Beth Vaughn Burns
Central Group Leader of Creative Media at Life.Church
How would you describe where you are in life right now and how does that affect what you create?
I have so much to be thankful for. My husband and I were married in 2016, so in a lot of ways we are still in the initial phases of building our life together. We’re in the middle of renovating a house, and it’s been a cool creative outlet. As a creative team leader, I know that parameters are my friend, so I love that we’re updating an existing house, as opposed to building one from the ground up. We are working within physical walls and dealing with the house’s quirks and idiosyncrasies, so there’s a lot of creative problem solving. Slowly, but surely, it’s transforming from a mess of a house to our home. It’s fantastic to watch it all come together.
I’ve had a lot of ups and downs over the last few years, including losing my dad to cancer. When I was at my lowest and most grief-stricken, I couldn’t sleep. And I would Google the strangest, most brokenhearted questions hoping that God would lead me to a bit of hope or encouragement. Soon after that, we launched finds.life.church, which is one of the ways we reach people online. It’s where we share articles to give motivation, support, and advice for anyone, no matter what they are facing. Our team and amazing volunteers create incredible content to reach people in all walks of life.
God showed me so much during that difficult season in my own life, and without it, I don’t know if I would have seen the possibilities of a project like finds.life.church. So, as creatives, I think it’s vitally important that we stay in tune with our own joy and sorrow throughout all of the phases of our lives and let those phases inform our projects and our art.
Describe your typical schedule, what do you do in a typical day/week?
Mondays are all about learning from the weekend experience, gathering feedback, and strategizing for the week ahead. I meet with the leaders of every other team at Life.Church, and we all give updates on our teams and collaborate on a wide variety of big-picture topics.
Throughout the week, I have one-on-one meetings with the leaders of the Creative Media teams. I hear how their teams’ current projects are going and talk through the next steps of upcoming projects.
I spend a good amount of time working with other ministry teams on new initiatives. I set the vision and the goals alongside other ministry team leaders, and we work out the kinks. Once my team is in the creation process, I try my best to step away and only jump back in if we are facing roadblocks or issues. This isn’t easy for me! I love discussing the details of scripts, editing videos, and giving my two cents on every color in a new motion graphic. But that’s not my job. If I demanded to be a part of every creative decision we made, we would never be able to work as quickly as we do. I have a lot of trust in every member of my team, and that makes it a lot easier to let go and let the creative geniuses do their thing.
Another big part of my role is focusing on the health of the team. Are there any projects where we’re in a creative rut? Is everyone on the same page? Is anyone burning out and in need of encouragement? I enjoy filling this role for my team members and acting as their advocate.
Describe how you inspire your team:
I try my best to provide as much clarity for my team as I can. A few years ago, we developed axioms for the Creative Media Team, each based on one of the ten qualities a team member should strive for in order to be successful on the team.
- Heart: We are a ministry. We base decisions on our spiritual values first, and on our artistic skill second.
- Problem Solving: We create to solve. Our art is a given. Our greatest skill is bringing creative solutions to difficult problems.
- Working Smart: We seek parameters. We eat budgets and deadlines for breakfast. Constraints fuel creativity.
- Initiative: We hunt inspiration. We don’t wait for the muse to show up. We chase ideas with research, dreams, and plans.
- Humility: We don’t roll credits. We don’t seek recognition for our creations; we seek to recognize our Creator.
- Teamwork: “We” is greater than “me.” We work hard to set others up for success.
- Abundance Mindset: We have more where that came from. We know our ideas never run out, so we share them generously and joyfully.
- Communication: We communicate. Before we make a move, we show respect by sharing information accurately and often.
- Preparation for Flexibility: We plan to be flexible. We prepare for the known, and expect the unknown.
- Resilience: We keep coming back for more. Setbacks build resilience and grit, so we use them to our advantage.
Describe one thing you wish everyone knew about working in the creative ministry field and why it is important:
When people hear the word “creativity,” they initially think of art. And, yes, art requires creativity. But I believe the most important element of creativity is problem solving. It’s not just about creating a beautiful motion graphic or an emotional video. It’s about taking data and feedback from ten different directions, having your first and second plans fall through so you have to go with plan C, and still getting everything wrapped up in time to hit that deadline. It’s easy to be successfully artistic when everything goes as planned. But tell me, even when you’ve planned and strategized down to the second, when does everything go as planned? Rarely. When your actor gets sick, your prop breaks, or your computer crashes, you have to get creative in solving problems. Those who embrace this have a high level of resilience and are unstoppable forces of creativity.
What has been one of the most frustrating parts of creative arts/creative ministry for you or your team? How did you overcome it?
Something that has been a challenge for us is maintaining consistent branding across 27 campuses in eight states. It has been a long journey for us, and I’m so thankful that our brand is now a part of our common language.
A while back, we realized that we were instructing other teams on what did and did not meet branding standards, but we were neglecting to explain why a brand mattered in the first place. So we created clear brand guidelines, and now we talk about the importance of branding with each new hire, no matter what team they are a part of. We explain that a brand isn’t just a specific set of colors, fonts, or logos. It’s much more than that. It’s a vibe. It’s a level of quality. It’s a personality. You can feel when it’s off, even if you can’t articulate why. So, providing consistency within our brand is very important. That consistency helps provide a clear picture of who Life.Church is. It’s another tool we can use to connect with people, which is why it’s so important to pay attention to it.
What keeps you going in creative ministry?
God is at work here, and I get to be a part of it. I know I don’t deserve it, and yet, I get to see it firsthand. Seeing lives changed motivates our whole team like nothing else can. I love hearing the stories of people who were at the end of their rope but then found Jesus and community. Gets me every time.
Also, my team is amazing. I get to spend every day with some of the coolest, most talented, humblest people I’ve ever known.
Plus, everything we create lives beyond just one weekend because we give everything away for free on the Life.Church Open Network. Hearing stories from churches that have downloaded and used our kids’ curriculum or our message series art is so life-giving to me. I’m honored that people I will never even meet will use the products our teams create and that people all over the world will grow closer to Jesus because of it.
If the days get long or the problems seem to come from every angle, I remember that the results of our work extend far beyond us, and it gives me encouragement to push through.
Describe how your creative team works:
From the get-go, I want the teams that we work with to know that our art comes second. First and foremost, we are a ministry. That is our heart. The vision or the goal of the ministry team we’re working with is our priority, and we will do whatever we can to bring that vision to life.
We’ve found that when we start projects with that posture, ministries trust us more easily. They know that we aren’t going to simply focus on the latest trend or create a work of art because it’s what we personally like at that moment. Instead, they feel that we are all on the same page and that we all have the same goals. Even disagreements and roadblocks become easier, because at the end of the day, we all know that we want the same thing; to see people become fully devoted followers of Christ.
What is your vision for the creative church and creative ministry?
My hope for the creative church and for creative ministry overall is that we continue to build each other up. One of the things I love most about Life.Church is that we are committed to the “capital C” Church. We’re all in this together!
Beth Vaughn Burns
Central Group Leader of Creative Media for Life.Church
Beth leads the Creative Media Group for Life.Church, which is comprised of five teams, each with its own leader:
- Graphic Design: Jeremy Brown
- Filmmaking: Kevin Ely
- Content Development: Kendra Golden
- Creative Strategy: Shawna Naylor
- Creative Production: Kirk Suttles
Life.Church is a multi-site church with 27 campuses in eight states, and counting.
We give away all of our creative resources for free at open.life.church. Life.Church also developed the free YouVersion Bible App, and we will celebrate a big milestone before the end of 2017: 300 million downloads!