A few months back, my buddy Joel told me about a church called NewSpring in South Carolina. We had heard amazing things were happening over there, and that new people were meeting Jesus at an almost viral level. At multiple times, at multiple campuses, thousands of people worship at one of NewSpring Church’s weekly gatherings.
Joel and I both work at a church creating media & production. We’re just sick enough to use vacation time to roadtrip hundreds of miles…..to another church. We drove from Delaware to South Carolina. Not just to see media, but to see what God’s doing at NewSpring. And suspicions were confirmed. Lives are being changed over there. That church had some of the most caring, friendly people I’ve met to date….
….And the media flat-out rocked.
Ken Wilson is NewSpring’s AV Director. He’s also a father, husband, and one of those “friendly people” I just mentioned. Through the magic of the internets, Ken was gracious enough to let us pick his brain, and ask him what makes one of NewSpring’s creatives tick.
The interview questions were framed to help as broad a group of people as possible. Churches come in all shapes and sizes. Our churches are as diverse as the people that fill them.
Craig Groeschel said once,
“If someone’s farther along than us, we don’t want to just know what they do every single day.
We want to know how they think.”
What books do they read? What have they learned along the way? How do they renew their creative juices when things are getting dry?
My hope is that you’ll be able to draw from some of Ken’s experience where applicable in your own ministries. So without further ado, here are 5 questions for Ken Wilson of NewSpring Church:
5 Questions for Ken Wilson of NewSpring Church
1. Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew going into your job?
It would have been nice to have learned some actual knowledge of, oh, video, design, Photoshop, After Effects, or using a camera. I was fortunate to come on staff where it was expected that I would learn.
2. You serve with a team insanely creative people. What books, talks, ideas or people have been instrumental in helping you reach your current level of leadership?
First and foremost the Bible is the major influence over my life. Speaking strictly from a leadership standpoint it governs how I lead my team, my family, and how I interact with everyone on a daily basis. There is no subject, conflict, authority, etc., that isn’t covered.
Beyond that, there have been a few books/talks that have been monumental for me. Jim Collin’s Good to Great is phenominal.
I loved Gordon McKenzie’s Orbiting the Giant Hairball; it offers great insight on how to lead creatives.
I heard Mark Miller give a talk on creativity one year at the Willow Creek Arts Conference that I still recall. Hearing his thoughts on creativity and brainstorming, and how to guide those effectively, was pivotal for me.
3. How do you keep fresh eyes? What do you do for inspiration?
I keep a fully stocked RSS reader which I scan daily, and have learned to also keep an active notebook to capture ideas.To keep fresh ideas it’s important to beg God for them. He is the author of creativity. I am able to be creative because He gifts that to me.
Beyond that I’ve found it important to learn to keep myself open to reading a lot, watching a lot of movies, and being willing to venture into things that don’t exactly fit my personal preferences.
Also, it’s good not to get too tired, or at least to allow myself to rest. Better ideas flow when you’re fresher (that’s not always the case, but tends to hold true).
4. How does a typical brainstorming session look for your team? (Who’s involved, How long does it last, etc.)
It varies. For our main services my boss, the creative arts pastor, puts together a team of 8-12 to go through the pastor’s message. Our pastor prepares a manuscript for us to review the day before, about 1-2 pages, and includes questions to help him drill down on points in the message. We go through that for an hour, helping him fill in the gaps. After that we talk through any additional creative elements.
Occasionally out of that meeting I’ll initiate another brainstorm with some of our creative artists where we’ll dig deeper into a piece requested (sometimes they have specific parameters, sometimes they’re more open) and we’ll think through the best way to execute. Usually this involves a whiteboard. If it seems pretty fluid ….that’s because it is.
Sometimes brainstorms are formal. Sometimes they’re much more loose.
5. What advice would you have for churches just starting to incorporate media / visual arts in their services?
Remember that most of what you see (movies, TV, etc) is created by large teams with many resources. Be realistic. But, don’t let that become an excuse.
In the end, I’ll take a good idea (which starts on a piece of paper or a whiteboard) over slick execution any day. Don’t let lack of resources (time, etc) limit your creativity. Remember where the creativity comes from. Also, keep your audience in mind.
What may work for one church may not be what God wants you to do for your church. Seek Him, and He will guide your creativity. And don’t be scared to work hard.
BONUS FUN:Let’s say you’re headed to a desert island for life, and can only bring one electronic device. What do you bring & why?
Assuming I have a place to charge the battery… I’m bringing my iPhone. It’d be a toss up between that and the MacBook Pro, but the iPhone can cover a majority of the tasks (Bible app with offline translations, plenty of games, Evernote for capturing my thoughts on the island, a slew of podcasts so I can expand my brain, Stanza ebook reader, and the ever important camera so I can document the adventure).
Also, since the iPhone is smaller than the MacBook I’d probably stand a better chance of not losing it as I climbed a tree escaping wild boar.