Jameson Runnels Exclusive Interview

Where are you in life right now and how does that affect what you create?

I’m in a place of transition right now. As we’ve worked to unite two churches together in the midst of rapid growth, we’ve been forced to be very reactive – giving attention to the immediate needs without having time to spend thinking long-term. This has meant not spending the time on projects I wish I could and rarely being able to stick my head out of the water to see what’s going on on all around. It’s been exhausting, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything because I’ve learned so much through it. We are finally seeing things really stabilize and are coming into our own creatively. The team is growing, and we’ve made significant progress in creating a more proactive culture. I’m able to spend more time being creative, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store this next season.

Tell us one of your most memorable stories from working in Creative Ministry:

I think it’s possible that one of the most memorable stories I will ever have working in creative ministry is the story we are experiencing right now at Church of the City. The things we have seen God do in the past two years are nothing short of miraculous, and there’s no sign He’s slowing up. From the uniting of two churches to the renewal we are seeing across our city, there is just a sense that the time we are in now will one day be our “good old days”. That doesn’t mean things are easy. Life-changing things rarely are. We are surrounded by challenges, and sometimes things don’t pan out the way we hope. But I’ve learned that when things get tough, it usually means the story is about to get really good.

I think people sometimes oversimplify creative ministry and tend to categorize it as a productivity-based, content-creating machine charged with the task of making visually appealing stuff and lots of it. But that’s not even half of it.

I think people sometimes oversimplify creative ministry and tend to categorize it as a productivity-based, content-creating machine charged with the task of making visually appealing stuff and lots of it. But that’s not even half of it.

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

I think people sometimes oversimplify creative ministry and tend to categorize it as a productivity-based, content-creating machine charged with the task of making visually appealing stuff and lots of it. But that’s not even half of it. True creative ministry isn’t about the content, it’s about the Gospel, and the Gospel is about people. It’s about the artists and about the people who see the art. It’s about responsibly and reverently translating the vision of the church into tangible mediums. Outside of the church, it’s often about how much you create, not what you create. But for creatives in the church, doing things for the sake of doing things isn’t enough. There’s more to it than that. A creative ministry who doesn’t put the Gospel front and center will find themselves burned out at some point, but a team constantly focused on people will flourish.

 What keeps you going in creative ministry:

Without a doubt, what keeps me going in creative ministry is the reality that my number one goal with any given project is to create something that has the potential to show someone who Jesus is. As someone who has spent many years working as a creative professional whose primary goal was to make money, this is so refreshing. Our focus is not dreaming up awesome things to please the senses, but to get as close as possible to the heart of what God is doing around us and then share it in a creative way. And when the Gospel starts becoming real to them, there’s just nothing like it.

I find a lot of inspiration by watching how God is at work around us. At Church of the City, our desire is to join God in the renewal work he is doing in Nashville. This means that as creatives, we view ourselves less as marketers trying to sell something, and more as journalists who use creativity to tell the stories of what God is doing.  I think this inspires the team because there is always an air of mystery surrounding what could happen next. It keeps us on our toes and challenges us to be creative in ways we never could have anticipated as we try to amplify the story God is telling.

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What are some of your best/worst moments in Creative Ministry:

I used to identify my best and worst moments in terms of the success or failure of a project. Either it lived up to the expectations I had in my head or fell flat and just didn’t work. I now identify them not in terms of a project, but in terms of my motivation and where my focus is. My real worst moments are when the pressure of deadlines and expectations steals my focus away from where it should be – on the Gospel and people. My best moments come when I’m able to set aside these pressures and place priority on protecting the vision of a project by focusing on the reason for it and taking care of the people involved in it. When productivity becomes more important than people, I know I’m headed in the wrong direction.

Describe your Work/Life Balance:

My work/life balance is a work in progress. As anyone who works in ministry knows, it’s easy to feel like you work 24/7. I try not to use the word balance because for two things to balance they have to weigh the same, and I don’t view my work, family, friends, etc. as all carrying the same weight. Instead, I tend to think of my success or failure in this area in terms of my engagement and presence. Am I fully engaged at work, focused on our current projects and open to what God is leading us to do? Am I fully present when I come home at the end of the day? Does my wife know she has my undivided attention or is my brain still at work? Church of the City is growing rapidly right now, so it can be a challenge to disengage when the ever-growing project list is already too much to handle. I have found, though, that simply focusing on being present in the moment, whether at work or at home, helps bring a sense of balance.

What is one creative tool you cannot live without:

I would say the one creative tool I cannot live without is my phone. I use it for absolutely every stage of the creative process. I find inspiration online in blogs, articles, and social media. I type every random idea I have and take crazy amounts of notes. I communicate with my team and our staff. I take pictures, share ideas, pick colors, manage projects and keep up with the budget. I keep an eye on our social media and the videos from our neighborhood churches. The list goes on and on. But just because I can’t live without it doesn’t mean it’s my favorite. That designation belongs to good old pen and paper.

True creative ministry isn’t about the content, it’s about the Gospel, and the Gospel is about people.

Describe your work environment:

I would describe my work environment as minimalistic and collaborative. I have quite a few creative friends who thrive in a cluttered world where inspiration is literally all around them, but for me, having a simple workspace free from distractions actually helps me focus on what I am creating. However, what makes me thrive in my workspace isn’t the simplicity, but collaboration. No one on our creative team has their own office. We all work together in an office suite with workstations in one room and a brainstorming/meeting/phone space in another. I can attribute many of our best ideas to the fact that we have an environment where we can bounce ideas around at a moment’s notice and give and receive immediate feedback on our work. This also helps in building a team culture that feels a like family, where we aren’t afraid to share even our wildest ideas.

“I would describe my work environment as minimalistic and collaborative. I have quite a few creative friends who thrive in a cluttered world where inspiration is literally all around them, but for me, having a simple workspace free from distractions actually helps me focus on what I am creating.

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Describe how you overcome difficult situations in Creative Ministry:

One of the greatest frustrations I have dealt with in creative ministry has been trying to find the balance between effective planning and flexibility. Plan too far in advance and you potentially miss what God is trying to do. Don’t plan at all and stressed, burned out, and exhausted all become buzzwords. By nature I’m a planner, so in my experience, overcoming this has been somewhat counter-intuitive. The reality is that there will always be tension between planning and flexibility and that’s ok. When you truly seek to let God lead the way and you take your ministry cues from Him, perfect planning just isn’t possible. I’ve also learned that purposefully planning on not planning can help you find rest in the chaos. In other words, plan what you can and build plenty of margin for those things that you can’t anticipate. And then get ready, because believe me, when you seek to join God in what He is doing, you will find yourself doing things you never would have imagined.

Describe how you find inspiration or inspire your team:

In addition to a steady flow of my favorite artist’s work and an eye on what’s happening in culture, I find a lot of inspiration by watching how God is at work around us. At Church of the City, our desire is to join God in the renewal work he is doing in Nashville. This means that as creatives, we view ourselves less as marketers trying to sell something, and more as journalists who use creativity to tell the stories of what God is doing. I think this inspires the team because there is always an air of mystery surrounding what could happen next. It keeps us on our toes and challenges us to be creative in ways we never could have anticipated as we try to amplify the story God is telling.

Jameson Runnels

Creative Director at Church of the City

Ten years of professional music experience and seven years of professional media production experience.

Music experience has included virtually every area of the industry from live and studio performance to audio production and marketing. Has toured professionally playing bass for several bands and artists. Currently doing studio work, playing locally, and touring nationally.

Film experience has included all aspects of production from story development through final distribution. Wrote, directed, and produced several short films as well as a 60-minute narrative film. Currently in post production on a short film and developing several other projects.