Ian Loudon Exclusive Interview

Describe how you got into creative ministry:

Working in ministry is something I fell into. I never had plans to be working in the church. I got a call one day in 2006 that The Grove needed someone to desperately help with their website and I said yes. I was a volunteer, played drums regularly, helped setup and tear down stages. I was also a nerd who knew some code and worked previously in graphic design. Just enough to be dangerous. That was my first step. I served until they asked me to serve full time. Yet here I am after 10 years of working in creative ministry and seeing many trends come and go, see people come and go, seeing my position grow in responsibility and scope, seeing the creative industry change, feeling the organization’s pressure economically through the recession and working with what we had, and witnessing social media explode. Part of my job was to harness each new thing and see how our church could use it reach people for Jesus. Its exciting to think, can this be used for the Kingdom? And do it well. 

 What keeps you going in creative ministry:

Ministry isn’t for money. It’s long hours, it’s sometimes isolating. Leadership may not always “get” the creative person’s vision. As a creative you may feel isolated if you’re the only one on staff. You may not be a pastor and feel you don’t fit in. Budgets will be tight. There was a time I had to build a website for someone to afford a camera for myself that I would then use for our department on certain projects. I bet that sounds familiar to some readers.   

But over time, you build confidence with those who are in leadership. After you deliver project after project, year after year, they begin to trust you to a point that is well earned and they will begin to let you work completely independently. They may even give you more responsibility. They are your client and you are here to serve them on the same team. You need to learn what your “client” loves, doesn’t love, what you will concede on and what battles you will pick to fight. And if you fight well they just may let you run with it. Because you’e developed that amazing relationship that was nurtured over time. 

Describe one thing you wish everyone knew about working in the creative ministry field and why it is important:

What the church needs, if you’re Called to your ministry, is for you to stick through it. Be loyal to Christ and His church. Times will be hard. Times will be good. Submit to leadership. You may feel you have it all figured out, how to design, how to make the best videos- but the organization hired you for your skills to better the organization and advance their mission. Not your mission. Be all about what your team is all about. 

What is something new/innovative your team is working on:

Our department is thinking of ways for people to experience our global missions more deeply. Through VR storytelling back here at home. We think it’s a great way people can have empathy for all people. It’s powerful stuff. My boss Adam, our art department ministry leader and pastor, has an incredible heart for missions and he is seeing some major growth in that area in heading out on trips and coming up with great ways to tell their stories back here at home.  VR is in infancy right now for us to do this with enough mobility, but they also know to invest in storytelling tools because that is such a strong medium for people to learn about God’s love for all people and they click with it right away. We are wired for story.

What I think is anemic [in creative ministry], is experience, critique, problem solving, and loyalty. Those cannot be gained from a YouTube tutorial or a google search.

Ministry isn’t for money. It’s long hours, it’s sometimes isolating. Leadership may not always “get” the creative person’s vision.

Describe how you approach working in the creative ministry field:

The amount of resources at our fingers, the ability to share and then reproduce, modify, derive from and then make is unprecedented. I really think we’re seeing a democratized creative renaissance in the church happening right now. This isn’t just for digital media, print, and environment design, but for the production space as well. Visual media, lighting and sound is becoming more refined and accessible than ever. With the wealth of content on YouTube producing more tutorials than ever, no one has the excuse of not being taught how. What I think is anemic however, is experience, critique, problem solving, and loyalty. Those cannot be gained from a YouTube tutorial or a google search. They must be learned over years from putting your head down, laboring and making mistakes and learning from them. And owning them. That is the hard work. Church creatives we are in a unique niche and are “many but lonely” often isolated to areas, connected now by instant online sharing and comparing. Learn to love your own unique space and how to work within those limitations.

What is one creative tool you cannot live without:

My fidget spinner. JK. I am in the Adobe suite every single day. I live inside Premiere Pro. If you do video, it’s essential. My next goal is to learn DaVinci Resolve. 

How do you stay inspired?

Fill yourself with ideas from other creatives, listen to podcasts, engage with something that has nothing to do with what you do. I’m currently trying to figure that one out. Maybe I should take up fish keeping again? Haha. Most of all, and I need to tell myself this, stay engaged with the people that matter, stay in prayer and make it a point to go to God with your struggles and anxieties.

Describe your typical schedule, what do you do in a typical day/week?

At the Grove, I work in what we call the Celebrative Arts department. It’s where our worship, arts, technical and communications all work together. We’re very focused on the team and what we can do for each other. Our department is like family. We are a big church (4000+) but we are not big enough to have a person for each position to be filled, so many of us wear many hats. Our graphic designer is also a videographer and a student ministry aide. I do our special videos, but need to know how to shoot, light, edit, color, and mix the audio and finish for our worship center and the Internet. Also, things like run the light board on a weekend if needed. I built and maintain the website in WordPress and I also spec our live video system and soon, a live broadcast system down to the streaming platform. So you could say in a week I have to jump from one unique skillset to another. 

Tell us how you overcome obstacles in creative ministry:

The church has been here for me through the ups and downs life has thrown my way. God is with me through all of it, even when I feel completely drained and even unaware of his presence. I am so thankful for community. The best things I have ever done is because our TEAM was there for each other the whole way through. I can’t use a drill without injuring my thumb. If there’s one thing to be gleaned from this is, the only good thing i can do good by myself is use a computer program or point a camera in the right direction. The team makes the whole project happen and happen well.

Ian Loudon

Media Director at The Grove Community Church

Media Producer/Online Communications/Swiss army knife of various nerdery.