Interview with Dave Clark of Fellowship Church

Back in 2005, I had a great opportunity to attend Fellowship Church’s C3 conference.  I had never been to a church conference before, and what ensued was a sensory overload of awesomeness.  I had never seen “church” media done that well.

Dave Clark is a Creative Director of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, TX.  And his church is absolutely getting it done with media.  He was kind enough to hang out via email & talk about his team & their creative process.

The 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.”

I learned a lot from Dave’s answers, and my hope is that there will be some content that you can apply to your team as well.

1.  Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew going into your job?

I think the biggest thing that I know now, that I wish I knew starting out in media ministry is that I can’t do it all myself. Early on I tried to put everything on my back and wear too many hats. You are not Superman!

At some point you are going to be at max capacity and tapped out. No matter how skilled you are, how masterful an audio engineer, how great an editor, how elite your HTML ninja skills or how Chuck Norris-esque your IT knowledge is, at some point you will be maxed out.

The best thing you can do is to pour yourself and your knowledge and skills in to others around you. Share your knowledge and train others. In order to survive, thrive and grow you must replicate yourself and find skilled people to fill in areas where you are lacking in skill and knowledge.

It doesn’t matter whether you are surrounded by other church staff or volunteers; in order to be successful and grow you must reproduce yourself.

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?

I have had the honor of having some phenomenal Godly men pour into my life. First and foremost of all, my father, but also my grandfather, my father-in-law, my previous boss/pastor have all invested in me, taught me how to lead, poured into my life and given me great council.

I also am extremely blessed to have the opportunity to work under some AMAZING leadership here at Fellowship Church. I serve under Pastor Ed Young and Pace Hartfield, who are both phenomenally creative leaders, teachers and men of God. I take lots of notes and soak up as much as I possibly can from them. A dull pencil is still sharper than the sharpest of minds. Take notes! Never stop being a student.

Some of my favorite books have been “Next Generation Leader” by Andy Stanley, “The Creative Leader” by Ed Young, “Courageous Leadership” by Bill Hybels, “The Big Idea” by Dave Ferguson, and “In A Pit With A Lion on a Snowy Day” by Mark Batterson.

3.  How do you keep fresh eyes?  What do you do for inspiration?

You definitely have to break away from your usual rhythm and routine in order to gain fresh perspective and fresh eyes for whatever you are doing regularly. So many times we get caught up in our day to day and week to week tasks that we get tunnel vision and it’s hard to see outside of our rhythm and things start to look the same.

I enjoy checking out other churches and conferences to see what God is doing through other ministries. I also try to keep a pulse on music, movies, magazines, YouTube, Websites, blogs, etc… One of the biggest things I do to stay fresh is just to do something totally different; to totally unplug myself. Play with my kids, go to the zoo, go on a date with my wife, play video games, watch a movie, go for a run, hit the gym… Just do something totally different than what I do everyday. Sometimes even mowing the lawn can be refreshing. =) Just make sure you are taking time to get away from work regularly.

The most important thing though is to make sure that you stay grounded in God’s word and in prayer. It has to be part of your spiritual diet. You have to make sure that you are getting fed and that you are eating right. Don’t neglect spending time with God. That is the number one way that you will stay refreshed.

4.  How does a typical brainstorming session look for your team?  (Who’s involved, How long does it last, etc.)

We meet every Wednesday afternoon for a “creative brainstorm” meeting.  The meeting is usually comprised of a mix of people from within our “Fellowship Creative” department. A few staff people from worship, tech, video, design and others come together and dream up ways that we can come alongside the weekend message and create an experience where people can meet Jesus Christ.

We try to plan at least a couple of weeks ahead but we are always flexible and open to whatever needs to be done to make church happen week in and week out.  It’s awesome to be apart of and watch how God uses us as a team.

We throw all kinds of ideas at the wall and then see what sticks. No idea is too crazy and we dream big. We do bring it down to the question of “what can we pull off with the time we have?” as we try to nail things down. The meeting usually lasts 2 to 3 hours after all is said and done and then we all head out to our various departments and make it happen.

5.  What advice would you have for churches just starting to incorporate media / visual arts in their services?

The one piece of advice I would give to churches that are trying to start using media is try to maximize what you have. Often churches get caught up in the… “we don’t have the best this or that,” or “we don’t have the latest tech.” That is a never ending pit trap that you can fall into.

When you are starting off instead of focusing on what you don’t have, focus on what you do have. Leverage, scrape, borrow, twist wires together and make it happen! Use the tools you have at your dispense to their fullest extent. Make things look as good as they can with what you have. If you are faithful with what you do have, God will bring the increase.

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?

This was a tough one… If I could take a non-electronic device with me then it would definitely be Gaffers Tape or Duct Tape and a whole bunch of it.  I mean what can’t you build with that stuff. But as far as an electronic device… I would have to go with an iPhone that could be charged via solar energy of course.

Nice to have your tunes handy, a GPS and compass for mapping out the island, a video camera to capture a documentary on my life on the desert island and of course a few games to pass the time. :)

The One Thing that Helps You Lead?

There are probably as many answers to this question as there are people in the world, but for me?  The answer isn’t easy, but it’s simple.  Stephen Covey calls it “Initiative.”  In his book, the seven habits of highly effective people, Stephen throws out an amazing concept that….if you haven’t thought of it before, could change everything for you.  Unlike the animals, human beings are uniquely endowed with a special gift:

Somewhere in the gap between stimulus and response is our ability to choose.

If someone cuts you off in traffic, says something unkind to you, or imposes on any of your freedoms, there’s one thing they can’t take away: Your freedom to choose how you will respond.


So, what about you?  What choices are you faced with today?

Creativity Exercise: How Do You Visualize Music?

Ever hear a song, and instantly think of what the music video would look like?

A year ago, we got a great opportunity to create some music visualizations for a friend’s band at a concert they did in New York.

Sometimes, I really like to think about what techno music would look like visualized.  A lot of songs have musical story arcs and plot lines that would easily translate into something visual.  If you’ve never done this before, try this:

Listen to one of your favorite lyrical or instrumental songs with your eyes closed.  You may be surprised to see a story for the song forming in your head!

Abstract stuff is great too.  Some of my favorites are from DJ Andy Hunter. (Who just so happened to release an album today.  Highly recommended.)

Here’s one video I started for a song he did called Annihilate.

What about you?  Are there any songs that you think would be great music videos?

Three Things That Make Difficult Things Easier

What’s the difference between “easy” and “difficult”?  Have you ever had a friend or family member stand in awe after you do something you’re talented at?  They may watch you cook a delicious meal, go ice skating, create a piece of art and comment, “I could NEVER do that.”

Here’s what I find most interesting:

Depending on the person, their set of talents and life experiences, two different people can view the same task as easy or difficult.

Sometimes the task is irrelevant.  We’re the ones that place labels of “easy” or “difficult” on a particular action.

Here are three things that make the difference:

  •  Chunking
    When things seem difficult, or we’re just learning a new life skill…we tend to look at every single detail involved.  When we’re 3 or 4 years old, and just starting to learn written communication, we spend hours on writing individual characters.  Entire classes and days of our life are devoted to penmanship, grammar, and writing.  Now, it takes many people just a few seconds to sign their name in cursive.  Complex skills become grouped together into units.  The idea of “420 characters that take a long time to write” gets squashed into “sentence.”
  • Past Experience
    When we’re learning something new, I think our brains look for as much familiar territory as possible.  It gives us a “home base” before venturing out into the new elements of the different skill.  This explains why we learn solar systems using apples and oranges.   If we don’t have “anything” that we don’t already understand, it takes longer to get our brains oriented.  For example, computers don’t really have “trash cans”, but it uses a metaphor that already exists that most people understand.  This also explains “culture shock.”  There’s no “home base” anywhere we can use to start learning something new.
  • Auto-Pilot
    There’s a great book out now called “The Power of Habit” that talks about how our brains sometimes go on “auto-pilot” for items we’ve done repeatedly.  It frees up of a percentage of our thinking to focus on other things.  This explains why people brush their teeth or drive home without remembering it.  If your brain travels the path enough times, it gets easier to focus on other things.  I believe that’s how we learn, and difficult things begin to seem easier. 

What about you?  What are some things you’ve done that seemed tough or impossible at first?  What made the difference?