Are You Burned Out? –  How to Refuel as a Creative in Ministry

Is your self-care reservoir low? In this NEW episode of the Healthy Church Growth podcast, Justin Price (@techjustinrp), the founder of Vers Creative (@vers_creative) and Mike Mage (@mikemage), worship director at Bay Hope Church and host of the Healthy Church Growth Podcast discuss how to avoid burnout and find inspiration in hidden places.


Transcriptions:

Mike Mage  

Welcome to the healthy church growth podcast, we are so glad that you are here that you have joined us to be a part of this episode of healthy church growth. My name is Mike, I’m one of the hosts here. And real quick before we jump in, and before we get started, I just want to say thank you so much for engaging with us, thank you so much for sharing for subscribing. For you know, hopping in on the comments on our Instagram and on Facebook, it’s so great to hear from you. It’s so great to, to be in this together. And to talk to talk about these things together today. Justin and I were actually going to do just sort of a discussion together. And I was talking with Justin earlier today, and was kind of just, you know, thinking about where the church is, and obviously, you know, Justin, you have the, you have the ability running a creative agency to sort of intersect with the church. And, you know, sort of really interject or inject your creative marketing and creative principles into the church and help out churches that way. I honestly, I have the privilege of working in a church. And especially, you know, with 2020 this year, it’s just obviously been a weird year for everybody. And getting a feeling and a sense from a lot of the people that I work with a lot of people that I’m friends with that work at churches, it’s just been, it’s been a hard year, I feel like people are starting to get kind of burnt out maybe starting to get you know, kind of feel aimless, kind of like they’re wandering in sort of unknown territory. Justin, have you? Have you kind of felt that with sort of the the people that you’ve been interacting with in the church?

Justin Price  

Well, sure. I don’t think it’s just a problem that’s inside of the church, I think everybody is, is certainly feeling a sense of weight crossed. What is happening culturally, in our in our entire world. And I don’t just mean, you know, the big topics, there’s been some huge shifts with technology. There’s been some huge shifts, with workplaces, there’s been huge shifts economically, there’s been huge shifts, obviously, with illness and our health. Everything has been so upgraded that I think that that everybody is struggling to figure out in the heaviness and the heavier seasons. How do we, how do we get creative? How do we feel inspired? Sometimes I think that we feel like it is hard to be inspired when things are not going well. I don’t know. Have you ever heard that or thought that it’s like, I can’t really be inspired right now. Some so and so is going through this in my life? My mom is sick and in the hospital? Oh, yeah. So I’m overwhelmed with that. And I think, really, really great creatives naturally pull those difficult times. And you’ve seen this now for the last like six months, I’ve seen some of the most amazing worship songs like some of the most raw and real and we you know, we both posted yesterday. Yeah, on current song, it’s like, what it just, I feel like he just really stripped a lot of christianese out and it’s just like, such good theme of life. Hey, you know what, I just know that you’re gonna be God at the finish line, you know, in the middle, I’m not done. We’re not done. God’s not done. But he’s still gonna be there. He’s still gonna be got to the finish line.

Mike Mage  

Right. Right. Well, it’s like the one thing we can stand on right now. Exactly.

Justin Price  

Yeah, we need to and but I feel like really great creatives, you know, they, they find a new sense of inspiration. They pull in, they can, they can translate, and they can follow it. And oftentimes, the idea is, like, naturally that can happen, you know, naturally, we can be more in tune with that and be, you know, artists can sometimes be more in tune with that. And really pull from it. But then there’s a lot of other people who are not, they’re creatives, but they’re not necessarily artists. And so, you know, we said this might be really interesting, just to talk about what are some things for those of us who are not naturally just inclined to, you know, see something bad and be like, Oh, that’s, I’m inspired to do X, Y, or Z, you know?

Mike Mage  

Sure. Well, in what’s funny is, I feel like in 2020, over the past, you know, six months or whatever, everybody, especially for me, and so this is coming out of, you know, my personal experience, but I’m sure it affects a lot of different people in pretty much the same way. But there’s a lot of people that are now put into situations where they have to be creative, and not necessarily like you’re saying, like artistically creative, but they have to problem solve for problems that they didn’t even know existed or, you know, that the past six months has really accelerated to being in the forefront. And, and so, you know, as you and I were sort of talking about this beforehand, you know, inspiration And kind of feels like it hits us from out of nowhere. And in a know, you’re kind of saying like, it’s almost feel like when things get tough, it almost feels like we’re not even open to it. So like, so even when things are good, it feels like it sort of just smacks people upside the head, when really, that’s not how inspiration works at all, you know, like it is it is a muscle that you have to work. It’s a, it’s something you have to cultivate. And obviously, for you working in a creative agency, and you know, being a part of music, and videos, and all that kind of stuff, and me sort of being in the same realm to a certain extent, but in the church, I’d love for us to just to kind of strip away maybe some of the mystery, behind inspiration at all. And so I know you had some good thoughts about this. And so I mean, I’ll just, I’ll throw it to you just, you know, to get us started here.

Justin Price  

Thanks, Mike, I want to unpack this like three dirty secrets, that if you’re not a seasoned creative, where you’re not flexing that muscle and you haven’t, maybe you’re in year one or two, or even three into your role as a creative, you’ve been through college, you’ve maybe not been through college, either way, you’re solving problems. But you’re not, you haven’t been through enough seasons, maybe to be able to give yourself the grace on some of these things. And so I hope these are really helpful to maybe take some of the pressure some of the weight off of your back, and to maybe say, hey, it’s, it’s okay. If you follow some of these principles, these are definitely not the building blocks to all, you know, the end all of inspiration. But yeah, they’re three dirty secrets. The first one is kind of kind of a big one, one that I probably 12-15 years into being a creative kind of a was exposed to. And this one is this, developing your taste comes through exposure of quality. And so the secret here is that you’re actually not born with taste. You’re born into it. And what that means is that you’re really the culture that you’re brought up in, the way that you are exposed, the things that you’re exposed to, the quality levels you’re exposed to. Those really impact your taste. And so you know, when you say like, hey, that that’s a great designer, what makes them great? Well, there’s like one, there’s principles of design. And if you’ve never been exposed to good design, you only can emulate what you have been exposed to, like, Sure, it’s not a natural occurrence that you just are really great. And that is something that I don’t think a lot of people talk about, I think that you just think like, oh, man, Mike’s really great songwriter. And when you talk when you actually talk to most great musicians, their parents brought them up playing good music, like, right, not just jazz, or not just classical or not just like the best musicians in the world, but like, oftentimes, like with pop musicians, their parents brought them up, like listening to some stuff with some really freaking good hooks. You know? Yeah, totally. Some really good funk, some really good. Whatever it is, like, ya know, it’s taste is developed by your exposure to quality. Yeah, you know, and so it’s actually kind of like food, too. It’s like, you don’t know how to make something you don’t know if something tastes good or bad. The more things that you try and taste the more places you go the different cultures, you taste those foods. Sure, you can start to develop a palette, right? Yeah. But like, if all you’ve ever eaten my wife, my wife like grew up, like just eating bagels. And like five meals, her dad was like, he did not. He didn’t like anything. So they had like the five meals they recycled every week. And when we started like, dating, I’d be like, hey, do you want to go get some Vietnamese? And she’d be like, That’s gross. I don’t like that. The reality is, is she still doesn’t like it today. But but there was a lot of other foods that she did get to try that she told me she didn’t like, and after getting to try and getting exposed to good quality versions of those foods all the sudden, like, Oh, I like that I’m attracted. So it was that exposure to that quality. So I think that’s a huge one for me.

Mike Mage  

Well, and I do think too, like there’s something it’s it’s naive, obviously. But I remember going through college and in the music school, and thinking about why in the world do I need to learn about all this theory and all of this, you know, I’m never going to use this stuff. Yeah. And it’s, it is some of y’all think that Yeah, right. Okay. It’s gonna say some well in and honestly some of it’s true. I didn’t mean to learn some of the real like ridiculous 20th century music theory stuff, but like a lot of that bedrock in the foundation of it, if I didn’t learn that, there’s no way that I would be able to know how certain things are supposed to fit together so that when I go to sit down and write something, I have like some sort of starting point, because I do think that’s part of the reason so many people feel like they’re feel like they’re stuck is because they don’t even know where to start from. And so, you know, you, if you if you open yourself up, and you start developing your tastes, with quality influences, you know, like, you’ll, you’ll really start to, you know, at least find a place to start. And yeah, I mean, like, emulation is how everybody gets started. And, you know, like, you think about stand up comedians, you think about artists, you think about musicians, whoever, you know, like it is, it’s, it’s literally the places I mean, I mean, I remember, as a long time ago, but when reason came out, or when it started to become like a real big thing in the worship, when in reason, if you don’t know, it’s like a mini sequencing, you know, electronic music platform that you can have on a computer. And I remember the David Crowder band used to give away the reason files. And the only reason no pun intended, that I knew how to actually use that program was because I literally just would sit and I would go through each individual instrument, absolutely see how it was routed, see how, you know, it was mapped and all that kind of stuff. But I was just I was that’s in like, I use reason all throughout bellary studio albums. And so like, but but because I opened myself up to that.

Justin Price  

So it was Crowder files were so good. I remember, I was running a recording studio when he released those. And it really unlocked a lot of like new ideas and thinking, yeah, you know, and right to that, to that measure, like at every studio I’ve ever gone to I go to a lot of sessions early on to just see how other engineers would set up their session, you know, what’s their what is their chain? You know, right? Is this like sidechain compression thing? Like, what is that? What’s the mask? Oh, man, there’s a two inch tape session happening over here. Like, let’s go see the difference between that. And why does that sound so much better than mine? You have my whatever, Digi Oh, three. It’s important for you, you know, I wanted to give you guys some practical things that that we fall into, as you know, being paid to do this professionally by so many clients and having so many was a principal, having so many other staff that depend on me to be a source of inspiration. They depend on me to guide it at least if nothing else, you know? Sure. Yeah. I have found that. Inspiration is everywhere, you know, and like, everybody has their own voice and their own style and things like that. But you have got to you have got to be okay with just being comfortable with the things that you’re comfortable with. And so I was gonna say like, find your inspiration where you find rest. Or you might even say it, like, where you’re where you really like the vibe? Yeah. So whether it’s visually or musically or whatever. Sure. Sure. Start there.

Mike Mage  

Yeah, well in like this is, this is so funny, because I do feel like this is where again, people get really stuck because you start comparing yourself to other people. And it’s literally it’s taken me until, you know, like, relatively recently, to be okay with the things that I can that I can that I can create that that almost just like flow from me. And that’s not like super hard for me. Because it’s almost I almost feel like, like, well, I’m sick of hearing what I do. Yeah. But like I almost I’m having to like shift. And we were talking about psychology of things a little bit before this. But I have to shift the psychology of the things that like that, that I can create, because, you know, honestly, like it, it helps to like show it to other people. And when people like reinforce like, Oh, that’s pretty good. I was like, Oh, I guess I guess that is good, even though like I feel like it was so easy, and all that kind of stuff. But the things that I’m naturally inclined to do. That might be really the way that I’m wired. And if I really lean into that, you know, that might be like this, a new fresh expression, within whatever creative community that you’re a part of, and it might be exactly what some people need. So it’s hard to to not get hung up on that, which I know sounds really weird. But each person has their own specific voice and their own unique wiring. And you can only be yourself so

Justin Price  

alright, so that let’s just say this yourself can develop better taste. yourself can start off not liking Vietnamese food. Can can end up enjoying the best Vietnamese food. If you expose yourself to good quality and good quality for you and exposing yourself to everything in the world is not possible. Most of us can’t afford to expose ourselves to all the great quality in the world, whether that’s art or music, or food, or whatever it is culturally. But just keep exploring, keep being curious. And then when you find the thing that you feel comfortable and just own it be you be that version of you and say that is I’m going to develop my taste is me, even if I’m copying other people, even if I’m inspired by other people’s work, and even if I’m copying, you know, specifically unpacking David Crowder’s reason files, if I do that, and it feels good to me, and it makes sense to me. And now the sudden like, the guy who couldn’t figure out how to ever make that sound before now knows how to make that sound. And I love the sound on those little things that unlock just be okay with owning that thing, that’s you and then sit in that space, and be able to know that finding inspiration for you is you being able to also rest and find that vibe, there’s some freedom in that because I think sometimes like we follow inspiration needs to always be the uncomfortable tasting Vietnamese for the first time. I think your last point kind of ties in really well to my next dirty secret. Okay, this one is really simple. And it’s something that people say a lot. And that is, you know, that great, you know, creatives steal, you know, and I just, I just want to twist that just a little bit like, okay, so when you’re looking for your inspiration, stop stealing from your next door neighbor, super awkward if you steal the bike out of your next door neighbor’s garage, and you go riding down the street, right? All the sudden, they’re like, you know, hey, that’s our bike. That’s really lame, yet. I mean, and No, nobody in that listens to this podcast would do something like that, obviously.

Mike Mage  

But yet, we have the best listeners. Yeah, they would never do that

Justin Price  

yet. I see so many churches, steal the creative. All this church just did this. And they were like one mile apart. In this one community in Tennessee, do this thing. And it’s like, yeah, it’s 20 years old, and they just have been stealing from you guys have missed the boat. Yeah, it was happening in London. And so I just say this, just leave the country. Don’t even don’t even leave your city. Just leave the country. And that is. So it’s definitely steal your ideas. You know, definitely look at how other people make it. But try to push your exposure outside of your close local bubble. And that means verticals, to churches, do not steal from churches, don’t steal from other churches, look at what’s unique to you, and your location and your geographic and find other verticals to steal from. right for me a big unlocker as a creative at a church was to start stealing from hospitality. If you have not followed anything from Ritz Carlton, you need to turn this podcast off and go find out. Yeah, but I mean, that was a huge on locker and to the point where like when we we had an opportunity to really expand some things instead of hiring like, so most people like hire church furniture people, like there’s literally like sales reps that sell chairs, right? Right. Like I don’t want to buy church chairs, I want to buy hospitality chairs, I want our lobby to be quality and comfortable. And I wanted to set this mood when people walk in, I want I want the same quality of carpet that these people wish they had, you know or wanted, you know, want to have that kind of experience when they go for a resort if they could have they go to church on Sunday. What a great experience they can leave with. Right not saying, well, gods are over the top. But sure, steal from those principles and don’t just stay in your market and your vertical.

Mike Mage  

Right. Well, I yeah, I think it’s a it’s a it’s a super important to open yourself up to as much inspiration as possible, even if it’s so like, for me, I’m a worship director. But I really love to watch TV shows and movies. And to see how, how they use music as a way to influence people’s emotion to be able to connect what is actually happening on the screen. And because if I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a movie without music, but it’s it’s terrible. It’s a horrible movie. There’s a reason it’s in there. And they’ve been you know, that that idea has been around for you know, hundreds of years, even back operas and all that kind of stuff. I mean, like the music influences what is happening. And so for me as a worship director, like I don’t necessarily want to just listen to songs. I want to know how to be able to use music in a way that can really connect people. So to me there’s there’s a very thin line between looking at other churches. is in what is working well? And is it that’s different than like stealing things? Does that make sense what I’m saying, I feel like there’s a, there’s there’s ways that we can look at churches and be able to understand why things are working. But it doesn’t mean that we necessarily have to steal the exact thing that they’re doing. It’s almost like we have to interpret what it works, and put it and if we develop our taste and quality and all that kind of stuff, personally, we filter it through that, to be able to make those underlying principles be able to sort of raise the tide of, you know, what we’re doing. Does that make sense? I guess not churches, I mean, like in other other outside of the church as well. So like, I love that idea of looking outside the church. That’s not I didn’t mean just churches. Yeah,

Justin Price  

I mean, obviously, you we talk a lot about like, take the take the heart, apply your heart to other great ideas. So either take the idea and apply your heart to it, or take the heart and apply your ideas to it.

Mike Mage  

That’s a really great, yeah, I love that. Well, cool. Well, I really do, I think this is this is super helpful. And in a really great topic to even, you know, discuss in a time when it feels like people are just void of inspiration, whether they’re burnt out, or you know, just because things constantly keep changing,

Justin Price  

I’ve got one more. So the third dirty little secret is that being a creative professional, does not make you an idea spring. And so what I mean by that is that creative professionals are a whole lot more like reservoirs than springs. So we’re often tapped for the source of an idea, or to problem solve something, we’re given a problem every Sunday to figure out how to take people and hopefully take them into a place where they are growing in their relationship with God. And so yeah, we got to figure out a new way, a fresh way to do that, we got to keep bringing water from that spring, and people just keep assuming that we can continue to keep producing it. And when we don’t, they get super upset. But the reality is, is you have to know that you yourself are a reservoir reservoir has to be refilled. And it also evaporates. So there’s an evaporation rate. As you are also using it, you are also getting rid of it. But but just not using it. Right, by not filling it all the time, you are really really jacking yourself up. And so as a practical tip, I would just say, if you can do one thing for your own health, for your mental health as a creative professional, you have got to put temperature checks weekly and monthly, and making sure that you are refilling wheat. So we I’m the principal at an agency. And right now, we are lucky if we produce more than 50% of the time, then we pay our staff, sure to just want you to like get

Mike Mage  

pretty good. That’s pretty good.

Justin Price  

Yeah. 60 is like the sweet spot, you know, but there’s plenty seasons, plenty of seasons, especially when there’s high change. where 50 40% is all we can produce. Where’s the other time going? It’s not all spend just like, you know, doing podcasts? It is? It’s it’s spent refilling because you cannot produce there anybody who looks at their staff hours and a lot and says, Well, I have 40 hours per person and minus staff meeting and minus Bible study that we expect him to do on Thursday and minus practice and rehearsal. And so now, you know, Joe over there, he’s got like 30 hours, give or take to do videos, Why could he not produce a 30 a great video in 30 hours, every single week? And then, you know, two to three videos every every once a month? I’m gonna double up on him. Why can’t Why can’t he did 30 hours? You know, I mean, tease Yeah, that’s the expectation we always have. It’s like Joe’s got maybe, maybe 10 hours after he handles the rest of the relationship gets interrupted 1000 times. And even in a healthy work environment, he should realistically be working, maybe producing about 15 to 20 hours worth of actual good quality, productive, creative that is fresh and good. And we’re not doing that. Like the culture The church is not doing that. A lot of creative agencies don’t do that a lot of creatives don’t do that. And then the word burnout is so relevant in our industry, because we set really unrealistic expectations for refilling the reservoir and we just expect these creative people because they love it that they’re going to be springs or or we like to just plan a card of like well because this is a cool thing to do like because this is like because this feeds your soul to do it that you can refill on your own time which by the way, man you should refill on in your own time, sure, for your own sake, for your own fun. But yeah, um, yeah, that, that refill, if you’re not checking into say like, did I refill Am I doing it, then you are going to burn out, you will run dry, you will be frustrated, you will be empty with ideas and your ideas will suck. And it’s not because you suck. And it’s not because you’re a bad creative, it’s because you didn’t take care of yourself and refill that reservoir. So there it is. The third dirty secret. nobody really wants to hear that. I’m giving you permission. That is an industry standard is 60%. In the creative industry, for professionals who do high quality work, if you produce 60% of the time that you work, that is good.

Mike Mage  

Yeah, your top the top of the line there exactly. Well, man that that is so precious for what we’re what we’re in right now. And then just in general man, I just I really felt like you just you’re pushing on a bruise a little bit, because I find myself convicted of that expecting more of people. But I also find myself being represented in what you’re talking about. And, you know, I think we especially in the church, man, you are like, Man, it’s it’s a it’s a it’s a thing people try to do all the times like, well, you’re, you know, you’re doing your part of like the kingdom, you know, you’re doing things that are changing people’s lives. And you should love this and yada yada, you know, you should really be motivated to do this. And while that’s true, we are still only people we’re not like you’re saying idea springs, basically, we’re not stinking superheroes. You know, we’re still we’re still flawed humans who need this time to refill, to reengage and then to produce. And I do and I love how you’re saying to that, like the inspiration can evaporate. Meaning that like we have to do something with it. So like we have to be in charge of refilling and in cognizant of that. But we also have to be aware that we need to that we actually need to turn around and do something with that inspiration. Because otherwise like it’s gone. Yeah, so man, this has been this has been incredible Justin, really, really good stuff. And for you as the listener, if you have a comment or you know, if you think that there’s there’s something that we missed, maybe you have a dirty secret when it comes to inspiration, we would love for you to leave a comment on our Instagram, when we post this podcast and yeah, so and this has been an incredible conversation. So Justin, thank you so much.

Justin Price  

Thanks, Mike. Yeah, I couldn’t I I hope that that this is good for you. And it’s great for me to even just be reminded, you know, and I think dirty secrets because it’s I’m just saying like, we’re kind of getting into the dirt. This is the stuff that like people don’t really want to talk about. It’s not, it’s really not the great side of creative. I would rather talk about how to create like really awesome stuff with low belly time or something like that. Yeah, but this is the reality. It’s the truth, you know, and so it’s taken a lot of there’s been a lot of painful years that have gone into for me to maybe admit these secrets, some of these but you know, we got a chance to talk with another creative who has been in the game at a really high level for a long time.

Mike Mage  

It’s it’s going to be an incredible podcast and Justin you and i i mean it felt like we got to find out that we had a long lost friend for it is we discovered a friendship we didn’t even know existed and Verizon. Yeah, it was it was awesome. So make sure to tune in for the next healthy church growth podcast where we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life.