Healthy Chuch Growth – Episode 17 – Kelli Ogboke

Multi-Sensory Marketing in the Church.

Multi-Sensory Marketing in the Church. We have Kelli Ogboke, from Cokobo, who is an international designer that has recently overseen the design for a fast-growing church of 15,000. She’ll explain how to awaken visitors’ five senses, and why that is important.

On Instagram: @KelliOgboke


Transcriptions:

Justin Price
Tell me a little bit about how you become an international designer and and now are also helping your home church for the last few years you have been helping oversee design campuses for a really fast growing Church of 15,000. And you are now somehow seeing everything that goes through into the building goes across your desk, what has that progression kind of been like and give us a little bit of insight to what is going on there.

All right, we’re here with Kelly on bouquet. From Cokobo Design. Kelly is a designer who is designed internationally in Milan in Paris in London, in Ireland. You’ve done education spaces, residential, commercial. You name it, you have done it. Kelly, welcome to the healthy church growth podcast. I’m so excited to have you this morning.

Kelli Ogboke
So yes, so several years ago, my husband, I moved back to Florida and we found a church that we’d found online. And we were excited to go. And within the first year of being there, there was an announcement that a new campus was going to be built out. And it was the first kind of extension campus of our home church. And they were announcing it and I, for whatever reason, decided to go up to our pastor and say, Hey, this is what I do for a living, I’d love to help somehow. And so I got invited on to kind of a board like a committee to help oversee the process. And it’s very excited to do that. And one thing led to another and ended up becoming the interior designer for the remainder of our six campuses that have grown almost one a year for the last six years. So insane. Yeah. And each one has grown into its own, you know, its own thing and has developed into more and more responsibility. For me, and they’ve been, you know, a great, it’s, it’s my, it’s kind of like I’m my own client in the sense that I get to design for the church that I’m part of. And so it’s an it’s a, it’s an interesting experience, and it’s a humbling and an honor to do.

Justin Price
So. That’s so cool. You know, I think about being a young creative at a church. And so many of us as pastors, you know, we picked out the furniture in the lobby and the paint we were responsible for the especially the more creative pastoral staff was given the you know, it was either the pastor’s wives or the creative staff that was given the, the objective of designing the interior space and when I found out that you were, as a you know, as a firm were responsible for this massive undertaking in and also have dissolved some of the most beautiful church spaces I’ve ever seen. It kind of was like my mind was blown a little bit that it was even happening that there was like the opportunity out there for churches to be designed at that level. But it’s not expensive design. It’s not It’s not like you just like spend a ton of money on really expensive finishes and things like that, like you use the same materials most everybody else does usually inexpensive tiles and Formica in bathrooms and things like that, just like, like the rest of us. But yours looks so much better. So so I would love it. If we could unpack a little bit about what goes into that and hopefully maybe inspire some of the pastors who who one couldn’t afford to hire kokubo the way that your home church has been able to afford with their incredible growth, but maybe even just to get the conversations going for them. Most of them right now, if they’re listening in the next few months, they’re there may be in a position where they’re building a shut down due to COVID. And they actually have some time where they could paint, they could do some things to kind of clean up their experience. We know, the majority of the churches are, you know, hundred to 250 people. And I thought it’d be really, really cool to just talk to somebody who is doing it at the highest level and has done at the highest level. What, what is one thing you know, I know it’d be really easy for us to talk for eight hours. But what what is one thing that you feel like you could kind of get into and dig into a little bit to help people start to think about how you tackle a campus or a building project or any you know, what’s a core design principle that you can unpack, I think for for our pastoral staff, they could kind of take in as a principal.

Kelli Ogboke
Okay. So I guess the first thing I would want to kind of the first myth to dispel would be that a good design has to be, you know, super wow factor that there has to be expensive materials that there has to have all these digital things that you know, that it’s gonna cost a lot of money to be well designed. So the first thing would be to redefine your definition of a well designed church, right? So if we’re just, we’re just talking about church, this goes across the board and other spaces, is does the experience that you want. We’re going to just from a visitor perspective, we’ll talk about a visitor perspective. So how do you want that person to experience your building and your space and the good the definition of good design is does it achieve that experience? So it’s not does it have you know, all the fancy frills and, and designer things
Which there’s nothing wrong with but that is not that does not define it. So, you know, the first thing I would say is to go to your kind of your core values of what you want that experience to be, you want it to be, you know, most people would say they want it to be welcoming, that there’s this warm comfort that you can come in and you feel like you can let your guard down that you can enjoy yourself that you can just kind of just go in and experience
ultimately, you know, leading to an experience with God. Right. So breaking down barriers to that. So if you if you were to say that that is our, that’s our core experience value, right? So how do we assess our current situation? based off of that as your metric, right? So if you start as you enter the property, right, so if it’s like, we’re going for that consistent, meeting, that value of feeling welcome, nurtured, warm, comforting, right. So as you’re entering the property, you know, you would walk through this kind of process of
Evaluating which is a good thing to do now, right, especially kind of rethinking, as people are opening up churches again and
is coming into the property that there’s clear signage rights, we talked about clear signage, to let you know where you are and how you need to get where you’re going. And nice tip is like just making sure that the landscaping is manicured there that it doesn’t have to be, you know, mature landscaping, it can just, it can be young plants that are put there with some mulch and very simple through your parking and your Wayfinding and availability. And then as someone is coming into the lobby, that
that what their experience is, is consistent, right? So we want to look at,
you know, how you’re experiencing it from you know, your five senses, right? So you’ve got like, you know, the the look and the feel and the sound and you know, down even to the taste and the smell of coffee, you know, so
I guess the big thing that I would, I would want to say is to look at the consistency
So
there’s a lot of value in probably even starting with removing things, right. So if you have, you know, walking into the lobby and you’ve kind of got some mismatched furniture or some of the artwork feels a little dated, or it’s kind of several different styles kind of going on, it would probably be more valuable to remove that versus necessarily trying to add more things. So people maybe feel like they can’t get rid of it unless they replace it. I don’t have the budget to replace that. Okay, where is so and so gonna sit every Sunday morning if we think back, right, right. Okay, so a good example would be you know, just like it let’s say there’s an older light not my older piece of artwork on the wall. Yeah, right. Maybe it’s a little faded. It’s you know, it’s a
landscape. See
You know and it is just kind of a dated piece right? So you’re like okay, well if I take that down that wall is gonna be blank and it’ll feel kind of sterile, right? But one thing that can be done is you know take that down and maybe printing graphics right so it could it could be you know, a branding thing it could be a core values thing it could be just sciences Welcome home.
It could be something you know that that is a graphic piece you know, it can be printed
fairly inexpensively through like a quick signs printer, right. And basically any any like signed printer can do a large format print for under $10 a square foot, a couple hundred dollars could fill an art space with a branded piece. Rather than you having to go out and spend an expensive or buy an expensive piece of art that was like really inspiring. The like a type otter fee type thing that you did yourself in Photoshop could
totally be printed even for as little as like a couple dollars a square foot if it was like a black and white, right water, right and then put in an Ikea frame 20 bucks, like a big post the biggest IKEA frame you can get, right and even, you know, certain, you know, printing companies can do it on, you know, on a substrate of like Gator board or something that has a thickness that wouldn’t necessarily even need to be framed. Because one of the things with artwork is like the size and the scale, you know, it’s like, you know, when you put larger art on the walls, it just has a better presence than smaller pieces. And, you know,
that’s a very inexpensive way to do it is to have something printed from assigned printer, you know, either like you said, printing it, you know, on almost kind of plotter paper and putting it in in large, basic frames or putting it on a substrate that you know can be printed on to, you know, a thicker material that can create an art piece. So in that scenario, let’s say you’ve got a yellow wall and it’s got a Thomas kincade on it.
You know maybe you reconsider the paint color and you put a large graphic print up there and you’ve completely changed the look right for a couple hundred bucks for a couple hundred bucks. So
you know that’s I guess that’s where we come into maybe it’s it’s removing some things not necessarily just adding more stuff to a space so than with with furniture you know perhaps you cannot afford to change out all your furniture and you need a certain amount of seats and it would be awkward to remove all that furniture. If things can be refinished in a ways maybe some the wood tones or metal tins could be painted. Right so maybe they can all become consistent. Is it okay to have blank walls? It is okay to have some blank walls right? You do not need to fill every well not every wall needs a theme. What am I just painting my brand colors on the wall? right so let’s say about paint. So one thing
when it comes down to consistency across the board, right is that to come?
Come up with a, a paint palette of probably three to four colors that are complementary to your brand colors. So really popular for church brands to be blue. Right? So the looking at colors that are complimentary to blue, right, so it could be a lot of neutrals, you know, grays,
gracious,
you know, but not necessarily painting your paint colors to match your brand. Right there is there is room and space for small percentage of accent walls or accent areas to be in your brain colors. But it would be something I see where people can get stuck in. They think that okay, if I, if I’m branding my space to my church logo and brands that I need that same blue or red or whatever it is to be on the wall and that’s not necessarily true. It’s actually better to just be a nice backdrop to your brand colors and being complimentary. So think more bright
neutral colors that will work well with your with your brand. Mm hmm. And then, you know, when we just talked about like the large artwork and being more of like a graphic that it just creates a nice backdrop to that and let that be where your pops of color and things come in. what’s the what’s the percentage rule if like, Where do I know I’ve got I’m using too much brand color, what’s the break? I would not do more than 10%. So somewhere around five, so shoot for five shoot.
I mean, that’s all it’s all relative to right. So it also just, it’s a scale thing, right? So if you have, you know, a huge lobby space, there would be opportunity for more
of that pop of color just out of scale. Right so that I guess it’s so what would flow with the percentages.
But you know, smaller spaces, a little small accent goes a long way.
What about like the when you’re talking about paint

Justin Price
What about the whole idea of like different spaces? You’re talking about things being consistent? But what about like doesn’t the kids the area need to be a totally different vibe so they think it’s special and the youth space need to be totally different and weird and crazy. So they think it’s a destination. How do you how do you marry consistency with all these different age groups and sections of the building? Do you have any tips for for that or thinking through that?

Kelli Ogboke
I mean, there’s no reason that it can’t feel different, it should feel different, right? But so there is a there is a balance from you know, consistency across the board, right. So for example, that might look like similar.
Similar paint color schemes going throughout with its own flair thrown in. So in the kids area, you may still have
your basic color schemes on walls the same but you’re throwing in
either
Graphic are or, you know, doing like mural type things that can bring in the colors to kind of theme the area without completely abandoning the consistency that is coming through other parts.

Justin Price
Cool

Kelli Ogboke
If that makes sense.

Justin Price
Yeah. So that your neutral should tie any of those rays all together, right? It should work with those.

Kelli Ogboke
So yes, so in your three to four color palette of paint colors through your whole space that would be consistent. Some of those should be able to easily go into all of the areas as a backdrop to whatever maybe theming your space.

Justin Price
So talk a little bit I think it’s hard for us to get our heads around that, you know, because there’s typically like, each ministry department gets to control how their space feels, you know, and so if we’re talking to a worship pastor right now, he may feel like really, really insecure about trying to tell the children’s pastor
how they should change those
that are currently flanking the entrance to the children’s wing right? What? Do you have any, any, like just any helper helpful tips or thoughts that could help make that conversation go easier? What How do you handle this? I mean, this is like a real thing. I didn’t prep you with this question. But how do you handle you know, talking, taking design sense to somebody who isn’t a designer but is passionate about their area of ministry, and thinks that that passion should should flow into design decisions.

Kelli Ogboke
Now, I don’t know my first answer. I don’t know if it’s applicable across the board, but I’ll just go ahead and say it so the, the thing that would be the most helpful in this situation is that there is a global meeting of, hey, all of your department heads commander standing that the church, you know, we all know we need to
update our look.

So I think Yeah, no, I mean, because if you do come in, and you say, okay, we need to change that because it’s, it’s not vibing with the rest that I don’t, I don’t think that that is as effective as a global buy in of, okay. So we may not have the budget to redo everything and buy new furniture, and I mean, even painting a whole building is expensive, you know. So looking at like a phased, a phase situation, but getting that buy in of like, this is where we want to be. And this is some ideas of how we can do that and creating the consistency, but allowing room for, you know, personality of those spaces, right? There’s no reason I think, you know, I’ve definitely made this mistake before where I think okay, I’m just so about getting this consistent feel that you could almost make those spaces too sterile, right? And then once they’re done, it’s like okay, everything is great, right? It’s very consistent, but now it’s very boring, right? And so having them then kind of come back in and add that flair and that fun and you know, so I don’t think that the idea is to take away all the bright colors or to take away all the things but to rethink maybe it doesn’t need to be primary colors red, blue and yellow don’t need to flank everything but maybe, you know,
maybe there’s room for going more muted more jewel tones, more pastels, maybe like just depending on the space that we could take it from looking like a stereotypical primary school to you know, more of
just elevating the design the graphic in that way. I like that. So if we want to get on board with consistency, we should get all the stakeholders in the room and agree first. Well, yeah, just say you know, like, Okay, this is where we want to go as a church and whole and
and have a conversation about
how we could achieve that across the board in different departments. And then there’s buy in I’m also just getting ideas from people, right? So it’s like, you know, I can definitely come in with preconceived ideas about how a space should look and come into, okay, this is we’re going to do but that may not necessarily totally vibe with, you know, the department head, right? Because they have, you know, he she has a different experience of how, how the kids interact, how the parents interact, and you know, what I think may look really good, may not function as well, right? So it’s just that conversation of, you know, like, let’s talk that out, let’s get the buy in. I mean, I’m, I have to do the same, you know, from going into redesign, a campuses children’s area, you know, I, I have to get the pie and just like, you know, any pastor that you were saying that might be looking at like a worship pastor, and he’s like, Oh, I really want to change this, for overall feel the same similar process, you know, going in and getting the Bible
And the ownership and then the collaboration.

Justin Price
I think sometimes we, as creatives get excited about something like that, or if somehow we get permission from the elders or from the staff, you know, from, or a senior pastor to, like, help make it better. We missed that by in part, I’m at least when I was younger. I struggled with that a lot. And I think I probably stepped on a lot of toes that way. And I think that’s a really super, super valuable tip. super important. The other thing too, that you said, you kind of breeze through this, and I wonder if you’d unpack it a little bit. But when you’re creative, and you’re trying to do something, you usually do things to make people notice it. Mm hmm. And you were like, it doesn’t have to be opulent. It doesn’t have to have this, like not everything has to have this wow factor. In fact, that’s really a secondary to getting rid of obstacles first. So in talking about consistency, you are actually easing the experience you are unifying it. You’re simplifying it, you’re getting rid of things. And I think that’s tough because like, how do you walk in especially cuz you get paid a lot of money to do some like big commercial things.
And you literally walk in and like, take things away.
You know, you’re simplifying things. And it’s like every bathroom has the same stone, why did we pay a designer to pick one material for every bathroom in one paint color? You know, a lot of times, the building has been built over phases. And so you’re saying, rather than necessarily just picking one of those bathrooms and trying to upgrade it, like maybe the most public bathroom and just try and upgrade that and spend all of your budget there. Instead, like spread your budget to try to bring everything to a more consistent thing that that’s more valuable than one while bathroom? right consistency is going to be king in minimalizing. The bad is greater than creating the wall moment. That’s kind of a bit
idea for me to get my head around. You’re simplifying it, you’re getting rid of things. And I think that’s tough because like, how do you walk in especially cuz you get paid a lot of money to do some like big commercial things.
And you literally walk in and like, take things away.
You know, you’re simplifying things. And it’s like every bathroom has the same stone, why did we pay a designer to pick one material for every bathroom in one paint color? You know, a lot of times, the building has been built over phases. And so you’re saying, rather than necessarily just picking one of those bathrooms and trying to upgrade it, like maybe the most public bathroom and just try and upgrade that and spend all of your budget there. Instead, like spread your budget to try to bring everything to a more consistent thing that that’s more valuable than one while bathroom? right consistency is going to be king in minimalizing. The bad is greater than creating the wall moment. That’s kind of a bit
idea for me to get my head around.

Kelli Ogboke
Right? You gotta think about taking the obstacles away. Right? So if you’re making a clear path towards, you know, any direction, right, so there could be things that could help you get there. But there’s, I find, especially when you’re talking about smaller budgets, that removing the obstacles actually has a little bit more impact, right, of course, you’re going to put things back we can’t just empty room entirely.
But it’s kind of a less is more but removing the things that kind of take away from the upgraded, updating, feel, right. So there was a trend of putting, you know, script words vinyl stick ons, right to walls, right. And it could be a, it could be a scripture, it could be thing and there’s there’s space for that, right? There’s we’re applications, but I’m just letting people know, it might be I don’t know, but
there can be well when you know
You can put vinyl wording on walls in a nice way it should be done by a graphic designer so that your scale and proportion is correct. And you know, so that it it’s not fatiguing to your eye. Right? So when you look at it doesn’t kind of just feel I don’t know if it’s my eyes, but that, that that was a trend right so that was a trend for a while people putting up kind of, you know, stickers, kind of graphics like that. Now that I would say would be probably an obstacle to the updating of a look right?
taking that away, you know, fake flowers, things like that, that could start to feel dated. Now fake succulents maybe not as much right you know, there’s that isn’t a trend right now that can kind of feel a little bit more updated, but you know, kind of like fake silk flowers and graphics on the walls and stuff, those types of things to be taken out. Instantly kind of can freshen right versus just adding more things to it. Love it.
That makes sense.

Justin Price
We’ll keep walking us through this experience here. So we’re taking a path of consistency with Kelly from the door. We’re talking about the lobby, and you have kind of also really kind of jumped into this concept of consistency philosophically saying that that is the number one greatest thing we can fight for. If we’re, if we’re going to try to help the design of our church building, right, is to bring it consistent, and more neutralize the backgrounds and eliminate the obstacles. We covered the main thoughts. Yes, okay. Yes. You said walk through like a visitor. Try to get rid of everything. If you don’t have any budget, you can at least get rid of anything that is a major distraction

Kelli Ogboke
Right If it’s not going to aligning with the overall feel that you want, right? So it’s like don’t be afraid to remove some things that feel contrary
To the look, you’re going for love that. So one thing in a lobby, you know, we talked about like the five senses, right? So the one thing that it’s like, I like to compare thinking about a design and a feel for a lobby, if you don’t know where to start, right, you’re like, Okay, we’re going to do something, maybe we take everything out of our lobby, and we’re kind of starting from, you know, where do we look for inspiration? And I think smaller churches can get, you know, kind of stuck in looking at large church inspiration, right? So you kind of look up these larger churches more, you know, well known. And they’ve got these fabulous lobbies with enormous high glass wall ceilings and big LCD, LCD screens, and there’s all sorts of stuff going on. And kind of think that that equals, you know, a good church design.
And thinking about the scale, they’re right to the scale that they have is much different than a small church. And so let’s just not even look there, right? So let’s just throw that out. Right. So let’s look at maybe hotel law.
And a small, you know, kind of boutique type feeling of walking into hotel lobby and experiencing hospitality in that way. Because hotels spend a lot of money in designing their spaces to be welcoming to make you feel at home, all the things that we want to feel when we walk into church. That’s great. So when we talk about, you know, where you get information where you get help to where you get coffee, right, so in some churches, you’re able to set up, you know, service of coffee, where there’s somebody with like a coffee bar, and it’s similar to a coffee bar experience where you walk up and you order and you get a coffee, and maybe there’s an espresso machine. And so there’s a whole design, but that that’s not an inexpensive endeavor, right? If you don’t already have that set up to try to do that is probably cost prohibitive. So looking at a self service station, but not just slapping, you know, some crafts and a plate of doughnuts on a folding table, right? So looking at it like how that’s displayed, right? So
You know, again, going back to hotels and how they do their self service coffee areas, you know, those items that they have that you know, organize your condiments and you know, your cups and things like that they’re not expensive, and they’re not exclusive to hotels that can be bought on Amazon, how you display food, if you’re doing coffees leave for doing donuts and things like that, or pastries or things, look at, you know, maybe acrylic
displays that kind of protect the foods foods isn’t just kind of sitting out, right, but it has a nice display and it’s just not just thrown on paper plate or you know, just those little things, those touch points or you know, low budget things when you think about the impact that they have. So if you’re not doing any coffee or at all right, so that is something to consider maybe bringing that in as there’s a smell, there’s the taste, right? So those are things you’re experiencing, and then what you’re touching in order to get that so if you are self serving that like how
you’re interacting with that experience
is a great way
to welcome people, right? So it’s like there’s a welcoming aspect of coffee in general. There’s a welcoming, comforting things that people know how to interact with coffee. Right? So it’s like I, you know, when someone’s never been to a church or they’re not comfortable church, they most likely have been in a coffee shop before they know how to operate themselves, right? Go in and get a coffee sit down, right? Like, that is something that’s like, comfortable to know that process. So giving that as an option, either, maybe they don’t make it into the sanctuary. Maybe they just sit in the lobby. So there’s that there’s this option to do that and operate as like maybe a phase one of their experience. Because that’s a that’s a already known experience of what to do. Right. So that’s one thing that can be a barrier is not knowing how to interact with a church environment if you are completely new to church.

Justin Price
Yeah. I love that. What’s something else in the, in this experience you had mentioned earlier about lighting? Mm hmm. What can we do for lighting to make this experience consistent and good?

Kelli Ogboke
So lighting is a whole. There’s so much to it. Right? So one thing that, you know, just picturing kind of like a smaller church, existing building, where there, you know, there isn’t an opportunity to change all the lighting, most likely there’s overhead lighting, most likely, it’s fluorescent, and very just kind of basic overall, and could be kind of harsh, right? So
there are lots of things in that right. So a lot of times the fluorescent lights would be, they might have bulbs that are different color temperatures in them. So when you look up you see like there’s bluer funds. There’s purple ones, there’s kind of more orange and yellow ones. So first thing is like making sure that you have a consistent color temperature, right. So that’s your kelvins. Right? So that’s, you know,
looking at consistent color, temperature
And then considering maybe if you have over if you’ve just got this one you know switch and everything turns on and it’s all very bright, maybe look at you know disabling taking the bulbs out of some of them and then bringing back accent lighting so that can be floor lamps, table lamps, even, you know
while washing lamps a lot of things that do
in like AV indirect lighting you know, kind of just like shine up the wall for a little bit of a different effect.
As a way to kind of not have every you have different levels of lighting in a room, right so you have just adds a little bit more warmth
in small group kind of gathering areas you may even consider not using any overhead lighting and just using lamps around just a little bit more cozy warm.
Home like feel.

I think there

Justin Price
A designer like you who does use Milan and Paris spaces, do you only use Italian lamps or where where does someone like you furnish a Bible study room with table floor lamps?

Kelli Ogboke
I definitely even in our larger budget projects I don’t think I’m spending terribly too much money on floor lamps and things just looking for something simple.

Justin Price
Where what’s your go to for a small Where could somebody go to to pick from the same stuff that you’re picking from?

Kelli Ogboke
I mean, online, there’s
target and target. do I use? Um, yeah, no, I haven’t used target. I have used IKEA. I mean,
I, okay. There are great brands, your clients know that you
um,
there there are great brands online even, you know,
do I don’t know if I’m endorsing any any
Any company’s online right now? Um,
I think there there is, there’s a lot of opportunity for something
shopping online and you know, you could get a floor lamp, a simple floor lamp under 100 bucks, right? And, you know, adding a handful of them throughout the space can, you know you’re doing it’s doing three things it’s uploading, it’s downloading and it’s doing diffuse at the side, right so it’s like, you know, just a basic drum shade on a pole, right? Like it’s, there’s not a lot to it, maybe it’s a tripod base or something like that, which is it’s just, it’s, it’s creating a glow up down and kind of a diffused glow around. So that in itself is creating three levels of light. And then if you’re taking
some of your overhead out and placing that in an area now, you’ve got four levels of light, so
it’s just creating a little bit of depth in a lighting design that you can play around with right you think about it at your house.
Like if you turn you know, only a couple lights on through the house at night, there’s kind of a mood, right? You know, so you can adjust the mood versus turning all your lights on at night and everything’s just bright and whatever.
One thing you’ve asked me a lot about is the color temperature like what’s like the golden color temperature right? So the most kind of neutral somewhere around like 3500 and so your daylight is like in the 6000s. Right? So that’s that real blue light from you know, fluorescence and things like that. I would probably stay away from that.
Because then some of your decorative fixtures might be doing kind of an incandescent which is more like 2500 2700 so that’s that warm yellow II orangey glow of like candle light, which in you know, certain light fixtures is very appealing, but when you put it next to a 6000 Kelvin light that’s very blue, it feels you know, creates that eye fatigue, right because you’re like eyes are trying to adjust between like this
candlelight and sunlight at the same time, that’s actually happening. Most people don’t realize they’re having that it does feel uncomfortable, right? I mean, you’re not walking and go, Oh, my eyes are so fatigued, it’s just you kind of don’t, it feels like inconsistent because when would you be in the sun and have a candle light at the same time? Right? You know, so you’re kind of creating this artificial experience that’s not
a real, you know, it’s not comforting, it doesn’t feel natural, right. So if you had overhead lighting at like 33,000, or 3500, and an incandescent light, it’s not going to compete as much.

Justin Price
I love that. So practical tip, change all of your overhead lighting to 3000 to 3500 K, or at least bring it consistent. Right? And if you can’t do that, at least make it as make it all consistent. But but maybe discourage people from doing 6000 right. I mean, most probably aren’t doing the new blue LED is like actually a cool thing.
Huh, but I think it can feel really cold. Well, especially in a church. Well there is application for it just like there’s anything application for a writer.
But you also have to realize that the color temperature of your light changes the paint color experience, right? So some of your, some of your finishes can change color and wash out.
And doing that, right or if you have, you know, maybe like you have these, this yellow carpet that you don’t have a budget to change it. And then you know, depending on the lighting, the color temperature, maybe there is a value to washing out that yellow a little bit. But if you went too warm, you would almost highlight it and make it more yellow is what I’m saying. So there is there is no

yellow carpet, maybe Maybe you could get away with a 42

Kelli Ogboke
Right. So I guess I just say that only to say that there isn’t just this one thing that you can just throw across board and say that that’s going to work across the board. Because obviously, there’s context.

Justin Price
I feel like you could literally take all of these points and break them for an hour. I mean, just thinking about lighting design for public spaces, there’s a lot to it. You You mentioned creating a mood. You’ve told me before about pattern and drama and having breakup of light, it shouldn’t just all be like, even light across the whole entire room. You want to create different pockets and everything. So I, I think we definitely should come back and talk about experiential lighting. We like I think in the production world, creatives, always, you know, think about lighting, and we put a lot of time into church about how we light a stage. And maybe we think some of us think a little bit more about how you light the auditorium. But we hardly ever think about how we like the bathroom in the hallway to the bathroom in the entrance and the lobby. So that’s really Got a little bit of an eye opener there. I think we should definitely come back and circle back online because I think you’ve got a lot what is the last thing that you want to cover in your Quick Tips walkthrough for consistency. This is so good.

Kelli Ogboke
Um, so my last thing would probably not even really be a design change or update, it will be more experiential, and there’s kind of really no excuse for this one. So it’s the cleanliness, you know, the experience of the bathroom, you know, it’s very similar to how you experience at a restaurant, you know, the restaurant could be great, but then you go in the bathroom, and if it’s, if it’s off putting, it’s it can ruin a whole experience. So, you know, cleanliness and looking at smell. But then you know how people also interact with, you know, picture a visitor coming in, they’ve gotten their coffee, maybe they’re a little self conscious of coffee breath or something like that. So offering you know, there’s mouthwash
stations. There’s just myths, just involvements right very simple, very inexpensive, but it is another level of hospitality and offering amenities right so you know there’s you know, for a long time you’ve gone into bathrooms and certain restaurants and things and you’ll have like, you know, you don’t need a tray of colognes or anything like that, you know, like that. Not that type of amenity basket, but something that just offers a little bit of just give somebody another level of comfort that they feel more comfortable lingering, talking to people

Healthy Church Growth – Episode 16 – David Miller

Is it time for the Church to Adapt?

Is COVID the push the church needs to start adapting finally? We speak with guest David Miller, the VP of Coaching at the Slingshot Group, and the new author of “Improv Leadership,” on how the Church should adapt. 

On Instagram: @imdavidmiller, @SlingshotGroup

Improv Leadership: https://www.amazon.com/Improv-Leadership-Lead-Every-Moment/dp/0310112958


Transcriptions:

Mike Mage
Welcome to the healthy church growth podcast.

Welcome to the healthy church growth podcast where we believe that healthy things grow. And growth means life. I’m Mike, one of your hosts for the podcast. And before we get going here, I really just want to say thank you so much for joining us. These conversations we’ve been able to have with so many people has been like incredibly inspiring to Justin and I, and we just we continue to have so much fun and continue to learn so much and, and for you, our audience, we really hope that you are getting the same thing out of it as well. And if you are, we would absolutely love for you to right before we start, just make sure to share, subscribe, all that fun stuff, all that those that are the language that we’ve all had to learn during this COVID time for all of us going online for everything. But it really does help us when you share when you subscribe when you review When you drop us a DM on Instagram or Facebook, for us to connect with you so that we can continue on having these really great conversations. Joining us today, as always, I have my co host with me, Justin price, Justin, how you doing, man?

Justin Price
I’m doing great, Mike, thanks for the introduction. Also, thanks for the listeners for listening and for subscribing. It is. It’s super encouraging. So

Mike Mage
Yeah, this is this has just been a really cool journey for us a really cool endeavor to create a podcast about healthy church growth in the middle of a once in a century pandemic. So that’s been super cool. And today on our podcast, we have David Miller, who is the VP of coaching at the Slingshot Group, and he’s a brand new author of improv leadership. And he’s actually an old friend of mine. I met him back in Orlando when I was going to school at UCF. And you He was the student director of the church that I was attending. In Justin goose heading into this interview. what’s what’s one thing you know, that you can tell us that really just sort of struck you about this interview?

Justin Price
Well, first of all, that David’s just a super nice guy. And I gotta plug David for a second if you’re interested at all in some coaching the slingshot groups. They’re not a sponsor of the healthy church growth podcast, not yet. At least they don’t know. But I gotta say, you know, just just what a great guy David is. I think that if you you know if you need some coaching, definitely. I hope that this podcast is gonna just whet your appetite a little bit for what that could sound like from him because Mike and I just got a about a 40 minute coaching session from him that I know he was like, he was taking notes. I was taking notes I don’t I we blacked out at one point. I’m pretty sure You know, just trying to keep up with with the goal that that David was bringing. So yeah, I would say get out your notepad David’s just got a really really great perspective. He understands where you’re at in the church as a leader, as a creative as an ex rock star touring musician. He, he has been through many places that you guys have been through and, and what a refreshing perspective he’s got. So just just really, really cool. I know for us, we took a lot of good stuff away. And so without further ado, Mr. David Miller.

David Miller
Think about like what’s happening in culture nap? Yeah, right. Like the church and I mean people but like, let’s enter the church. The church has to be able to adapt right now. And it’s it’s fascinating to watch the churches and leaders that are adapting. Yeah.

Mike Mage
Welcome to the healthy church growth podcast. We’re so glad that You’re joining us today on our show, we have an incredible guest. One that I’m very, very excited about. We have David Miller, who is the VP of coaching at the Slingshot Group and new author of improv leadership and incredible book that just came out. David, thank you so much for joining us.

David Miller
Oh, man, it’s great to be with you.

Mike Mage
I, uh, so David and I, we actually have known each other for a while. And it’s been a while since we’ve seen each other. But I, David and I met, I don’t know, 10 12 13 years ago at a church that we used to work at or that he used to work out in Orlando that I attended. And David, I don’t know if you knew this, but I was. So I met you post dreads and so all I had ever heard fortunate. Yeah, well, it’s I know. So here’s the deal. I had heard that there was this new student director at this church that we were at, and I was like, I think they guy’s name is David Miller. And everyone’s like, oh, the guy with dreads, and that must have happened like five times. And so I got super excited. I’m like, man, he’s got dreads, like, this guy’s gotta be cool. And I meet you in no dreads and so the the first huge disappointment,

David Miller
huge disappointment.

Mike Mage
So the first question I have to ask is, was getting like a normal human haircut part of the job requirements? Or were you just finally able to pay for a haircut?

David Miller
Right? No, those are both valid, valid options. So So no, I so I would speak in at status and stuff, you know, the babies and young adult thing that we were doing while I was or just before actually I was teaching for like a group of kids that were like at risk teens. So it was like a kind of a ranch situation where they live there. They have, you know, these host families and then they go to school while I was a teacher, and in order for me to get that job, which was the job I had right before coming on as the student director. Yeah, they made me cut my hair. And I and I remember talking to my now wife, then then girlfriend and I was just like, I don’t know if I’m gonna take the job, they’re gonna let me cut my hair. I mean, I think that I’m probably gonna, you know, turn it down and she was like, Are you dumb? Like, be you know, go go go get the job. So

It was a yard of you though. So like that is it had become

There had become and here’s the here’s the thing now my hair is just weird you know but like you know I have to like then hair was such an identity thing I had like long girl hair before that like your hair down past the shoulders and you know the whole deal. So that became identity then all of a sudden the dreads the dreads became identity and so I don’t know, man, but yeah, no, I I almost I am I’m almost sorry that he met me after that. I feel like you missed out on on quite an experience. Yeah,

Mike Mage
I mean, you just morphed into like a totally different person in my head. Yeah, just just a dude. Yeah, just like yeah,

This is like another white guy that we brought on. Just exactly here and yeah, it’s not cool.

David Miller
Yep. No.

Mike Mage
Okay. I bet you Ashley was very happy that those were on their way out.

David Miller
So I was I was in a band that in college and so we went like to Ohio or something. I met this guy with dreads and I was like, Oh my God, that’s interesting. Like, who does that? You know, we were gonna be there for a little while. And I remember calling her and saying, hey, I’ve got a surprise when I get back from tour. And I came back from tour with dreads. I left with long hair and came back with dreads and that was the that was that was a great surprise for everybody.

Mike Mage
It was a surprise.

David Miller
Yeah. And she stuck it out with me. And that that speaks highly of her.

Mike Mage
Yeah. Well, David, that’s all we wanted to talk about. Thank you so much for coming on. Yeah,

David Miller
man. It was great. Just building healthy churches for creatives.

Mike Mage
Well, this pivot that no one knows really how to pivot out of here, but Obviously, like I said, you know, you’re the VP of the coaching division at the slingshot group. And we’d love to just hear a little more about what slingshot group does. I mean, it’s they have such a huge impact on the church right now. And then maybe a little bit about how you got into doing this. For sure.

David Miller
Yeah. So slingshot group, you know, it’s been around 13 and a plus years, you know, founded by two guys started in the world of worship. So, you know, Monty Kelso and Stan anacott, we’re both you know, really big in especially like, right, kind of right at the tail end of of what is known as like the worship wars, you know, where it was like, we’re a traditional church is going to become a contemporary church, and then how do we do that? They would coach people how to do that. And then they’d be like, well, gosh, we agree, but we have nobody who can actually, you know, actually lead now. So will you help us find someone and so really came out of their personal network from kind of record producing and stuff they had been doing with promise keepers and you know, all of that. They have been going for about five years. And, you know, they had decided, hey, we’re gonna we’re gonna really expand into helping all levels of the church, but we’re not experts in that I love when leaders know what they’re good at and what they’re not good at. Yeah. And they just said, we’re not experts at that. So we need to bring in experts for each of these divisions. And so they brought me in to really help to launch their student ministry division, most of my experience was in student ministry and and so they just kind of said, Hey, you know, you know, youth pastors, we know, you know, worship leaders, why don’t you come in help churches find the best youth pastors for their, for their staff, and, you know, really help them figure that out. And so the whole idea of slingshot group is you know, we have this tagline we build remarkable teams through staffing and coaching, okay. And it really that that’s that’s what we do all day long. We help find the right fit. We partner with churches to understand really, who they are what makes them unique and who would fit on their team. And then we find that person, and then and then we do coaching, will walk with that new staff member will come on to your team for a season and you know, help with leadership development. We do succession coaching, we, you know, we kind of, you know, just depends on really what what you need there. And so, for me, I started with with a lot of staffing and kind of almost as just earned a voice in the churches that I was, you know, helping Sure, and then they would kind of say, How else can you help us like, you know, we want you to stick around how else can you help us and it would morph into a really natural coaching relationship. And that’s, that’s where my role kind of shifted.

Mike Mage
Yeah, but super cool. Cool. Okay, well, obviously, you’ve been able to talk to a bunch of churches, sort of about their pain points and not just in student ministry, which I’m sure is a pain point for every every church. But as you’re coaching people And especially maybe even now over the past, you know, six months when everything just feels like it’s all been thrown up in the air and disrupted What do you see as like some of the more prevalent issues that people are really having trouble grasping?

David Miller
Yeah, I, you know, I think I think with leadership in general, we’ve become enamored by two things, we become enamored by talent, which makes sense, you know, I mean, when you are around a talented person, you know, you tend to lean in. And so we become really enamored by that we’ve also become enamored by almost that, that that stereotypical forceful leader that charged the hill mentality leader, and that’s that’s what’s and that’s what so much of our leadership is made of in the church are really those two things. What’s what we’ve found is that, you know, those two things can be great, but left to their own devices. They crumble because they they don’t really end up learning a lot of the basics of ministry. I mean, People have forgotten how to how to, you know, really excel in interpersonal communication. You know, people are struggling with leading up like me and the amount of conversations I have to have about leading up is is crazy because it’s, you know, we, we’ve, we’ve bought into these lies that our boss is super human and they never make mistakes and that we’re going to end that they’re gonna have all the right answers at all times. And so for us to be able to say, hey, what if what if you just realize that that was a human being that you can walk with and that you can actually help lead them along the way? You know, finally, you know, even the idea of like, seeing volunteers as like more than a means to an end. You know, again, because of the big personalities that we have, oftentimes we have these big visions and, and so we need people to accomplish these visions. Yeah, we end up you know, using them as like as like cogs in the machine, right versus like individuals with something to contribute. And so and so what happens is that will come in a lot of times, and we’ll do anything from basic skill development. So hey, how do you lead a rehearsal? How do you lead a volunteer training? How do you you know, I mean, so there’s some really basic stuff that are just skill. Yeah. And then we’ll come in also, and we’ll do leadership development, which is, you know, more of what I just listed out. So many people that we meet, it’s like you have the natural ability, you have the the talent or the drive, you just missing some of these basics that if we can walk with you that that would be huge. I would say those are the two biggest, I think on the on the back end of it. Coaching has become simply a trusted voice for so many. So there’s some that that they have the basics. They have the skill and the talent and the drive, but they feel alone. And they’re doing it everyone that they talked to is you know, that their boss or their volunteer, or, you know, is some way connected to the ministry that they’re leading. Right and any any sense of voice ability, we’ll make that person nervous. And so we we put up this facade of perfection or of strength, and instead of allowing someone to speak into who we are, and so, you know, we’re not counselors, but we end up being that for so many just, Hey, can I just have you on speed dial so that when I walk out of a meeting, and I feel like I want to punch a wall, I can talk to somebody about it. And I don’t actually do that. Never happened comes. Yeah, I can I can imagine.

Justin Price
Can we pause real quick? I think David misunderstood the question. We were asking about issues that Mike’s staff has.

David Miller
Yeah, got it. Got it. Got it. Okay. Got it. I’ll narrow my focus a little bit. Yeah.But okay. Yeah. So that’s, that’s been helpful and and i think that’s kind of what coaching has become for so many is skill development, leadership development, and then that trusted outside voice.

Justin Price
Yeah, it sounds it sounds like that coaching may or may not have given you a lot of great content for a book is this is this where a lot of improv leaders ship came from was just this experience.

David Miller
Yeah, a lot of it. I mean, I’ll if, you know the truth is a lot of this experiences as probably will foster many books, you know along along the way, coming from different different vantage points, improv leadership. A lot of the stories come out of this experience, but the concept itself really starts with it was when I took over as the vice president of coaching. I really looked at our organization and our coaches and said, what makes us unique? Like why would someone want us to coach their team instead of, you know, named the organization or the individual, you know, those different things, you know, what, why would someone choose us? And, and I start to kind of, you know, realize, like, we need to figure out a little bit of what our secret sauce is and what our process is. And so improv leadership became before was, it wasn’t supposed to be a book. improv leadership was supposed to be our internal training process for the coaches that are on our team. Yeah. Here’s how you Draw the best out of the people that you’re that you’re leading that you’re coaching. Here’s how you do that. Yeah. And, and so it started that way, almost five years ago. You know, we launched it in our organization and trained all of our leaders in these five core competencies and get and you know, constantly are coming back to this. Then like, as things evolve, then it became, you know, I would be talking to an executive pastor, and, you know, he or she would say, Well, I, you know, I’m supposed to coach my team, I’ve got, you know, 10 or five or 20 people on my staff, how do I use improve leadership? And so we started to train leaders, and so we would have these trainings that we would do all over the country. And, you know, today we’ve probably brought in the live trainings like 1000, you know, 1500 people through kind of a live training, and it was someone heard it in the training, and said, I need to introduce you to someone at Zondervan. I need to introduce you to a book agent Let’s see if this could become a book. And we were like, it’s not it’s not a book. It’s like, Why do you keep saying it’s a book? And so we want to talk to them and they’re like, no, like, like, put your stories to it. Right? Teach us how to do it. But But tell the stories of how you’ve seen it done well, and how you’ve messed it up. And, you know, how, how it’s necessary in this climate. Sure. And, and so then it became a book

Mike Mage
Totally in process. Well, I, I love even just the idea of improv leadership, like the, the the name itself implies, like flexibility. And, you know, obviously talking to church creatives, like they really, at least, you know, from my experience, musicians understand to a certain extent, some of them understand not all. I did go to the School of Music, at a university, they don’t understand this. Most most other musicians do that. Like there is this flexibility. There’s this idea that like, every time you play a song, even if it’s, you know, your basic four chord worship song, something is going to be different about it. And I love just even how the title almost sort of, like implies that a little bit like, right, this, this is gonna be something that it flexes and moves and yeah, you know, you kind of have to live within this to adapt and you know, be creative, which is there still rules, there are rules

David Miller
To music, right? There are rules to what sounds good and what doesn’t. Right. And, and you’re allowed to break the rules at a certain point you’re allowed to play within the rules, right. And I think that’s, you know, right now, man, like, most leadership stuff out there, and there’s some great leadership stuff out there. Yeah, most of it is linear, most leadership stuff that I that I read totally, or that I’ve, you know, been to the trainings or, you know, have the certification or you know, whatever. It’s, it’s this, it’s this first do this, then do this, then do this, and it’s this little In your process that takes you forward into something. And that’s just not what leadership actually is like in real life. Sure. In real life, you have to be nimble like that musician. And so we talked about in the book this idea that that you know, in most of the you know, your worship, you know, bands, you have like someone, you give them the tabs, you give them the chords, someone can if they practice enough, they’ll be able to play that song pretty well. Yeah, but the moment that the time signature changes a little bit, or the moment that the person in front says, you know, alright, let’s go ahead and, you know, vamp here for a minute or redo one of these courses, like all of a sudden you see them like seize up, yeah, and not able to kind of move forward. And so for us, it’s, it’s only the best musicians actually have the ability to improv Sure, like the average musician can’t do it. They understand the concept, but only the really good who have mastered their, their their instrument, who have enough trust with the other people that they’re in the bandwidth to be able to improv in. moment to contribute in a moment, depending no matter what kind of what what comes, you know, right then and there. Yeah, we start looking at leaders and saying, Can leaders do that? Like, we’re pretty good as leaders, when we know what the rules are, we’re pretty good when we know when our job is, you know, the amount of time that someone says to me, Well, that wasn’t in my job description, right? Give me the right job description. And I’m like, it is in your job description. Other you know, right. Right. Other needs as required? Is Yeah, yeah. is everywhere, right. It’s everywhere. And so So the reality is like, like, there isn’t a job description that will accurately compile everything that you’re supposed to know, do. You have to be able to adapt? Think about, like, what’s happening in culture nap? Yeah. Right. Like the church and I mean, people but like, let’s into the church, the church has to be able to adapt right now. And it’s and it’s fascinating to watch the churches and leaders that are adapting, yeah, that are able to have conversations about racial reconciliation that are able to talk about you know, politics or the Coronavirus or Why we’re meeting or why we’re not meeting and everyone is freaking out about different things and and we’ve become this consumer thing right where everyone wants you to, hey pastor tell the church what I want you to tell the church you know, I want us to meet I want us to not make I want us to talk more about Black Lives Matter. I want to talk less about Black Lives Matter I want us to write and and as leaders, we’re having to respond to all of those things. Yeah. And, and I’m watching as some leaders are doing an incredible job of responding. Yeah. And I’m watching as the majority of leaders are flubbing this and and trying they have great intentions. Yeah. But they’re so afraid of because they’re because they want it’s it’s it’s the rules. It’s, well, what is the rule that I’m supposed to follow here? Well, those have been thrown out. And more than ever, yeah, they no longer apply most of them and now more than ever, we have to be able to improv or leadership, right. And so again, the concept that it was written long before any of What’s happening? What’s happening? But but we’re in this this space where it’s can leaders respond to a global global pandemic? Can leaders walk into a room not knowing what their role is supposed to be and contribute in a moment? Can leaders sit behind their camera on their, you know, on zoom and manage the mute button? Well, can we figure out what the next step is supposed to be? And the best leaders, the ones who can lean on their wiring, their, their training, their education, their experience, are going to be able to come out of this. You know, I think really well and if not stronger than ever, right. And that’s, that’s the hope. That’s the hope of, from the very beginning of the book.

Justin Price
Yeah. Yeah, I just, I feel like you’ve got us hooked. Can you give us maybe like two of the five principles from the book, two that you think are most interesting to just share? It doesn’t To be a shortened up thing, just like a couple sentences about some of the first two principles, which doesn’t sound like it’s linear, what they could be writing the order, right?

David Miller
Yeah, yeah. And they are, they’re the whole, the whole thing I’ll tell you about the two that we’ll talk about here in a minute. All five of them can build on each other. All five of these concepts can come out, you know, we can weave in and out of, I think of it almost the lens of like a toolbox, you know, like, like, you know, it’s whatever you’re going to do you as the person who’s working on that project, you know, when to use a hammer when use a screwdriver, you know, right. You know, when you’re supposed to do that. I want to make sure that I arm you with the best hammer and best screwdriver I can find. Yeah. And so this really is a toolbox, all five of these tools. And then within each each, you know, we say actually, the five are competencies and there are tools within each competency. And I want to make sure that you have everything that you would need for whatever the situation is. You’ll be able to Walk forward in Yeah, I would say that the two that as I think about your audience as I think about going forward night again, I think all of them would would fit but the first one I’ll look at is precision praising so kind of our tagline for precision praising is carefully crafting praise to inspire and chorus corrector team. And so here’s here’s a reality that I think people have to understand is that people are motivated by praise. Yeah, uh, it is very rarely have I have I come down on someone and really critique someone and then walked away and actually come back better. Yeah, more often than not, it is it is praise that has helped someone to move forward. It’s not that you can’t correct but it’s, it’s it I think we’ve leaned so heavy into correction and into kind of cracking the whip that we’ve forgotten what it looks like to actually praise someone. And so it’s a it’s a skill that has to be re looked at. So in, in our training we we talked about, like we almost will reverse it. engineer, a time that someone has praised you and it changed the trajectory of your story. Yeah. And and when you can reverse engineer those different things we talked about, what was the setting of that? Were you alone? Were you with a bunch of other people were it was it was it public? You know, who was that person in your life? Like, who are they in your story that they were able to speak that to you. And understanding these basic kind of concepts and principles of praise will start to motivate your team in a brand new way. Because it gives you that like endorphin rush, right? Like, there’s something about, you know, if you walk in, and someone says to you, Hey, that was great, then that’s like, Oh, that’s awesome. Like I can I can kind of ride that for a little while when your supervisor or someone who has leadership or influence in your life says what you just did, really affected the quality of the service that we just had, or or really change the trajectory of who we are as a church. You can write that praise for a month. Yeah, right. And so when you start to understand that The importance and the beauty and art of praise, then you can really start to motivate your team and move them toward common goals. Yeah.

Mike Mage
Well, that’s to me it is. I feel like one of the things that I I teach all my the worship people here is, you know, like, it’s it’s incredible how much is incredible how far a thank you goes. And so like, like, I’ll literally from the from the day that I got here, after every worship service, I make it a point to go say thank you to everybody. And I’ve told this story before, but like, yeah, the very first time I did that, I went up to a bass player here who’s been here for you know, however many years way before I even got here, and to the church, and I said, Thank you. And he was it looked like I punched him in the gut. You know, like it looked like I really just had walked up and I just punched him and was like, What did you say? And I just said, Thank you. And with like, straight on, he just said like, no one’s ever thanked me for playing bass here before and like Which is insane, then say and so like, like I love it and I love how you’re drilling down on like even making that more. I mean like it can be as simple as a thank you but like what you’re talking about like can actually start to change people’s trajectories and like slowly and push them in like really healthy and encouraging directions.

David Miller
Well we talked about in all of our organizations like the values of our organization, right and so we you know, we list them somewhere on some document and the really good churches will actually have people you know, they’ll have people like memorize heat right those and what they are and then we stop there My thing is when you see someone living out your values, why don’t you tell them how good they did? When you see someone you know, right like, like there’s a difference there’s a difference in saying good job and telling someone what they did. That was so good, right? There’s a difference in moving for with someone like like my wife a lot. I’ll say, Hey, that was that was really good shake, but What did you like about it? There people want that 100% and We crave it the most. You know, I remember I, co author and I and Stan Endicott. We, we did a talk for, like 150 Executive pastors. And almost the whole talk was about precision praising. And I had one of the, you know, one of the kind of big name, you know, big name church guy came up and said, Man, I’m really glad you shared all that with these guys. Almost like implying they need it. And I don’t I don’t need it yet. He said, and he said something to the effect of this was a little too touchy feely for me. And what I love and here’s, here’s the fun, here’s the fun of me and Stan working together. Is that, you know, Stan is in his 70s he’s kind of like an elder statesman, you know, you walk in the room, you just like that guy’s awesome. Yeah. You know, like, I’m a punk with like, you know, half sleeve tattoo, you know what I mean? Like, you know, and walking in and you’re like, what, Who’s that guy? Yeah. And, and, and I remember this guy walking away. I was kind of sharing with Stan for a minute. I was like, Oh, that’s, you know, a little disappointing. Like, you know, I thought I thought he’d really get it. And Stan said this thing that like really affected me, he said, he said if, if more leaders understood precision, praising fewer of their staff would quit, and I just, and I just was like, cool that guy. We’re good. Yeah.

Justin Price
David, can I ask you a personal question on it? Yeah, please do like a personal so in our agency. I feel good about the fact that we are leadership stuff every Monday sets a goal to find something to praise publicly for that was done that’s at the heart of the culture, not good work. So he taking it even a step further, we want to reinforce the cultural values. And so rather than just saying like repeating them, every staff meeting we we actually look for a way to actually see somebody who has been living them out. And so we will before we have the full staff meeting, the leaders kind of talked through a so and so this was great, and it’s a huge red flag. If we don’t have any Anything like if we found like three or four weeks and it’s like, I mean everyone’s kicking butt and it’s doing like everyone’s doing really good work, but I don’t really see anything like stand out culture above and beyond type stuff. That’s like a Okay, so what do we need to do to really foster that? How can we how can people any any practical tips on like, how can we be better at precision, like finding the nuances that you know, guess? Doesn’t feel like it’s repetitive and doesn’t feel like it’s getting generic because even for me, I mean, I, we, we built that as part of our culture and it’s still really tough to find new things into inspire any, any like little nuggets there. I’m just kind of poking into this one because it’s Yeah, trying to get some coaching from you. Love it.

David Miller
So I have I have three thoughts really, really fast. Okay, so I think that the first one is, it should worry you as much about your leaders as it does your staff. If your leaders can’t find things to praise. Yeah. Right. So So part of it. Yeah. Is it? You know, the question that you should have in some ways is is, is our is it that our staff isn’t living on our values? Or is it that our leaders have such a high bar before they’re willing to praise someone that they that they’re not able to see it when it’s right in front of them? Yeah. And so and so there, there’s a reprogramming of our own minds to be able to, like, I know, I used to literally believe that if I praised less that when I would pray it would mean more. I used to, I would say that to people why I hold my praise until it’s really deserved, so that people will will know that I mean, it Yeah. Yeah, never.

Justin Price
Yeah, never really say it, right.

David Miller
Yeah. And and I’ve never felt more dumb. Yeah. I mean, like then later on and realizing how how praise really affects people. And so and so your leaders have to have to have the value of wanting to find praise. The people that are on your team Yeah, is I think is I think a piece of it. I will say that not all praise has to be public. So I could see it getting repetitive and or becoming expected. Oh, we’re gonna walk into a meeting someone from the leadership team is going to say something about one of us. And so I could see it losing what what we call in the book, The weight of praise. So the weight of it is not as heavy. If they if they figure you’re only doing it because it’s a checklist item. Yeah. And so I really lean into leaders and saying you can schedule praise, but don’t make sure they don’t know you scheduled it. Yeah, you know, I’m saying like, you know, make it feel so organic, but if you’re not, if it doesn’t naturally happen, you need to schedule it, then you should do that. Yeah. And, and continue lean into it. And so that kind of that third pieces like I would have them, lean into them as individuals. There’s something about walking up to someone’s desk and be able to say this thing that you did, was was really valuable. Because not everyone on your team, highly values praise publicly, right? Some there’s gonna be someone on your team who public praise makes them feel shameful. And that’s their own issue to figure out, but it certainly may actually hurt. Yeah, we will make them feel uncomfortable. But but to be praised, like more one on one might, they might, they might ride that for a little while and feel and feel like they’re on cloud nine because of that. And so there’s something about figuring out who your people actually are like the curiosity, being so curious about your staff that you lean into them and you know, this person loves to be praised publicly. And so I want to make sure that I fill that love bucket that that that they have, yeah, and this person would be mortified if I praise them publicly, and I need to be really intentional about that as well.

Justin Price
It’s so cool. David, that’s that’s so valuable for so many teams I’ve been. I love that. Definitely a lie I believed for a long time was that I only Give authentic praises and so I hardly ever give them. And yeah, and that’s wrong.

David Miller
Totally wrong. Well, it’s, it’s it’s wrong, but even even as you use the word, the praise does need to be authentic. Yeah, right. Right. Um, you know, they people people, barges doesn’t have to be that high

Justin Price
For praise, the bar

David Miller
Doesn’t have to be as high, you know, so, so yeah, I mean, but it does need to be authentic it You do have to believe it. Because they will know if you’re blowing smoke, right? Like they will, they will be aware of that. And it’s something we talked about in the book if you couch praise, or if it’s like, if it’s a praise, criticism, praise becomes something and again, I’ve been through leadership training that literally tells you to do that right. And I’ve been in leadership trainings that say they say this is how you give criticism is make sure you praise them on the front in the back end, man Yeah, like we’re our defenses are up. Yeah, with that kind of stuff. Like like we have learned, oh, you praise me Here comes the hammer, right? You don’t even like and so we have learned that and, and so again, we talked about If the only time your staff ever sees you is because you have a project for them to accomplish, or you need to correct something that they did, that every time you walk by, they will flinch. Yeah. But if the if you create opportunities that when you walk by, they’re like, oh, man, I wonder what he’s got for us today. Right? You know, there’s something exciting about the boss walking by your desk, versus terrifying. And I better act like I’m really working. And I think I think we do that we do that as leaders, we create that environment where we are the heavy instead of instead of the carrot. And I think we got to figure that out.

Justin Price
Sure. I think you’re just you’re striking a lot of PTSD for our listeners right now who have all been in bad work environments. And it’s like, oh, I feel that you can like go right to that moment when you’ve been working for that boss, who is just the heavy and yeah, it’s like every time they’re around, it’s like, what, what next?

David Miller
Yeah, I’ve worked for a boss in a supervisor who had his own parking spot, his own entrance and his own bathroom and so there was No chance to accidentally run into them. There was never a natural interaction, every interaction was planned. And, and, and again, and I get why he did that I get I get the the version of leadership that is put as many barriers in the way so that you don’t have to accidentally interact with anybody because you have a lot of things to accomplish. I can cognitively understand that. But when I put myself in the position of a leader and realizing that the best way to do these things is through them, and to really invest in others. Well, why, you know, why do I have a gatekeeper standing, you know, sitting at their desk, making sure that the only people that get in really deserve it, you don’t I mean, like, there’s, there’s, there’s a disconnect there for the reality, especially with younger leaders. I mean, you know, when you have millennials and Gen Z coming through, I mean, they don’t want you to be just their boss, they need to know that you actually, you know, like give a rip, you know, they need to understand that you care about them more than what they can produce for you. And, and if you’re only talking to them about what they can produce for you, and you Never have an accidental conversation at the urinal. You don’t I mean, or you never walk by them when you’re going to your car, like, you know, and give them like a goofy fist bump or something. I mean, then then all you are is is the heavy, and it’s gonna really mess with their drive to be a part of your community. Yep.

Justin Price
Can we make that the Can we make that the call out for this podcast is that if your only positive praise is the goofy fist bump as the later

Mike Mage
But what’s, uh, what’s the second competency that? You know, you can you can drill down a little bit on

David Miller
Yea, I want to talk about what I think could be maybe one of the more difficult ones. And so this idea of will be called going north. So, you know, going north is using indirect influence to redirect a person’s thinking or perspective. I mean, when you think about this concept, like we’ve I did, we identified five fundamentals of going north and here’s the reality of it like, we’ve all had leaders had to have those really difficult conversations with someone and it feels like you know, as you need to have a tough conversation or you need to somehow move someone forward they’re stuck in some way or you’re stuck in some way. It’s it’s like hitting a brick wall. Yeah. Right. Like you know, they walk into your office and they immediately cross their arms and you know, they’re they’re armed and ready for battle because they know what’s about to happen. Yeah, um, you know, what we’re really challenging leaders to do is is is to use again indirect influence you know, so like the five for example so like reveal common ground with them somehow become like minded right? You know, surprise them with a gift. You know, if you walk in and you if you’ve ever been given like a even just a trinket, you know, I mean, something small, but if you’ve been given a gift, a piece of candy, even here, your your defenses start to lower, you know, disrupt the setting, in some way. Like if every time you’re going to fire someone, you do it in your office. And that’s it. Chair, maybe you don’t make them sit in that chair, right? You don’t I mean, like, like, every time you’re having a card conversation with someone, you know, you you do it at five toward the end of the day to make sure this thing happens like, like, somehow you got to figure out, like, we need to have a hard conversation but I need to somehow as a leader is my job to get around this wall that is going to be naturally built up. So so you disrupt the setting. I one of my one of my favorite of that was actually at the church that that we were at, Mike, you know, I had a team of seven. I actually I think this was when Melissa was on staff. Okay, sister Melissa. Yeah, yeah, your sister. And, and I, like we were just hitting the wall. I mean, you know, it was it was just like a, you know, you remember it was one of those hard charging churches and you know, and and so there’s always something to accomplish and totally, and we were you know, and we put on our own camps, and so this whole thing was happening and, and so I mean it we were burned. And I remember talking to someone from another ministry and saying, Hey, I bought everyone these little airsoft guns like really cheapo ones that wouldn’t actually hurt anybody. But I remember buying them could you set up like a like a little course for us in the office we had our own kind of suite you know we were in as they sequestered us away from the rest of the staff because we were so loud noisy right and so so one edit so we had all the lights turned off put on some random lights and I and I had I had them each go in one at a time and we would time each other to see who can hit the targets with these airsoft guns and you know, people like army rolling, you know, through the office and then crawling through going around a corner. And it just, it just like, took the took the pressure out of the balloon. Yeah. You don’t immediately off a little bit. Yeah, we’re just in that moment. I everyone’s on the edge. Let’s just have fun. Yeah, for a second. And then we went back to work. Mm hmm. And so it was again, this disrupt the setting, you know, idea within within what we’re what we’re talking about last two Teach using a story. So we’re obviously doing that here on a podcast like dragon, I can say do this, or I can tell you a story about how to do this. And it connects to someone in a different way. And then create a shared experience. And you know, so again, as you do that with your team,

It really does start to lower, lower those walls. Yeah. And, and rather than telling someone what to do, you can model it and use this indirect influence idea to really show them through your actions, how it could be a recent story, I was coaching a pastor who was just in a rut, you know, again, I think that that as as human beings, like we are creatures of habit we we search for normally, like we search for the box. Yeah. And you know that because, you know, like, I bet you if we if we were to talk to your listeners for a minute, most of them walk in and have you know, they park near the same spot every day they walk out of the same, the same door of the auditorium or, you know, wherever it is, they sit in the same seat sit in the same seat. I mean, how many people at your church like, that’s my seat, you gotta mean like, you know, and they’re at least gonna, you know, the church I go to I walk in, I take a right every weekend, you know what I mean? Like, well, when I’m able to walk into the church, right, you know, it’s like, walk in and take a right I don’t do it on purpose. That’s just, it’s it became the place I remember sitting on the left side of the auditorium and it felt weird, like, it just didn’t feel like it was like we were in the same place and and so we do that in like, like, people are creatures of habit. As leaders, we we can really succumb to this and so ever again, I remember talking to a leader and he was in a rut, and I and I said this weekend, I want you to walk in a different door. I want you to park on the other side of the parking lot. And then and then you know, when you walk in and you always talk to that same guy in the sound booth. I want you to go talk to somebody else. Yeah, when you walk in the door and and i I remember talking to him after that weekend. He was like, he was like, man, I thought that was the dumbest advice. Like walk in another door. And he’s like, but I had ideas for our church that I hadn’t thought of. Yeah. Because I kept looking at it from the same angle over and over and over again. Yeah. And so there’s something about as leaders from time to time for ourselves. We’ve got it, we’ve got to change it up. Yeah. And for our team, you know, don’t order lunch in the same spot every time. You know, like, like, find opportunities, the best classes when we were all in school, the best classes were on beautiful days when the teacher took us outside to do class,

Justin Price
Sir, no doubt.

David Miller
Why is that? Like, you don’t I mean, like, it’s like it created a memory. It created something that just felt different than the monotony of every other day in every class. And so there’s something special about it. And literally nothing was different. They taught the same material they were going to teach inside classes taught outside the class. Right? Right. We’ve got to get better at this. Yeah, at being intentional in the way we lead people. And, and I and I said at the beginning, like, you know, this is one of the harder ones to master because it’s not science. This is art. Yeah, this is this is not, this is not, you know, on Tuesday, go outside on Wednesday, eat at this other restaurant on Thursday, you know, like, like, there are tricks you can do. I remember taking my staff and saying and saying, hey, on Wednesday, it’s going to be go left Wednesday, because when we would go to lunch on Wednesdays, for some reason, we always turn right. Meaning only got to the restaurants that were on the right. And so it’s like today, we’re going left? Yeah, you know, I don’t know what’s over there. And there’s just something about that, as a leader to remove the rut. Yeah.

Justin Price
Yeah. I think that a lot of leaders need to hear that encouragement because it is a it is extra work. And so I think we’re taught a lot of times that being more efficient is a better way to learn. lead. And that’s how we find ourselves in those ruts. And I think about like, I’m thinking through every leader who’s listening to this, who has just had to change everything, their scheduling, their location, their meetings, everything and they’re like, I’m just happy if my people make it on on the zoom call for the staff meeting, I’m just happy. If we pull off another Sunday and don’t see numbers drop online attendance, and we don’t get shut down in our building, if we’re a church that’s open, you know, these are the kinds of things and it’s like and David’s over here talking about bumping up the staff retreat budget. And totally, though is by by David’s book, it’s gonna give you all the support, you need to bump up that staff retreat budget, and that’s but in all reality, though, is what you’re saying is so valuable and so true, and it’s worth it. What you’re really saying is that it’s worth it if you want to be effective. If you care about the people you’re leading, then then yes, stay up the extra night. Figure it out. You know, we have a remote agency and one of the first things we had to do was figure out how to bring community to people who are all over the country. And I remember the first time my, we had somebody on staff help me, I wanted to deliver pizzas to everybody’s door at the same time. So I changed up the meeting. And so I was like, if everybody could get pizza, delivered at the same time, that’d be really cool. And then we took it a step further, and we said, Hey, we were actually introducing an intern the week before. And so I said, as you introduce yourself and what you do to the intern on our online meeting, we said just tell them your favorite pizza and where it’s from. And so so the person who was in charge of getting those pizzas ordered took notes. during that meeting, we then delivered everybody’s favorite pizza. It was a ton of work, though. Most people in leadership positions would have like if I had submitted that to my boss in many of my jobs before, if I wasn’t the one writing the check, I would have had that push back as like, Are you kidding me? Like you spent 20 hours ordering pizzas for people? And how about the 400 bucks you spent on pizzas for meaning that you normally do for free. But I will tell you that in the last year, that is something that still comes up like that is still and it’s something that we even as a team still try to figure out how to outdo because it was a surprise and delight. Yeah, it was a changeup. It was something they had never experienced before. And so we still it’s still my best idea. So feel free to take that and use it. Okay, we’re still working on it. We’re still chasing Chasing the Sun on that one. But David, I love your heart for where this is. I love this book. And I, I’m super, super stoked that you’re working to get this out there because there’s so many guys who grew up I know I grew up in the church as a young guy with no mentoring, and to have coaching and coach resources even if I can’t afford slingshot group in coaching from you guys in my church will buy that I can buy your book. Yeah, and I can get it. And so thank you for for what you’re doing, man, this is really, really awesome.

David Miller
Yeah. And just I love the story, you know, I mean, it does it. It is extra. And that is a true statement. It is extra. But I, I’m wondering what leaders are filling all their other time with? You know, I mean, I’m saying why, like, why did that, you know, I mean, you know, we’ve all read death by meeting or we’ve all looked at, you know, our felt death by meeting you know, it’s, it’s when you look at what’s actually happening in your organization, you know, aren’t most most meetings most companies most leaders are thinking through the lens of return on investment, right? Yeah. And so if you start if you moved away from the rest of this stuff, and you start understanding return on investment on those pizzas is exponentially greater right then then, no doubt 10 Normal meetings that you would do you know what I mean? Like, you know, whatever. I mean, I mean, when you think about churches like so in student ministry, camp is ridiculous. Like, like taking students to camp is a ridiculous thing to do. Yeah. For the amount of money that it takes. I remember when we were doing our own camps. Yeah. I mean, like, I remember how much of our yearly budget went into doing camp, and then how much we charge different people and all the different stuff and

Mike Mage
Starting to scratch to Oh, yeah.

David Miller
And so it’s and so camp is crazy, until you look at it through the lens of return on investment. When you start looking at the fact that you can do if you take students to a camp that’s worth more than a year’s worth of Wednesday nights. Absolutely. When a student goes to camp. As far as as far as connection as far as discipleship, as far as you know, I mean, memories and experiences that they’ll have for the rest of their life. Doing that is worth a year of Wednesday night you know youth group. So return on so is it extra work of course, but return on an investment is going to say that like doing that is is completely worth I would rather get rid of some of my Wednesday nights yeah then not do camp. Absolutely I would rather for your meetings like like I would rather figure out these. So one of the things I did for slingshot group is is when I took over as the as Vice President for coaching, I bought I made these enamel pins that you know that that went on you know, jean jacket or a backpack or you know, whatever. And I made these pins and we have like 50 to 55 people in Sintra group. But I have 21 coaches, I only gave the pins to coaches. And I said this is for you. This is every time you look at this pen, you remember the impact that you have, you remember what it means to be a part of this team and every time I bring on a new Coach, I give them an enamel pin. Yeah. And and that that became a thing,

Right? Like I want, you know, oh man, I can’t believe I lost my enamel pin. That’s so heartbreaking. Here’s another enamel pin, like I you know, I mean like, right, like, like, this is gonna matter. And that little gesture, like catapulted us forward in this disjointed team because we too are a distributed company, we’re, you know, we have people all over the country. And so to be able to mail that to someone and for them to, to open it and, and to look and you know, I’d get on Facebook and I’d be tagged in a post on Facebook about the enamel pin that they got for joining the slingshot group coaching team. Yeah. And I mean, you know, it was it’s, it was free advertising It was. It was bonding in some way it it made them look at me as a leader as I’m providing free I see you. You are not just a cog in the machine. I know who you are. I want you to have this. I mailed it to you personally with a note from me and didn’t take it your time. of course Yeah, right. Yeah. It was terrible. Yeah. I mean, it’s fun. Right. Like, like, but but the return on investment has been exponential. Yeah. Yeah. And we continue to try and figure out ways, how do we help someone to know that they’re a part of this team and that they matter that they see that they’re seen, and that they’re not just a cog in the machine? Yeah. And I think that’s, that’s the that’s the goal.

Justin Price
Right? That’s awesome. I mean, I want to be a coach just for the enamel pins. I mean,

David Miller
We won’t sell them. I had someone say, Well, why these are so rad. Why don’t we sell these and I was like, we’ll never sell them. They are they are expensive. There’s something about getting something that no one else can get. And the only reason you’re on the team.

Mike Mage
Yeah, yeah. Even if it’s something simple. It’s so cool. Yeah. Well, David, this has been amazing. Like this is awesome. Because like Justin said, I feel like we got a free coaching session. So I’m super, super grateful for you for what you do to the slingshot group, but for your book is well, I just want one quick thing before we head out. Where is where are some places where people can catch up with you and see all the cool things you got going on?

David Miller
Yea you know I really do most of the stuff that I do through slingshot group so slingshot group org is is the site you know, we have that as kind of all of our social media I have the the blessing and curse of having the name David Miller. So good luck finding me on social media as one of the most common names in America. But most of my stuff it’s it’s I’m David Miller is like social for most of my shirt, but stuff that I’m doing. And then check out the podcast. I mean, yeah, we’re on we’re about to launch season four and putting some different stuff out.

Mike Mage
Yeah, and the it’s just the slingshot group podcast

David Miller
Slingshot Group Podcast. Awesome.

Justin Price
Yeah. Really appreciate your work. Appreciate your time

So fun being with you guys. Mike, we could go on for another hour easily on going north and I know you’ve got a lot of time. Thoughts on it? Maybe we’ll even do a follow up podcast, maybe like a little bonus follow podcast because, you know, we just touched the surface on going north with David, try to keep this into some sort of a format of a podcast and and just let him tease you a little bit you should definitely get the book. Yeah. improv leadership. It’s available places that books are sold. And on Amazon Yeah. Which he didn’t, he didn’t say, but we will say that for him and, and dig into these things. But, you know, he threw us a softball pitch with the precision praise. But the going north is is super, super tough to do

Mike Mage
Well, and I think that out of the two of the five that he was really talking about, I mean, like all five of them can really increase your capacity and your ability as a leader. And really like as I was reading through them, in jest, and I sort of just like we probably shouldn’t go into all four cuz that yeah, that’s why you can get the book. And but, but the the precision praising you know like that’s something you can do tomorrow. That’s something that you can do right now. I mean get out your phone and text your bass player or your drummer or you know your your comms director or something and figure out something small that’s organic and authentic, and really just begin to change the trajectory of their life by simply saying, Thank you. I mean, like, That’s incredible.

Justin Price
It’s so good. It’s something we can’t do enough of Mike and you are really, really good at it. And I feel like I get a little better just by being around you, because it’s just kind of wears off a little bit on it. You know, one way that our listeners could actually practice it right now would be to go over to, like, wherever you’re listening to your podcasts from iTunes, and actually leave a little encouragement, a little precision praise on this podcast. It would help us a ton or jump on like Facebook and be like, Hey, have you guys heard this podcast? That’s really great. Mike mage is the best podcast host in the history of podcasts or, you know, whatever it is that you’re feeling authentically. I know mostly that would be that But whatever it is, that would be a really good way to practice you know, I think just to give you something tangible to go and do right now, that would be super super appreciated and helped helpful to us as we continue to to grow this as an opportunity to give you all more free content. Mike, what else what else we got for today? Any any teasers for next week? I’ve got a I got a little teaser for one coming up.

Mike Mage
Oh, let’s hear it. You want to hear it? I I would love to hear it.

Justin Price
So our next podcast is actually kind of a crazy one. This this girl, we promised you guys we would try to be more diverse. And we promised you all that we would try to be more diverse. And race right. This girl is is a really, really ridiculously talented designer. And I know that a lot of us are worship leaders and pastor roles and things like that. And it’s like what is designer have to do with anything? And maybe the graphic side of people are going, Oh, yeah, it’s graphic. She is an interior designer. She is a licensed interior designer. She went to school, she has a Master’s then she went to Italy learned Italian to get her degree in Italian design, which they only teach in Italian. So you have to learn the language to get this degree her master’s there in oh nine. And she’s coming on. She’s actually the design lead for a large church. And she is not on staff. She is a contracted design lead and there is nothing inside of their building that they do that doesn’t pass through her desk. As a contractor. She is hired out to do that and she does lines all their campuses. This is a church that has seven or eight campuses. And at first we were like, well, what would that even? How would that even relate to our audience? You know, a lot of us are doing 10 jobs in our church, you know, like, the last thing we need to worry about is interior design. But the reality is, we do need to worry about interior design. And also people are thinking about closing their doors, and not having church, this is a really good time to maybe fix some of your environmental design things. And it’s not about big budgets. It’s just about knowing the right things to do.

Mike Mage
Justin, that sounds amazing. I can’t wait as a guy who is a worship leader and sort of like a pretty small church. I was terrible at Interior designing and really just like figuring out where things should physically go in a room to make it feel the most inviting to make it feel the most warm. And really everything that people experience when they walk through your doors will have an impact on them. And is just like you said, Like now’s the time. You know, when you’re not having anybody in your room, now’s the time to maybe change some stuff up and freshen some stuff up. So, yeah, look really looking forward to that. Once again, thank you so much for joining us for the healthy church growth podcast where we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life.

Healthy Church Growth – Episode 15 – Vince DiGuglielmo

Building a Community through Social Media

Mike Mage and Justin Price are joined by social media guru Vince DiGuglielmo to discuss common mistakes churches make on social media, and how to build a community online.

On Instagram: @kiptharipper


Transcriptions:

Mike Mage
Welcome to the healthy church growth podcast.

Mike Mage
Welcome to the healthy church growth podcast where we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life. I’m your host Mike Mage and I am joined as always by my co host, Justin Price. Justin, how’s it going?

Justin Price
It is going so well.

Mike Mage
Has anything happened in like the last three months that is pushed your entire world onto social media at all? Has anything happened?

Justin Price
For me personally I started a remodel three months ago at my house. It hasn’t pushed my world into social media, but it has flipped it upside down. Because we’ve been trying to do a remodel through COVID. Well, so well.

Mike Mage
Most people aren’t having to deal with remodel, but most everybody is having to deal with COVID or COVID-19.

Justin Price
Everyon’e Got their own remodel. Yeah. Way out their own thing. And there has been a lot of home home projects since quarantining.

Justin Price
Well, that’s that’s probably something that everyone is having to deal with for sure.

Mike Mage
But I, we, you and I both thought that it would be a really good idea to have someone on to talk to us to talk to churches and ministries and church leaders about social media, and you happen to work, you lead a company called vers creative, and you have a lot of great strategic thinking and action around social media, as most creative companies do nowadays, and so do churches. And so we decided to bring on Vince, I’m gonna try and try and say this, right. yep, I messed it up. But we had an awesome conversation about social media and really just kind of where to sit Your goals to begin your content creation for social media and suggestion, what do you think of this conversation?

Justin Price
For me, I pretty much like anything that Vince says he’s one of my favorite humans in the whole world. I’ve known Vince for a long time and had to fight for a long time to, to hire him to wait for him just the right time to hire him. And, you know, every account he has touched for us has been phenomenal. He just he’s so good at community management. A lot of people think about social media managing is like coming up with posts. And it’s not like he’s he is about how to get people talking and how to foster relationships on social. And, you know, I think, really, in this conversation, we just kind of scratched the surface. We ended the conversation, both of you, you and I were both like, yeah, we we’ve got to get another conversation with Vince just to share some of these insights. I mean, these are insights that are going out and they’re being sold to you businesses that have millions of followers on their accounts. These are large international businesses that Vince is managing. And he is sharing today with you guys a couple of like key insights into how he kind of approaches every single account that he’s managing. So I love it. His perspective on the church, his perspective on social is so authentic. Vince is literally made of gold. His heart is incredible. And I think you guys are gonna get a lot out of this. Well,

Mike Mage
without any further ado, let’s go ahead and get into our conversation.

Justin Price
I think if the passion for Jesus, in the passion for the church and the passion for the community, aren’t there, this is not gonna happen. It’s never gonna happen for you on social media.

Mike Mage
Welcome to the healthy church growth podcast. We have an incredible episode today about something that we all are having to deal with and that we all could get a little better at. So on our panel, Cast today we have Vince DiGuglielmo. Hopefully I’m saying that correctly.

Vince DiGuglielmo
Close enough.

Mike Mage
Yes. So Vince, Vince, how are you doing today, man?

Vince DiGuglielmo
I’m doing great. Thank you so much for having me on.

Mike Mage
Yeah. So we we are having Vince on because he is a social media master over at verse creative, and we’re so grateful to have him on. So, Vince, we would love for you to just give us a little bit of background about who you are. How did you get to where you are? How did you get to what you’re doing right now? Yeah, absolutely.

Vince DiGuglielmo
So, you know, I have a confession to make. First off. So before before anyone clicks out of the podcast, I have to say, I do not work at a church and I have not worked at a church. But I have spent you know, the past eight years, eight or nine years working in social media, specifically for higher education was the brunt of my career. So I worked at the University of Toledo in social media and video as an in house team. So that was the first five years of my career which is, which was a fantastic time. We had a lot of fun. And actually, you know, one point where a division one university, so but at one point, so for two years in a row, we actually ranked in the top 20 Division One universities in the country for social media engagement. Wow. Number 14, two years in a row. It’s awesome. So yeah, our main, our main gig was Twitter. That’s where we kind of killed it. Then I went and I got my master’s degree. Because I worked at the university. I was able to do that. And the day that I took my final class submitted that final paper, Justin gave me a call and said, Hey, what are you doing? Why don’t you come work for verse creative? And I said, I got off the phone with him. I said, Man, there’s no way that I can just make such a huge life change. That’s crazy. And then the very next day, I called him back and I said, Okay.

Justin Price
The best. The best story of this is I actually followed Vince through his whole career at University of Toledo. And I would oftentimes engage and follow and like, and we would talk every once in a while, Vince and I went back. I’ve known Vince since before he started his career. And there was this one moment in his career where he had a massively viral, humongous post that went national. And I just, you know, I thought it would only be fair for the listeners to hear Vince for you to recap, you know, the story of, of changing the mascot at the University of Toledo.

Mike Mage
Oh, that’s what it was. I was gonna say was it like the blue dress white dress thing?

Justin Price
It was better than that.

Vince DiGuglielmo
Okay, good. Good. I’m gonna do this to me, Justin, you need to do this to me. Okay. Okay, yeah, let’s explore one of the greatest. One of the highest highs and lowest lows of my career that happened in about a four hour span. So, you know, when you’re working with students, you have to connect with them in the way that they communicate. So that’s what we were doing. We were killing it every day posting memes that were, you know, respectful to the university, but at the same time, entertain the students connected with them. Sure. And that’s that’s why we were so good at twitter. It was every day we were posting memes we were posting content they enjoyed, so it’s really easy to get carried away. And you guys may know, the DreamWorks character Shrek is, was pretty popular as a meme. And we I thought it’d be funny to tweet out. If this gets 500,000 retweets. We’ll change our mascot to Shrek oh my gosh with a picture of Shrek And you know, I’m thinking like, Oh, this

Mike Mage
is 100,000.

Vince DiGuglielmo
Yeah, I want to make it on the teacher. Absolutely.

Vince DiGuglielmo
But, you know, I thought it was gonna get maybe two or 3000 retweets, right? Like, this is funny, whatever it had. In four hours, it had 90,000 retweets. And it wasn’t it was not stopping. Yeah, if you want to go and look it up, you can just google University of Toledo Shrek.

Mike Mage
We are we’re gonna put in the show notes. No. Yeah. Then Yeah, we can get more people to retweet.

Justin Price
So then he got picked up on national news.

Vince DiGuglielmo
Really? I have to tell the end of the story. So yeah, it did it. Good morning, America.

Justin Price
Of course, all the time. Good Morning America had talked about University of Toledo. I don’t think Vince got credit for that. Yeah.

Vince DiGuglielmo
Yeah. So essentially what happened was As you know, we did that with it without any sort of approval we gave heads up our, our direct supervisor saying, Hey, we’re sending out a tweet, it might get some attention. Yeah, we never imagined that it would balloon into this huge thing that was being retweeted by people across the country and other countries. Just, it just spiraled out of control. We were getting all these news requests and our our poor media, our poor media manager, she was fielding all of these all these calls and had to tell them, no, this is just a joke. Eventually, the athletic director did shut it down.

Justin Price
We had to pivot.

Vince DiGuglielmo
And it didn’t turn out the way that I would have hoped. But still, it was a fun memory. And you know, for the for the remainder of you know, I think that happened in April. So throughout the summer and into that next month. football season, you would see a few strikes at the football games. And you know people still asking what about Shrek? shrugs? So there you go. That’s my big. That was my big news debut.

Mike Mage
I just googled it and there’s very funny USA Today Toledo says its Twitter campaign to change mascot to Shrek was a hoax. Come on. What I put a bad headline that’s a bad man.

Vince DiGuglielmo
Yeah, that’s slimy. That’s not even what it was. It wasn’t a railroad. It was just, it was just a joke, man.

Justin Price
Wow. You know, so Vince has been overseeing the strategy, the social media strategy at verse for a while and he’s had the opportunity to oversee some multi million user accounts and continue this in some really cool ways. We’ve seen some amazing post in success over the years by just listening to Vince Do things that I’d never know as a creative director I’d never would have thought up I’d never would have even thought about. And, and the one thing that I would say I would give Vince the most credit for is just he has this knack for listening to what’s happening, and finding ways to interpret it into the community. And it has a lot to do with understanding the community, and building a community if you just if you’re out there listening, and you’re like, Hey, I’m gonna try something crazy like that. Maybe it’ll work for my church. I think the thing that that happened, though, that you you got to make sure you hear is that Vince had built this following this audience on Twitter for years before this thing actually happened. And so there was so much groundwork that went into something going viral like that, we oftentimes just think we see the end result thing we see the last post we see, you know, things like that. And what we miss is just all of the, the prep it takes to get your audience to that point. And so I just you know, when I think about Vince’s skills more so than his ability to do this massive viral type of a post is more about just really he’s a genius at understanding community building. And what’s funny is that we get into this on this stuff. It’s it’s amazing how simple some of the things are that that I he has done for our accounts. But but it’s just more of like, the practice and the the putting in the reps. And, and then and then just feeling out the audience and seeing how it can play out. But I’m excited for us to kind of unpack some things for churches. I hope you guys listen through this. We’ll make this a shorter episode than some of our other ones, but it’s gonna be powerful. It’s gonna be really good. Well, thanks for sharing that Vince too. I know you’re incredibly, you’d love to tell.

Mike Mage
So, so Vince, you’re obviously you do a bunch of social media stuff, and obviously in the time that we’re living in right now and this hasn’t probably changed, but just the focus from, you know, churches having to really live in social media spaces is now becoming way more of a highlight for everybody. And so I would love to just sort of get your thoughts on, what do you see churches doing right now in social media that is working maybe just from like a real broad sense? Or maybe what what are the shifts in social media? Have you seen over the past three months for churches?

Vince DiGuglielmo
Oh, wow, the past three months, I mean, the past three months have been huge, you know, with with COVID, everyone has to put a much greater focus on live streaming and really both bolstering their digital audience. And it’s unfortunately it’s kind of a thing where you know, if you didn’t have those assets to begin with, if you didn’t have a large digital following, if you didn’t have that connectedness or a person on staff who is running the social media, you see a lot of these churches kind of floundering which is unfortunate in it. But you know, one thing I do want to address I want to go back a little bit further because there are two. There are two big things to me that I see churches doing. And a lot of community based organizations doing that are against what really works on social media these days. So if you want to think about social media, really, it’s it’s our way of connecting with each other at its core, you know, human humans just want to feel connected with each other. And that’s what social media at its core really is. You know, when it started, that wasn’t so much the case it was this novel thing, where we we’re really finding out what is the identity of Facebook, what is the identity of YouTube? So the first thing that I really noticed that a lot of these community based organizations are doing wrong, which I would definitely love churches in that category is trying to go viral, staying in that viral mindset. And of course, we just spend the first You know, three, five minutes talking about that track. But the thing is, that’s not as effective before as, I’m sorry, it’s not as effective today as it was before. So you know, when YouTube first started, especially, it’s easy to call out those hits, you had Chocolate Rain, Charlie Bit me these things that everyone was kind of experiencing. But as the internet progressed and social media progressed, everyone kind of specializes what they’re interested in. They’re following the pages they’re interested in. So it’s become a cluster of tight knit communities, versus this one community that everyone’s kind of taking a part in. So really, you know, when you’re trying to go viral, you’re probably spending, you know, you might be spending a lot of time some, in some cases, a lot of money on a big production or something or, you know, something that’s just have this huge scope, and then if it doesn’t work, it’s easy to get deflated. About that, or just resign social media all together and say, well, it doesn’t, it doesn’t work for us. Yeah, we weren’t able to hit it big. When really you’re you’re missing the point. You’re not trying to hit it big on the whole internet. You know, really what you want to do is foster that community that you already have and take what you have in person and bring it online and really generate that. So you know, and even if you do go viral, I think one of the last things I saw from the church that went viral and expanded even outside of the church community, was that the drummer for what was the song Ocean’s right Yeah, uh huh. Yeah, the metal drummer, and that that went outside of the sphere of influence of the church, but that’s going viral, you know, What impact did that have? Right? Probably not much,

Mike Mage
especially it probably even more negative than

Vince DiGuglielmo
anything, you know, all that to say, you know, going viral. It’s really not the greatest moment. marketing strategy, if you want to call it that way, you know, because the impact is so low.

Mike Mage
Can you can you give us maybe like one or two examples. So obviously, you know, the drummer drumming on oceans like that went viral, but that church was not trying to go viral. So because I feel like that’s what happens is people the things that actually go viral are not the things that like people are really trying to go viral. So what does it look like if a church is trying to like, chase down this strategy that is pretty ineffective? Can you give us like one or two examples of what that might look like?

Justin Price
Yeah, I saw some I saw some like Christmas things this year, where churches really went all out on a couple of things that hit really well. At Christmas. I think Easter didn’t do well this year. I don’t know why. I don’t know why it was it was a COVID thing. The you know, the years in the past, I think some churches have done well. A lot of churches, you know, are obviously not in a position to be going after it. But I think the larger churches who are are attempting are succeeding with it. But I really, you know, more than the morality thing is is just I was kind of curious to like, Where’s your head at Mike with what Vince just said about a segment in social media escape? You know, what are you? Are you experiencing that? Do you see that as far as you know, is your social media totally different than mine?

Mike Mage
I see social media becoming like maybe it’s maybe it’s what Vince is talking about is like people just trying to go viral. So they just throw stuff up there. That seems crazy, disingenuous and like over the top, and I guess that’s, I’m not looking for that in my social media world. Like I feel like I’m I’m looking for what you’re talking about Vince and like, just genuine connection with people. And so like a lot of the things that I even tend to engage with have nothing to do with big splashy statements or super well manicured pictures or you know any of that kind of stuff like I want what you’re talking about, especially right now, where it feels like me as a nine on the enneagram but also is like an extrovert, like I need connection. So bad and I am missing out so much on just the natural rhythms of that. So yeah, Justin, I mean, like, to your point, I think that the algorithm that social media has is so smart and is so well attuned statistically to who we are as people that it’s it is technically I guess, giving us stuff that we want, but it’s probably not giving the stuff that we need.

Justin Price
Are you saying his book is segregating us? Yeah.

Mike Mage
Yeah. I think that they they understand, I mean, because there are, they are just trying to pull you in deeper to their platforms and like, that is

Justin Price
I need to get more click time like more clicks. Yeah. So they can run more ads.

Mike Mage
Well so here’s a great here’s a great

Justin Price
even sure that’s a bad thing. Sure. No and I don’t not inherently evil even though I know your thoughts on social media.

Mike Mage
Well, yeah, but like so let’s say my wife and I were sitting in bed and you know, we’re both on our phones and like my my, so my Facebook I’m scrolling through is I political posts, Good gracious. It is gear talk for praise and worship. It’s people selling their pedals and guitars, on forums. It’s stuff about worship leading or whatever, it’s stuff that I’m, you know, interested in. And then I look on hers. And she has the weirdest Facebook Like, like profile or her. What do you what do you call Grace? A certain Facebook newsfeed. Oh my gosh. We should have a list of definitions in the show notes too. But yeah, her her newsfeed is just like the weirdest crap. It is. It is like, these really strange, like kitschy videos of like, you know, dogs praying before they eat their dinner or something. Or, you know, it’s some weird news story about, you know, some kids getting abducted in Idaho or something. And then it’s like a bunch of moms trying to sell things on, like mom swap sites or something. And so like, it could not be more radically different, even though her and I probably have like close to five or five or 600 mutual friends, like neither one of us sees anywhere close to the same thing.

Vince DiGuglielmo
Yeah. But just to answer your question from before, I mean, the things they, you know, to put it in tangible, what organizations are doing and try and go viral. It’s things like that. I mean, it’s it’s flash mobs. It’s, you know, the big, flashy productions. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you know, there’s a definite difference between Putting on a well done production service and providing that level of entertainment or value for your audience. That’s a completely separate thing continue to do that continue to create good content. But, you know, what’s the intention behind it? Yeah, would be my question. Right.

Mike Mage
Well, that’s really good. Well, what’s your what’s your second thing that you think that you know, organizations or churches are are not doing great.

Vince DiGuglielmo
Wow, I’m impressed that you remembered that was a quite the tangent. We went off on Thank you. No, thank you. So the The second thing is just treating social media like a billboard or a dumping ground for flyers, you know, your your Facebook page, your Instagram page. It’s not a cork board in the hallway. Don’t just fill it with flyers, no one. No one wants to see that. I mean, if we’re going to be honest, sure. People need that information. And I think there are Are the correct avenues to get people that information? This event is at this time, you know, where we’re having a potluck, we’re having a picnic, whatever it is. That’s important. service times are important, especially with, you know, COVID. Now, is the church open? Is it closed? Where’s the livestream? Where can Where can you view that there’s a way to deliver it so that your news feed or your Instagram feed isn’t just all fliers. Yeah, because what happens is, you know, people aren’t necessarily liking these things, right? They’re not liking, they’re not commenting. So every time someone scrolls past one of your photos, and they’re not liking and they’re not commenting, Facebook and Instagram, especially, are taking that into account and factoring that into their algorithms. So that person specifically is not going to be served your posts in the future at as high of a rate. Now on Instagram, you can actually go and see the accounts that you interact with the most The accounts that you interact with in the least it’s in your follower tab. Oh well, so you can see which ones that you’re not really getting served well, just based on the fact that you’re not liking you’re not commenting. And then overall what that does to the page is that devalues your posts for everyone. Not you know not in a huge way but you know if 90% of your audience is not liking commenting clicking anything for then overall, you’re going to have a less a smaller impact in a newsfeed tour.

Mike Mage
Okay, so how can you change that so how can you go from you know, making because I totally see what I probably see this more than the first thing that you were talking about, especially with a lot of smaller churches, you know, like, this is a way for us to contact you know, our people. This is a way for us to connect with our people. You know, as we get rid of our bulletins as we get rid of our newsletters, like, this is what we’ll just dump it all into social media, because that’s where everyone is. So what’s like the healthy balance between? What’s like the healthy balance between, you know, connecting with people, but also informing them? And is there like a better way to do that than just like a post or even a picture?

Vince DiGuglielmo
Yeah, that’s a great question. So I think, you know, the easiest thing you can do is move that content to your Facebook and Instagram stories. And email, of course, you know, emails, a place where people say, Hey, tell me about events. Tell me about what’s going on. That’s where you should be sending a lot of those event based, event based communications. And then yeah, of course, the stories because when you go into stories, it deletes after 24 hours. So people who are checking out your church for the first time on social media, they’re not seeing a bunch of fliers. They’re seeing what’s actually happening. You want them to come to your page and see humans where they want to See that it’s a place where they can come and connect with other people. They don’t want to see a bunch of text that doesn’t tell them anything about who you are. Yeah. And then I would say, you know, a third option would be have your pastor or someone on your communications team to present What’s going on? You know, I think that’s okay. I think there’s there’s some transparency in that and there’s even some charm in that if you have someone on staff actually showing up and saying, hey, I want to see you at this week’s church service. I want to see you at our Wednesday night picnic like Yeah, come on down. Well, I there’s definitely something to that as well.

Mike Mage
That’s cool. What is like the so if you were to post something, not in stories, but like an actual post on Instagram? What is like a mark for you? Maybe it’s a percentage of people engaging with it. Maybe it’s like actual engagement. I don’t know how you how do you judge whether something is a good post or not? So that like I post something I was like, wow. That didn’t work. I’m not going to do that, again, I gotta pivot and do something else what’s like a good, like stat or, you know, mindset to go and

Justin Price
we call that a key performance. Hey,

Mike Mage
go. Thank you. Yes, it’s a cake the business talk. Appreciate it. Yes.

Justin Price
What what are some of the key performance indicators? Vince, for us the measuring? Yeah, I

Vince DiGuglielmo
mean, if you’re talking about Instagram, just, I think likes are huge. I know, that’s super simple. But just looking at the amount of likes, you know, we were just looking at a church client a couple weeks ago, that, you know, we were doing some social media audits and running some things for them. And I just went through their page and saw what’s getting likes. This happened to be a church that posted a lot of flyers, but also had some content with humans in it, you know, they had a lot of good baptisms. They had some events, and you could see the stark difference between the flyers and the humans. You know, when you see something like that, that trigger something and say, okay, post more humans. That’s, you know, that’s just that’s reinforcement. That’s reinforcing behavior. So, do more of that, of course shares. I think one of the biggest things for building community is if you’re tagging people in the posts, and they’re sharing it, that’s, that’s really huge. So how many shares is it getting? Comments are great, of course, I mean, those are the big three. And on the back end, as a manager, you’ll be able to see impressions too, which is great. For those who aren’t savvy and all the social media lingo, that’s the amount of times your post has showed up on a newsfeed. So it could even be to the same person multiple times that will count as multiple impressions and reach is the counterpart to that how many unique users have seen your posts, so those are always going to be helpful metrics to look at.

Justin Price
I got if we were managing account for any church and you guys If you’re a church thinking like how can we do a better job managing it? What are these KPIs? All it looks like is listening back replay, stop this right now playback, those things that Vince just said, put them into a spreadsheet. And every Monday morning, go in and just check them. Just Just check your just check those stats, and record it. And then at the end of the month, just look at everything and say, are we doing better? Are we doing worse? That’s how you know if you’re, if you’re improving, or if you are missing the boat. That’s It’s really that simple. So that’s what our like, what our team what our managers would do. And then we would just send a report back to the church and say, we’re doing better or we’re doing worse, and this is how we would prove that would be through those KPIs. And there’s something

Mike Mage
that I really liked with that too. It’s so easy for us. I mean, cuz everybody has access to social media right now. And whether you’re an organization or just a regular normal person or it’s your personal account or whatever you want when you post something like there is that instant, instantaneous thing that you’re looking for or that you want. But I think going in in from a strategic standpoint, taking a larger set of data, and then viewing that as opposed to individual posts might just at the end of the day might just help people’s like mental well being and emotional well being rather than just trying to take each post in a singular format. So I really like I love that.

Justin Price
That’s a great point, Mike. Yeah, yeah, really good. Well, hey, I you know, Vince, I just was wondering if either of you guys have any thoughts on the fact that I just I’m so tired of seeing worship pictures of like, from behind the pictures of the stage where we’re all worshiping the band and how great they are. I know that’s not what’s really happening. But it was like, I feel like so many social when I because we do a lot Have these you know, church audits and and we’ll have people say, Okay, can you tell us what, you know, what do we need to be working on? What do we need to do? It’s like I look at it’s just news. It’s it’s flyers and, and pictures from of this stage from behind somebody who’s raising their hand, which is obvious, obvious indication that it’s a phenomenal worship team. If somebody is raising their hand,

Mike Mage
that’s a question

Justin Price
I want. That’s what I’m imagining. And what I really love is when they’re the only one in the whole room, and you can tell the photographer or the whoever’s I can turn to me, like, got behind the one. That’s a bit of a tangent, but I have to,

Mike Mage
I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve never been in that situation at all, ever. I’ve never done that

Justin Price
not looking through your churches. If you’re in that position, it’s time to move on and time to start building some community and not just post pictures of your worship and even though your lighting guy probably did a really nice job and Probably it’s really dope. Alright, so I want to talk about influencers and micro influencers specifically. So everybody knows, for the most part if you if you’ve been alive and on social media for the last couple of years about influencers, like, you know, multi million dollar per post influencers that have hundreds of millions of followers and, and get paid tons of money to post things for brands, just the fact that I said it, some people are listening to this, and they’re like, they’re cringing, that I’m even bringing up influencers into this conversation. And I think, Mike, you might have used the word slimy. Yeah. But like so this is the world that we live in, you know, that I live in as a digital creative director is helping people’s message get out through social media, right. And so there’s two ways to do that when you’re an organization, right? When you’re a personal account. Facebook is doing all of the algorithm things that Vince just told you. If you’re a person who gets engagement Facebook, you know, allows you to get engagement. If you’re a business who posts great content that gets engagement, Facebook still doesn’t want to give that engagement away to you, they want you to pay for it, we typically will only see like, point 02 to 1% or 2% on a good day, an organic engagement without any money being spent for boosts. Yeah. And so you’re it’s a pay to play game when you’re a business or an organization. Everybody on the track with that?

Mike Mage
Yes. Okay.

Justin Price
So, so that’s why oftentimes, you know, we for most of the accounts that we run, whether it’s for a nonprofit or for profit, we always have to put in Media Buy because it’s like why are we going to spend all this time making a post and then only point 02 percent of your audience even sees it right? We need to spend 20 bucks 30 bucks 50 bucks whatever per post to boost it so that your own audience who already said they like you will actually get to see your content and that’s, that’s just the game that’s it’s a media channel, right? that’s what that’s what they built and, and good job for them for doing it. And, and both, you know, the whole engine works really, really well if you play that game, but personal people can get their message out there. And if they are engaging Enough Enough with their content that within their personal accounts, Facebook has not choked them because Facebook wants those personal organic engagements to keep happening. And so this whole undercurrent now that there are trillions of dollars being spent on digital marketing that has just been moved over from traditional marketing. Yeah, and and now that there’s so much saturation in sponsored ads, and we’re so attuned to like, sponsored ads and things like that, that used to work really, really well and we’re starting to like really drown block that stuff out mentally when we’re scrolling through our feeds. This underground this this whole market of influencing, underground kind of a way through influencers has worked really taken hold as a very effective way to sell and to get your message out there and to get brand awareness and so even to the point where we’ve seen influencers like Kim Kardashian is just the one that I always just throw out there as one that you’ve most likely heard of. Like we wouldn’t buy something from Kim because we know that she was just paid to post that and maybe and we might still buy something from him from Kim if we’re if we’re a fan and that kind of thing but

Justin Price
but like if Mike maids just like generally like promote something or casually you know, Mike, what do you have 1000 Yeah, about that follows. So we would call Mike is a micro influencer. And so from a sleazy marketing way, I just like the most valuable way I can actually get 1000 people in Mike circle to know about my brand is for Mike to post an authentic post about it, and so on. Just throwing this out there for you guys to tell me how sleazy and how wrong this is. But I think when I think about the church opportunities for growth and for marketing and for brand awareness for a church, we’ve always said that 90% of people who walk into the church know somebody else in your church, right? What I know is that like, that’s your best possible audience to like authentically, this isn’t marketing talk. This is just like real deal. If I know somebody who goes to your church, you know that relationship is the best way that you can potentially grow your church through the people who are already at your church, right? So making content that people at your church want to share is the best way to get brand awareness out there to your potential growth platform of your audience. So the potential that you have for growth is kind of highly available within the network. of the People who go to your church Yeah. And so it to me it’s like to take some of the principles of micro influencing, which is basically to supply people with the kind of messages you want out there and the kind of products you want being posted by them. And encouraging them to post on your behalf authentically would be like a ridiculous way to grow your church like a it would just destroy if you just took those principles and I know it sounds kind of slimy but I basically walked through this with another church and we looked at this exercise of like, if you took you know the top hundred most engaging people in your church, which basically means like now when when people start going to your church, you want to get their, their social media handle, and you start following them and you start franking them. And you started actually, if this was a business, this is what we would do. You know, you would rank them and you would go after your top hundred people that are going to your church and you would say Pay you get a free cup. Will you take a picture of it on Instagram when you’re drinking coffee and watching church online? Hey, here’s our here’s our new baptism shirts, here’s our new you know, shirt what this campaign or whatever Will you take a picture some cool lifestyle picture, you know in that shirt or with your family or wherever. And it would be a an amazing way to get everybody to want to wear their shirts. And this is already happening, by the way on an organic level. Like, what I’m suggesting is that we actually be intentional about finding good, you know, basically brand ambassadors and then actually delivering strategies content to them and making it easy for them to talk about us. That’s all I got to say go. What are you thinking?

Mike Mage
Oh, that’s it, Justin. That’s all you had to say.

Vince DiGuglielmo
No, so so what you’re talking about? It’s incredibly effective. There’s no two ways about it. You know, that people sharing their experience. is always going to be the most effective thing you can do to sell your organization. Now you’re talking about, you know, you’re talking about doing it in a way with the micro influencer model. And really, I would call that even astroturfing. Yeah, you’re, yeah, you’re taking that grassroots approach and kind of manufacturing it. So, I mean, to me, I, you know, if you’re listening to this and you are thinking of that is going to be a really effective method it is it is going to be. I’ll tell you, though, what excites me more than that is when it happens on its own. And you’re giving people the tools to share and reinforcing behaviors outside of a model where you have to ask them to do it. I think to me as an introvert and someone who just doesn’t generally like to impose upon anyone, asking people to share things always just feels uncomfortable to me personally. What what’s exciting is when you see a community brewing in your church or your organization, and that overflows onto social media, I think that’s the end goal. Right? So when I worked at the University of Toledo, our goal, running the main academic, Facebook page and Twitter page Instagram page was to foster the feelings that our students already had, and to encourage them to share their own experiences in a way. Yeah, yeah. I mean, they have the school spirit. So they’re posting photos. What we do when that happens is share those photos. That’s a positive reinforcement. So if someone’s doing that with your church, they’re sharing photos, you can share those photos. And what that tells them is, you know, the church likes it when I post photos, I will post more photos. So and you do that on a larger scale, you’re doing that you know, every week, maybe you know, two or three times a week if possible in the stories or on the feed. That just means that more and more people are going to be creating content around that experience. And what I’ve seen, be really effective. And this is the best really example I can share of this is there was a group of friends at my old church that I was not a part of. That’s not important. There was. There’s a group of friends of my old church that they all met at the church, they I think they were in a life group together, or you know, they just started hanging out, and they were in each other’s weddings, and they went on vacation together. And every time they posted, it was always man, I remember when we met back at church, when we met back at this service when we met back in our life group, and what a better advertisement for your church then you can find lifelong friends and real life change and do life with people around you. So I mean that what you’re talking about Justin is very effective. I’d like to take get just one step further and just say that we can foster that community overflow and bring it onto social media. And that’s where the real advertisement happens.

Justin Price
You know, I love what you’ve said, Vince, I think there’s probably a happy medium, between both. So there are certain ways where you could be thoughtful and intentional. And in try to make it available for people to be so doing things like photo opportunities inside of a building, or on your campus. Yeah. Get making it just, it’s the dip. People are taking pictures there. So if it’s the difference of just making sure that your logo or that your colors or your theme or whatever is is made easy for them, you might have twice as many pictures you might have. You know, I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that. That is a completely strong marketing concept we would give any business is to have a photo spot somewhere within a business. To allow people to share what’s happening there. And or to remind them, even if they don’t take a photo in front of that, they’re more likely to take a photo while they’re on your campus and geotag it into to give you more lift. The second thing, though, is Vince’s we were kind of flirting around with is is kind of a principal, we use that verse that we have been using, since the first day that I ever creative directed a service and that is Vince back back 15 years ago, when we were doing church together, and you were a volunteer. It was is this service shareable in the way we talked about it then because sharing wasn’t a social media thing then it was will people go home and talk about it? And we would do crazy things right? Like we would do some pretty insane things within the service. That way the intentionality was like, Can we do something can we push the content works trying to portray in a weird way. And so sometimes it was like art installations to, you know, to help deliver a message point. Sometimes it was like, we’re not going to we’re not going to do a conventional service structure. We’re going to pray for this, you know, local need. And we’re going to break up in this way, and we’re going to go try to do something different. Or we’re going to go do X, Y, or Z. I mean, we, we took a fresh approach so often because we were trying to say, how do we make this more? How do we make this something that is not just vanilla, and something that people just leave? And they forget. And so so much of creative directing, is trying to say, can we can we push this Can we? Can we push it any further and make it memorable? And now, you know, I’ll be the first to admit I pushed it too far on many occasions.

Justin Price
I know you’re, you’re holding back some laughing Vince and you could tell some terrible stories on bad ideas. But you know what I would rather I would rather go down as it with my creative directing, you know, career of going down on a bad idea than not trying and just playing it safe. And when you look at how much those ministries grew, I mean that that ministry when you start we, you know, geez, when we first met that ministry grew by 10 X in like, four years, that was insanity. The next ministry doubled, the next ministry doubled. I mean, just like, really, really amazing growth. And I’m not saying that it was because of me or these memorable moments, but they certainly played a factor in the growth of those of those ministries. And so anyways, that’s where I think is there is a healthy balance is to use that understand that principle and then go, have we given people an opportunity to grab a handle that they could share, have we given them a bite sized nugget that they could, that they would share that they would want to talk about, have we done anything that that has sunk in deep enough where It’s worthy of being talked about. I know, you know, Mike recorded this awesome cover of where the streets have no name. And it was like, it wasn’t the best performance of were three times no name. And I’m sorry, Mike. And I told I called Mike afterwards like it was like, but it was it was really unique. It was really fresh. It was a little it was just different enough. I think what I had been like three years since I was standing 15 feet away from Bono singing that and in the fact that like Mike took me back to that place and connected it. And that was like something that came out of his churches stream was like, so powerful that I wanted to talk about it. I wanted to tell Mike how great it was, I wanted to tell my friends like this gave and tried to cover Bono like, and he did it and he and it was successful, you know, in his own way, and it was unique. And that was so cool. And it gave me something to talk about. And obviously you know, sometimes giving people something to talk about is like really deep spiritual. Live change things and sometimes it’s covering you too. You know, it’s, it’s gonna be a lot of different things. And there’s not some like perfect formula for any of it. But this mentality of going after what you’re doing and asking yourself even just that check of like, is this memorable? Is this worthy? Like, is this even worth like? Because I think the gospel is really memorable. And I think when Jesus was like giving us a model, during his three years of ministry, he was doing a bunch of really crazy stuff. And he was changing the venue up and he’s using all of these different tools to his advantage. And yeah, maybe there’s a lot of bad things inherently about the internet. But I feel like if Jesus ministry was happening right now, he’d be shaking it up on social media. I don’t know I could be wrong. You guys can you guys can tell me I’m wrong, but that’s where I’m at. And I’m I’m sorry for getting on soapbox there. I promise I’ll be quiet.

Vince DiGuglielmo
I just want to say quick in addition to that, too, you know what what you really saying is, I think if the passion for Jesus, and the passion for the church and the passion for the community aren’t there, this is not gonna happen. It’s never gonna happen for you on social media. If people aren’t excited about what’s going on in your church, they’re not going to go online and tell other people about it. They’re not going to be posting about their experience about it. So that needs to happen first.

Justin Price
That’s true social media can never be the fabricator of the passion. Like there’s no there’s no out there’s nothing you can do no strategy that you can do to make this passion and to get that that underground, that current of excitement and share

Mike Mage
well, and I think that that’s if we’re talking about an authentic bridge to like a genuine thing. That’s where that resides in. I mean, like you can, I feel like people our age and younger, are our generation and younger, whatever millennials and Gen Z Specifically, they they know when something is fake. And I think that if you are genuinely and authentically passionate about something that comes through really well too, so that to me maybe that’s like the biggest thing that I’m, as you know, we’re talking about social media and figuring out how to make this, you know, a unique expression of what is happening in your church or in your ministry or in your organization, whatever. Maybe for me, like that’s, that’s the biggest piece that that I need to see in something that is that makes me want to engage on social media. So

Justin Price
we’d love to have that conversation more with you guys. We’d love to, you know, everybody who is listening, I would love to engage in deeper also would like to hear stories about what what people are doing to to use social media for good. I think there’s a lot of Really cool things happening in the midst of all the the baloney.

Mike Mage
Right? Isn’t that that’s that’s the best word for that right? Sure.

Justin Price
We definitely need to have Vince back on mic as well. It’s the one takeaway. I think

Mike Mage
that like this. We’re just literally just scratching the surface. So just scratch it. Yeah. Hey, Vince, is there is there one more as we wrap up here, this last thing? Is there. One more thing? Maybe just like one tiny. You know, word of advice when it comes to social media, something quick that you can leave with our audience. Stay away from Shrek.

Mike Mage
I love it. No, that’s, that’s beautiful. Well, Vince, thank you so much for being on this. And like we said, We’d love to have you back on again. So awesome.

Vince DiGuglielmo
Thank you guys. This was so fun.

Justin Price
I know that Vince is incredible. And sometimes you know when you work with somebody every day, yeah, you take them for granted. Right? You know, we don’t i don’t just get to sit down and have enough conversations with Vince. Yeah. And, man, what a great time. So much good information and knowledge. I love his heart. I love how he can take like just slimy marketing stuff and steer us in the right direction with it.

Mike Mage
Well, and I mean, like you were saying earlier, he really is, it seems like he’s made of gold. And in a world. In a world, in a world where it feels like social media, it has so much weight and darkness to it, honestly, not to get like, overdramatic but he does bring a level of heart and positivity and just the the idea that it’s there to build community is super important. So I don’t know about you, but one of the biggest things I learned is I just need to post a picture of Shrek and I think that we’re good to go. That’s that’s all it takes. Yes, yes. The only thing I took away from this so

Justin Price
in 10 years later, it’s still

Vince DiGuglielmo
Track.

Mike Mage
No context, just a little bit Shrek.

Vince DiGuglielmo
Yeah, it’ll work well,

Mike Mage
hey, if you if you liked this podcast if, if this is something that you’ve thought was valuable, we would absolutely love if you could share this with your team, if you could share this with your ministry, your your staff team at church, your friends, even your family. Sure, we’ll take that. And if you could share that with us, if you could rate this podcast, it really just helps us to helps us to not only know what’s working and what maybe isn’t working, but it also helps us to engage with you and continue to create this content for you, the church to continue our healthy growth. So, once again, thank you so much for joining us here at the healthy church growth podcast where we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life

Healthy Church Growth- Episode 14 – Mike Mage

Bonus Episode.

In light George Floyd’s death and the conversations happening around race nationwide, Mike Mage discusses how creatives can pave the way to a more inclusive and loving Church. We also lay out how the Healthy Church Growth Podcast will be more intentionally inclusive and aware moving forward.


Transcriptions:

Mike Mage
Welcome to the healthy church growth podcast. My name is Mike, and today is going to be a little different. I don’t know how we should actually come in and talk about this. I don’t know how I need to address this. I’m going to do the best I can. And I’m going to try and do as minimal editing as I can. Because I want this to be a little uncomfortable. I want you to know how uncomfortable I am. I’m sure you are too. Then I wish we weren’t. I hope you’re doing all right in this time. I really do. And it’s crazy that Justin and I had this idea to start this podcast about healthy church growth and team culture and a little bit of leadership but also like a little bit of creative practical tips for those in the church and We had that idea so long ago, it was the fall of 2017. And we recorded some things. We did a few rounds of interviews. And it just, you know, never really got off the ground. And we get back together in the fall of 2019. Really the winner end of 2019. And so we’re going to do this. Let’s do this. Come on, let’s do this. We still believe in this. So still great. Let’s give this a go. And so 2020 rolls around. And we have all these interviews sort of banked up. Literally, right. The moment that we were releasing them is right as the moment that at least for America, for the US that the Coronavirus hits, the pandemic hits, things start getting shut down, lockdown happens. And we are doing a podcast of a healthy church growth. And so you know, there’s a saying that says Like, if you will Want to if you want to make God laugh, go ahead and make plans. And that’s kind of what happened a little bit, or at least it’s kind of it feels like it happened and pandemic rolls on. Churches looks weird. Church feels weird. We all go to online platforms and the way we knew of doing Church has changed, now has changed and we’re in a totally different landscape than we ever were before. And you add on top of that, all of the disruption that is happening in our culture and community now, in regards to racial tensions, there’s protests. There’s people getting hurt. people’s livelihoods being called into question, anger and resentment and outrage at a scale that I don’t feel like I’ve ever seen in my life, and I feel like We need to talk about that. And we as healthy church growth, want to be a part of that conversation. And I tried to write out something that I was gonna say about this. It’s just really difficult. And I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a person of color right now. Really ever, in this country that I felt like, has given me every opportunity to succeed, then it’s really just been up to me to work as hard as I can to obey all the rules to follow the steps one by one. Man, I feel like this system is worked out great for me. But I am a white male, that a predominantly white church in a predominantly white area. And that’s been my experience for most of my life. You know, I remember in 2014 I just made the decision before Thanksgiving of 2014 to not be a part of believe anymore is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. My son was born my first son Caleb was born in 2014, June of 2014. And from the moment he was born as probably a couple months before that, I knew that I couldn’t do that thing anymore. That about bellary if I couldn’t do bellary anymore, I’d that’s not the data I wanted to be. And things get right sized very quickly. When you have a kid for Thanksgiving, my family and my wife’s family. We’ve known each other for 20 years or so. And we actually vacation together a couple times which is super cool. I just went over a lot of people who can say that about their in laws, that they can all vacation together the family and their in laws and get along really well. And so we did that this was the second year in a row that we had done that, but I remember watching protests about Michael Brown

Mike Mage
And the anger, the pain. That was a real thing. That’s that’s one of the first times that I remember thinking, wow, this is different. And I remember, but I feel like it was the same week. Tamir Rice, a 12 year old boy in a park somewhere in Ohio, who’s playing and he had a toy gun that he pointed at an officer. And the officer shot him. And I said nothing. I remember having a conversation in the kitchen with my mom about all of this. That we were having lunch and I remember talking about and how crazy it was. And we were in Blue Ridge in so just north of Atlanta. And at the time, I had just moved home from Atlanta moved back to Tampa with my wife and my son. But we had just moved from Atlanta and there was so many Black Lives Matters, protests and walks and blocking I 75 in after I remember us talking about how messed up it was. But then I said nothing. I, I did nothing. And I don’t know why. And that’s really hard to wrap my head around. Why didn’t we say anything? Maybe it was out of fear. Maybe it was out of ignorance. Maybe it was out of apathy. But I can’t do that. Now. Know that this issue is complex in me even saying that is an understatement of the century. Truly, he was 12 years old. My son is six. I know for a fact that if my son, a toy gun, something that is very clearly a toy at a police man, he would not be shot. Why? I was talking with Justin and Hannah, who’s one of our project managers about I feel like we should say something. That’s what I said to them. Justin just said this is so out of my area of expertise. But I want to help and I want to do anything I can what can we do to help? What can we do? I think that we can encourage. I know that there are protests that turn violent and destructive. I know there are chaos makers, but there always has been. I’m not even talking about the ratio protests. I think that the chaos makers have always been around me chaos was in the beginning. God put order to chaos. He put peace to chaos. And then there’s always seems to be this pole. back to that. When the way of God, the way of Jesus is one of peace, one of restoration, reconciliation, Grace, mercy, love. That’s what we can do. I think there’s a lot of different ways I mean, for me as a as a white person, as a white male, I have had to understand where I have been given preferential treatment. Even in like how I wake up in the morning. I do not have to worry. I’ve never worried about being unjustly arrested, or worse. Never. It’s our responsibility, all of us to make every life matter, including people of color. Listen, you can listen, you can let people of color lead, have them lead. You can diversify your ministry. So after the George Floyd, shooting, and protests really begin to break out my pastor Matthew Hartsfield

Mike Mage
The situation as someone in a leadership position as a pastor should. And he read the verse from revelation revelation seven nine. That just said, After this I saw a vast crowd to great to count from every nation and tribe and people in language, standing in front of the throne and before the lamb. The kingdom of God is a diverse kingdom. For us to pray, on earth as it is in heaven, we have to understand that the kingdom is one of every color, every nation, every tongue, it’s all of us. So why can we get that? There are some churches that do this better than others. Sometimes demographics play a large role into this Where you are locationally I get that. But I’ve had to look at our own ministry, my own ministry that I had up in my worship ministry. And I think if you’re a leader in ministry, you have the opportunity, especially with your volunteer teams, to reflect the type of community you want to see. You get a chance to do that as a leader, as someone who has an impact and an influence on your ministry team on your church or on your community. You have the opportunity right now to be a reflection of the diversity that is found in the kingdom of God. I’ve been have had to have a good look at healthy church growth this podcast. In this past episode we did with my sister Melissa minor, the experience Director at bay hope church. She was the first woman we had on the podcast 13 episodes in an hour I remember remarking Wow, that that seems rough. That test and we have had zero people of color. I honestly I haven’t even tried. But I feel like that’s that’s where a lot of white people are. We haven’t even tried and that’s convicting. So, from this point moving forward, we are going to do our very best intentionally to try and gain a diverse perspective, from not just male, female. But from all walks of life. To try and get a more diverse, more faceted, more nuance. Honestly, more fascinating look at the kingdom of God, not just the one that we might be accustomed to. That’s our promise moving forward. That’s our goal moving forward. And I’m just gonna leave you with one last thing here. I was reading in my reading plan so I, I started a reading plan. It’s always at the beginning of the year, or, you know, I don’t know that’s not true. I started a reading plan. And it’s always like a Bible in the year kind of thing. And instead of doing the full Bible in a year, I did the Old Testament in a year in the New Testament in here, and it’s from the the guys that the Bible project. And if you are not, in any way, shape or form aware of the Bible project I asked you to just check them out. There are amazing, amazing to Mackey. JOHN Collins in their whole team, they’re incredible. They have sincerely shaped my theology over the past two years. And I I just happened to be in Proverbs. But I also happen to be in James. And I did not realize that James took so much of his work from Proverbs, so much of his letter came from Proverbs. And in the same reading, this is what I had back to back. And we try not to belabor the the the metaphor of healthy growth. Our tagline is healthy things grow and growth means life. And even though we could relate that to plants, and we could relate that to, you know,

Mike Mage
trees and all that kind of stuff a lot. We try not to do that as much. Just because that’s that’s pretty low hanging fruit, no pun intended, I promise. But this was, I thought that this was this was really great. In Proverbs 22 eight this is those who plant in justice will harvest disaster and their reign of terror will come to an end. And then look, I mean, I’m talking like five minutes later. I was in James three at the end of James three James 318. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. To plant something you must be intentional. We did not get to this point, unintentionally and that is a hard pill to swallow. I have not been intentionally trying to plant seeds of peace and of justice in a righteousness and have therefore been planting seeds of interest Justice, harvesting disaster in pain. My prayer for you today, whenever you’re listening to this is that you find those seeds of peace. And you plant them wherever you can find them on social media, in your conversations with your children, in your ministry teams, and your creative team, with your pastor, we just can’t be apathetic anymore. I think we can be quick to love, show grace, as much as possible, do those countercultural things that Jesus implores us to do? And at some point, I think anger is okay. I do. I think to express anger, the way that Jesus did in the temple Fine, and I feel like I see that all the time on Facebook and social media. Well, Jesus turned over the money tables. He absolutely did. And then a couple of days later, he gave his life for every single person. Jesus did not stay angry. Thank you so much for joining us. And I can’t wait for these conversations that we will continue to have the more diverse conversations we plan to have. Because the kingdom is a diverse one. We love you, healthy church growth audience and we would love for as many of you to be with us, because we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life.

Healthy Church Growth – Episode 13 – Melissa Meiner

Rethinking Hospitality and the New Normal in Your Church with Experience Director Melissa Meiner

Rethinking ‘Hospitality’ and the ‘New Normal’ with Melissa Meiner. Melissa is the Experience Director at Bay Hope Church and former vocalist for the band Bellarive.

On Instagram: @mrs_meiner, @leaderoaks, @bayhopechurch, @bellarive

Middle School Mike Mage with his Dwight Schrute haircut:


Transcriptions:

Mike Mage
Welcome to the Healthy Church Growth podcast.

Welcome to the healthy church growth podcast where we believe that healthy things grow and growth means live. I am your host, Mike Mage. And once again, we’re so glad that you have joined us for these really great conversations that we are able to have with people in the church world leaders in the church world thought leaders in the church world, especially for all of us having to tread through this really weird time that we’re going through right now. We just we have a lot of questions, and there’s a lot going on. And so we want to be able to discuss that with people. But we also want to maybe dig down a little deeper into some some more timeless truths as well. And we think that we can find a lot of those in these conversations. And if you love these conversations, and you want to be more a part of them, feel free to subscribe to share and to rate these and really engage with us on all of our social media platforms at the Facebook and Instagram. And we just we would love to get to know you. We would love to engage with you and hear. How are you doing? And maybe we can get some conversations going on what you think healthy church growth looks like as well. Joining me as always is my co host, Justin. Justin, how’s it going, man?

Justin Price
What’s up Mike, it’s going great.

Mike Mage
Today we have on the podcast, a great interview, if I may say so myself from the experience director of the church that I actually work at bay hope church in Tampa, Florida. And yeah,

Justin Price
You were so natural on that interview. Oh, yeah. Thank you. Like, it’s like it was like you knew the guests for years.

Mike Mage
It’s like, I might have known Melissa Meiner since the day that she was born. Would you say that?

Justin Price
Yeah. That was the feeling that I got from it. And there’s nothing like an interview where it just feels that natural. So that was a cool man. Great job. It was one of your best.

Mike Mage
Well, for those of you wondering what in the world we’re talking about Melissa Meiner, who is the experience director at bay hope church and also an incredible worship leader, just happens to be my sister as well, who just raved before this podcast, Justin said that she was older than me and I will let you know she is not older than me, we are very close in age. But I am actually older than she is. And, Justin, what I’m what we’re leading into this interview, what are some thoughts you have going into this interview?

Justin Price
I think for anybody who thinks about what it’s like to direct the experience at church, when that’s a part of your job or your entire job like Melissa, is this conversation to me just kind of unearth what a difficult switch. It has been to change everything about your job to change all of the ways that you did your job. That’s right. Really, really, incredibly difficult to do and the attitude that I think she has taken through it is so encouraging. I kind of it’s like, man, I really can’t complain about the changes I’ve had when I think about like, she has got a great attitude about it. And I love her honesty that she doesn’t necessarily have everything figured out. But she’s got a couple things that have been working really well and I really just crazy crazy, inspired by what she is trying to accomplish so quickly and the changes that she’s made so fast that I think our listeners think you guys are going to really get a couple of great nuggets. I was thinking like when I listen to a podcast if there is one thing I could take away and implement, or remember or write down or share. That’s a good podcast for me. This one’s probably got two or three and I’m gonna say we should listen to Melissa Meiner interview with Mike Mage and I right now

Melissa Meiner
However, you can harness authenticity, transparency and vulnerable vulnerability in your environment, do it.

Mike Mage
Today on our podcast, we have someone who I happen to know pretty well. Her name is Melissa Meiner. And she just happens to be my sister. However, that is not the only qualification. That that’s the only that’s not the only reason she’s here with us on the podcast. She’s going to be she’s going to be talking to us about a lot of really great things, especially in this time that we find ourselves in this pandemic time. And so Melissa, thank you so much for joining us.

Melissa Meiner
Welcome. It’s an honor.

Mike Mage
And Melissa is currently the experienced director and a worship leader at bay hope church, and we’ll get into talking about that a little bit. But Justin, I think that as we started here, I think you said you had some things you want to ask Melissa before we got going.

Justin Price
I do. Thanks so much for being here Melissa, we we’ve been excited about it. Good. Yeah. Mike is always just telling stories family stories about you. And, you know, when you when you were kids and embarrassing you and I know you’ve, you’ve heard some of those and and I thought this is the the chance for you to kind of level the playing field a little bit. And so, you know, I had really just, I wanted to know what it is, is probably the most embarrassing story that you can share with our audience about Mike. That will not get him in trouble.

Melissa Meiner
Okay, legally, very good boundary to draw. Thank you for drawing the

Mike Mage
The only boundary

Melissa Meiner
Right. So Mike and I are extremely well relatively close in age. So we’re only like 20 months apart. And that has caused us to walk through life in like a stair step manner. So basically, whatever He did, I would follow. So he’s an amazing leader. amazing guy, love his family love his wife. Um, that was all the niceties. I got them out of the way. So, yeah, it’s the preamble

most embarrassing thing about Mike.

Well, it’s honestly it’s super hard to embarrass him. Because he is the life of the party, I would venture to say he gets away with a lot of stuff. He gets away with a ton of stuff that if it were like you, Justin and myself and Mike in a room, and we all three did the same thing. We would probably be forced out of the room or fired and he would just be having a grand old time. But in terms of embarrassment, I really want to hone in on his seventh grade wardrobe choices. So we went to

Mike Mage
Nobody has A good Middle School experience. Why are you doing this. This one thing

Justin Price
I love where this is going

Melissa Meiner
I honestly, I tell people that I kind of peaked in middle school in terms of how cool I was so that I had john lennon glasses and braces and my haircut looked like a men’s haircut. So that’s the best that you’re gonna get. Um, but I, he had this way about he was very stubborn about his wardrobe choices and in the middle of, I would say January or February. Now granted, this is Florida, so he wasn’t about to get hypothermia, but he would only only wear a short sleeve white shirt, like an undershirt wouldn’t wear anything over it. And then he would wear these very faded blue jeans and they were faded because he just wore them every day, and His hair was oddly reminiscent of the commonly known character of Dwight schrute from the office.

Justin Price
Like for real like, dude,

Melissa Meiner
it was it was so good. Um, but yeah, I will say that that’s a fairly embarrassing moment of Mike’s life now. It’s not really a moment it’s more of a stretch. It’s a I was an era, an embarrassing era. I can’t speak much more into that but not apart from that a moment that would be embarrassing was he left one shoe at the post office before his fifth grade year? One shoe, not both just one. He actually had to walk back in and ask for one shoe from the post office. So that was another embarrassing moment.

Mike Mage
I don’t know what I was doing or why it happened. But I used to take my shoes off in the car because we were waiting for Melissa in a voice lesson. So like what I need to make myself comfortable right. And somehow and I honestly I don’t know how it happened. But somehow I lost one shoe just one at a put at the post office because my mom had to go to the post office in between And she actually made me run in with one shoe on into the post office

Melissa Meiner
JustinIt was perfect. It was perfect

Mike Mage
to wait in line

Melissa Meiner
Disciplined.

Mike Mage
No, I even I was like, Yeah, my mom, get in there and ask about your shoe. As if someone is gonna return one shoe from the parking lot.

Justin Price
Did they have it?

Mike Mage
no

but it was the discipline of making a child go in to a public establishment with one shoe on. He learned his lesson Justin. He has both shoes on right now I think. Do you

Justin Price
are you wearing shoes at all?

Mike Mage
I am, no pants.

Melissa Meiner
I heard someone recently called jeans, hard pants.

They don’t want to wear anymore hard pants.

Justin Price
Well cool. I’m glad we got that out of the way. Thanks, Mike. Yeah,

thank you, Melissa. I will have that mental picture. In fact, I’m gonna maybe draw draw. I think that’s

Melissa Meiner
needed. Yeah, that

Justin Price
criminal sketches of MIke just so I could picture it.

Mike Mage
I wonder if we can put maybe on the healthy church growth website or something? Yeah, like, with the transcript or whatever, if we can put in with the notes like a picture of me in seventh grade.

Melissa Meiner
I think we need it.

Justin Price
I think our listeners should be going to the site right now. Yeah.

It’ll be in the show notes.

Melissa Meiner
Wow.

Mike Mage
All right. Well, thank you for joining us.

Melissa Meiner
I don’t need to do anything else. I am done.

Justin Price
Have a great night Melissa.

Melissa Meiner
Thanks so much.

Mike Mage
That’s all we needed. Okay, well, I’m too, maybe not better things, but maybe more important things as opposed to just roasting me. So we sort of we, you know, we sort of already established that you are the, obviously your worship leader and an incredible worship leader at that. But I would love to Know how you got to be at the position that you are in, obviously, you know, the experience director at bay hope church, maybe, maybe just give us a little bit of your backstory and in short format, obviously, but you know, how did you get to this this point to where we are now?

Melissa Meiner
Yeah. So, um, I started my relationship with Jesus in the sixth grade. And that was honestly where I started leading worship. So I’ve been leading worship for two decades plus at this point, which is really crazy to think about, and one of one of the marking moments was when I got into college, and we started a band that I know that Mike has talked about on this podcast called bellarive. And we were just able to go to a lot of different venues, we were able to go to a lot of different churches, see different demographics of people, hang out with them, worship with them, experience what their normal was, and just kind of learn how to lead worship in all these different avenues. It was so beautiful. So we did that for a while. I finished up college over at UCF and I was working at a church over in Orlando and I just I love the local church I love. I love the community that it brings. I love the life that it brings. I love that. We’re the plan that God has chosen. I think that that’s a really powerful thing. And I never ever want to make light of that. So after the season with bellarive, I decided to move back to Tampa, from Atlanta. And I actually started working at what was then Vandike church now Bay hope church and I was the student worship leader. Mike was the main worship leader at our main campus and it was super cool. I learned so much in that position and forever grateful to the leadership of Van Dyck now Bay hope and just what they were able to pour into me and they honestly brought out I would say gifts that I didn’t know that God had placed inside of me at that point and one of them is to kind of see the whole experience. And so my job transitioned from being the student worship leader into being the associate worship leader, which Mike was my boss, which was really fun. He fired me four times. Maybe five. No, I’m just kidding. I’m wonderful boss. Great guy. Great guy. He’s not sitting across the table from me.

Mike Mage
It didn’t lead to any awkward conversations.

Melissa Meiner
Totally fine.

Justin Price
And can we record your next performance review? That’s really good for audience.

Melissa Meiner
I would love that only with the picture of his seventh grade road. Oh, yes. really bring him back to humble station. Thanks. So then, yeah, our our boss, his name is Zack and he kind of asked me to step into this role of experienced director which has been super fun. So I’ve been doing that for about a year and a half now along with this other role, that called The Oaks director, which is a leadership development program that’s run out of Bay hope church for high school and college age kids. And it’s just a blast. I mean, I love what I get to do, I get to have my hand and a lot of different worlds. And I get to hang out with a lot of different people that have different passions, but the centering focal point is people connecting to a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ, and that’s never gonna get old. So I love it.

Justin Price
That’s awesome. And then two months ago, all of your experiences changed.

Melissa Meiner
flew right out every window that’s ever existed. Yep, just right. Gone.

Justin Price
So how stressful has that been for you to adjust and adapt so quickly?

Melissa Meiner
Yeah. I think one of the most beautiful parts Well, actually, I’ll stop and I’ll tell you where our church specifically was at the the week that we decided to close the doors. And we were actually renovating our sanctuary and so We were already displaced. And I think that that is such a looking back. That’s like such a beautiful thing that God had already done that he had already uprooted us from what was normal, because we were meeting in this room that could hold close to 900 and close to 1000 people every service. And then we were forced to go into the lobby because construction was starting on this new, you know, worship center. So we had 550 chairs, just packed like sardines into the lobby. And that was the week that you know, hand sanitizer started coming out and you started seeing a bunch of different stuff and we met there the next day as a staff and we prayed and everybody was socially distance. Some people were starting to wear masks, which was starting to be really weird and, and then leadership kind of made the decision to shut the physical doors and just blow open online campus and yeah, honestly, it has been so Powerful, I mean, to see the engagement of online campus has been one of the most encouraging parts of this whole, crazy wild journey. And it’s just reminded me that God is not surprised. He is not fearful, he is not. Under this COVID-19 anxiety, like he very much knows what’s going on. And I believe that this is a spark for the local church for the capital C church for a new wave of normal. And that is really exciting to me. And so, in the midst of that, absolutely everything changed. You know, I haven’t seen our guest services, volunteers and 11 weeks, as a long time to not see your volunteers, and I love them. And I love our worship team. And we haven’t seen the majority of them face to face since then. And so there’s definitely things that are different, but we’ve adapted we now have Have a studio. And that’s where we’re shooting all of our online campus. programming and content. And the team that we have at Bay Hope is really incredible. Actually, our other brother Andy is the head of the online campus. And he’s just the Lord has been working through him in ways that like, it’s just crazy. It’s so awesome to see. And, yeah, it’s it’s been wild, and it’s been crazy. But

Mike Mage
obviously, you’re the experienced director and part of your job is about production is about creating, you know, this thing that looks like a Sunday morning production or you know, something like that. How would you say? I mean, it me knowing you and me knowing your role, obviously a little bit more behind the scenes and everything. What is the difference between like experience and production? Sure. Does that make sense?

Melissa Meiner
Yeah, totally. So experience has its hand in the entire experience of what somebody will come on to campus and see and feel and know and understand. So apart from the worship 60 minutes or however long your service is that’s what I define as the production element of it so that’s what the tech that’s what the lights that’s with the sound. That’s what the worship team, the pastor the announcements offering, the specials, the communion, the baptism, that all of that stuff that is the production element of what the guests will experience but outside of that, it’s the parking lot. It’s the lobby, it’s the coffee if the it is the coffee good. Are the bathrooms clean? Is there a place for a young mom to go if their baby’s crying are people being kind when they’re being walked to their new kids room, stuff like that. So it’s, I don’t want to say quality control because that makes it sound like Like retail, but it’s making sure that the first time guest is experiencing the next level of hospitality. And the reason why we do that it’s very intentional because Andy Stanley has this visual of a funnel that everything at church is a funnel. And I get the honor to be the start of the funnel. So from the moment that they step onto the campus, are they experiencing Jesus even if they don’t know it yet? Is Is it engaging? Is it welcoming, because one thing can set somebody off, and then mate, who knows, like, who knows what their relationship will do with Jesus would be like, one way or another. And so our goal is to really make sure that they feel like they are wanted there and that they are welcome and that they’re not alone. And you know, the ultimate the final goal is that they would engage with Jesus and that their life would be changed and then their family would be changed and then they would bring their friends and that they have experience that. So I would say that production is definitely a huge component. And I have my hand in that as well. But for me, it’s more of the global Yeah. Sunday morning experience. Right. Right.

Justin Price
It sounds it sounds like some churches might call that a hospitality mixed in with maybe just giving a hospitality position a bit more oversight and ownership.

Melissa Meiner
Yeah,definitely.

Mike Mage
Well, and like one of the reasons that I think it’s it’s cool that we’re talking about this is because, you know, most churches I think in America don’t have either the bandwidth or even the budget really to like and I think it is becoming more of a thing though hospitality is people are starting to understand more and more that like this experience is goes beyond the 60 minutes service or however long your services and extends far beyond what’s after in what’s before it, but I just I remember and just I don’t know if You are we’re like this at all like when you were working in churches, but when I was the worship leader at a smaller church, the idea that church started when someone arrived on campus, and that it didn’t, that it ended when people drove off the campus, and even extended when they’re in their car after that as well, like those thoughts never crept into my mind. And so I just, I think it’s it’s super important for whoever’s listening, whether you’re, whether you’re the worship leader, or whether you’re the communications person or even, you know, some sort of in the creative arts department. What you’re doing is impacting and affecting a lot more than just that moment that you’re doing something this Yep, it just did you have those thoughts at all, when you were leading worship at a church because I definitely didn’t.

Justin Price
Early early on, I didn’t but I think as a creative director, I had some really great mentors who were both experiential designers. So they, you know, they were doing digital things that were pretty groundbreaking I think and helped me understand how to translate that to the church. And then also had, I got connected with a friend of mine, named her name is Jacki Arena. And she’s a hospitality designer. So she just, she’s the one who like designs, all of the rules for Marriott, and for like, these big, you know, hotel brands. And so she was going to the church and she’s like, I feel like God’s called me to volunteer somehow, but like, I don’t really know how and I was like, This is crazy. Yeah. And so she actually helped a lot and I was like, man, every church building should be treated like a hospitality building. Totally. And we should think through like the like, and this is somebody who’s dedicated their whole career. I mean, she’s, she’s been doing this for 25 years. She has designed hotels all over the country and different countries. So she brought in everything from just, you know, material wear and tear to the design of materials to understanding and picking surfaces that you touch. how that translates to the user that we were going after the specific type of audience we wanted at that church. And then that kind of worked so well, when we redesigned and started to take the brand into a physical form that we actually said, we’re going to carry this all the way to the ends of the property. And so the Front Entry signage, we wanted to carry the brand story all the way from there. And so as you came in, and as you entered, we were starting to tell this story, what was what God was doing and what we intended for people to do. And that sounds like really philosophical, but it was as simple as like, we put out signs on an A frame, right? And that started preparing people to think about it and it wasn’t because we saw some other church doing it. It was it was beautiful. It was becoming we felt like God was calling us to do something with our, with our congregation.

Mike Mage
Let’s think about that for just a second. So, like a church who might not have, you know, the budget or the capacity to think or to hire like a hospitality or experienced director? What are some like? What are some tips that you could give them some practical ideas on how they can think outside of just the music or outside of just the message or outside of how do these lights look? You know, what are some tips to maybe get them thinking outside of the production element of the service?

Melissa Meiner
Sure. I think a main thing for me is I try to pray three words, over and over, either when I’m leading worship or just leading a group of people, whether it’s the Oaks kids or whether it’s in a hospitality setting, and it’s authenticity, transparency and vulnerability. And those three keys I feel like are going to unlock A lot of things in people’s lives. And so However, you can harness authenticity, transparency and vulnerability in your environment, do it. For us, that looks a lot like in our lobby, we have a lot of space that are that’s open, where people can stand and they can talk to one another. But we also have spaces where you can sit and you can kind of huddle. And I’ve seen people use that space to talk and to hang out and sometimes they’re praying and sometimes it becomes like this like super sacred moment and you’re like, Oh my gosh, I gotta get out of here, you know, like, but I would say whatever it takes to allow people to be real and to to fight the monster of having to button up to come to church. I don’t think that that has any sort of room in our culture today because everything is so levelled, especially right now, and I think that that’s going to be part of the new normal walking into churches is the megachurch pastor and the worship leader that is faithfully shepherding his flock of 72 people. They’re on the same level right now. And they’re on the same social media platform, and they’re on the same YouTube. And I just think it’s going to be really important to put your best foot forward that people might be honest. And so that’s a tip. However, you can harness that honesty. I think that not every church is the same. I think that whoever’s listening you have different demographic of people I am no I am in no way, shape or form claiming to be an expert on anything. But I do know that God has put you in this place for a specific reason. And so however you can seek God within your strategy for the new normal, I think is is really critical. And I’m reading through Genesis right now. And so I’m reading Through these different characters, and it’s wild and untamed and so crazy, and I’m reading through Joseph, and he’s an amazing leader, because he has taken his circumstance and his situation. You know, his other brothers, they left him for dead literally, they thought he was dead for years and years. Lo and behold, he’s like second in command of all of Egypt. And he has this dream, and he tells them and that’s how this whole thing starts. And then the dream comes true. And there’s a famine and, you know, he has this incredible head on his shoulders where he’s able to pull his perspective out of the current moment and look at all of it and he was able to say to his brothers, don’t be upset, don’t be angry, because God has preserved life through this situation. And to, to have that sort of mentality in what we’re walking through right now to pull yourself out of whatever situation you might be walking through. Whatever demographic you might be leading into, just say, like, God’s doing a good work here. How can I harness that in every aspect of what somebody is going to see touch, feel, hear, drink, if it’s coffee, you know, how can I harness that for the good?

Justin Price
I want to I do really want to ask you about this, like so you used to be able to impact people’s experience by offering services, whether that would be mints in the bathroom, totally making sure that the bathrooms were clean, you had coffee, and now you are in this level playing field going against productions. pastors, worship teams, who have access to your audience now, right. 24 seven, and they, you know, they’re different. And again, I it’s hard to say they’re not competition, but they’re certainly vying for for people’s time. And you want to create that experience that God has called you guys to do but, you’ve lost like all of the tools in your tool belt like the the different pieces that you would typically be able to get their attention with when you could even hold their attention on your campus and maybe put them in a socially an environment where it was socially unacceptable to be just staring at their phone the whole time now, you only have the phone to talk to them and those texts still come through. Yeah, those Instagram you know, notifications still pop up in the middle of your worship set. So Holy cow, and that’s why I’m like How are you? How are you even awake right now? How are you not stressed out or, or mental hospital because, you know, that is such a difficult thing to just to take on. You know and I I’m guessing I think your team has done an amazing job. You guys really are absolutely killing it. But you know, man, what a crazy thought to think like, why can’t you use your volunteer team to to be somehow engaging online, right? Have you figured that out? Have you hit any hurdles with that? Is there things that you’ve been able to transition? to kind of bring that to life?

Melissa Meiner
Yeah, I think that that’s an awesome question. And I had I pulled up this. I have a manila folder for all things reopening. And it’s just getting bigger. And because there’s just more things coming out every day, but Tony Morgan, his unstuck group did a survey of 500 churches in one of the first weeks of April, and they were talking about online engagement and offering online services and yada yada yada and some of the data has been, like pretty incredible. So only half of the churches that were surveyed had online campuses, online services before the crisis. The larger the church, the more likely they were to be offering online services, but now nearly, well, sorry, nearly 80% of mega churches had online services. before the crisis will only 27% of small churches had an online option. Now, almost all churches are using online services in some format, only 5% of churches that they interviewed in all 500, 5% of church churches do not have online options. So like the way that the local church has pivoted has been remarkable. And it’s so cool. It’s so it’s beautiful to see the online engagement, the guest services volunteers, something that we’ve been that we’ve been doing Justin as we have virtual lobbies before the service. And so our guest services coordinator, she’s on there, one of our pastors is on there. And some of our guest services team hop on there just to like, say, hey, and that has seen, like increased engagement every week, which is really cool. And you’re not talking about anything groundbreaking. I mean, it’s 10 or 15 minutes before the online stream starts. You know, it’s an open zoom and we have people but the really cool thing about that is that it’s a lot of. The older demographic, yeah, it’s a lot of the 60 plus people that have been stuck inside their house, and they are just loving it. And, you know, and so we say like, Alright guys, like, go find your seat in the worst, you know, and like, they just turn off the zoom call, and then they’re into church. And so I would say that there’s definitely ways that that we have started to engage people. That’s cool. Yeah. And and the new normal is definitely going to be something that we all have to get used to. But I think if, you know, the virtual lobby works for our church, it might not work for another church, that that could be listening, but there are things that we can do creatively, to engage our community. It’s just been really powerful.

Mike Mage
Yeah, churches are talking more and more about reopening. And I know that for you, that is a slew of problems to solve and just new situations or rising and all that kind of stuff. So as churches begin to like open back up, how are our experiences going to be different? Like, what do you think we should be expecting? And maybe like a 30,000 foot level maybe like on the ground floor level, you know, somewhere in between? I don’t know. Yeah, what you’re thinking of?

Melissa Meiner
Yeah. So the 30,000 foot level is that no one’s done this. Yeah. So this is all brand new territory. So please just extend grace to yourself, extend grace to your team. The ground is ripe for things to fall through the cracks, and that’s okay. Because this is, this is really difficult. And one of the local churches main taglines, since I’ve been a part of it, is we’re just going to keep doing it this way. Because we’ve always done it this way.

Mike Mage
You’re talking like church, big, big church.

Melissa Meiner
capital C church, we’re going to continue to do it this way, even though it hasn’t worked in years, because we’ve always done it this way and I have always loathed that comment. I am not one for just letting things be swept under the carpet like that are swept under the rug. Some sort of thing that you put on the ground. That’s fluffy. That’s not

Justin Price
that’s a red flag comment for me. Anytime I hear that I’m like, woah,

Melissa Meiner
Yes. Yeah, like why why did we not? Yeah, it lazy at best. Yeah, and much worse. It could. It could be really yeah. So anytime I hear that I kind of cringy church comment, but that’s not really able to be used right now. And like that’s really awesome because that means that we are allowed to do things that are new, that are fresh, that are going to be part of the new normal. And I’ve been working a lot with I wouldn’t say a lot but I’ve been Working some with this guy. His name is Reverend Alex Shanks and he’s brilliant. He’s a brilliant mind. He’s from the United Methodist conference and he had written this post about why reopening church is different than like reopening a retail store. And he, he basically said, returning to the way things used to be would fly in the face of the Jesus who warned against pouring new wine into old wine skins. We are creatures of habit and averse to change. So we will have to make every effort to create a new model of church. And I love that.

Justin Price
Drop the mic.

Melissa Meiner
Yeah, seriously, like, it’s so encouraging. Because, like, Jesus was the one that said that. Yeah, you know, like, it wasn’t like Alex was the one that originally said that like Jesus was the one that was like, it’s okay to do new stuff. Yeah, and it’s not gonna work the old way anymore. And at best, it’s gonna break both right? So like, just go ahead and move into the new territory. So I’ve been using that as a ton of encouragement. And so hopefully for you guys that are listening, like just be encouraged and know that it’s gonna feel different. And I think that that’s a really great place to be. So that’s some of the 30,000 foot level, the more on the ground stuff. I know that you guys are probably working with some sort of other person, whether it’s a part time person, full time person, maybe you have a staff that’s really large, maybe the staff isn’t so big, but I think one of the main things is to over communicate to your staff right now. I don’t think that you can communicate enough. There’s so many news articles that are coming out every day, every hour, every minute, it feels like something is different and changing and the guidelines and the protocol and the phases and the this and that and it’s just so much onslaught that there’s no there’s no greater way to validate your team’s worth than to communicate with them. At this point, so communicate anything communicate what you’ve heard the latest updates to be, what the plan is currently, how you’re currently planning to accomplish the plan. You know, I had a great leadership mentor that said, plan the work and work the plan. And that’s really, he operated his life out of that. So and once again, there’s going to be, as we get closer and more churches start to open. We’ve already heard rumblings of that here in the Tampa Bay area. I would highly encourage you to extend grace to your members that are asking the question, when are we going to open again, because to say I don’t know, is a totally honest response. And you can you can fill that comment with grace and I would highly encourage you to do that.

Justin Price
When are you guys going to open up again?

Melissa Meiner
We don’t know. We are we are looking at it right now. One of the main so I’ve kind of crafted around the reopening plan. Since a lot of it has fallen into my lap, not all of it, praise Him, but some of it has. My mission is for everybody that walks onto the campus, no matter what age where you come from that they that they would be safe, and that they would feel safe. And we have an amazing facilities team here. So the being safe is going to come way more quickly than the feeling safe. And you know, I’ve been thinking about the five year old and the 85 year old that are going to want to walk back onto campus on the same day, and they’re going to need different things. And I want to open when both of them feel like they can have an experience worth attending.

Justin Price
I think like what’s at stake? I don’t know how if we have to like spend much time on it, but what’s at stake is just being that church that had a big outbreak, and what that would cost and I think, not what it would cost your reputation or your brand but the fact that you would be putting your congregation at risk for that, you know, and to lose, you know, members of your church because you really couldn’t wait to have worship back in the in the sanctuary together.

Melissa Meiner
Right.

Justin Price
And that’s just that’s a very, very difficult weight to bear. I think for every staff right now, totally. Man, and I’m super grateful that I don’t have to make that decision.

Melissa Meiner
I know, it’s hard. And, you know, the words mitigating risk. If I could, I could make a million dollars if I would get $1 every time I heard that phrase, but that’s really the number one question right now. And I know it’s uncomfortable. I know it’s not always fun to stay at home or to wear a mask inside of a target or whatever. But a lot of people are under the assumption and the awareness that they’re not doing. Those things for themselves, you know, they’re doing those things for the safety of other people. And I think that that’s a really beautiful missional mindset to the whole COVID-19 thing is to just acknowledge, like, I am not the only human that exists. This is not all about my comfort. I am going to stay home when I would rather go to my favorite restaurant tonight. You know, that’s a it’s flying in the face of the selfishness of the Western culture. And I think it’s calling out a lot of really hard things that we’ve been unable to process in the past and it’s literally making us stare at it. In the face.

Mike Mage
Yeah. So I know you’ve been, you know, talking about reopening and everything I know you’ve been talking to a lot of pastors and church leaders in at least the Florida conference, the Florida area, and where Bay hope is, you know, United Methodist Church, so uh, you obviously have been in contact with a lot of United Methodist Church pastors. What is like the general, You know, the general feeling about reopening?

Melissa Meiner
So there’s, I’ve been able to be on a call with small churches that are desperate to open. And then larger churches that have a thriving online platform that could stand to wait a few weeks and or months. Yeah, I mean, there, there’s a church in the area that doesn’t want to open until there’s a vaccine. And, and that’s a hard thing, you know, but then you look back at their demographic, and it makes total sense because they don’t want to put anybody at risk.

Mike Mage
Right. They don’t want to be the cause.

Melissa Meiner
Absolutely. So I the general feeling is that no one wants to do the wrong thing.

Mike Mage
Yeah.

Melissa Meiner
And that’s really difficult. I think. I’m trying to minimize the risk trying to let everyone know that the staff and the volunteers are looking out for the well being that’s a that’s very much a red thread through the conversation. There’s a lot of offshoots of that, you know, broad strokes, there’s nothing that you’re going to touch anymore on a campus and if you are, they’re going to wash it after you leave. That’s a very, very general thing. Like no more offering passing, no more. communion, no more handouts, no more this no more that was communion just in the way in a different way. Everything’s going to be pivoted to allot for safety. Yeah. Which is, I think is great, you know. So that’s some of the general feel some and then. So that’s like the middle of the road, where everybody it’s like a Venn diagram, you know, of extremes of people really, really wanting to open early and then people really, really, really wanting to wait. And so that’s kind of the middle and then some of the outliers are some people have already opened You know, 4% of churches have already opened or never closed, and just kind of flew under the radar, you know, like that’s in this unstuck group thing. Like, that’s wild to me. And then there’s churches that are going to mandate masks. There’s churches that have, there’s a huge debate going on right now about congregational singing. And so being aware of that, and knowing that singing in the how loud you talk or how soft you talk has an effect on the droplets that are being released into the air and I am not a scientist and I do not pretend to be but these are the small things that I know is that it goes further if you talk louder, or if you’re singing, that’s an outbreak that happened out west. You know, a lot of people got sick out there because of that. Yeah. So you really have to weigh a lot of factors. And I just keep coming back to the reality of like, God put you here. You’re here man, like and it’s a crazy season. To be here, but you’re here and God trusts you with your people.

Mike Mage
Well, and the reason I asked, I asked all these questions is just, I think the biggest thing that we can all come back to is kind of what you said earlier in, that no one has done this before, specifically in this context. And I know that a lot of people, you know, you go online, and you Oh, what songs are the is this church doing? What are the children’s stuff that this church is doing? What? You know, what design elements is this church doing or whatever, but like there is no consensus when it comes to reopening your church and how to experience church in this day and age, especially as we move forward over the next couple of months. So I think what Melissa said is right is just give yourself some grace. And, you know, maybe like, it’s okay that you think this is really hard because it Really is.

Melissa Meiner
Genuinely just is.

Mike Mage
Justin, do you have anything else as we finish up here?

Justin Price
I have so many questions right now that I’m trying to process what would be most valuable to talk about. Because, man, there’s just my my biggest takeaway this is this is unfortunately, part of my personality of that I believe there’s just a lot of room for us to get better. Yeah. I you know, and I think that there is an online experience that is proven itself. But quite if I, I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but I’m tired of the online church experience.

Mike Mage
I think a ton of people are

Justin Price
I think it’s that there’s not enough engagement and interaction. I think that sure I don’t go to church to be talked to. I go to church because of the community that’s there. And right now, the way most churches are doing online church does not actually provide that even I love the lobby, the open lobby thing that you had brought up. I have not heard of that, or I had not seen that. Yeah, I just I don’t think that what we’re doing right now can replace church. And that might be why so many people are anxious to get back to church. And for me personally, you know, I would love to have another conversation with you, Melissa just helped challenge and how even just like hear how you’re processing and making better because you guys are doing so many great things. But I feel like there is the answer is not to go run back to church necessarily, but maybe to figure out what steps we’re missing in the online experience, and that people are actually potentially on our campus. And we’re not yet designing the experience for them on our digital campus or, you know, and that, really they’re living with us all the time. And how well are we using our apps you know, some of us have these apps that we just push out sermons on. But our apps can turn on notifications. And we can be communicating with our, with our congregation so many more times than we are with. And we can also segment those communications. So, you know, there are, to me a lot of untouched things that are super hard and I’m not being judgmental or blaming anybody who’s figuring this out for the first time right now. But I really do. I think there is a lot of room for us to grow the church. We know there’s a viable market for online church campuses. Now the question is, how can we make that a good experience? Yeah. I you know, so, anyways, that’s, that is where my head is at right now. Is that I think, Mike, we’d need to do a follow up.

Mike Mage
That sounds good. Well, Melissa, this has been incredible. And I would love to have you on again, just like Justin said, Is there any sort of parting wisdom you’d like to leave our audience

Melissa Meiner
Well, probably not wisdom, but words short, I just want to encourage whoever’s listening that the new normal will be worth it. You are actually living in the new normal, whatever your new normal is right now. And I, I believe that God has shaken the religious Foundation, not his relationship with you, but the religious foundation of where we are as a culture. And it’s going to be a beautiful outcome. And so, if you are at your wits end right now, I am just I am praying that you would be able to fall back into your relationship with Jesus and know that he is so proud of you right now. He It’s been a long couple of weeks for all of us. And it’s been a long couple months and I don’t think it’s it’s going to be over anytime soon. But please press on. Don’t give up meeting together whether it’s online for right now. In the interim or in person. It is worth it. And God is seen in that community. So yeah, I just think take heart. Yeah, because he’s overcome the world. And he’s not afraid of what’s going on right now. Sure. And I am so super, super honored that I got to hang out with you guys today.

Mike Mage
Well, thank you so much. And if you want to find Melissa on Instagram, which is where she probably is the most, I would guess first.

Melissa Meiner
I definitely don’t have a tick tock, not because I don’t want one but because I don’t understand it. So if someone wants to teach me how to tik tok, well, that’s gonna be my new normal.

Mike Mage
you can teach Melissa to tick tock on her Instagram. Yes, @Mrs_meiner which is her last name. You can find her there. And then also another thing I do want to talk to you about at some point is the Oaks development program. Yeah, where can where Can someone find out a little bit more about Oak

Melissa Meiner
Before we do that podcast, we have a website called oaksleader.com. Yeah. And you can go there you can go to @leaderoaks on so you just switch them around on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter.

Mike Mage
Cool. Yeah. Awesome. Well, so cool. Thank you so much. Absolutely. So for joining us,

Justin Price
it’s been a pleasure. Thanks. I did I really I really want to close out with just saying thank you for I love your positive outlook. I know I’m over here like I can’t get better right now. And you’re just like, take heart. I really do. I love your outlook in your attitude. I think you are doing a really great job. And

Thanks, Melissa. It’s been super encouraging for me. I am not going to sleep tonight. My wheels are spinning.

Melissa Meiner
Awesome. Thanks, guys.

Justin Price
Mike, I don’t think it’s really fair that Melissa got a chance to tell an embarrassing story about you. It was nice that we didn’t embarrass her you know.

Next time we get her on the podcast, I think it’s only fair that you, as the older brother get to say to tell an embarrasing story.

Mike Mage
I think that that’s that. Yeah, that’s a good one. She, she might have a few. And you, the audience will just have to just hold on to that. Just hold on to that little thing in the back of your brain. You know, there’s there’s some things about Melissa Meiner, that might be a tad bit embarrassing, but it’s fine. I think, Yeah, probably. It’s probably podcasting one on one not to embarrass your guests. So I’ll take the brunt of that, you know, I’ll sacrifice my pride for that. And that’s fine.

Justin Price
You know, it’s it was kind of weird to think we’re on. We’ve done more than a dozen interviews so far on this podcast, and that was our first female. I definitely think we need to hear some more women who are working in this department. But really, Mike, what did you feel like was the biggest takeaway from the conversation with Melissa?

Mike Mage
I think at best She’s in between a rock and a hard place at worst, you know, it just it can get so much harder than that. And this situation that we’re in So as of recording this, you know, it’s May 2020. And our entire world has been disrupted. And then you know, her entire job is to create an experience that is engaging and connects people to Jesus and kinda like she said in the interview, there are so many of you listening that don’t have someone who is just like, dedicated to creating that experience. And you know, it is even harder for you and so like we empathize with you, I mean, we, this is something that we are all figuring out together. And I think it’s it’s actually kind of a beautiful thing that this this might be opening up a lot of conversations with churches who might not be talking to each other. You know, but just trying to figure out what are you what are you doing Church down the street church around the corner like how are you guys doing this? Why are you doing this? When are you opening? And you know, I feel like a lot of churches just want to be on the same page. And so if that’s you, if you are having to control or create or direct or plan, some sort of experience that some level of your leadership is talking about reopening up, don’t hesitate to talk to other churches around you. Or maybe you know, get in contact with us. Maybe leave us a comment. Leave us a message on Instagram or Facebook. You know, we would love to have that conversation with you as well.

Justin Price
I think that’s a great point, Mike, that she’s between a rock and a hard place. I think for me, walking away from that conversation with her admitting that I’m struggling with the experience I’m getting from my church right now. Is not critical at my church. Like I think that I mean, I think every church leader right now just deserves a huge you know, standing ovation. For what they have accomplished the fact that, you know, online churches at 90, high, mid 90s percentage wise, you know, just goes to say like man congregations are trying so hard staffs are trying really hard. Everybody’s, you know, kind of in it. But But feeling the burn, you know, Mike I knew we were just talking about how just and they’re kind of tired of being in emergency mode. You know, you can do that for a month, you can do that maybe for two, we’re getting into this like stretch of like, this doesn’t feel good anymore. And now we got to figure out a new, a new normal and, you know, I just besides the empathy I feel for what she’s doing and and the encouragement, inspiration I feel from her, you know, energy to keep going. I just, you know, I want to challenge I hope, I hope that everybody feels challenged to continue to think through the user experience of what it’s like to be a part of their church right now.

Mike Mage
Well, once again, thank you so much for listening to this healthy church growth podcast. We are so grateful that you have joined us. We’re about this was our 13th podcasts. And we would love to keep continue on with this. But we can’t do this without you. So make sure to share to subscribe to rate to you know, follow us on our Instagram or Facebook account and engage with us there. We’re trying to get on there more to have conversations with you and find out how things are going with you as well. So, thanks again for listening to healthy church growth podcasts where we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life.

Healthy Church Growth – Episode 12 – Nik Goodner

Getting Rid of Sacred Cows in Church with CRTV Church founder Nik Goodner.

Is it time to rethink just about everything we do in ministry? Is the Sunday morning service a sacred cow that we need to get rid of? On this NEW episode of the Healthy Church Growth podcast, we interview CTRV Church founder Nik Goodner (@nikgoodner) about this and many other topics.

Nik Goodner Instagram @nikgoodner

CRTV Church Instagram @crtvchurch

Resources – https://www.sundaysocial.tv/ 


Transcriptions:

Mike Mage
Welcome to the healthy church growth podcast.

Well, welcome to the healthy church growth podcast where we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life. I am one of your hosts, Mike my age. And we have absolutely loved having these conversations with you, with our audience with these guests that we’ve been having on just really being able to interact with you and how we can see churches grow in a healthy way. And before we dive into this intro, I really just want to let you know that we would absolutely love for you to subscribe and share and rate this podcast not so much for just you know, to see the podcast grow, but we really want to interact with you, our audience, and have conversations with you and engage with you in any way that we can. And by subscribing and by sharing and by rating this podcast. It’s a way for These conversations to get in front of more people so that we can all together be on this journey of what it looks like to grow in a healthy way. Joining me today for this intro and for the interview that we had here in a minute is Justin price. And Justin, we had an insane conversation with Nik Goodner and talked about some really crazy stuff. It’s pretty incredible.

Justin Price
What’s up, Mike, we did have an insane conversation. And it does mean the world to us when you guys subscribe, and like and follow and engage probably more than anything is engaged in the conversations we’ve been able to have with you all. In the last two months for me, I think have made this podcast worth all the work, really like a light in the darkness has just been connecting authentically with people and you know being in a community. building a community has been absolutely a huge reward and an honor So jumping into the Nik Goodner conversation like, man, I would say, Jesus, let’s get like some notepads out right now and be prepared to write some things down that are probably gonna, gonna feel challenging.

Mike Mage
I mean, he is I know what’s funny after following for those of you that don’t know, Nik Goodner, he is the, I guess he started this thing called creative church, which is a community online and you can find it at CR TV church, on Instagram and on Facebook, and it’s just this community of creative leaders in the church and to following him. He is actually an eight on the enneagram so he is your classic challenge. So true. Yeah. And I mean, you and I were talking about this before you know, we started recording this intro, but just how a lot of the stuff that he is saying Right now feels to really almost like, it’s like you’re going to get this like really hard massage. Like there’s just this not attended rain example. There’s this knot in the churches back and like Nik is one of those people who has just taken his elbow right to that knot. And I think it’s really incredible to see especially from like a creative vantage point, someone really pushing on those bruises and on those knots, you know, trying to work them out.

Justin Price
No doubt, you know, I think that one of the temptations when you are acting as a consultant to the church and you’re not necessarily leading your own congregation are leading your own creative team, like in Sunday morning. The temptation is like to maybe pull back into like, just give a nice soft massage, you know, to just make people feel good to just, you know, ease the pain just to touch. And I gotta say, I feel you know, I’m always skeptical when I’m getting ready to talk to anybody who’s a consultant because consultants also kind of a word for non committed. And as a creative consultant myself, there are days where I’m just super glad I am not all in with with the project I’m working on I know it will end. And the thing you know that can that can come from that is just a some people cannot have a very soft way of doing things or talking or looking things and I gotta say, like, for one reason, for better or for worse, I think it’s for better. I think God has really ordained Nik and his his using Nik to say some things to the church that I don’t know maybe if he was in the middle of a congregation today right now trying to lead in the midst of this as tired as the rest of us are. He might not have the challenger at full speed, you know, to be saying some of the things he’s saying right now, but at the end of this conversation, Nick drops a bomb that I think some of you Ready to hear I you know, I’m just I’m just preparing you. He’s dropping some heat. You know, he, Mike, you I think you had to take it took you a little while to recover from this conversation emotionally.

Mike Mage
It didn’t fully hit me in the moment until I went back and edited I was like, Oh, no. Because he says it was such calmness and but yeah, make sure you listen to this full interview because just like Justin said, I think we need to coined the phrase dropping heat, dropping a key, Nik drops some heat here. So, so buckle him. This is our conversation we had with creative church founder, Nik goodness.

We’re talking about the church down the road, and what they’re doing for Easter and what they’re doing for this and it’s like, Yeah, but like what’s God called us to do

Mike Mage
Well, welcome to the healthy church growth podcast. We are so glad that you have joined us for this episode. And this episode is, is really, really cool, really special. We are having a conversation with Nick Goodner, who started a little group called creative church and is a huge creative voice for churches right now. And, Nick, thank you so much for joining us on this podcast.

Nik Goodner
Thank you guys for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Mike Mage
So I just I have a pre question for you. And this I guess isn’t really really a question but I have been crushing on all of your content like a 90s girl over like Leonardo DiCaprio. It has been amazing. Thank you so much for everything that you’re doing right now just through Instagram and all your other stuff.

Nik Goodner
Yeah, well, thank you. I’m flattered I really am. You know, it’s It’s not every day you get that kind of compliment where you’re crushing like Leonardo DiCaprio, like Get 90 year old over Leonardo DiCaprio. So thank you for that. Now, now I’m embarrassed that I’m not gonna be able to do the entire podcast and I’m just gonna be, I’m just gonna be flustered the entire time.

Mike Mage
Yeah, that was the goal. My, my six year old so almost six year old son has been watching the Parent Trap, like the 90s version of the Parent Trap. And they’re all they talk about is Leonardo DiCaprio. So yeah, sorry.

Nik Goodner
So you gotta you gotta tell him there’s more movies than that. That’s what I have to let them know. You have to let them know there’s more movies.

Mike Mage
It’s so with the advent of Disney Plus, there is like this resurgence. I feel like of those, like 90s Disney Channel movies. And like, Yeah, he loves them. It’s so crazy. I don’t understand why. So you said when we were talking a little bit beforehand, and I’ve seen on some of your stuff that you grew up in Florida. And now you sort of moved in this position as sort of like a creative coach. I’d love to maybe just get like a real, real short version of how did you get to the position that you are in right now? Like, what’s a little bit of your background for our audience?

Nik Goodner
Yeah, so I grew up in Florida, and well, I grew up all over the South. My parents were church planters. And so we moved around a lot. A lot of people ask me, you know, whenever I tell him, I’ve moved like 32 times ago, were you in the army? I was so yes, the Lord’s army because we moved around a lot and you know, where the Spirit leads, so to speak. And so he grew up I grew up a parents are church planters. And then after I graduated high school, I decided I wanted to go to Bible college and kind of follow in their footsteps. And just outside of Bible college, I got a offer to go down to a church plant in Orlando. And I was born in Florida, born in Central Florida. I always loved Central Florida and I said Do you know why that why the heck not? Let’s go and I went down there. helped out for about almost eight months I met my wife there she was also she she and I both went to Bible college at the same time. We never knew each other Bible college, but we met each other at this church plant because the youth pastor who was or the student director over the Bible college was the one who went left to go start the church. So we met, we get married, and we moved back to Tulsa. That’s where we went to school at. And about three months after moving back to Tulsa, I get an offer at a church in bartlesville, which is about 35/45 minutes up north from Tulsa. And we haul up and we move up there and become a student minister, and then a creative director. And then the rug is kind of pulled out from underneath me and the church shuts down it closes and I was very passionate about what we were doing at that church. And so whenever it closed, it kind of shook me a little bit, because I could see the I could see the I could smell the blood in the Water. And you know, being growing up as a church planter, I can kind of tell where the or identify the markers of where things went wrong. And so I spent the six months after it closed, kind of beating myself up rehashing, like, here’s where we went wrong. Here’s what we should have done better. And finally, it just came to a point where I was like, I can’t sit here and do this for the rest of my life. We can’t lean on only I was only like, 21. At the time. I was like, we can’t let this define me. And I decided to start an Instagram account called the creative church. That was back when we had all the vowels in the name. And there’s always a fun, it’s always a fun story. About three months go by and I’m like, I want to start a website. And so I look up to buy the domain for the creative church. And it’s not available, someone else owns it. And I don’t even know if it’s still owned by them. But I go, what can we do and movement watches was getting real big at the time. And so I was like, we could take the vowels out of creative and call it creative church. And so I did that best branding decision I ever made, like ever made. And it comes because I couldn’t find the domain for the creative church. And we’ve been called a lot of people call CR TV church, it’s creative church, but I won’t fault him for that. So yeah, so we started that back in 2015. It’s been going now almost five years, it’ll be five years in October. And we’ve had our ups and downs and our evolutions throughout the entire time. And I feel like over the past two years, we’ve really gotten in a groove as to what we want to do what I want to do and who we want to be, and celebrating and inspiring and empowering church creatives to be creative every day. You know, that’s, that’s our goal. That’s our mission. We want to be Spirit led and healthy at the same time. So I love what you guys are doing because you guys big focus is health. And so I love I love what you’re doing with the podcast. So

Mike Mage
what one of the reasons I feel like I’m really drawn A lot of your stuff is, I think a lot of church creatives, really just creative people in general, we have a tendency to almost like think, want to think above people, and it almost like leads to like a pretentious nature to things. And I feel like you all of the content that you’re posting is so grounded. And I really really appreciate that. Because it I feel like it’s it’s stripping away the almost the inaccessibility of what it means to be creative in the church, you know, and I just saw, I don’t know if there’s a lot of people that are doing that. So I really, really appreciate that. You are a great designer, Nik. And it looks like you know, maybe you have some background in that. I don’t know if you went to school. What did you go to school for exactly in Tulsa.

Nik Goodner
I went to school for student ministry and kids ministry . I didn’t go to school for design. Actually, I never, never designed until I got my creative director gig at the, at the bartlesville. Church. That’s whenever I started lid lid, my wife, she was a graphic designer. And she’s the one who taught me how to do it. And I just fell in love with it became really passionate about it for about a year and a half started a business where I was doing it. And then I like some things in life. I’ve lost interest in it over the years. But I can still, I can still do it as a necessity. But I’m more into finding designers to fit the style nowadays and paying them to do it because it’s a younger man’s game. And even though I’m not 30 yet, I still feel old in design, like I feel like I’m archaic. And yet you see all these, you know, kids coming up that like 16, 17 years old and they’re just blowing me away. And I’m like, Oh my gosh, this is phenomenal. And I’m over here you know, still trying to figure out you know if I can use Gotham slanted or not, yeah. So so it’s kind of a it’s a main sent in for me a little bit. It’s something I’ve kind of lost interest in doing over the past few years but I still do it as a necessity because you know, working with a small team, you have to do your own design sometimes. So yeah,

Mike Mage
well i think that’s that’s a really good almost like a baseline for I feel like a lot of where our audience is, you know, these people who you know, maybe they start out as worship leaders, but then as they you know, start to go into their job you know, they realize oh, like the bulletin needs to be totally changed or like you know, these slides need to be totally like I need to learn a little bit of creative work or learn Photoshop or I need to learn you know, Illustrator a little bit more man this video needs to get done I need to learn premiere or Final Cut. So like what were what what are some of your like three resources for, I guess your creative inspiration or as you are getting going Even though you’re not really doing it as much, like how did you actually get your foot in the door, knowing that like, it almost was like you were being creative out of like a necessity, which is what I feel like a lot of churches are in.

Nik Goodner
Yeah, so, um, you know, not everyone’s gonna have Lydia but my wife was a huge inspiration for me, and in a great teacher for helping me do Photoshop those first few years. You know, because she was a graphic designer for like, three years before we met, and she did it all through high school, so she knew all the ins and outs and I didn’t and so she was a great teacher. She was number one resource. I can’t I can’t get away with saying that. Second, definitely YouTube. YouTube is is phenomenal. And if you don’t, if you don’t if you’re not watching a YouTube video once a week to learn something new that’s on you like you can learn anything with YouTube. And I yeah, I’m a fanatic about learning new stuff I love. I love to learn new ideas, new stuff and YouTube is that key Avenue. And then the last thing and this is this has been more so in the past few years for keeping relevant when my designs is Sunday social.tv from Joe and Jonathan Kaos are well, Jonathan mom Joe Kavaos and the thing that you can do with a PSD subscription and you can break down their designs. So you kind of learn by dissecting what it is they did how they did it, and that has been a huge asset for me. Yeah, over the past few years, as I’ve kind of phased out of doing design, being able to grab something from them and rework it for what I need. Is is massive as if you’re a designer starting out right now. I mean, get that PSD Sunday social subscription, because it’s going to benefit you in more ways than one, and you will be able to learn how they did it, and you’re gonna be able to learn, you know, how you can rework things to do things better. Sure. So those are my three big resources that I’ve used to kind of learn design and stay relevant in my designs.

Justin Price
I’m looking at it right now the Photoshop templates are 19 bucks a month, you can’t pay a graphic designer for an hour. That’s a that is an awesome resource to get, you know, church related set up PSD files and man talking about breaking down somebody else’s files and seeing how they structure a project is so eye opening, you know, you look, there’s 100 ways you can do something. There’s typically like 10 of those ways that are easier. And that that was a huge thing for me, Nick was when I was learning After Effects was buying template program like projects and breaking them down and like actually repurposing them for church stuff. But then you start to pick up like your Tips and your own styles and looks and things like that even in an after effects I in Photoshop. I mean, I remember man there was like graphic template, old old graphic templates sites that you know you’d buy, like for poster events and things like that back in my youth ministry days, we would we’d break those things open and I’d be like, I can’t believe how do these people even come up with this 15 years after of graphic designing later? You know, you’re like, Oh, yeah, this is all kind of makes sense. But man, just thinking about that template tip is so huge.

Mike Mage
Well, Nick, the the one of the coolest things that I think you’ve already sort of said is like, you know, design is, he said as a young man’s game, which I think is great. And I think that’s that’s accurate, to a certain extent, and you’ve instead of trying to figure out in spending more and more time on trying to like, figure out how to do that better. You pivoted yourself into building like a creative community and like leaning on other people, which I think is like such an incredible mindset and point of view that a lot of people don’t necessarily have, when it comes, especially when it comes to ministry, like sometimes, you know, our goal isn’t to do the work, it’s to equip other people to do the work. And so you’ve been building, like a creative community online for, you know, five years or so. What has been like the hardest lesson you’ve learned? And, you know, what tips can you share to those just now waking up and realizing that like, their community could be grown online in tandem with sort of the digital expansion of their physical communities?

Nik Goodner
Yeah, so the hardest lesson I learned, man, that’s uh, I there’s been a lot of hard lessons. You know, we’re a little bit unique in the fact that we operate like a church online. But yet at the same time, we’re operating like a business. And that balance and striking that balance because we don’t have people who donate to us or we don’t have people who give to us. We, you know, sell partnerships, we do events, things like that. Striking that balance has been very difficult for me, and to how do I, how do I give like a church? How do I operate like a church? And then how do I operate like a business at the same time? So that’s, that’s one of the challenges that has, I mean, that’s the one that comes up immediately. The second one is there’s a little bit of arrogance in running an online community like this, that you have to combat a little bit of ego, that you have to get the fight down. And, you know, throughout your time, running it, it has its ebbs and flows, where it’s like, oh, I’m fine, I’m good. And then it’s like, oh, it’s really it’s really bad. It’s, you know, I really feel egotistical right now and that’s typically plays out for me in a competitive spirit where I want to, you know, if someone comes up and they’re doing something similar, I want to figure out how we can just, you know, for lack of a better term, wipe them off the earth, let’s just let’s let’s become better than they ever can. And let’s let’s, you know, make sure that they don’t have a voice in this community. That’s something that I’ve wrestled with from day one. And that’s honestly our there. Because it’s, it’s, you know, whenever you’re doing what God’s called you to do, and you see someone doing something similar to what you’re doing. You can feel like they’re, they’re taking away from what you’ve created or what you’ve done. And you have to really look at it through a lens of the church down the road. It’s not my competition. God can call two completely different people to do two relatively common things, same things, and I think about Paul and Apollos Whenever he said, You know, I was planted, I watered, but it’s God who gives the increase. Yeah, and that’s kind of my my fallback verse for whenever I do get in those moments of, you know, I should be the one that has all the recognition or I should be the one that has all the, the views or whatever it is, or I should be the one that, you know, you know, is, is more quote unquote famous, but it’s really wrestling with that ego and settling it back down and remembering that, hey, other people can be called to do this, other people can be in this space, I can operate in this space, and we can all work together versus, you know, drawing lines and being divided. Because whenever we do work together, the kingdom of God grows and gets better. And that’s what’s important. And that’s the real mission and it’s not who gets the recognition. So yeah, so that’s one of this. That I’d have to say is probably the one that keeps reoccurring because I’m in a season right now where it’s like, I You know, everyone can do what they want, I’m all fine. And I know there’s gonna come a day whenever it’s gonna flare back up. And it’s it’s it’s been a constant struggle and constant wrestle. And I think it, it might have to do with, you know, the fact that whenever I started creative church, nobody else did something like this. And now we have about seven or eight people doing something like this. And so it’s kind of like, you know, the O G status that you want to maintain. But you got to realize that that’s not that’s not the kingdom. That’s not that’s not a thing. So you gotta go. You gotta let it go and move on. So yeah, yeah, that’s my, that competition thing has been something I’ve wrestled with. Yeah.

Justin Price
When you say doing this, what do you how do you describe? You said like creative church is like part church part business. What do you describe like this as? Is it simply the online community? Is it the I almost feel like you’re you have been inventing new revenues. streams within the whole thing. So, you know, how do you even define what is a competitor? What’s not? It’s, it’s, you know, for Mike and I, I actually think this is an excuse for us to hang out and to get to talk to people who are inspiring. You know, we haven’t we’re not smart enough to figure out a business model. I don’t know, you know, how do you describe it, Nik? Like is what is what is this.

Nik Goodner
In the business side of this, We are, you know, you have a demographic, which is church creatives. And you have a reach, which is what what you’re doing to influence church creatives. And whenever somebody comes in and wants to reach church creatives with the same type of content as you that’s what I start to define as a competitor. And that’s how to identify them as like a competitor. And what often happens is they’ll start small, and you’ll see them in Facebook groups, kind of trying to grow their their following In their business, and then as it as they get more and more than they become more structured, and then what you start noticing is they begin to replicate your actions five years ago, and you go, Okay, so there’s a little bit of experience that comes with it where sure I can, I can sit there and go, Oh, well, they’re doing exactly the same thing that I did five years ago. This is they obviously want to position themselves as a, as almost like a creative church competitor. And so that’s, that’s something that I’ve been able to identify, I think for whenever I’m looking at churches, I think it’s any church that moves in, down the road from you. Like, that’s the competitor that you’re always fighting. It’s the big church in town. For instance, I worked with a lot of church plants, and I don’t know how many meetings I was in, where we’re talking about the church down the road. And what they’re doing for Easter and what they’re doing for this and it’s like, Yeah, but like, what’s God called us to do? And why did they even like, yeah, they matter because they’re, they’re fulfilling a piece of the kingdom. But they don’t matter in this scenario, like they’re not like our decision shouldn’t be based off of what they’re thinking or what they’re doing. And that’s the, that’s the wrestle that I have to that I have to that I have to take with me into creative church. You know, whenever a new kid on the block comes up, I think to answer your question, actually, I want to go back I’m I messed up the podcast flow a little bit. But I wanted to answer your question. I did this think of something. And it actually doesn’t have to do with how God worked through me. But how God worked through someone else. Whenever I was first getting started. There was another church. It was church stage design. So it was Jonathan mall. And I don’t think he’s gonna, you know, be mad at me for sharing the story. I’ve complimented him several times. And whenever I was coming up, there was a moment there where he wrote a blog post, about how he sees these younger people coming up, and kind of filling the role that he used to have. And he’s now pivoting into something new. And he became kind of an inspiration for me with all this and with that, kind of, you know, driving that ego down. I constantly think back to that time. If someone else is coming up new and they’re doing it a little bit better than what you’ve done it as what you’ve done it, maybe it’s time for you to pivot and let them have the space that they’re in now, which is a very hard thing to do. I’m not, I’m not gonna paint that one as easy at all and then I’ll give you an off of that. I’ll give you the scenario. That happened here over the past year. We started out and it’s been ingrained in us to repost artists work and mix in our own content. Whenever we started, we were the only ones doing that on Instagram. There were websites and blogs that did it. But we were the ones doing it on Instagram. Nowadays, there’s at least four accounts who are doing it and they’re curating feeds that are way better than what I could curate at. And over the past year, I realized that we’re going to have to leave our space and doing this like we’ve done it for so long. It’s been a staple, but it’s time for us to go ahead and pivot to something new and allow them to flourish in this space because they’re doing it way better than I’m doing it. And I can give up the reposting and we’ll start doing creative coaching, consulting, and we’ll start doing the content and making that pivot has been a breath of fresh air for us. And it’s also I think, given the opportunity to these other companies, these other competitors to really flourish in their own space. So that’s that’s my that was my example to answer the question that we may or may not have cut out the podcast.

Mike Mage
No, we’re not. We’re not cutting that out.

Justin Price
Good. That was so good. There’s actually two things I want to revisit there. First of all, if you’re not learning something getting online with a Skillshare YouTube masterclass at least once a week learning something new, you are going to be passed up. And it’s not learning the new stuff that’s actually allowing you to adapt to change into find that new thing to be able to see where God is wanting you to go next. The second huge gut check was that that thing you said about sitting in meetings talking about the church down the road, whether you’re a startup, a church plant, a business mega church. We all have sat in those meetings where we have been talking about other churches worried about what they’re doing, thinking about what they’re doing getting frustrated if, if it was too close to what we were doing, and instead of focusing our energy and time on the thing that God called us uniquely to do at our church, I can’t reiterate how strong those two points were. I hope all the listeners grab on to that. Hold on to that. Thank you, Nik. Love, absolutely love so good.

Mike Mage
Now that you’ve been able to engage with creatives for a while, in this community, do you see a common denominator amongst creatives who are doing amazing work and growing in, you know, similarly healthy ways? Are you seeing a trend among other creatives who are doing like relatively so like these people that are coming up under you? what’s what’s sort of the trend, what’s sort of like these things that are sticking out about what they’re doing and also growing in a healthy way?

Nik Goodner
Yeah, so I think anytime there’s growth that’s actually sustainable, that we’re producing good fruit, there’s always good roots. So whenever I see something successful and getting past their first year and their second year, I always suspect that the people behind the scenes have really put an emphasis on their health and their self care, and their spiritual health and our spiritual well being, and keeping their sinner settling their calling. That’s a big one. Because we can oftentimes try to imitate other people’s callings that we like or that we see or we think, oh, we could do that. But settling that calling for yourself and saying, This is what God has called me to do. This is how I’m going to operate. And this is how I want to operate is really important, because there’s a other there’s the other token to that the other side of that is the ones that do it for about three months and that I never had hear from them again. And it’s often because they weren’t trying to be who they were called to be. They were trying to be who someone else was called to be. So whether it was me or whether it was someone else, they were trying to replicate or imitate that other person’s calling. And that’s, that’s always the To me, that’s always a center of burnout for people, is whenever you decide that, hey, I’m going to not settle what I’m called to do. Instead, I’m going to try to imitate what other people are called to do. Because I believe strongly that God gives you a grace for what you’ve been called to do. But he hasn’t given you that same grace to do, and other people have been called to do so whenever you’re feeling like on the edge of burnout. Now, I’m not saying this is the only symptom. There are definitely other or I’m not saying the only the only cause but there are definitely other causes. But for the most part, I can typically trace a creative burnout back to someone trying to do something that they’re not designed to do they’re not designed to do they don’t have the grace to do it.

So that’s the trend. The trend that I’m seeing is whenever you have growth, oftentimes you have those good roots, those healthy roots, and you’re able to produce that really good fruit and get past those 2-3-4-5 year marks.

Justin Price
I love that. I’ve never heard that phrase said that way. Specifically, the grace to do it. That’s cool. I don’t know if you got that coin Nik, but I love it.

Mike Mage
We’re gonna steal it will steal it. Yeah, that’s fine.

Nik Goodner
You can have it. I don’t know. You don’t have to steal it. You can have it. Thank you.

Mike Mage
Well, hey, just sort of like following up for you. Sort of about the because I do love I do love the idea that good fruit comes from good roots. Because I think that’s 100% accurate. People who do things in a sustainable way, are not in it for almost the results, it’s almost like because 95% 90% of the work is all like the grind of it all, you know, whatever you whatever work that you’re in, creative or not, and you love what you do you have a passion for what you do. It’s almost like you’re suffering for this, like 10% 15% or whatever, because like the rest of it is just like this slog almost. So like, What are you? What are some things that you’re doing to sort of keep up healthy and good routes?

Nik Goodner
Yeah, so let me start by telling you what I didn’t do, right. About year, two and a half and year three of creative church. I was in I think I was in a worse place than whenever I started creative church. I had really begun to distance myself distance myself from the community because there’s there’s this idea in leadership and I’m sure you guys have heard it and that is like as a leader You have to be distant from the people that you that you lead. Yep. And whenever I first started, I didn’t think that at all. And I guess I just listened to some teaching and I don’t know, I just felt like that was right for me like, Oh, I have to distance myself. So I became very isolated. So I wouldn’t talk to people in the community. I was, you know, kind of get that air of, again, that ego of, you know, I’m, I’m the leader, and you guys are the followers. And I have to, and I have to, you know, isolate myself from you guys. And so year two and three, to 2.5 to three was was very hard for me. Because as a young young leader, I was very arrogant to think that I could do this all by myself and have this kind of weird divide.

And that, we produce some really good stuff, and this is the this is always interesting to me. We really produce some really good results during that time. But the burnout for me at the end of year three was so apparent that I didn’t know whether I wanted to do creative church anymore. Like I was like, I’m done. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be a part of this. I’d really neglected any form of self care. I wasn’t, you know, developing myself spiritually. I wasn’t spending time, like I should read my Bible. It was, it was this again, it was this isolation factor. And coming into year four, I really, I took a kind of a sabbatical in which I took about three months off. And I you know, I didn’t do creative church for three months, we ran reposted content, and then we took a whole month off where we’re like, we’re not gonna say anything, we’re not gonna do anything per month. And during that time, I met with some people talked with some people got some, you know, some friendship counseling, not official counsel, but friendship. counseling. And I realized that the way I was doing things was completely. It just wasn’t me. Like I’m a person who if, you know, if I’m going to be the leader of the group, I want to know every single thing that the group is dealing with, like I want to be in the group like I don’t have this whole platform mindset. And I think that that was what was was killing me is because I was trying to put myself on a platform that I didn’t belong on. And again, that goes back to the whole grace thing. Grace for things you’re not you’re not called to do. And so coming into your four in this past year, I’ve really been focusing on developing myself care, getting with people hanging out with them doing zoom calls, this COVID-19 that we’re dealing with right now. It’s been huge because I can I’ve seen how we can connect with the people that are in our community through zoom calls through Skype calls and things like that. And we’re doing I’m doing More, to talk with him to meet with them. And it’s been a lot of, there’s a lot of life in that. And so the, the thing that you have to do in order to maintain good roots is, the first thing is always to make sure that you are surrounded by a community that lifts you up that brings you in that supports you. And then you have to maintain that spiritual aspect of yourself. I had a pastor growing up, he’d always say, the natural and the supernatural come together to make an explosive force for God. And that’s kind of the tension that we all have to live in as a Christian is there’s a supernatural side to what we’re doing naturally. And if we don’t curate this supernatural side, if we’re not growing in the supernatural side, what we’re going to wind up doing is burning out on the natural side. So it’s really a marriage of those two coming together to be that bold Christian or be that explosive force for God. So yeah, that’s it. That’s been my experience. That’s what I’ve taken away over the past, you know, five years of doing this.

Justin Price
That’s awesome. I’ve got a I’ve got no follow up on that.

Nik Goodner
That’s’s always good to hear

Mike Mage
he answered the question perfectly. That’s why.

Well, that’s that’s incredible. I think that, especially right now, if I mean, I, I shudder to think about if you were struggling with not us specifically, Nik, but you like General, somebody struggling with isolation, and then all of a sudden a worldwide pandemic hits. And, you know, it’s what a horrible time to start dealing with issues of isolation, whether self imposed or not, when we literally can’t see anybody right now outside of digitally. So I would imagine some creatives are going through that right now. What’s been a way for you, Nick, to sort of mitigate that to not feel so isolated And to continue on with like creative work what’s, what are some some best practices to sort of mitigate isolation right now?

Nik Goodner
Yeah.

Solving the isolation problem is always a two way street. You can have people reaching out. But if you’re not reaching back to other people, you’re not solving the isolation problem. So there is a give and take on both sides. So we can, you know, as a platform creative church can only do so much we can do zoom calls, we can reach out to people, we can text people. You know, we can comment on their feed, we can do things like that. But if someone has drawn into themselves, it’s very hard for them to solve their isolation problems. So the advice comes from both ways be reaching as a platform as a church be reaching out, be doing what you can zoom calls, opportunities for connection, okay? And even even don’t do mass calls do personal calls, I mean, do personal texts, things like that personal emails to connect with people. Don’t just rely on your mass calls because oftentimes, the really, I’m an introvert, that really introverts, the introverted people. I don’t want to be in a room of 100 people on a zoom call. I just don’t I have no desire to do that. Yeah. And that’s always a weird thing for people to hear whenever they’re like, Oh, well, you’re so you know, you’re so you’re so extroverted online. It’s like, Yeah, but that’s exhausting for me. Yeah. I don’t get any life from that. I am very exhausted at the end of that. But, uh, so you know, reaching out to people on that personal level and saying, Hey, man, just thinking about you. You know, what are you up to how you doing? So anything I can do for you things like that things that we’d normally say to reach out to people. And then if you’re on the other side, where it’s like I’m isolated. I i’m not i’m separated from everybody. You have to be able to self identify and say, Hey, I’m going to Do something about this isolation. So I’m going to take up those opportunities for connection. Whenever people text me or you know, I need to text them back, and things like that. So it’s really a two way street that we have to. We both sides, both parties have a responsibility that we have to get the exercise.

Justin Price
Yeah. Hey, Nick, recently on Instagram, you made a post that stated that you were on the innovation side of the creative spectrum. Remember that?

Nik Goodner
Yes.

Justin Price
And you were saying that it was great because it gives you an opportunity to say goodbye to some sacred cows. What are some sacred cows that you feel like as things go back to normal? That you would are specifically calling out?

Nik Goodner
Yes. So can I can I do you mind if I explain the the innovation adaptations for quick? Absolutely, yeah. So this is something I read in a book that I was again, this is one of the things I learned something new every week. I learned this I just picked up a book and I was reading I was like, Oh my god, this is this is interesting. There’s a guy named Michael curtain Creighton, and he’s a cognitive psychologist. And he authored a book in like 1970 ish. And he had a theory on creativity in which everyone is creative. First off, but you have a preferred style for your creativity. So there’s people who are highly adaptive. And then there’s people who are highly innovative. So your adaptors are people who are remixers they take something and they’ll remix it make something beautiful. They trust and pursue that status quo. They look for in rely on inspiration. And then they’re essential for growing organizations you want adapters in your organization’s to be there to run the systems that a pioneer is creating that comes from the innovation side, which is they want to be pioneering. They’re going to be constantly questioning the status quo. They’re gonna be overflowing with like new radical ideas. These are the people like you get around them. They’re like, Oh, we got a new idea. I got a new idea. Oh, got an idea, you’re like, slow down, slow down. We barely got up. This is this is what angers the adapters about the innovators because they’re like, we just we just got the first idea off the ground stop

Justin Price
You’re describing the exact conversation between our operations guy and myself.

Nik Goodner
You know the struggle because the innovators though they’re essential in times of change. So like the COVID-19 is bringing out some innovators right now. And they are thriving, like I’m thriving in this environment. Like we talked about couch Fest, either before the podcast or just beginning of this podcast. And it was stuff like that to just over filled me with joy to do because I felt like we had become a lot super stagnant. And here we’re able to take on these challenges. So we’re so innovators are always very critical in times of change, whereas adapters always flourish and kind of the status quo, maintaining Building. So that’s a innovation adapter spectrum and everyone kind of falls on that spectrum somewhere, I lean towards the innovator side, where I still kind of almost have a foot in that adapter side. And now that I’ve done that and got excited by explaining that, what was the question?

Bring it back around.

Justin Price
We’ll bring it back around. The question was being an innovator. What do you think some of the sacred cows are that we’ve got to let go of as a church?

Nik Goodner
Yes. Okay. Thank you.

First, sacred, first sacred cow and I’m gonna risk my life and career for this one. Do it is is the Sunday morning service. The idea that Sunday morning is the only time that we can gather as a church. The idea that Sunday is our Super Bowl.

I think that’s the first that’s that’s the first Creative, or that’s the first sacred cow.

Mike Mage
Just a small thing there.

Nik Goodner
It’s a small thing. It’s a little one. It’s so true. It’s a it’s a little in for some people. It really has become a sacred cow. Because whenever this started happening, and you know, the government suggested that we closed churches down, we don’t have gatherings of larger than 10 people. People got, I mean, watching the community on social media people got upset. Yeah, like you could tell this. Like, for me, I love online church, I go online church, you know, probably 50 75% of my time on online church. So for me, this wasn’t that big of a deal. But I could see for other people this was almost like ruining their lives. And I think we’ve we’ve held on to the idea that church has to happen on Sunday morning. That it has to that this is, this is this is the only way that we can do church is if we push everything into Sunday. Sunday’s are game day. And then from there, everything’s a ‘B’ program. I think what we’re going to see moving forward is a lot more churches saying, churches an all time thing, like we got to do this every day of the week. This isn’t just once a week thing. We can’t just come in here on a Sunday morning. We have to be doing things to connect people throughout our week and, whether that’s physical or digital, we have to be doing things to connect with people. Like we can’t just come on church on Sunday, and then, you know, throw out our sermon recap videos throughout the week and call that a week. We can’t we can’t do that anymore. We really have to be engaging with people and being with people every single day of the week. So that’s the first sacred cow. It’s a big one. And again, I’m risking my life, career and everything to to say it. I’m sure I’ll get feedback

Justin Price
Can we just camp on that for one second.

Nik Goodner
Yeah, sure.

Justin Price
What you’re describing though, is a problem that Businesses globally are adapting to now. And that is diversification. And anyone who’s got all of their work in one account is risking the health of their organization. I love that you’re describing something that’s actually really dangerous for churches to go back to.

Nik Goodner
Yeah. It is very dangerous. I like in this is a weird thing that people probably don’t know about me, but I like the stock market. And I like investing into companies. You probably don’t know that about me. I don’t really talk about it very much. I didn’t but you didn’t know a lot. Like I said, it’s, it’s very personal. Um, but I’m watching right now what’s happening. I’ve invested some into Darden. Darden is the collection of restaurant melons like olive garden and cheddar and that’s cheddars in this because I worked for Olive Garden for a few years whenever I was in like high school. And so I had investments there and then I put more investments in there. But like what’s happening right now with the Olive Garden is is really showing them that they Can’t go back to what the way things were, like whenever you think the Olive Garden you’re thinking, I’m going to go in there and sit down. And some of you are thinking, dude, that’s gross. Why is he talking about the olive garden?

Mike Mage
The, the real, OG

Nik Goodner
The real OG. and they don’t have I mean, the online ordering for that thing. I tried to order something last night because I call when Olive Garden. It’s income, like it’s it’s impossible to get what you want. And it’s it’s so many layers. It’s not like ordering off of doordash or Uber Eats, it is complicated. And for Darden what they’re experiencing right now as they their stock was at 120 before COVID-19. Their stock is now at like 68 trading at 68. What their what their what they’re seeing right now. Meanwhile, other restaurants in the same spectrum who are already had an online presence, their stocks going up. They’re trending upwards. What they’re seeing right now is we can’t go back to doing things the way that we used to Do them. And the way this idea of you know all we have to have everyone come to the restaurant in order to enjoy our food. We got to rethink how we can do that. And I think the churches in that same Olive Garden boat we are, we cannot depend on everyone coming to us anymore. And that honestly goes against what Jesus told us in the Great Commission, which is to go out to all the world, we’ve become very familiar with the come to us strategy, come to us, come to our event, come to our platform come to our church service. And we’re sitting in our buildings every week waiting for people to come to us versus going out and being interactive with them. And I think, if anything, that’s what COVID-19 is going to change in the heart of the church, and what’s going to make them realize is, oh, this is a very act of faith that we’re involved in. And if we’re going to have longevity and influence and relevance. 30 years from now, we’re going to have to get even more active in the lives of the people that we’re serving in the lives of our community. And that’s not just doing, you know, Park cleanup days that’s actually being on social media that’s actually creating content on a day to day basis. Versus making everyday like I said, game day on Sunday. So that’s the again, it’s, it’s, it’s really. I feel like it’s really breaking creatives. We knew this a long time ago. You talked to creative community, they knew it already. But it’s really breaking down the minds of the pastors a little bit and opening their eyes to Oh, now I get what you were saying, Oh, that makes sense. That’s why we need to be on social media. Okay, so yeah, I get what you mean about going live every day. I thought you were just joking. You know, I mean, you talk to creatives, and that’s what their pastors are saying right now. And it’s very, very clear that a lot of the pastors they weren’t I don’t think they were digging their heels like all we’re, you know, we got to do things this way. I think it was just like, there was no inconvenience for them to change and Change is always prompted by great inconvenience. So like whenever we’re like, that’s the breaking point of change, like, we’re not going to change if it’s really convenient to stay the same. But whenever it becomes inconvenient to say the same, we have to change. And that’s what a lot of pastors are realizing right now is, oh, it’s not convenient to stay the same anymore, which we have with the inconvenience has caused us to rethink our approach. And it’s really a blessing in disguise for how the church can continue into the future.

Mike Mage
Man, I totally agree with you. I think that this idea of the attraction, its attraction, I don’t mean that in like, you know, a negative sense to a certain degree, but like the idea that we need to build buildings, and we need to create services and experiences on one day a week, so that people will come to us. You’re right is like very antithetical to what Jesus called us to do. And that is go out into the green. So go out to where people are. And, you know, I was, we’ve been talking about this a little bit here at the church that I work at. But like, when you have people experiencing God more than just one day out of the more than just one hour out of the week, so there’s 168 hours out of the week, and you have 167 they are not connected to a community of faith, or to a life with God or whatever, you know, the average person is super busy. But yet, we’ll have these weeks, you know, when things were normal years ago, you know, these weeks throughout the summer, where we’d have our kids camp, and we’d have, you know, hundreds of volunteers on campus, and that’s going Monday through Friday, and then we get to our Saturday and Sunday services. And wow, wouldn’t you know, that, like our worship experience was actually so much higher, like the engagement was through the roof or, you know, we do our student camp and it’s the same thing. They’re going out on mission projects, and then they come back in You know, like they, they have their own worship experience too. But again, it’s involving everybody in the church, from kids to students to adults. And then when we get back like those are some of the best weekend’s we have in engagement for worship, because people are actively engaged in what God is doing throughout the week. So it’s almost like what you’re describing Nik is, like this flywheel effect of like this momentum. And you know, we come in whenever it is, or we experience God, but it only goes to like, encourage and build upon itself. Isn’t that kind of what you’re describing?

Nik Goodner
Yeah, yeah. It’s really getting everyone to become participants in what God is doing. Because the more we participate, the more buy in that we’re all going to have. And I think that, you know, making sure that because right now, the majority of the church doesn’t participate in the Sunday morning service. And that’s, I don’t need I don’t need data to tell me that I can go to any church in America. Know that, you know the majority of the people sitting in these pews, they’re just here to enjoy worship. Enjoy the speaking and then they’re going to go home. And yeah, that’s that’s a little bit of participation but I’m talking about actual serving in the church actual being a part of the church, the majority of the church isn’t, isn’t doing that. And we know what you and we all know here is that whenever you’re actively serving in the church, your buy in to what’s going on your relationship with God, it goes up because you’re actually participating in the work that he’s doing. You’re seeing that behind the scenes. And if you’re in a healthy church, it’s fueling you to be to develop spiritually if you’re an unhealthy church. It could be burning you out. But as long as you’re in a healthy church that serving is going to be something that cat is is is catalysts for your relationship with God. And I really get the participation factor for getting that church at getting the church. Everybody participating on a weekly basis is so, so important.

Justin Price
Nik, we want to be respectful of your time. But I would love to give you the opportunity to talk about another sacred cow if you’d like to, if you had another thing.

Nik Goodner
So the other sacred cow since I did one for pastors, I better do one for creatives.

Justin Price
Buckle up, Mike

Mike Mage
Yeah, sure.

Nik Goodner
Hold on everybody.

The other sacred cow is for creatives that I’m seeing is in this season. They’re finding it hard to relinquish creativity to everyone else. They’re kind of holding it as I’m the creative. You all aren’t creative. And the I think we’re talking about a little bit earlier how there’s kind of this stigmatism amongst creative that we kind of think above the people, right. There’s a little A lot of that going on, I think what the sacred cow for us creatives is, you know, the pastor that I’m serving, he isn’t my enemy. He can have creative thoughts and ideas, just like I can have creative thoughts and ideas. And that leads to better collaboration, because what I hear from a lot of creatives is they want to collaborate, but they want to collaborate with other creatives. And what I always go back and ask them when I’m talking to them is, what are you doing to collaborate with your pastor, your student minister, how are you collaborating on that level? Or are you just trying to collaborate with the big name creative right now because you want that recognition? Because there’s a there’s, you’re going to be a lot healthier. If you’re used to collaborating with the people that you’re serving with, versus trying to collaborate with somebody who’s making a name for themselves in the creative church space. It’s, it’s important that creatives during this time we have to remember That we are not the sole bearers of creativity, that God does not give us all the creative ideas for design for film for video, we are here, and God has placed us in this season in this time in this place, so that we can serve the people of our community and the people that are around us are going to have ideas that we’re going to be able to build off of and facilitate that are going to change the world for the lives of the communities or for the lives of the people in our communities. So that’s the sacred cow for creatives right now is relinquish some of that creative standing and understand that it is okay to collaborate with people who you deem not as creative as you.

Mike Mage
I don’t relate to that at all. It’s fine. Fine, no. You’re not talking about me, it’s fine. Everything’s fine.

Nik Goodner
I think I just risked my life and career on that one too.

Justin Price
Risky

Mike Mage
You’re so right though. It’s crazy like this. It feels like Right now is a it’s just a magnification of so much of what’s happening. And, or a polarization almost. And, you know, like in church work, you’re seeing who you’re seeing who’s worked, who works hard and who doesn’t work hard. Or you’re, you know, you’re seeing creatives really tried to be creative, but it almost feels like you’re trying to draw this line in the sand. And, you know, like, that’s not, that’s not that shouldn’t be our goal. Our goal should be to try and, you know, reach as many people as we can to, to connect as many people as we can, in whatever way that is successful. And, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s rising above that, and I think that you’re so right, because it’s just, and then again, you know, when we when we head back into church, we need to keep that same mindset of being able to work with our children’s person who literally wants to use clipart and you know, like in there Whatever their their Sunday morning, talk to their kids. And, you know, try and work with them and get good video content or whatever, there’s, there’s so many things that we can do better. And this whole experience of the pandemic and everything is really shining a giant, magnifying or light in a magnifying glass on all those problems. So you’re totally totally right,

Justin Price
Those two sacred cows, when you think about it, they could change for the creatives and for the churches, such an, a huge impact that they could have on the kingdom, and on the world, just letting go of those two things. Think about the kind of people whose ideas could be heard by creatives, if you would relinquish that thought that I can only work with really great creatives or they’re the only ones that have good ideas, the kind of impact that that kind of inclusiveness could make mixed with letting go of Sunday morning, as another sacred cow is, is really, really exciting for me as somebody who has Loves dreaming and thinking about the future, Nik, man, you’re the real deal Your heart is showing through in this. For anybody who’s wondering if creative church is just a show or a sales gimmick or something. It’s not Nik, what you’re throwing down is so inspiring. I hope that what what you’re saying in this message does stick and we’ll reach, you know, our friends, some of the church community, and will make an impact.

Mike Mage
Yeah, Nik, real quick before we let you go, where are some places people can get you or can connect with you?

Nik Goodner
Yeah, well, first, I just want to thank you guys for what you’re doing here. The Healthy church growth podcast. I believe what you guys are doing is phenomenal. Because in this season, and then the seasons that are going to follow, having healthy church growth is going to be is going to matter more than having explosive church growth. Because if you have explosive church growth and you do not have it healthily, what you’re going to wind up is burnout. You’re going to wind up with burning out other people, and you’re going to wind up with toxic environments. They were Spit people out and have have have these these people have a bad experience with the church. So what you guys are doing here with this podcast, I really appreciate it. And I thank you guys and I just didn’t want to champion you to keep doing what you’re doing and I’m so excited to see what you guys are gonna create next. Yeah, totally, uh, you know, You embarrassed me at the beginning of the end. So if you guys if you’re looking for me, the best place to find me is on Instagram, @NikGoodner.That’s me personally. Also Facebook, on Facebook a lot. And that’s just, you know, just search Nik Goodner, names all the same. And then if you’re looking for creative church, if you’re creative, who is isolated, they want to community someone that they can feel connected to someone that can encourage them, inspire them, empower them to be creative every day. You’re gonna fall in one of all creative church in @CRTVchurch. And that’s it. creators on Instagram at all the other platforms and then of course CRTVchurch.com. And then if you’re if you’re younger and you want to see some really awful tik toks no I’m joking.

Mike Mage
Let’s do it.

Nik Goodner
It’s Nik Goodner at a I don’t even know how Tik Tok works. Just searching a dinner and I’ll pop up. You know, I have 20 I this. Three days ago, I posted a video and I have 20,000 views. And I keep telling my like baby sister, like who’s 14 who’s been trying to get you know, all this recognition. I mean, like, yeah, you know, I’m famous on tik tok. Now, you know, being smug about it. But what I learned the secret to my tik toks are is if I’m not in them, they’re a lot funnier. So, yeah,

Mike Mage
there’s that ego thing kind of all back to it. That’s that’s, you learn how to come up with that. Yeah. Yeah.

Well, cool. Well, Nick, thank you. You so much this has been an absolute treat. like Justin said, Love your heart.

Nik Goodner
Thank you. Thank you guys for what you’re doing. I appreciate you having me on. And I look forward to you know, getting to know you guys more.

Justin Price
Yeah, yeah. Thanks, Nik.

Holy smokes Mike. I don’t think anyone could argue what an encouraging word that was from from Nick, that we can definitely pull creative ideas from everywhere from everybody’s got good, valid things to add to bring to the table. Yeah. That you know, I love. I’d love a phone call from anybody who feels like that’s not a valid sacred cow. Sure, but I’m curious for you. Who has to plan worship for Sunday morning this week? Yeah. morial Day weekend. does not get a four day weekend, right or three How did you feel about that statement? I mean, he just kind of ease right into it. He did.

Mike Mage
Yeah, he’s smooth talk to us right into saying, Hey, I mean, you heard his voice. that dude’s got a voice on him. And yeah, yeah, so he’s just dropping that bomb so easily. And yeah, it took me a while to really like sit with that. And I, the more I started thinking about it, the crazier it is. But honestly, the more right he is, and I just I really do think that there’s something to the idea that people need to experience the church more than just on one hour a week. And you know, the math is simple, like there’s 168 hours in a week. And if people go 167 hours without hearing from the church once and then they pick it back up for one hour out of the week. I mean, like it’s, it’s going to not be as good as it could be. If they were able, in some way, shape or form to experience the kingdom of God throughout the week, and and I think, you know, moving past that to it doesn’t need to be programming. I think it like, I mean, you know, you worked at a church, like churches love programming, they love it. And like what do we do there? Mike? Yeah, it’s events and it’s classes and it’s, you know, all that kind of stuff. And I, honestly I don’t know. And like, again, you know, it’s weird too, because people’s jobs are tied into programming, you know? And so what happens when all that programming goes away? And you know, how do I do my job then? Because it’s not it’s not a calling anymore. It’s a job. And so how do i do my job now? And so I think those are the type of questions that people really do need to be asking.

Justin Price
It’s gonna be really tough, I think for people to process forward. And I’m super excited. I think as I can Unity for creatives to come together and try to figure it out together, I think if one church had to try to just figure it out, and then tell everybody else how to do it, I think that’s not a great recipe for what the world needs moving forward. I do think, though, that there is a lot to uncover about even how we measure success. You know, I mean, Jesus, like we all measure the success of our church based on the amount of donations we get, and the number of butts in the seats, or even views on the online church. It’s like, but that doesn’t measure discipleship that’s happening like daily. Yeah, well, even if we’re like, well, these people are engaged in small groups. But that doesn’t really measure discipleship, but you could, through digital devices, measure engagement by people who are checking in getting resources on a daily basis, you could definitely check, right, your social media engagement. I think some closed groups certainly could be better utilized from some church congregations for people Unity sake, even like groups like, this is a needs based like I don’t do you guys have that a bay hope like, here’s something that we like I’ve got a need I can go on Facebook and a private group of gay hope people and I can put that do you have that?

Mike Mage
yep yeah we have we have a cool we have a moms mentoring moms group we have a a just recently we started because we haven’t seen a worship team at all, you know, we invited everybody who’s on a worship team into our Facebook group and like, you know, like that’s a point of engagement that we have now that’s like even better than we had pre COVID because like that people are on there interacting. But it’s, it’s closed. It’s not for like worldwide consumption. We’re not trying to market stuff like we’re right. We’re only doing it because we know that people we need to connect with people and people need to connect with Jesus

Justin Price
in those groups just from a like a marketing standpoint. those groups Are are great because they do notify you really well. Yeah, and there’s all those groups. So like it’s it’s harder to miss something. And when it’s like your friends, these are the people that you’re used to being on stage with. They’re talking, you want to jump onto Facebook for that I don’t really want to jump onto Facebook for a whole lot, but that either would jump onto Facebook. There’s a lot for us to learn. I feel like we just kind of ripped off the bandaid on something that maybe a lot of people haven’t really considered. I think a lot of people are still like, well, maybe there’s just a you know, eventually we’ll be able to get back to how it was. Yeah, yeah, this week has been nothing but talk of new normal. I feel every single conversation I don’t know who who’s starting that but good job, whoever is getting that going. Because it’s it’s very relevant. And yeah, and definitely a good way to describe it. So we’ll be talking about the new normal a lot here and cannot wait for you all to to hear the rest of the the conversations that have been happening. They get released every other week. Right here. If you are not subscribed, now is the time. Mike, tell them how they can subscribe. Oh, yeah,

Mike Mage
you can subscribe anywhere that you find your podcast. So Apple podcast, Spotify, I’m sure that there’s plenty of other places, but those are that’s the majority where people are listening. And you can also go to our website, healthy church growth.org. And you can also find us on Instagram and Facebook, make sure to go there. Check out all the content that we’re posting. I’m trying to be on there a lot more, wanting to have conversations with you as much as possible. So, next podcast, Justin and I just recorded an interview with the experienced director at bay hope church, Melissa Minor, who just happens to be my sister. And we are talking a lot about what is it going to look like when churches do reopen eventually, and it’s an incredible conversation, one that I think more and more of you are going to be having.

Thanks again for listening to the Healthy Church Growth Podcast where we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life.

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