I had to add, like, three numbers on the back end of it was just it was too much. Too many underscores. Yeah, well, this has been an incredible conversation. Justin, thank you so much for just being willing to talk about this stuff. It’s our goal as healthy church growth and the podcast. To be able to sort of, you know, speak into this time as much as we can about you know what this all looks like for you and just know that you’re not alone. Know that, whatever challenge that you’re facing, we’re all facing together. So be encouraged. Know that God is still moving, and God is still working. We say this a lot in the podcast world and to share and to like and subscribe and rate and all that kind of stuff. But it really does help us. Not necessarily just get more visibility, but allows us to understand what content you are resonating with. And allows us to dive deeper into that. So engage with us, talk with us, rate, share, subscribe. We would love for as many people to be a part of this conversation is possible. So thanks again for listening. And once again here at healthy church growth, we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life.

Healthy Church Growth – Episode 9 – Kevin Ely

Is it true? Is it clear? Is it fresh?

Is creativity our highest aim? As creatives, we all have an inclination to push the envelope on everything we do, but sometimes it’s not necessary. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to be really clear. Kevin Ely, Creative Director at LifeChurch, challenges us to use our creativity to solve problems.

Stop Being Unbelievably Creative – https://www.sundaymag.tv/unbelievably-creative/


Transcriptions:

Mike Mage:               

Welcome to the Healthy Church Growth podcast. 

(music intro)

Welcome to the Healthy Church Growth Podcast, where we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life. Once again, we are so excited and ecstatic that you’re joining us here for this conversation. Real quick, before we get started, we would absolutely love it if you would, like, subscribe, share, rate this podcast – wherever you get your podcasts. It would help us honestly help you. We want to continue to talk to some amazing people, and more importantly, we want to continue to engage with you in any way that we possibly can. Just so we can sort of, you know, see what needs to be talked about. See, what needs to be addressed and have some great conversations with you, our audience. You know, here at Healthy Church Growth, one of the real reasons that we’re doing this is to help equip you to help equip the church capital C, and you know, creative departments all throughout ministry with healthy growth strategies from ministry experience and commercial expertise. And, you know, it’s just, it’s a blast having these conversations. And we really hope that you’ll be able to glean something from this. Once again, my name’s Mike Mage and I’m one of your hosts here, and I am actually joined today by one of our awesome co-hosts, Justin Price.

Justin Price:

Mike. So stoked to be here. Thanks for having me. It’s always a pleasure to get to talk with you.

Mike Mage:

Always. Always, always. Today we have a really great conversation and one that I really enjoyed having – it’s with Kevin Ely, who is one of the I guess, creative / video directors at Life Church. Um, which Justin? Have you ever heard of Life Church before?

Justin Price:

I think they’re from Australia.

Mike Mage:

Yeah, that’s the wrong one. That’s the wrong giant church.

Justin Price:

It’s the other giant church with more than 30 campuses. Yeah. Okay. This is Life Church from the US.

Mike Mage:

Right? Yeah, like crazy. I mean, from the time that I spoke with Kevin in this interview, they grew from 32 campuses to now they have 34. So just in, like, an instant they went from like…Isn’t that nuts?

Justin Price:

They’re growing faster than chick-fil-a I think right now. I was looking up some stats. They are the fastest-growing Christian organization. Chick-Fil-A is just trailing behind them. 

Mike Mage:

That’s crazy.

Justin Price:

That’s not true. By the way. Audience.

Mike Mage:

Here at Healthy Church Growth, where we just make up stats. 

Justin Price:

We just make up stats. Welcome to marketing – commercial marketing.

Mike Mage:

Yeah, about that. Yeah, that’s really funny. So he, Kevin, has actually been at life church, and we talk about this a bunch. Um, you know, there…

Justin Price:

Since there was two campuses. It’s insane.

Mike Mage:

So which, Let’s see, I’m sure for him, seems like a lifetime ago, which is, you know, 16-17 years. And Justin, I thought that you mentioned something really interesting as we were, sort of, you know, going through this about, you know, the fruits of staying at somewhere a long time. And you know, we were talking about that a little more, and I thought that was interesting, but I guess there’s kind of a flip side to that too. Right? 

Justin Price:

You never really want to be in your first ministry. Uh, only thinking like, man, that could be really tough. But if you came into ministry when you were already at the height of your career, you probably came into a ministry that was a bit more, um, suited for your growth and to kind of take you where you needed to go. But, you know, I had a weird one. Mike, you know, I left my home church, which I got a job at right out of college. And it was a great church. A good mega-church that I grew up at, I was fortunate enough to grow up at, but then I went and did ministry for eight or nine years. And when I decided to move back home, uh, first Sunday, back at church, just trying to regroup, figure out what I wanted to do – they offered me a job as a creative director.

Mike Mage:

Which happens, also happens all the time.

Justin Price:

They were like, “So what are you doing?” And I was like, “I don’t know”, they’re like, “Well, we could use a creative director”. So, uh, there is this, like, thought that you really can’t grow up somewhere and be really effective, I just think that’s not true. There’s so many people super, uh, who have grown up somewhere who have been super effective. I’ve seen guys who grew up in churches be their second pastor, working with an awesome church up in Toledo called Cedar Creek and Ben grew-up at the Church. Like he interned there, he was such a hardcore follower of their founding pastor who grew that church into a megachurch. And it’s really, really exciting to see Ben’s success and what he’s been able to accomplish. And I think some of that did come from being there and being invested for a long time. Back over to Kevin though, man, 16 years is one thing, but 30 campuses, 32 campuses, whatever it is that’s insane to think about, like that kind of growth and, ah, the sustainability of what that means. And for him to now, be directing, you know, to be the lead creative director for all things video is awesome. So shout out to all of our video guys who are listening. There’s a ton of you. There’s a lot of video work in the church world, and there’s not a ton of church resources for video. Kevin, I think, is an incredible resource somebody who came out of, you know, news broadcast television into the church world. And has been in the thick of this at one of the best-resourced churches who is also coincidentally resourcing the church capital “C” church in ah, in such a big way with open.church. He talks about that in this interview. He says so many great things. But before getting the interview, Mike, I have one question for you.

Mike Mage:

Yeah, what is that?

Justin Price:

Um, I was told, I know kind of the area that you live in. There’s some freshwater and some brackish water springs, Ah, rivers and things like that and that there’s a high manatee population. And I just want to know, have you ever ridden a manatee?

Mike Mage:

Um, more than that…

Justin Price:

AKA Sea Cow

Mike Mage:

More than have I ever ridden a manatee, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that question before. So, uh, um, the answer’s no. But why? Why do you ask?

Justin Price:

No reason, really. But I think it’s probably, you know, our listeners would love to get into the interview, so let’s get on with it.

Mike Mage:

Yes, this is Kevin Ely, one of the creative directors at Life Church. 

(music)

Joining us today we have Kevin Ely from Life Church, a tiny church, only in – how many locations now?

Kevin Ely:

32 at the moment.

Mike Mage:

32. Good gracious all over the country. And you guys, you’re at, like, the central campus. Do you call it central?

Kevin Ely:

Yeah. So we call it Central, So we have a central office in Edmond, Oklahoma. That’s part of our Edmond campus as well. It’s right there in Edmund just north of Oklahoma City.

Mike Mage:

I got you. So we’re gonna be diving in here for you about, you know, So what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. But first questions first, since this is the healthy church growth podcast and there’s no, there’s no better sign of healthy growth in a church than your lead pastor, Craig Groeschel’s biceps. So we kind of got to get this out of the way here upfront. But, uh, what’s your church’s policy on working out during the actual workday?

Kevin Ely:

I’m not sure exactly what his schedule is, but I know he’s the first one here every day. So if, like in the afternoon, if I don’t see him in his office. I’m usually not gonna question where he is. I will say I’ve never had that. I’ve never had to test that policy myself. So yeah, that’s not a big threat for me. To have to leave to go work out. But he makes up for all of us.

Mike Mage:

It’s so funny. I have seen him speak a bunch at like Global Leadership Summit and different things like that. But that dude is massive. He is so massive. It’s crazy.

Kevin Ely:

I know. It’s like working with Batman, like the most focused, physically, mentally, spiritually fit guy I’ve ever met.

Mike Mage:

Yeah, well, now that we got that on the way, that’s the biggest answer. We were looking for on this podcast. So I know you’ve been at Life Church for 16+ years now, and you’ve been involved with creating content for videos and being a producer. But now you sort of have moved into a different role as one of the creative directors at Life Church. So how did that transition go? Just from sort of being one of the video guys to now, you’re like one of the creative directors. How is that transition? When did that happen?

Kevin Ely:

Yes, I started in 2002. We were two campuses at the time. And it just kind of started that within the year. Ah, and I was the second video person on staff. So they had started with Mark Dawson, who originally started, you know, just doing, like, broadcast and making some videos for the services and stuff. And when they decided, we really need to think about how we use video to do multi-campus stuff. They, um, called me up. I was working in TV news at the time, and ah, had never thought about working for a church. You know, Life Church was my church, but I didn’t really, you know, at the time, like video people working for churches other than doing broadcast on TV really wasn’t much of a thing. So for eight years, I just did whatever videos needed to be done. I did a lot of kid’s curriculum, series promos, training videos, just, you know, trying to do all kinds of different things. Then we grew over time. So by around 2009-10 we were needing to kind of, um, add to leadership as far as just oversight, span of care of the video producing team so that Mark could more focus on, you know, working on Craig with the weekends and things like that. So I was kind of the senior guy. So, um, I started being like a player-coach kind of role where I was making videos half the time and, you know, leading other video producers other times. And around the same time, you know, we started getting applications from people who went to school with, the idea that when they got out of college, they wanted to go work for a church in video, you know, which like going from, you know, what does it even mean to be a video person working for a church? And then now there’s people who are like, you know, that’s what I want to do with my life is quite a change. And so these people were, you know, pretty much going to be better than me at my job. So I figured I just need to get out the way, Um and then at the same time I realized that as I grew up, even though film is what I love and I still love making videos, I love editing, I realized that like what I really loved wasn’t so much the actual making the videos, it was the storytelling. It was the creative process. So around that same time, it’s like God kind of just worked all the circumstances in the right way to make me sort of realize that what I really love was helping people, you know, create things. It wasn’t even so much making the things myself. That was a secondary love and so around the time this crop of people start to come up that were really gonna be the future of the team we just realized it was time to make a change. But, you know, going from someone who makes stuff to going someone who helps people make stuff is like a big-time shift in your mind. You know, and a lot of it’s like you’ve got to be really straight with, like where your value comes from and what you get your identity from, because, you know, I started out in TV news where you’re making something every day and then working in church. You know, every, you know, weekend you’d go out and see. You know, I made that this week. I got to see that. I got to see people see it. I got to see the result. You had a tangible thing you could grab hold of and say I did that today. And when you go into more leadership, like creative direction stuff you really are more of like, I had a really great meeting today, but that tangible thing of your success, you know, isn’t there and so like it took a while to kind of release myself from being like, I need to be making things to, you know, to feel my worth. You know, and a lot of that’s just getting straight with God, where he’s got you and, you know, and making sure your identity is not coming from your work, which is really hard when you’re working in ministry sometimes.

Mike Mage:

Right. Right, and especially in the creative world, when a lot of this is judged on delivering and, you know, I can imagine it’s gotta be a huge shift. And I love what you’re saying because you’re defining your win by helping other people create things. And I feel like, you know, we talked with Todd Henry, who has the book Herding Tigers. Yeah, it’s so incredible. Yeah, it’s creative management, basically, and one of the things that really stuck with me is he said, it’s such a fundamentally different job to help people create than it is to actually create. And I don’t think that people understand that. When do you think that you know, you sort of were able to move into that role? Or when do you think you were able to define that as your win?

Kevin Ely:

Man. It was a couple of years, um, and partially because I, you know, because I did a player-coach type role for a while where I was making things and overseeing things. So I kind of got my fix both ways. And then it was probably It was 2012 when I actually finally left it behind and said, you know, you’re no longer going to be a filmmaker, and, um, you know, it was probably a year, year and a half before I really felt okay with it and because I always felt like well but I still gotta, you know, every once in awhile, I just want to make one thing, you know, And then I’d be making it and would be completely stressed because I didn’t have time for it and, you know, would always be regretting it. And then, you know, some of my fellow leaders and stuff would be like. You’ve got to stop doing this to yourself. You know, you just need to accept what your job is. Yeah. So it took a while. You know, I wish I had that book then because, uh, you know that Herding Tigers book and Todd Henry’s like one of my gurus, Accidental Creative was something that really helped me a lot around that time. And that Herding Tigers book is I would recommend it to anybody who’s transitioning from being a producer, role, a contributor, role to being a leader. It just nails so many lessons that took years to learn. You know, I wish I had had it then, um and we just went through that as a leadership group in our creative team this year. It’s a lot of like, really learning to be unselfish about, um what you’re doing and really like getting your – seeing satisfaction from seeing other people win. And that could be just for me. Now. That’s even more enjoyable than anything that I would do on my own. I make very few things myself, and occasionally my friends will be like, Well, why don’t you make things anymore? And I’m like, I do It’s just I get other people to actually do the work. So I get to sit back and watch, you know?

Mike Mage:

Yeah, well, speaking of unselfish in sort of preparing for this interview, I came across an article that you wrote, probably like four and a half years ago, entitled “Stop Being Unbelievably Creative” and we’ll put a link to It in the show notes. You have some incredible wisdom about sort of what we should create and why, that I honestly think is more relevant now then, even when it was when you wrote it, just with the onset of how many thousands of shows do we have on Netflix and that no one really even watches. There’s so much content all the time. But I would love if you could just explain the inspiration of the article. Um, with the manatee and the Eagle Scout.

Kevin Ely:

Right, it’s a true story. So it was an article, um, that Jonathan Malm has the magazine Sundaymag.tv and he was sort of looking around for people to write articles. So the topic he had he had given me the topic of just that phrase unbelievably creative. Stop being unbelievably creative and what does that mean? And the first thing I thought of – this story had just happened. So the story is basically we’re doing like, a simple promo for the church. Um, you know, life church’s, many locations, but it’s always funny to us. You know, when you’re inside the bubble of being on staff and inside, you know, backstage in the kitchen of the church, um, you kind of take for granted the vision. And so we were sort of recognizing that, you know, every once in a while why we just sort of need to remind people, What does it mean to be a multi-site church? What does it mean to be, you know, one church in many locations and you know that your campus is your community, but there’s other communities like you around there that you’re connected to. You know, we said we’ll just do this promo. And so I went to one of my filmmakers. That was one of our most creative people on the team at the time, and I and I was like, here’s this thing, to us it’s very old hat, you know, it’s ah, how many different ways can you say it? So I want you to come up with some really creative and just go for it. Like a little while later, I went into his office and saw this screengrab of a shot of outer space. And it’s in the article if you look it up in. It’s a manatee with a guy dressed as an Eagle Scout writing the manatee through space. And I was like, What is that? And he’s like, Oh, that’s the new multi-site promo And I was I just was gobsmacked. I was like, I don’t what What does this have to do with anything? Like what? You know, And I don’t remember the details of what it was, but it was basically they just decide to be super wacky. Um, he was like, Well, you said like, you know, make it interesting and so in his mind, he’s like, Well, this is a This is old hat to us. This, You know, this is saying the same old thing over and over. We need to do something to get their attention. So I couldn’t really fault him for that. But I was like, but we’re clearly not gonna show this. Um, so we went back into something a little more traditional, but, um, to this day, we still kind of talk about when you do something for creativity sake and kind of forget what you’re doing it for. We can we call it riding the manatee sometimes And and I kind of like was Okay, well, that was, you know, bullet dodged or whatever, and move on. But then when I get asked to write the article, it made me really think about while that’s a really great example and what were the things that, um, number one led to that thinking? You know what? Not just, you know, the creative process, but also, like, what are the things that compel us to want to do things like that? You know, just how do you balance that between what you’re trying to say and in trying to be, you know, it grabs attention and things like that. So the article really writing the article really helped clarify a lot of things in my mind. Um, that And in what questions should we ask on the front end? Um, you know, because there are times when you do want to really get outside the box and, um, and try something new or try something that’s just there to grab attention and then that other times where it’s like, you just need to really clear. Um And so in writing the article, I’d come up with some questions to ask, which is Is it true? Is it clear? And is it fresh? And it’s kind of like in that order like it Absolutely. Everything you say has to have truth in it with this biblical truth or just, you know, accurate information. If it doesn’t do that, then, um you know, you’re just you’re wasting time, and then is it clear? Um, you know, art can’t is what you’re doing. Going to get muddled. Is it open for the wrong interpretation? Um, you know, are you creating confusion or introducing confusion and then is it fresh. Are you saying it in a new way that makes people go? Ah-ha! You know, do you lead them to an ah-ha moment? Are you presenting something in a new way? Um, but that can’t come before the 1st 2 You know, you have to make sure you cover those bases and then you can think about grabbing the attention or whatever. In a lot of times, doing that work on the front end helps you decide what would make this fresh. You know, because if you’re clearer about how have we you know, we’re doing a marriage? Siri’s again. How have we done that in the past? Well, the first thing to do is make sure that we’re really clear about what we’re talking about, Uhm, and who were who were trying to communicate with on top of that, then you have a really it helps you decide what you need to do to be fresh because you’re the more you can do to build the foundation. It gives you a clear idea where, like the playroom is.

Mike Mage:

But I absolutely love how practical all that is like a lot, A lot of times this stuff never seems super practical. Um, and you know, I know that that that Ah, that article was written a couple of years ago. But I do. I think that I do think that it is just as important then as it is today. Ah, and so I wonder if where is sort of this creative process going? What sort of questions are you asking now? As it stands in 2019 how do we continue to make things clear?

Kevin Ely:

Um, I think, Well, one thing. I like my boss, Beth, who leads our entire creative group, all the aspects of it, from curriculum to design and everything. Um, she gave us a list of questions earlier last year that we’re like, These are questions that I’d wish I had asked in the past and one of the questions. Um, there was a great list of questions, but one of the questions that really stuck out to me was Is this something we should use to push ourselves? Or is this something where we should conserve our energy? Um, and run an established play and I remember exactly how she phrased it, but but it’s basically like with every project you have every opportunity you have to create something. It’s good to ask yourself because a lot of times, if you’re a creative person, you’re gonna want to push the envelope on everything you d’oh, and a lot of your most talented people that you have on your team. That’s gonna be their compulsion, is how can I? How can I break the box and how can I, you know, like, how can I take this to a new place? And sometimes you don’t need to do that, and and sometimes the best thing you can do is just be really clear.

Mike Mage:

So it’s almost like there’s this tension and I feel like that’s the tension that we have been doing is creatives, and you know it. So, speaking of tension, I know that you have people underneath you, and how do you lead through disagreements, especially in a creative sense which could be super technical? Um, but when you see like a project is not where it should be or it’s definitely not the direction that you want to be going. How do you sort of lead through that? The creative process.

Kevin Ely:

I think a lot of that is just laying the groundwork in the culture right off the bat. Um, so when someone’s coming onto the team or even if you have a volunteer, an intern or something like that, um, setting the groundwork for Hey, this is how we work. Um, so that nothing’s ever surprised. You know, we tell people right off the bat, even when they’re interviewing, um for a role Or, um, if someone’s coming on as a contractor or volunteer or, you know, any kind of role is we use the phrase were high feedback culture and what that’s what that is built on is I trust you have to have the trust. Um, so we talked about freely extending trust off the bat. Everyone starts with, like, a full bank of equity of like, you know, everyone’s given. You know, the reason that we’re working with you is because we believe in you. And because you are the trust is there for you to lose, not free. Not that I’m holding onto it for you to build up. So because of that, we’re gonna be really straight with you, and we’re gonna be really honest about what we see. The other thing is that we’re all here for the same reasons were mission-driven. So we know that everyone here is here for to reach people for Christ and and and And this an opportunity that we have to do that. So if we know that we’re all heading in the same direction, it makes a lot easier to say like, Hey, you’re a little of the left. Little the right, You know, you’re not coming at each other. That’s probably the ground. You know, the groundwork for that, and that takes care of 90% of conflict, really. And then the other part would be being really specific about your feedback, the compliment sandwich kind of thing. You know, things like that, where they’ll teach you of, like, you know, lead with a positive and then give the Christian you know, things like that. That’s really good from interpersonal relationship standpoint, but we also just try to be really specific about those things. Here’s what’s working, and here’s what we feel needs to change. So, um, you know, very rarely will we talk to someone and just say oh, that was just a miss. I always look at created creativity as problem-solving, So I get really excited about having a problem to solve. And so the more details I can fill in, like if it’s a math equation. I mean, creativity is math, but I would like to think of this like, you know, you have variables and you have givens and you have things that you know and things you don’t. And the more things that you know help you figure out the things that you don’t. So when I’m starting a creative process with a team I always try to like, give them as many givens as possible to make the unknowns exciting. So we need to figure out how to motivate people to ah, stop going to our most crowded service and start going to our least attended. Service is, but we’re probably only going to be able to do that in a :15 video because we don’t want it to take away from, like, serious promotion and the high you know, the things that we really want to focus on at the end of a service. Um, and so from a problem, a lot of perspective. Like casting a problem in a way that’s exciting to solve, like helps them sure come up with really great ideas. And then when you’re giving feedback, you can really focus on those variables because then you can say, OK, well, you disregarded this thing that I told you was a given and that that took you off path or, you know so that we could be really specific. And when you’re really specific about things, it’s not about them. Um and it’s less likely for them to feel that as like, Oh, you don’t like my work.

Mike Mage:

Well, especially. And if you build in that trust culture from the Geico, you’re right. A lot of that stuff seems to help out immensely. Really cool. You know, I know church life can wear you down. Ministry can wear you down. But what are some other things that really inspire you that really fill you up? Yeah, That refill you.

Kevin Ely:

I think not just here, but in any kind of ministry. It’s really easy for it to completely take over your life. And you’re thinking, you know because it means so much to you. And one of the things that our leaders really tell us is like, Don’t let your professional walk with Christ replace your personal walk with Christ. It’s easy sometimes to let your ministry replace your personal journey. Um, there’s been times where have been unhealthy, and there’s times that I’ve been really healthy. Um, and the times I’ve been really healthy is the times when I do go home and really go home. Like I think we talked before. We started recording about, like, you know, serving in the kid’s room over Christmas break. Like when I serve my church. I’m they’re serving. I’m not serving in the media capacity. I’m not. You know, I’m just there to help minister to kids. Um, and my life group, um, you know, my small group that we meet with outside of church service is there are one or two people in the group that I work with, but for the most part, it’s not, You know, it’s not a bubble of people that are all inside life church staff, and, um, I try to really, you know, keep that separate. So, um, just really. You know, I’ve got two little girls who are 10 and 11 and, um, you know, just really trying to be fully present for them. Um, a duel of movies. I’m trying to find some non-media related hobbies because pretty much, you know, I love to watch movies. That’s what recharges me. But it’s like, you know, sometimes it’s right, right? So I probably should go work out in the afternoons. My wife teaches yoga, and I never get to actually go the classes because I’m usually, you know, making sure the girls are taken care of while she’s teaching. But I need to find some physical stuff. There’s people on our team who some really, you know, like do things like woodworking and, you know, things that are really different. You know, as far as like, physical activities. Think, you know, do even something like doing CrossFit or doing things with your hands that just use a different part of your brain. Um, that’s if I were to resolve to do something. That’s something I need to do. Morris is I’m a very like inside my head kind of person, and a lot of my hobbies were those kinds of hobbies and that that would probably want me to do mouth. So you’re really convicting me right now.

Mike Mage:

Uh, well, I guess you’re welcome, I guess. Yeah. Um, I think it was Rick Warren who said, and I’m paraphrasing. They said, if you work in their brain a lot, basically or hobbies need to be something with your hands, something you can see the results of really quickly and then vice first, you work in the hands. It needs to be sort of a brain hobby, but that’s a really good sort of rule of thumb. I think I’m like, I’ve actually found for myself that I absolutely love mowing the lawn. I don’t know if that really counts as a hobby.

Kevin Ely:

I love vacuuming the house and I love folding laundry

Mike Mage:

for real. It’s this instant gratification. It’s wonderful, Feels wonderful. All right. Well, last couple of questions here, one of the best things about life church and one of the things that I have been using for years and years and years is life churches open network. And it is such an incredible resource for every church, no matter what the size. So if you would maybe just sort of give give, like, a short explanation as to what the open network is.

Kevin Ely:

Yes. Oh, uh, open network we’ve been doing for about 10 years or so. Um, and it’s basically, um, any resource that we create, um, we have the structure. Now it’s open.church, that’s the quickest URL to find it. We provide for free to any church or ministry that wants to download it for their own use. It started out with, um, like sermon notes and, like series creative elements just to sort of help churches. You know, um, I kind of have a little bit of a creative team if they can’t afford the creative team on their own. Um, but now it’s expanding into all of our curriculum. Um, and even things like training resources and plans for how we use our buildings, um, you know, like pretty much and there’s a lot more even like leadership training and things like that on there. It’s really become a ministry. One of our primary ministries is the church is, um you know, we one of the things that are our main areas of focus, as far as mission goes, is serving the capital C Church and helping other churches. Um, and that stemmed from that decision 10 years ago. There was a lot of pressure for us as we were growing to start selling our stuff because that was not unusual at the time for churches to open up, um, like a little sort of online store. Where, you know, you can buy these messages you can buy these resources and things like that. And it made sense on paper at the time financially. And there was just something in our leadership was telling them don’t do that. You need to be giving it away. And I remember when we were told about it. But what I didn’t know at the time was. The amount of time they spent making that decision and actually, what a risky decision that was at the time, because financially, really, probably on the balance sheet, it probably was what they should have done like it was probably the peak of her debt, and it would have made a lot of sense to start selling things. But, you know, God just spoke to him and said, you need to start giving this away and Craig himself would say that decision made him a more generous person in general because releasing that thing that was so, you know, on paper valuable to us, you know, that had, like, monetary value just releasing that once you realize that you gave that away and the blessing that God gave you is bigger than what you would have gotten from monetizing it. It just started applying that thinking to everything now. So pretty much like everything we do now is with the spirit of generosity. And it all comes from that decision, you know, 10 years ago. So we give away everything and we’re and we’re pretty open-handed with any kind of follow up as far as, you know, there’s a great our open network team does a lot of communication with the churches who are using their people who do what we call in-step churches that are week-of with us so you can sign up to be an in-step church. And, you know, I want to do my kid’s ministry week-of same as us, and you get access and training and things like that to help you execute. Open Network’s one of the best things about the job because you really just know that you’re not being driven by economics. You know, you’re really just driven by reaching the most people and having this thing out there that you don’t even know how far it goes. We’ll get letters from people around the world of, you know, someone was able to start a Children’s ministry because we were able to provide them a curriculum. You know it is a place like a town have never heard of. Or, you know, we got a letter from a kid who was in a hospital waiting for, like a kidney transplant. They were in a kid’s ward of a hospital, and their church was able to bring um church to him through our resource is and he’s like, you know, we get like a video of him seeing like the song that we wrote, you know, to do that and stuff like that just melts your heart and just reminds you why you’re doing this in the first place. You know?

Mike Mage:

Wow. That’s really cool. We have actually used the Open Network in our church a lot, and even just this past Christmas, we were using “Joy to the World” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, The Life Church version of it and I found all the resources through the Open Network. So I’m so grateful for it. Last question here. Uh, do you happen to have sort of any parting words of advice for, you know, our listening audience?

Kevin Ely:

I think that if there’s anything. It’s, um if you’re on a creative staff, a church, um, whether you’re the one person who’s doing everything or you’re in charge of a large team that you know has a lot of funding and resourcing, really focus on who God’s leading you to be as a church and, um, not worried too much about chasing any sort of goals of what other churches have done ahead of you. You know, like Life Church. We meet with so many churches who are on the path that we went on our wish. I had known to do what you’re doing when we were doing it, you know, because we just happen to start earlier than some people on some of the stuff we’re doing what life Church should be doing right now. and ah, a lot of the other churches that people follow. Um, they’re doing what you know, their churches being led to be doing right now. And whenever I meet with other churches, and I would say this to anybody is you just need to really ask yourself what God’s leading you to do. A lot of times we can look at other churches to say, Wow, I want to be like that. I want to be making that kind of thing. And that may not be what your community needs, Right? Then I would say, Don’t rush it. Um, don’t rush yourself. And don’t push yourself outside of the space that God’s college Ito live in and just focus on, like, step by step. Where is he leading you? Um, And if you do that, um, what I’ve seen is that God brings the people to fulfill that, so as you grow, the right people will come at the right time. If you open yourself up to seeing them when they come.

Mike Mage:

Well, man, that was an incredible interview. I loved talking with Kevin. He’s so down to earth. Um, and really just just a super good guy. Justin, I know that you are sort of the the lead sort of director at the creative agency verse creative. And, um, you know what was for you specifically? What was like, one of the big takeaway is that you took from this.

Justin Price:

Yeah, there’s no doubt for me that the story about riding the manatee which I, for the record, I would’ve ran with that, uh, I would’ve ran with that all day. Uh, I loved that, um, you know, he’s like you can’t just do things just to grab attention and, while, you want to get creative things that do grab attention. You want to get out of the box in a way that it stands out of the noise is what we typically call things that don’t stand out is just, it’s just more noise. It’s vanilla. It’s bland. Um, you have to think through that process, he said, Which was is it true? Is it clear? Is it fresh? And the most important thing about those three things was it has to be in that order. If it’s super fresh, if it is like super awesome, really, really cool and cutting edge, but it’s not clear it’s really not that effective. And if it’s really clear and awesome and it’s not true, which we use the word authentic, I think that even feels better. Um, you know, if it’s coming from an authentic place, if we can back it up if we could, um, say this is really there at the core of what the product is or, ah, the service is about or whatever it is we’re trying to communicate if it’s at the core. But it’s true, it’s authentic. Um, then it works. And so taking it in that order is incredible. If you don’t have something like that in place right now, write that down. Is it true? Is it clear? Is it fresh? In that order. And put your projects through that filter because it is, ah, it’s really amazing. And sometimes it’s just a matter of looking back at something and realizing was that clear? It was a really good idea. We did it. We executed it really well. It was really true and it was really fresh, but we missed the clarity on the whole thing. I’ve done that with my share of projects inside the church as a creative director and certainly delivered my share of projects that were not clear enough outside of the church at Vers Creative. So something that I thought was incredible, uh, and so good.

Mike Mage:

Yes. So basically, don’t ride the manatee. That’s that. Don’t do it.

Justin Price:

Also, it’s illegal. So if you’re visiting a state that has manatees like Florida does, leave them alone. If you’re down visiting, don’t ride the manatee. That is illegal they’re an endangered species. That’s a whole other level that the guys in Oklahoma probably didn’t have context for.

Mike Mage:

They didn’t even think about it. Yeah, whether or not they’re breaking the law. Well, if you want to follow Kevin he is on Instagram. But more importantly, go to open.church and it doesn’t matter what size church you are. You could worship thousands on the weekend or hundreds. It doesn’t matter. Open.church has an incredible amount of resources for you to be able to lead your church and help your church grow.

Justin Price:

And if you missed any of this stuff that we just said, we’ll put the show notes in the show page at healthychurchgrowth.org. We’d love for you to visit. Check it out again. Subscribe, like share. It means the world to us when you do, we’d love to do another season of these. And if we, uh, we see enough action, if we see some people actually rating and ah, making downloads and downloads and subscribing to the new ones, we will keep doing this. We are committed to trying to share the resources we’ve got. At Vers Creative, we love to share our resources whether that is great interviews or just experiences that we have had in years of doing things the wrong way in ministry so that you can do them the right way. Maybe with a little less pain, Um, we would be stoked for you guys to continue to get something great out of it. So thank you for listening. It means the world to us.

Mike Mage:

Yes. And once again, we’re the healthy church growth podcast where we believe that healthy things grow in growth means life.

Healthy Church Growth – Episode 8 – Nick Benoit

How to make excellence a habit.

Dreams are things you’d like to do, habits are things you regularly do. If your dreams do not line up with your habits you will never reach them. Healthy habits can get you through dry creative seasons and unanticipated difficulties. Nick Benoit, Creative Director at Willow Creek Community Church, was tasked with navigating his church through an incredibly difficult time of transition while continuing to lead his team in creating excellent work. He gives practical tips on how to maintain a culture of excellence, regardless of the variables.

>> Episode 9: Kevin Ely


Transcriptions:

Mike Mage:               

Welcome to the Healthy Church Growth podcast. 

(music intro)

Welcome to the Healthy Church Growth podcast where we believe here that healthy things grow and growth means life. We really, really appreciate you joining us here for these conversations. Before we get anything started, we would love if you would like this, subscribe to this podcast, rate this podcast, wherever you get your podcasts. You can do that. It helps us, really, at the end of the day, help you. And we want you to be a part of this. Just as much, and you can also share this with your creative teams. These are some great conversations we’re having and we just, we really love doing it. So I am Mike Mage. I am one of the hosts here for the Healthy Church Growth podcast and joining me is Justin Price.

Justin Price:

Thanks, Mike. So stoked to be here.

Mike Mage:

Today on our podcast, really exciting interview we have with Nick Benoit, who is one of the creative directors at Willow Creek Church. A super influential, impactful church, especially over the last 20-25 years. And, you know, Nick actually talked a lot about, in this interview, self-awareness and, Justin, I just kinda wanna ask you there’s a ton of tools out there for, you know, finding your strengths and self-awareness. He talks a lot about the enneagram. And have you taken the enneagram before, or you know, studied that at all?

Justin Price:

Not only have I taken it, I love the enneagram. Our whole staff at Vers Creative, uh, is it’s part of the routine for on-boarding and for continued growth with our staff. So definitely something that is part of our culture and something that has been a game changer for us, for understanding each other. As, you know, working with creatives is all about understanding how to communicate with him.

Mike Mage:

Yeah, and one of the things Nick really talks about is know thyself, and that’s, you know, that’s the base of a lot of this. So before we recorded this Justin and I were talking about the enneagram, and I think it would be fun – and this is, you’re totally not supposed to do this with the enneagram. You’re not supposed to like pigeonhole and guess other people’s enneagram numbers right?

Justin Price:

It’s completely against the rules. The first rule of enneagram club is to not guess other people’s enneagram numbers.

Mike Mage:

Yeah. So I want to guess yours. And then I want you to guess mine. Uh, and I want to see how close we actually are.

Justin Price:

Yeah. Let’s do it. I’m curious to know what you think I am.

Mike Mage:

Okay, I’m gonna go ahead and say you are a 3w2 possibly a 3w4.

Justin Price:

Woh. Wow. Well, before I answer whether or not you’re close I’m going to guess yours.

Mike Mage:

Ya, go for it.

Justin Price:

I don’t have a clue what you are, Mike, but I think you’re a 2w3, okay? And the only reason I think that is because…I shouldn’t be. I shouldn’t record this, but I’m gonna say it anyway. People I love working with that are, like, just really fun for me to work with are all 2w3. There are people that I respect and there’s a ton of other numbers that I get a lot done with and, like, really respect, but man, 2w3s are fun. And whenever I think about working with you on anything for Healthy Church Growth, I’m excited. It’s always fun. And, uh, I don’t know, you might be an anomaly, but I think I’ve got a really good tracker with 2w3. What are you?

Mike Mage:

That’s super nice. I thought I was a 2w3, but when I’m diving into it a little more – and I still might be, who knows? Because it’s all about self-discovery, but I’m pretty sure I am a 9w8. And so, you know, the peacemaker with the challenger thing. And I identify a lot with the things that are wrong with those people. Yeah, but who knows? I might be, but I honestly, the first time I did it, I thought I was a 2w3 for sure.

Justin Price:

That’s so funny. I thought that the description for 9w8 was psychopath or bipolar.

Mike Mage:

(lauhgs) Honestly, that’s basically what it is.

Justin Price:

I’m hurting for you right now.

Mike Mage:

What goes on inside of a 9 because, they talk about keeping that inner peace or whatever and like, you’re just constantly conflicted, and like, I do feel that a lot. But then you are a nine. And so everything, everyone’s gotta be cool. So just let’s just be cool. 

Justin Price:

Let’s forget that I just went eight on you. Let’s be cool. That’s great. Yeah, I have not seen the 8 side of you yet, but I love that you have it, and I respect it because I’m a 7w8.

Mike Mage:

No way! This is why you don’t type people.

Justin Price:

I’m a clinical definition of a 7. I mean, I’m just an enthusiast at the enthusiast’s core. The weird thing about me is I sometimes put myself in unhealthy positions because I do my best work in my unhealthy state of stress as a 1, and 7s retreat to a 1 in an unhealthy state. And so I turn into a perfectionist. I procrastinate to put myself into that and to build that stress. Today, everybody on our staff knows to give Justin false deadlines. He will produce the best work of his life with deadlines, and nobody will be upset and he won’t be late because they’re false not real ones. 

Mike Mage:

So crazy. Isn’t that funny?

Justin Price:

I love that you’ve got that 8. Maybe that’s what I like about you.

Mike Mage:

It’s possible. It doesn’t come out a whole lot, but it does come out every once in a while and yeah, as a 9, you don’t know what to do with it. You know, it’s – oh, gosh, this is not what I wanted. Well, cool. Again, another great example of why you dont type other people. Yeah, because we were both wrong. So yeah, well, I mean, the reason that we’re talking about self-awareness and knowing thyself is because Nick Benoit, he really dove into that because of the situation that they were at with Willow Creek when I did this interview with him, and they were really in the aftermath of, you know, a pretty bad, painful experience with Willow Creek and how their founding pastor left.

Justin Price:

A thought I had with that, Mike, was how you know there are a ton of really well educated people in ministry and a lot of the listeners, they have taken all the classes they have done seminary, and the one thing that, like there’s really not a great class that can prepare you for dealing with a scandal or a major issue, or even just the the change of a senior founding pastor. As that change happens, it is so difficult for a church, for a congregation that has, especially a church that has grown with influence because of, with one person for lead. And I think it’s so valuable for us to learn as much as we possibly can from other churches who have been through that and to listen. This is such a great interview, Mike. You know, you did a great job dealing with somebody, you know, interviewing somebody who is dealing some like deep things in this interview, you know, he’s really, Nick did a beautiful job of being transparent about how they were processing some things. I love the fact that, you know, he said, they’re in a spot where they have to ask, What did we learn? Not keep trying to recycle through the issues, but really to take something away and learn something from it. I think you know, you mentioned that self-awareness was so valuable, it’s something that they have learned. So I love this interview just for that. I hate it for, um, you know, the sake of where that turned what the church has had to go through for us to have this interview, but what Healthy Church Growth is all about is allowing people who maybe don’t have mentorship. Who don’t have as much experience to be able to hear from people like Nick, and this is really a gift. I think from Nick and from their church to our audience to be able to process it here. Some of the processing on this side of a major scandal at such an influential church is a really, really big deal. So love this interview. Can’t wait to wrap up with you. You did a great job on it.

Mike Mage:

Thanks so much. Well, here is the interview with Nick Benoit, creative Director and Willow Creek.

(Music)

(Nick Benoit Introduction Quote)

Mike Mage:

Today we have Nick – It’s Benoit correct? 

Nick Benoit:

It is. It is. French pronunciation.

Mike Mage:

I took French five years in school, so I feel like I can get that little, you know, the little French thing on there. Is your family from France? Or do you have any idea where the Benoit comes from?

Nick Benoit:

There’s a  little French Canadian from a little ways back.

Mike Mage:

Okay, cool. So you’re going from cold to even colder for the most part. Well, so first questions first, and you know, one of our executive producers, I guess our executive producer, Jason Smithers, I guess you guys are both from the Toledo area. Correct? 

Nick Benoit:

That’s right. 

Mike Mage:

Okay. So he has to know and, you know, is it Tony Paco’s hot dogs or Rudy’s hot dogs? And I’m warned here, there is a right answer.

Nick Benoit:

Okay, so here’s the thing I grew up about a block and a half away from a Rudy’s and my dad, every Friday night, would bring home after work – he’d bring home a white paper sack stuffed full of Rudy’s hot dogs, like the grease leaking through the paper bag. And so I grew up on Rudy’s. The problem is, I hated it.

Mike Mage:

(laughs)

Nick Benoit:

So I am a Paco guy through and through. I always felt a little disloyal in that, but I’ve got to tell the truth.

Mike Mage:

Well, and the truth will set you free, my friend. So what is? What’s the difference?

Nick Benoit:

I don’t know. Rudy’s just feels a little bit more run of the mill. Pacos feels like something a little special to me. There’s just something with more of a crack to it.

Mike Mage:

So funny. And this is super compelling stuff here.

Nick Benoit:

Yeah. Hard hitting. 

Mike Mage:

Yeah, I grew up, at least I was born in, like, the Flint, Grand Blank area. So a little further north, in Michigan, and we had Kogels hot dogs. So I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of those before, but you know, snappy hot dogs. Is that kind of similar to, you know, Paco’s, like the same sort of similar thing?

Nick Benoit:

Yeah, and I think the key with Paco’s is their chilli sauce. Like you just, I don’t know what’s in it, but you can’t really hold a candle to Paco’s sauce.

Mike Mage:

Well and there’s, after living in the Southeast for the better part of my life now, no one understands what a good chili dog is here. Like no one. No one really, like my wife had never – so we’ve been together for 16 years now and, like I brought her up to Michigan. I don’t know, I mean, it wasn’t that long ago. It was probably 4-5 maybe 6 years ago. And she finally had, like, an actual chili dog. And I mean her life was changed. I mean, right, Yeah, dramatically. Has

Nick Benoit:

Has she been reborn?

Mike Mage:

Yeah. I mean, you could say it’s been a rebirth of sorts. Well, cool. I guess Jason will be happy with that, because I’m pretty sure he’s a Paco’s guy. And, yeah, that’ll be okay. Moving on that was, you know, we had to get that out of the way, of course. 

Nick Benoit:

Ya. First things first. 

Mike Mage:

(laughs) Yeah. So, in a short format here. You work at Willow Creek. How did you get there? What position do you hold right now? And how did you get that position, even?

Nick Benoit:

Yeah, so, a little more than five years ago, I was working in a church in Southern California. My wife and I, we’d been there for about a decade, and we loved it. And we’re really, really happy. And I randomly got a message in my inbox asking me if I wanted to apply at Willow. They had an opening for a creative director, and it was similar to work that I was doing in California and, you know, growing up in the Midwest, I had always known about Willow. I had always loved the work that they had done. And I think in some ways it even inspired me, as a kid, to know what it looked like. The intersection of creativity and ministry. And so when I got the email, I was really, really flattered, but my first response was No. My wife and I were really, really happy where we were. And, lo and behold, I came home and I said to my wife, I said, I got the strangest email today and, um, I told her about it and she burst into tears and I was like, What? What? What’s going on? And she said, I don’t know. She’s like, for the last couple months I’ve just been sensing that a change is coming for us and, she goes, and just last week, she had said to her best friend, I think a big transition’s coming for our family and I don’t know what it is, and I don’t know what it looks like, but something’s about to change. And so that led us on about a six month journey of God, making it more clear than he ever has made anything in our life that we were meant to move our family of five across the country and take the role of creative director here at Willow. And, um, we never would have made the move if it hadn’t been for a call that was that clear. But it’s been, our time here has been an amazing gift. And so I came in as a creative director, and that’s still a lot of the work that I do, but I’ve just taken on the role of weekend director, which is kind of executing, producing our weekends and overseeing the vision for all that we do across all our weekends. So it’s just a little bit of an expanded role here in the last few months.

Mike Mage:

Man, what were some of the ways that God sort of, like, confirmed with you that you needed to be heading back to the Midwest?

Nick Benoit:

There were so many things, but the final clincher for me literally came down to an actual road sign. 

Mike Mage:

That’ll do it, I guess.

Nick Benoit:

Exactly! So I was really wrestling with – do we? don’t we? I was well into the interview process. The church I was at already knew that this was a conversation and they were just, they were so great about it. They were praying with me, and they were for us and for whatever God wanted for us and it was really cool to be able to process that together with friends who had become family and to not have that be a dangerous thing. But then, um, I said to my wife one day, I was like, “Do you mind if I go to the Grand Canyon?” Um, because we were talking about doing a creative piece for the church that, uh, talked about the Grand Canyon and I was having trouble writing it because I’d never been there. And I said, on top of needing to do this project like, I just I just need some time to think and to pray and be by myself for a while and she blessed it. She’s like, yeah, definitely, do it. So I got a quick hotel room in Flagstaff, Arizona, and started a couple day road trip, and, on the way there was crossing the desert, and  I was really distracted. I had the music turned up loud. I had the windows rolled down, you know, classic road trip vibe. But I realized I was kind of avoiding the real question that I’d taken the trip to ask. I finally, I just said ok God, we need to talk. And I rolled up the windows and I turned down the radio and as much as you can bow your head while you’re driving. Um, I just said, God, I really need to hear from you. I feel like you might be asking us to take a role at Willow Creek, but I want to be sure because I don’t want to move my whole family. I don’t want to leave people and a job that I love if you’re not actually asking us to do it. And I look back up at the road, and the moment I looked back up at the road, I literally passed a sign – one of those markers for when you cross bodies of water – and it said Willow Creek, like in the middle of the Arizona desert, I crossed Willow Creek. And just, it was the last in a long string of things, and it just felt like God saying, like, I can’t make it any more clear, so yeah, it was a pretty cool journey.

Mike Mage:

Oh, my gosh, man, Yeah. Hard to beat an actual sign.

Nick Benoit:

Yeah. I mean, you know, you pray for blinking neon, and it was just about that. 

Mike Mage:

Oh, man. So when you talk about moving your whole family, basically cross country, what does your family consist of?

Nick Benoit:

Yeah. So it’s me and my wife Karen, and we’ve been married for, I think it’s like 16, we’re going on 16 years, and then we have three kids – a nine year old boy, six year old girl and a three year old girl, and then the dog.

Mike Mage:

Obviously, you know, working at Willow Creek. You guys have had a super tumultuous, I mean, crazy past couple of years. I guess last year and a half and, I mean, I can’t imagine how difficult it was. I mean, obviously, it’s almost like what you initially signed up for has changed significantly, to a certain extent. So you know, because this podcast is about healthy church growth, you know – what obstacles have you faced in leading your creative team and your weekend creative team, through this crisis?

Nick Benoit:

Oh, man. I’ve thought about the answer to this question so many times, and yet, it’s so hard to articulate. And, I even feel like the answer changes, given the moment you ask it. So recently, I heard a story about pig 311. So I think it was back in 1946. The United States military wanted to test, um, the effectiveness of nuclear weapons. And so they, in this lagoon, it was like Bikini Lagoon or something like that, they amassed all of these defunct warships and they filled the warships with animals like goats and pigs and monkeys and horses, and they actually dressed them in military uniforms because they wanted to know how different clothing or different fabrics might be affected by a nuclear explosion. So they then dropped a nuclear weapon on this lagoon and I mean, of course, it just wiped almost everything out. But a couple hours later, some sailors, so of course there’s a whole, uh, there’s a whole bunch of military Navy ships watching this, observing it, and they have to go in and do the clean up afterwards. And, um, they look into the water and there is a pig swimming past their ship, and they rescue this pig and they find out that based on – this was pig 311. And so they knew exactly where it was and on which ship and it had been right at the epicenter of the blast and yet somehow it had survived. It was touted as this miraculous mystery and this, um, proof that nuclear weapons weren’t really that bad. Because, look, this pig survived with no lasting problems, and he was donated to the Smithsonian Zoo. And, um, the thing about this pig is that it was sterile. It gained way more weight than it should have and ended up dying long before it should have. So even though this pig 311 was lifted up as this like, hey, look, uh, nuclear weapons are fine. They don’t have a lasting impact. Radioactive material is not that bad. There were clearly some underlying problems that weren’t really recognized until much later. And when I heard that story that just resonated with me. Because I don’t want to be that pig. I want to ask the deeper questions and know what’s going on inside myself and what’s going on inside the church. The Body of Christ that I work with alongside and serve and I feel like that’s one of the number one lessons we’ve learned is that we want to ask the deeper questions, and we want to tell the deeper truths. And, of course, that just digs up so much stuff in individual lives too, you know? But I feel like this has just been, it’s been a season of soul searching and choosing to ask the deeper questions.

Mike Mage:

Ah, man, I know. That’s heavy. I appreciate you sharing about that. I know that it’s I mean, I can’t imagine at this scale, I guess, of you know, what has happened at Willow Creek, and even as you’re referencing a nuclear weapon. I mean, the aftershock waves of it, you know, like, we were affected by it here down in Tampa, you know, just in the sense of feeling for, uh, you know, everybody involved. Right, wrong, whatever. You know, like this whole thing. This is not the way anything is meant to be, at the end of the day. And, you know, I believe that God is bigger than we could ever even think or imagine, and God’s redemption covers all things. You know, how as a church, do you feel like this is soul searching for the church? Or mostly just people on staff? How do you think people at church are responding to all the changes and, you know, all that kind of stuff?

Nick Benoit:

Yeah, I think it’s a little bit of both, I think. I mean, when everything first broke, people were all over the place. So it was impossible to pin down, how any one group of people felt because it was so individualized. Now I would say that I think I’d still have trouble characterizing it exactly. I know that the staff, um, is kind of entering a new phase where in the immediate aftermath, there were so many just knee jerk reactions and good and necessary changes that were made. And now it feels like we’re settling into a different era of learning where we want to humbly looking back over the last year and just say – What have we learned? Where can we grow? What still needs to be unearthed yet? What repercussions, like pig 311, what repercussions might we not see yet? But we still need to get down into, um, and I think the church is aware of some of that and not aware of some of that and the thing we’ve constantly been wrestling with is – this has been the forefront of most of the staff’s mind, but for people who attend this church, it sent them reeling for a while, but most of them had personal concerns, family concerns, work concerns, relational concerns, that quickly took the forefront of their minds and hearts. And they needed God to speak into those things. And so they needed the church to speak into those things. And so it feels like on the staff side, we still have a lot of things to do to dig into our culture and make sure that we’re healthy and make sure that we know the truth about ourselves so that we can speak the truth about ourselves. Um, but for the church, I think they’re going to see some of that, but we also just want to be the church to them and not kind of always have that business be in their face.

Mike Mage:

Man. Well, cool. Well, thank you for talking about that for a little bit. I don’t want to belabor a point or anything. Yeah, but just simply asking the question. What have we learned? I mean, I think that’s I feel like that’s the humble approach to self awareness that, like we all, that’s the journey we all need to be on, you know, like good, bad, indifferent, whatever. What have we learned? And then How can we grow?

Nick Benoit:

Yeah, because I think at some point, we learned that our question can’t be, What is the truth?
Because, honestly, we’re never gonna know. There’s so many different accounts and there’s, just, absolute truth is going to be really hard to arrive at. And so I just, I think I’ve released that expectation and the forefront question has been, ok, what do we learn?

Mike Mage:

I know that Willow And you know, just from what I’ve experienced from Global Leadership Summit, you know that kind of stuff. You guys have some incredible performance pieces. I just watched a couple of minutes ago, just to you know to refresh on some of them. I just watched the one with the, um, the oil in the sludge. You know, that was you, right? You did that right?

Nick Benoit:

Yeah. 

Mike Mage:

Okay, cool. Just making sure. It was so cool. Um, but how do you guys find balance in leading creative teams and still putting out creative work as part of the team or even as an individual?

Nick Benoit:

Yeah. The answer is not a sexy one, like, I think the answer is habits and deadlines. Um, for me, my personal habits are of utmost importance. And what I mean by that is how do I spend time with my family? How do I spend time with God? How do I spend time away from the office? Um, having really clear boundaries around that and keeping my life very disciplined. Because as soon as those things start to fall apart, my ability to wrap my mind, my heart, my hands around creativity, it quickly unwinds. But then the other thing is, is just deadlines. Um, since I’ve come to Willow, I have done more creative work – I’ve done more creative work in the five years that I’ve been here then I have done in the rest of my previous life combined, and what amazes me about that is each of us is capable of so much more than we realize. We just don’t require it of ourselves. And there’s something about deadlines, whether someone is setting them for you or you’re setting them for yourself, that if they always feel a little bit impossible, that’s probably really good. My calendar always feels a little too full. I always have a little bit too much on my plate, and that keeps us moving fast. And I will readily admit, sometimes too fast, um, and that’s where the habits become really important. But, um, constantly setting ambitious goals and deadlines has been key.

Mike Mage:

I mean, I love that. I feel like it’s freeing to have habits and to have deadlines. I mean, wouldn’t you say I feel like creative people in general get so weirded out by that kind of stuff like, well, I can’t be creative like what if this happens? It’s almost like you. You do away with productivity because you’re scared that you’re gonna miss something. Does that make sense? I feel like I said, if I set a deadline. It’s like, well, if I set that deadline, what happens if it can just make it, like, 1% better? You know, I’m gonna miss that or whatever.

Nick Benoit:

Yeah, but you’ll never ship it.

Mike Mage:

Yeah, exactly. It’ll never actually be something.

Nick Benoit:

I look back on all the pieces on YouTube and there’s 1,000,000 little things that if we’d had another week, if we had another day, that I would change; but at the same time, like we put them out there. And we love the work that God has gifted us to do. And so I don’t know, maybe this is one of the few places where I would say more is better. Like, man, we’ve only got so much time. We’ve only, like, even the creative piece you mentioned. Who knows if that’s gonna work anymore in five years, right? Because culture changes, church changes, appetites change. And I want to do everything that I can do! In the moment that I’m given,

Mike Mage:

You’re talking about habits and deadlines all because have you always felt like you’ve been a disciplined person as a creative person?

Nick Benoit:

No! I’ve definitely been a lazy creative. For sure. 

Mike Mage:

How long has it taken you to get to that point? I mean, I feel like it’s a spectrum and a journey kind of thing. But how do you feel, like, how long has it taken you to get to the point to realize that, like, disciplines and all that kind of stuff were something you need to work on?

Nick Benoit:

My whole life? I mean, I feel like God really started to teach me about it about 10 years ago. Like, really started. Asked me to do some soul searching. About, what was I creating out of? Where was it coming from? But then, five years ago, when I came to Willow, it kind of became a master class in it because, um, here, if you are not spiritually prepared by your personal habits, the pace will chew you up. And so while before, it was a luxury that I felt like God was talking to me about, um, in my current role, it has become a necessity. I can’t get by without it, cause here’s, I guess my general philosophy on creativity is, I think you have to always be limiting your amount of risk. So as a creative person, I always want to try new things. I always want to find the bleeding edge. But the thing is like you can only do that in so many areas simultaneously. So when I look at any given project, I want 75% of it. Just roughly speaking, I want 75% of it to be a sure thing, something I know how to do something I’ve tried before and I know is successful. And then I want 25% of it to be something that stretches me and grows me and feels risky and could fail. I feel like with that percentage of risk and safety, you get to try a lot of new things, but you’re also assured of some success, and I feel like in life, personal habits are those 75%. It is the 75% that you can be sure you know works keeps you healthy so that you can take the other 25% and just throw caution to the wind.

Mike Mage:

Yeah, I love that. I feel like that might be the thing that most creative people struggle with is creating disciplines and the schedule and deadlines and then abiding by it and not, you know, not just saying, well, just this one time. Or maybe it’s not just creative, maybe it’s most people. Most people struggle with some sort of discipline and self-control. So obviously, you know, Netflix has, you know, 1000 different things you can choose from, Amazon Prime has a 1,000,000 different things you can choose from. You know, we have so many different streaming services we have YouTube, all that kind of stuff. I feel like our attention, especially when it comes from like a creative place, is just stretched. And, we’re being pulled in so many different directions. How do you as a creative director, how do you capture someone’s attention? And not just in an age where attention spans feel like their dwindling, but maybe when we’ve been, like, the most distracted we’ve ever been?

Nick Benoit:

Oh, man, that’s such a big question. And you know, in some ways, I think I’m still working on the answer to that. And in some ways, I have a cheater’s answer for that. Because I feel it myself trying to curb my tendency to be constantly distracted. You know, coming from someone who has a lot of 3.5 – 5 minute videos on YouTube, I’m well aware that the best time frame is about 30 to 45 seconds, you know, because I’m aware that that’s about my attention span. So I don’t quite know how to crack that nut. Um, honestly. But my sort of cheater answer is I can’t even decide if I’m supposed to yet. And the reason I mean that the reason I say that is because, um, my calling first and foremost is to a local church. And I’m well aware that this might be a shortsighted view because I think the church is changing. I think even our attention spans within the context of a service are changing. But, my first and foremost concern is not the audience that might someday see a piece on YouTube or, uh, even tune in on the web or something like that – might my first and foremost pastoring and mission and purpose is to give to a local community. At the moment that exists in a platform where our attention or lack thereof is not quite as much of a problem. Now again, I say that recognizing that I think the church needs to change and adapt to culture, I think the way that we program our service probably needs to be rethought. And I don’t know there’s a lot of people thinking about those kinds of questions for the evangelical church right now, and I don’t think I know the answer. Um, but my first, my primary responsibility is to create the connection and to pastor the people that I can look in the eye and time does not feel like my biggest constraint in that equation.

Mike Mage:

You’re talking about, you know, the service changing. And since you’re doing, you know, weekend experience, creative director of like, the weekend experience. In what ways are you sort of seeing the church change, like, how does the church weekend service need to adapt to culture? Is there anything that like specifically you’ve seen, um or maybe even that you’re trying to implement at Willow Creek?

Nick Benoit:

Yeah. I mean, we’re always rethinking. How long is a message? How many times are we repeating a song? How long is our overall service? One of the challenges we face here at Willow is between the walk from the parking lot into the building and getting your 2-3 kids checked into our kid’s ministries and then getting into the service. Like while our service might be an hour and 15 minutes long, your commitment to coming to church is quite a bit longer than that. Especially because people are coming from a pretty wide region, and so even as we look at our service times and durations and the different energy levels we’re trying to take that bigger picture into account of how much of a sacrifice – how much time are we asking people to give to even come to this place? Because it just feels like people are being even more protective of that time than they were a decade ago.

Mike Mage:

I mean, I see that, down here in Tampa. There was a study done, you know by somebody. I don’t know. It was a study. And it was, they put it in the newspaper and it said that something about you know, Tampa is like the second least worshipping city of, like, a 1,000,000 people. You know, there was some parameter in the country, so we’re second only to Portland and everyone’s like – what? That’s crazy. And, you know, I started thinking about it some more. And then there’s just a lot more things that people are doing nowadays then I feel like, even when you and I were kids, you know, like we would have – I played hockey, you know, so like, we played hockey on the weekends, but I’d still go to church. And like, we weren’t even like super Christians or anything, but, like we’d still go to church probably three times a month. Um, and I just feel like nowadays there’s just so much going on, um and, you know, again like maybe people are attributing that to our attention spans dwindling, but really like, there’s just so much happening all the time.

Nick Benoit:

Like one of the, and I’m not gonna remember this exact number either, but, um, through internal surveys and from surveys we’ve seen from other churches, it seems like most people are calling themselves a regular attender if they’re coming 1-2 weeks out of the month. And so we’re trying to keep that in mind when we’re thinking about crafting series and how much does one week build on the next, or when we’re thinking about announcements like, maybe we do need to announce the same, one thing three weeks in a row because it’s a completely different group of people in the room. And that’s just, uh, it’s just a reflection of the way that our culture is changing because you’re exactly right. So many other things are competing for people’s time.

Mike Mage:

So sort of back, you know, talking about creative people in general. And I’m more or less talking about myself here. Creative people are normally sort of not great at dealing with conflict in a healthy way. Um, and you being a creative director, I would imagine you have people to answer to you or however your structure is set up. Obviously, volunteer staff, whatever. What’s sort of like one or two things you’ve learned over the years that have really helped you deal with conflict among your team?

Nick Benoit:

Probably the first thing is know thyself. The culture of Willow is one that’s very affirming of counseling and spiritual direction and all of those kinds of things. And I feel like that kind of personal work, digging into your own story goes a long way toward you being present and available and knowing how you respond to those kinds of conflicts and all of that kind of stuff. I feel like that is one of the cultural norms around here that has been extremely helpful. Um, and the other thing is know the people around you, and there’s so many tools out there for this from Myers Briggs to, you know, all kinds of gifting and strength finder tests, but one of the primary things we use around here at Willow is called the enneagram, and it’s one of the kind of more soulful ways of trying to identify personality types. The thoughts we have at the forefront of our minds when we walk into rooms and the ways that we approach conflicts and the ways we hear things and don’t hear things. And those are conversations we sometimes to an annoying degree have around the office. We will sit in circles at lunch and even in sometimes staff meetings and different things, and talk about those kinds of principles and it helps you. We always have to be careful of pigeonholing people, but there’s so many tough times that I have been able to see a direct correlation between a moment of conflict and the reaction of a person and based on there, enneagram type And it has given me so much more compassion and wisdom and how to approach them or when to say, I’m sorry. And I mean, I even see it with my kids, too. They say to, not try to type your kids too early, but, I’ve learned to recognize how beautifully different my children are than me, and rather than trying to, shape them into a mold of me, um, trying to encourage who they are. And yeah, there’s a natural conflict. But I feel like by doing my own work and by knowing the people around me. It at least gives us a head start.  On dealing with that conflict and a little bit more healthy way.

Mike Mage:

So what’s your enneagram number?

Nick Benoit:

I’m a 4 through and through. The wings. I don’t know. Sometimes I’m a 3. Sometimes I’m a 5, but very, very heavy on the 4.

Mike Mage:

So what’s a four?

Nick Benoit:

A 4 is feelings and intuition and just guided by emotion and finding beauty in things. And it is a very stereotypical type for a creative director, and it also does not tend to be someone with a lot of discipline and healthy habits. So I, sometimes I’m told that I am a healthy 4. So I guess that’s a good thing.

Mike Mage:

Yeah, that’s so funny. Like, I’m literally, so I’m going through The Road Back To You, which is the Ian Morgan Kron book. Where I’m doing this podcast, next to me, there’s a stack of eight of those books. So yes, we’re trying to dive into it as well, I am trying to dive into it as well, cause I’ve seen the same thing you know that. You know, it’s a beautiful way to understand yourself first so that you can understand others better. And what a cool way to deal with conflict, through like and how many things? How many arguments? How many conflicts will be resolved if we looked at ourself a little bit first? And then we’re able to look at other people. I think that’s awesome.

Nick Benoit:

I mean, I would say, even in the midst of our church’s personal conflict at the moment, I think in our better moments, that’s what we’ve done as well, is, um, looking internally and saying What have I done? What have I contributed to? How have I benefited? Um, and just doing some of that soul searching work on our own. I think the more that we could do that kind of humble work, rather than asking other people to do it first if we can lead the way on that, I just, that feels like the way forward.

Mike Mage:

Yeah, well, and it’s never, no one wants to do it because it’s painful, you know. Like, but there’s pain in growth, you know? And sometimes it’s a lot. Sometimes it’s not very much. But, you know, a simple example is going to work out at a gym. Like if you’re gonna grow, you literally have to rip your muscles for them to grow. So the personality and conflicts all kind of, doesn’t seem to be very much different. So, okay, so last question here, uh, ministry is a grind and creative work like can be very, very draining emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically, all that kind of stuff. So, you know, we’re putting these two together as creative people in the church. You know, that’s just a pure recipe for absolute burnout. What are a few things, and obviously you have been doing this for a while. Obviously, again, through some pretty, you know, bumpy times over the past year and a half – what are a few things that sort of, like have inspired you or have driven you maybe through the burnout, or maybe circumvented the burnout? What are a few things that keep you going?

Nick Benoit:

Oh man. Again, it’s such a non-exciting response. Uh, again, It’s such a non decided response, but really, really clear boundaries. My calendar looks ridiculous, and it’s not because I’m that busy of a person, but because, if I don’t structure my day, it just gets away from me. And, I put on my calendar the moments where I’m going to sit down and be creative. And then I put on my calendar the moments when I’m gonna have breakfast with someone from the church, and rather than all of those moment sort of blending together and one winning out over the other, I find by actually scheduling those times and protecting them that I can continue to do both in a really healthy way. The other thing is like when I go home, I don’t check email. I don’t. I try, and my kids will be the first to tell you that I’m actually terrible at this, but as much as possible, I try to put my phone on an upper shelf and just ignore it. It is interesting. I was at dinner with friends a couple nights ago, and I was just saying I was feeling some level of conviction over, you know, I, sometimes it feels like I’m a professional Christian, and that we’re constantly available to pastor people. And then I get home and with my neighbors, the people who live around me, the people that my kids go to school with – do I disengage from those conversations because of how heavily I engage in all the other ones? And so I think the question I’m asking right now for myself is where do those boundaries need to kind of shift? Um, and I think with boundaries, they can’t be hard and fast. They have to be a little bit flexible, and you always have to be kind of poking at them a little bit to see if they’re still the right ones. And so I feel like I’m in that phase a little bit. But, um, by drawing clear boundaries, I feel like I’ve been able to protect my heart and my mind a little bit from that burnout. And the other thing, and this is such the Sunday school answer, but the most important time to protect is the time that I have with Jesus cause, like there’s no other well that’s gonna fill me up. Um, if I don’t go to that place on a regular basis, I’m done. None of the rest of it matters. None of the rest of it can work. I just, um, if I have to say no to something so that I can you say yes to time with Jesus, that is the best no that I can say.

Mike Mage:

Yeah, I mean, I feel like even as “professional Christians”, you know, we push that time to the side easily. You know, I have more important things to do than to sit down and read or to sit down and pray or to literally be quiet for five minutes or, you know, whatever it is. It seems like we’re the worst at shoving that to the side for ministry, you know, whatever that means. So, yeah, I mean, that’s beautiful.

Nick Benoit:

Kind of just real quick as a side note, too. The thing that I’ve been trying to make more margin in my schedule for lately is boredom. As a kid, I was bored all the time. I think of summers as a kid, and I had nothing to do, ever. But my mind was constantly going. Like my creativity was constantly spinning new ideas. Like there’s a reason that most of our best ideas come while we’re in the shower. Because our mind is not occupied. It is not being filled with music or a task. We just switch into autopilot, and we start to imagine. And I feel like there is just not enough space right now for boredom. And so I’m trying. I’m trying to schedule more time to zone out. Which feels totally counterproductive. Um, I don’t think we can be creative in a culture that’s constantly entertained.

Mike Mage:

Yeah, totally agree. Well, Nick, this has been amazing. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thanks for all the work that you’re doing at Willow. Um, thanks for all the work you do for, you know, just the kingdom in general, and I really, really appreciate it. I would love to have you back on at some point.

Nick Benoit:

I’d love it. This has been a pleasure.

Justin Price:

Mike. I’m glad that you did that interview. That was, uh, that was super heavy. I’m glad that you had to be the one to field that. How do you respond to processing at the levels that Nick is, you know, you can’t put yourself into that because it’s like you can’t be like, “Yeah, I know how that feels”, really you don’t know the weight of what it even feels like.

Mike Mage:

So, yeah, it was heavy, and, but a really a huge joy to talk with Nick and – Justin, I’d love if maybe you could just give us, you know, one point, especially for you, just listening to it – What’s one or two things that really stuck out for you?

Justin Price:

There was a ton of things to take away from that. You know, when you think about being self-aware enough to be able to healthfully go through something, that’s really powerful and important. On a practical level, as a creative director who’s leading creatives daily, you know, the idea of like getting back to, uh, work. Getting back to the actual creative leadership side of things and not so much problem solving are dealing with a big issue. How do you consistently do that? Uh, and he was talking about balancing the creative and leading the teams came down to those habits and deadlines. And for me, it was just like, what an ah-ha moment that it’s not about like setting up a genius perfection a thing for like, for genius to strike. But it’s literally about creating good habits, and just sticking to it. Just going through that over and over again. Repeat, repeat, repeat until you get the right thing and then setting those deadlines. I love that – habits and deadlines. That is a really good balance for creatives for leading teams.

Mike Mage:

Well, and we’ve talked about it before on a couple of different podcasts, but it’s something that is necessary – these guardrails are necessary for creative people in a creative environment, and having a blank, open, wide canvas to do your job is not actually what’s helpful.

Justin Price:

It’s like a noose, isn’t it? A blank canvas is like a noose.

Mike Mage:

it is a surefire way to never get anything done.

Justin Price:

Yeah.

Mike Mage:

Yeah, I think that’s great. And especially, you know, when you’re going through something difficult when you’re going through something hard, as Nick has gone through over the past couple years in your community and the place that you work, that you’ve invested so much in; having those habits and disciplines, whether it comes to your family, whether it comes to your job, can actually be a huge benefit in those areas for you to lean back on the things that you know work, maybe in an area that feels super uncertain, and is painful.

Justin Price:

And a thought that comes to mind is the idea that you do just sometimes have to trust the process. If you don’t have the process in place right now in whatever team that you’re working on, I would encourage you, It doesn’t have to be the perfect process, and you don’t have to define something that has to stay forever. Just start with some sort of process. Start with something to put in place that you can repeat. When you guys get into a spot where something happens, it’ll throw you off. It doesn’t have to be something catastrophic, like losing the founding pastor of a megachurch. It could just be like a really bad Sunday, and having to recover from that. Get your whole team inspired after that, um, it can be difficult, like there are all sorts of personal difficulties we’re facing. Having a process to go back to in trusting that process is such a foundational thing that if you’re not doing that right now, if you’re a young creative, you’re just kind of bouncing from one task the next, and you don’t have a good process written down – seek out some help with processes. Seek out, read, and dive into building your own processes just by looking at what has worked for you and figure out how you can keep redoing that thing that you have done in the past to make something good, work on, build your own processes. There’s not one way to do this, and I hope that you guys have learned something from this today. I hope this has been helpful. Healthy Church Growth has been helpful. I know Mike said this at the top of this podcast, but if you can subscribe, if you can share, if you can rate on whatever platform that you’re listening to this on that would be so huge in helping us continue do this. It’s the only currency that we have for making this thing work is to say people are downloading it. They’re getting something out of it. They’re rating it well and sharing it with their friends. And we can keep doing this if that happens. So thank you guys for doing that. Thanks for listening. Hopefully, this has been helpful.

Mike Mage:

Yes, thank you so much for listening to Healthy Church Growth. Remember, you can go to healthychurchgrowth.org and download, um, all of our show notes or take a look at them there. There’s a bunch of other content there for you as well. And once again, we really, really appreciate it. Remember that healthy things grow and growth means life