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.