Church Executive June 2012 Digital Edition

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JUNE 2012

SPeCiAL SeCtiOn:






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Making the case for church mergers as a viable option for impact and revitalization.



the Ce interv ieW

A many-sided guy who’s a surfer, photographer, pastor and speaker. Clark will give a main session message at the July meetings of the north American Christian Convention in Orlando, FL.

By Ronald E. Keener

in a congregation of 1,500 people, todd Clark leads Discovery Church with the view that his goal is not primarily to become bigger, but rather to become better.



Strong mainstream acceptance of faith-based movies creating an entirely new industry, says a film insider.


three congregations are reaching out to those working in the entertainment community.



Conventional wisdom says that the average youth pastor stays only 18 months.

Sherwood Baptist commits to making no-nonsense films to change lives and impact the world.

By William Vanderbloemen

By Ronald E. Keener



Leadership book offers secular – and God-honoring – ways to lead faith-based organizations.

Calvary Church tells a story of forgiveness.

By Ronald E. Keener

By Mark Hodge



Film producer connects churches that make quality faith-based movies with the best distributors in the industry.



By Jeremy Rodgers

CORRECTION: the correct website address for elevate Studio in the March issue should have read www.

7 ron Keener 8 news update

Church Executive (Copyright 2012), Volume 11, Issue 6. Church Executive is published monthly by Power Trade Media LLC, a subsidiary of Friendship Publications Inc., 4742 N. 24th Street, Ste. 340, Phoenix, AZ 85016. ™

9 Speaking volumes

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By Ronald E. Keener

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36 Business Management

Copyright 2012 by Power Trade Media, LLC. No advertisement or description or reference to a product or service will be Deemed as an endorsement, and no warranty is made or implied by Power Trade Media, LLC. Information is obtained from sources the editors believe reliable, accurate and timely, but no warranty is made or implied, and Power Trade Media, LLC is not responsible for errors or omissions.

By David Middlebrook

By David Lee

38 Marketplace

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CHRISTIAN HOLLYWOOD More churches and ministries are producing quality faith-based films – proving that even in moviemaking, Christianity and business success are not mutually exclusive. i still remember the days when the downtown cinema had Saturday afternoon westerns for a thin dime. roy rogers was okay, but Gene Autry was my favorite. (i toured his western heritage center in California some years ago, and a biography came out on him in 2009.) We all have stories about our favorite stars and “moving picture shows.” But what is new today are the advances in production of films that focus on faith and family. this issue of Church Executive touches on what is happening on that front in hollywood and elsewhere and, moreover, with congregations that are producing and screening major films themselves. “the changes have been dramatic,” says travis Mann, head of production at Mission Pictures international for foreign sales, finance and distribution. the company tr specializes in high-quality avis Mann family and faith-based entertainment for mainstream audiences. “First, there are so many more ministries for Christians who feel called to work in the entertainment industry. the networking and support system has grown exponentially,” he says. “Second, the new technologies have allowed filmmakers to produce pictures at significantly lower costs via high-definition digital video and computer-based editing and post-pro-

duction systems. “third, the internet has allowed filmmakers to post their movies online in an effort to reach audiences directly. these three factors have combined to create tremendous growth in both the number of filmmakers and the number of films.” Mann says there are some incredible talents in the business and that bodes well for the future of faith-based entertainment. Mission Pictures provides a global distribution outlet to producers of inspirational and faith-based films. Mann works with writers, directors and producers early in the process to create high quality content, often, he says, by helping them avoid the mistakes he and others had made in the past – and which accounted for the poor reception faith films have had in the past. Should more churches become involved in feature film production (and three such churches are profiled in this issue)? Says Mann: “i believe there is a place for megachurches to get involved in film production, provided they know and understand their motivation for doing so. too often, Christians will say they only want to be involved in a film to tell a story or to reach people and will deny they have a profit motive. As a result, they often spend way too much money on the production, overpaying actors, and so forth. “to my mind, the better approach is to go ahead and be led by your faith, but proceed with extreme financial caution. Be smart about how you spend your money and what you spend it on. Attach talent that will allow you to pre-sell certain foreign territories to lay-off some of your

risk. take advantage of motion picture production subsidies offered by certain states. Work with established hollywood professionals who have great referrals and a proven track record of success,” Mann cautions. Wow, Gene Autry and his republic Pictures never had to worry about all that. Still, a good film depends on a good story. travis Mann finds the faith-based story the “most compelling.” “there are no better stories than those focused on someone living out the courage of their convictions against all the world’s obstacles,” he says. Good comment, pilgrim.

Got a question or comment? email

06/2012 | ChurCh exeCutive | 7


TEXAS CHURCH SHOWS LOVE BY BUILDING WELLS IN SUDAN it’s March 30, 2011 in northwestern Sudan and the eight men who make up Water is Basic team B kick clods from their muddy boots. they’re tidying up the worksite — stacking pipe, cleaning gear and securing tools in the truck for a bumpy ride to the next location. And they’re smiling. they have worked together for three years, braving rainy seasons, rig repairs, stuck vehicles, long trips away from home, threats from animal attack, threats from people, and even an arrest. All that to arrive at this place: Akoite Payam on the Darfur border. this camp is like all the rest save for its number: 300. As their caravan lurches away, it’s a day’s drive toward Abyei where the team leader can get reception for his cell phone and report that “Water is Basic well number 300” is working. More than half a million Sudanese have access to clean water now who didn’t have before. it began in 2006 when irving Bible Church, a nondenominational church out-

Some 700,000 Sudanese have clean water thanks to Water is Basic.

side Dallas, tx, had sent its executive pastor at the time, Steve roese, to a reconciliation meeting organized by ALArM (African Leadership And reconciliation Ministries) in South Sudan. Steve was serving on the board of ALArM, and iBC had been a longtime ALArM partner. Church leaders and pastors from north and South Sudan met for an entire week to pray, weep and forgive one another for the hostilities in their country’s dark history. the event sparked a

series of dreaming sessions among the pastors who had now organized themselves as the Sudanese evangelical Alliance. What would they do to show the love of Christ during the new six-year peace treaty in Sudan? the leaders became interested in five areas of focus, including evangelism and trauma assistance; but at the very last minute of the very last day, a pastor raised his hand and said none of it would be possible unless the Sudanese had clean water.

With roese’s return to irving to cast vision and raise funds, a local Sudanese bishop named elias taban took on the leadership position for Water is Basic in South Sudan. Water is Basic bought its two drilling rigs for $250,000 each, and has since raised more than $1.5 million to dig wells. As of March this year, more than 350 wells have been drilled across the region at an average cost of $4,500 each, changing the lives of roughly 700,000 Sudanese. Water from each well is tested for viruses and other contaminants. then the well is handed over to a local council – sort of a utility cooperative – trained in testing, and charged with protecting, maintaining and governing use of the well. the long-term goal of Water is Basic is to be completely self-funding by 2014. While roese is now full-time with Water is Basic, irving Bible Church continues to be involved with WiB’s efforts through financing and awareness support. []

GuideStone Funds receives premier financial award GuideStone Funds has become the first Christianbased, socially screened fund family to win the prestigious Lipper trophy for Best Overall Small Fund Group in the U.S., ranking No.1 out of 182 eligible companies. (Lipper classifies fund families with up to $40 billion in assets under management in its Small Fund Group.) “The Lipper Award for Best Overall Small Fund Group recognizes a standard of excellence that we pursue every day as we seek to honor the Lord and enable our faithful participants to invest according to their biblical principles,” says O.S. Hawkins, president and CEO of GuideStone Financial Resources during the annual Lipper Award 8 | ChurCh exeCutive | 06/2012

dinner sponsored by The Wall Street Journal, Thomson Reuters and Investment News, March 8 in New York City. The firm was honored for its consistently strong risk-adjusted investment performance across broad asset classes. “People often think that they have to compromise biblical integrity for investment performance,” says Roddy Cummins, vice president and chief investment officer of GuideStone Funds. “We are dispelling that myth, which is evidenced by the Lipper trophy.” Cummins is quick to first thank God and then recognize the daily collaborative efforts of the 450 employees at GuideStone, as well as the team of outside subadvisors to the fund group.


Developing strong church teams BY rOnALD e. Keener if you want to produce a harvest of leaders who are ripe for the task of Kingdom building, the work will have to start in you. “A spiritual leader must live a life worth being replicated,” writes Dan reiland in Amplified Leadership, published by Charisma house. he is executive pastor at 12Stone Church, Lawrenceville, GA. the book, says reiland, was born out of years leading in local churches and coaching pastors. hence, it offers proven and practical principles – not theories – to help churches continually develop new leaders. reiland shares with Church Executive some of these principles. How do you live “trust” with your team? trust means we can count on each other. We assume the best and give the benefit of the doubt. We also know that even among the best teams, trust doesn’t perpetuate itself, it must be cultivated. So if there is ever a question or an issue, we ask rather than pretend everything is okay.

You say your team is a “combination of a posse and a rock band.” What do you mean by it? We are not a conventional bunch. We have more rebel in us than perhaps is good, and we consider sarcasm a spiritual gift. But for us, that’s part of the magic. Yes, we are a combination of rock band and posse. We hear and make our own “music” regardless of what is currently popular, and if you try to hurt anyone on the team, you better be looking over your shoulder because there’s a wild bunch coming after you! We really do watch out for and protect each other. You say of your team that you genuinely like each other. Any stumbles in getting to that point, or are you just lucky? We might be lucky, but i think we work hard on hiring well. it doesn’t always work out perfectly, but we’ve learned to focus heavily on chemistry. Character and competence are important, but they are in many ways a given. Chemistry is the difference maker! if someone just doesn’t fit, we don’t try to force it no matter how talented they are. Do you still like each other as much after performance evaluations? Yes, we do! We don’t do evaluations in the traditional sense. We call ours “coaching conversations,” and they are based on shared goals, communicating expectations, and bringing out the best. We use them to coach the team and develop them as leaders. People want to talk about that stuff! it’s true that no one likes how much time and effort they take, but they do like the results. What is it about yourself that seems to work best with others, or are you just a teddy-bear of a guy who everyone loves? i’m not a teddy-bear. in fact of all the adjectives used to describe me, several of which you can’t put in print, that would not be on the list. Candidly, i’m very driven and i have high standards. the team would say they know i care about them — and i really do. What do others seem to do wrong in establishing relationships with their team members? Making assumptions and jumping to conclusions are two big ones. e-mail gets teams in trouble, too. You’ve just got to have face time and keep it real. What else might you want to say about relationships on staff? Don’t try to force it. You can’t legislate relationship. You just can’t be buddies with everyone. Be yourself. People like you best that way. Our rule of thumb is: “Close to a few, Connect with all, and Conflict (unresolved) with none.”

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Senior Pastor | Discovery Church | Simi valley, CA

In a congregation of 1,500 people, Todd Clark leads Discovery Church with the view that his goal is not primarily to become bigger, but rather to become better. “We know that if we can just get better every week, we will get bigger,” Clark says.


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“this allows us to break down a weekend into smaller bites that are easier to metabolize. We can ask questions like, ‘Where were we weak this past weekend? And where were we strong?’ We can then work on minimizing our weaknesses and adding even more energy to our strengths,” Clark, 41, says. “Our goal in getting better is not so much to eliminate all our weakness. it is to just make our strengths so strong that people will put up with or overlook our weaknesses! But we also know that getting bigger will not necessarily make us better. “Getting better is sometimes hard to measure, but i am certain that getting better is what ultimately will make us bigger.” What is your conversion story? i grew up in Olathe, KS. One of my earliest memories of church was my dad who had started a Christian bookstore in our basement. People would knock on our door and then head down into the basement to buy all kinds of books – thomas Kincade Bible covers and bookmarks. Dad soon moved the store out of the basement into a strip mall and it grew and grew and grew. it probably has much to do with my entrepreneurial spirit and tendencies today. i accepted Christ when i was in elementary school and i was baptized by my dad at Johnson County Christian Church in Overland Park, KS. i decided at church camp, my freshman year of high school, that i would be a youth pastor one day. it didn’t hurt that my “camp girlfriend” – who is now my wife – also stood up that very same week at camp and publicly stated that she was one day going to marry a pastor. that added a little fuel to my fire and urgency to my decision! What is the meaning of the church strategy — from foyer to the living room to the kitchen? the foyer is where we welcome guests. the living room is where we make friends. the kitchen is where we become family. We love welcoming “guests” each week at Discovery, but we do not want people to forever remain guests. We want them to have easy and obvious steps to making friends and become family. We adopted this strategy from north Point Community Church when we launched Discovery Church nine years ago. it has served us very well as people understand in easy and obvious steps where they can grow next. How do you grow a church from a handful to 1,500? When a church grows from a handful of people to hundreds or thousands, it has far more to do with God than todd, or any other pastor for that matter. i believe that God works in people, but i also believe that God works in places and that we do not start from scratch anywhere with anyone – we simply join God in what he was Continued on page 12 already doing.

‘YOU GET THE ART AND THE KIDS GET TO EAT’ — AND LIVE “Eat Art” became my heartbeat and passion on Thanksgiving Day 2010. I was in Texas with extended family watching the Dallas Cowboys play football, if you can call it that! I had eaten way too much about an hour earlier, and the turkey was about to cause my eyes to close. As I was watching football I was also surfing Facebook and Flickr and had several people asking me if they could purchase some of the photos I had posted over the past few days. As I sat on the couch with a full stomach I began to wonder how I could sell a few images and use the money to feed people with empty stomachs. Mix that momentary thought with my entrepreneurial tendencies, and the journey and evolution of Eat Art began. During the summer of 2011, EA was all I could think about, and with the generous investments from three close friends, this grassroots cause to artfully end hunger was born. I began dozens of conversations, compiled initial contributors and photos; apparel was designed and ordered and the website launched on September 1 last year. I was so nervous. It was like I had given birth to this baby and I was not sure if anyone would think it was beautiful. But in the first 15 days there was enough art and apparel purchased to send 15,000 meals to hungry children. I was absolutely blown away! I now believe we could truly become a major force in fighting hunger. Sixty percent of every Eat Art purchase sends food overseas and the other 40 percent is used to print and ship the artwork. I take no salary from the venture — and it’s already fed more than 69,000 kids! Did you know there are approximately 3 billion people who live on less than $2.00 a day and 1.4 billion people who live on less than $1.25 a day (UNICEF). Every single day children are dying just because they don’t have enough food to eat. I believe in 2012 we could, together, send 1 million meals to hungry children. I believe five years from now we could be sending a million meals a month! You get the art and the kids get to eat! [] — TC

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Continued from page 10

How were you able to overcome huge problems or “train wrecks” in the past nine years as a result of fast growth? By God’s grace we have sidestepped some massive train wrecks when it comes to new staff hires, staff fires, buying land, building buildings, etc., mainly because of our executive staff team and elder team. Many of us have been together for close to nine years now and there is a huge amount of trust, authenticity and honesty with each other. this plurality of executive leadership allows us to avoid many potential “train wrecks.” it is true that none of us are as smart as all of us. i am certainly not the smartest person at Discovery. i just got here first. if Discovery is going to reach our full redemptive potential, i need all these other voices around me. When i lead, i strive for “alignment.” i have found that acceptance and agreement are not the same as alignment. to me acceptance is when you have their head; agreement is when you have their heart. Alignment is when you have their head, heart and energy all focused in the same direction. i can tell you that as our church has grown, it has not just become a “bigger version” of what it once was;

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at each stage it becomes a completely new and unique organization. What got us to where we are will never get us to where we need to be. So we are always changing and rearranging people, positions, service times, ministry environments and methods. As we change and rearrange team members, ministries and methods we are very aware that these “changes”

I am certainly not the smartest person at Discovery. I just got here first. — Todd Clark

affect hundreds or thousands of real people’s lives, so we give tremendous thought, preparation, prayer and care to changes. in fact, we don’t call changes “changes,” we call them enhancements. Changes can often be made by anyone and they often lack understanding and skill. trust is the currency we use for future enhancements! What are the challenges to reaching people in Simi Valley? Simi valley is not radically diverse in relationship to other parts of ventura County. But it is very diverse in comparison to most other parts of the country. A big part of the reason my wife, rene, and i wanted to move from Kentucky to plant a church in Los Angeles is we wanted our children, ruby and Cole, to grow up in a more diverse environment. the obstacles to doing ministry in Simi valley have nothing to do with diversity or ethnicity. the number one obstacle by far to doing ministry in Simi valley is “comfort.” Comfort is the god of people in our valley. truly, when you can afford it in LA, you move to valleys like Simi to be comfortable, safe and secure. Families and lives are designed around being comfortable in every way. Pushing people beyond their relational, emotional, spiritual, financial comfort zones is the greatest challenge. i believe with all of my heart, and you will never convince me otherwise, that an over-commitment to comfort will cause a person to miss about 90 percent of this world. Most of the world does not live like us. if comfort is our god we will never be willing to go and make disciples of all nations as God has called us to do. What environments do you create to help influence those who may still be “outsiders”? We are very, very careful about our language: the things we say from the stage or in print. Being sure that what we are communicating can be easily and obviously understood by any person in our valley. Our grid for communication and messages is not our congregation; our grid is those who are not yet here. We always think “others” first.

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Humility involved as

two churches

come together Making the case for church mergers as a viable option for impact and revitalization. BY reZ GOPeZ-SinDAC “Mergers are hard work and require honest assessment of roughly 80 percent of the 300,000 Protestant your church and your motives for ministry, even if painful churches in the united States have plateaued or are declinto acknowledge.” ing, and many of them are in desperate need of a vibrant One of the biggest issues is the refusal of the ministry. Among the 20 percent of growing congregations senior pastor, senior lay leaders across the united States, many are in or influential members of the desperate need of space. FOUR MERGER TYPES — joining church to release control. these conditions, according WELL, THREE REALLY tomberlin says most struggling to Jim tomberlin and Warren Bird, churches would rather hold onto authors of Better Together: Making Rebirth — a struggling or dying church the steering wheel of their sinkChurch Mergers Work (Jossey-Bass, that gets a second life or restart by joining ship than turn the helm over 2012), present a potential win-win ing a stronger, vibrant and typically larger to an effective leader who knows for forward-thinking church leaders church. how to sail the ship. who believe that “we can do better Adoption — a stable or stuck church that is integrated under the vision of a stronAnother challenge is addresstogether than separate.” ger, vibrant and typically larger church. ing the pain that the smaller tomberlin, who lives in ScottsMarriage — two churches, both strong or weaker church feels in a dale, AZ, is an expert in developing and growing although often at different merger. “there is no gain without and implementing customized multilife stages, that realign with each other pain,” tomberlin says. “Struggling site strategies for churches. Bird, on under a united vision and new leadership configuration. churches will not change until the the other hand, resides in Suffern, ICU — two struggling or dying churchpain of not changing is greater nY, and is the intellectual capital es that join together in an effort to surthan the pain of changing.” What director for Leadership network. the vive. This is the only model that we do not the “weaker” church needs to see, book, probably the first to deal with recommend, but historically it’s been the tomberlin adds, is its story as church mergers, offers specific, pracmost widespread model, and it usually fails. — JT continuing through a new exprestical advice on best practices in the sion, much like a family relocating merger process. the authors claim to join a larger clan. each family unit is needed, he adds, that mergers have tremendous potential to exponentially but the clan does not look the same as any one family that expand the impact of strong, vibrant churches as well as joined it. revitalize plateaued and declining churches. they note, however, that mergers are not for the faint of heart.

Humility is key Challenges to overcome “All mergers are messy and complicated, with no guarantees,” says tomberlin, speaking for both authors.

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it takes humility to make a merger work. Churches that are stuck or in decline need humility to acknowledge they are struggling and need a new start, according to

MERGE TO SERVE BETTER One percent of the Protestant churches in your community are going to close this year. Could those churches be redeemed or revitalized through a merger with your church? Approach those churches with humility and a kingdom of God mindset about their situation and propose the possibility. Meanwhile, serve your community together with other churches. Build bridges of trust with other local church: Connect: Take the initiative to get acquainted. You share a common geography; why not share friendship over coffee? Resource: Share information, materials and training freely. Make your expertise available. Develop coaching or mentoring opportunities. Partnership: Collaborate together in areas of common interest and for the common good of the community. The community will be better served, local churches will be strengthened, and the kingdom of God will be extended. Mergers are more likely to grow out of that soil. — JT

tomberlin. Likewise, he adds, lead churches need to have humility about their role in shepherding new people toward a new vision and not coming in as though they have the answer to every problem. Mergers could also look like a takeover. But when trust is earned and faith extended, tomberlin says the merging of churches becomes more like a delicate dance in which one leads and the other follows. Some churches are almost equal in size and health, he adds, but regardless, one always leads and the other follows. the best merger scenario, tomberlin points out, is when the joining church follows the lead church enthusiastically. But if the relationship is not seen as mutually beneficial, the two churches should walk away from the merger conversation, suggests tomberlin. “it is easier to do nothing to avoid potential conflict than to try to reforge two cultures together under one new identity,” tomberlin says. “it may be ‘easier’ not to merge in the short range, but in the long range successful mergers have a potential for greater gain.” Mergers are built on trust and faith, and more likely to succeed when there is collaboration in areas of common interest. tomberlin says trust is earned by demonstrating genuine love and concern for the joining congregation, not just their facilities, assets or increased attendance. he adds that faith is extended by the joining congregation when they believe the lead church is trustworthy. “Mergers have to be approached as two teams humbly uniting around the same vision,” says tomberlin. CE

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• The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school. • The training is for the benefit of the interns. • The interns do not displace regular employees, but they do work under regular employees’ close supervision. • The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the interns and, on occasion, the employer’s operations may actually be impeded (it predominantly benefits the intern). • The interns are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period. • The employer and the interns understand that the interns are not entitled to wages for the time spent training. (tuition assistance and nominal stipends for students are not considered wages.)

Structuring an intern program

While this six-part test was originally developed and applied to a for-profit corporation, it is still a helpful guidance for determining if a worker is properly an unpaid intern. Furthermore, most courts have determined that it is not necessary for all six of the above factors to be satisfied in order for a worker to be classified as an unpaid intern. Although the DOL has set forth a six-part test, this method of determining whether a worker is an unpaid intern has been met with criticism by various courts that prefer to evaluate the totality of the circumstances, where no one factor is determinative. in such cases, the courts have instead tended to analyze the economic reality of the train-


Many churches, ministries and charities are increasingly using volunteers and unpaid interns partly because of the economic benefits from not having to pay wages, benefits and taxes to traditional employees. But have you considered how to legally structure an internship program? One of the primary legal issues that may arise in this area is worker classification. Federal and state agencies are investigating organizations for possible misclassification of labor. Failure to properly classify a worker can result in serious consequences.

Who is an intern? According to the Department of Labor (DOL), if all of the following “unpaid intern Positive Factors” apply, the workers are not “employees” within the meaning of the FLSA and do not need to be paid:

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Until we get more specific guidance from DOL, the best practice is that you endeavor to ensure your internship program meets as many of DOL’s six Unpaid Intern Positive Factors as possible and does not contain an Unpaid Intern Prohibited Factor. ing, as well as the circumstances surrounding the training, focusing mainly on whether the worker had an expectation of compensation and whether the employer received an immediate or direct advantage from the work. Further – and of positive note for churches, ministries and charities – the DOL’s fact sheet on this issue states the following: DOL also recognizes an exception for individuals who volunteer their time, freely and without anticipation of compensation for religious, charitable, civic or humanitarian purposes to non-profit organizations. Unpaid internships

in the public sector and for non-profit charitable organizations, where the intern volunteers without expectation of compensation, are genera lly permissible. DOL is reviewing the need for additional guidance on internships in the public and non-profit sectors. Although we are still awaiting this more specific guidance from DOL with respect to religious and charitable nonprofit internships, the foregoing statement from the DOL is encouraging as it demonstrates that the DOL recognizes and generally allows uncompensated internships.

six unpaid intern positive factors as possible and does not contain an unpaid intern prohibited factor. The more your internship program looks like a formal academic internship program, the more likely it will meet the requirements. Make certain you have the appropriate contracts in place with your interns. If you

follow this advice, you are in the best possible situation given the available judicial and governmental guidance we have available at this time. David Middlebrook is a partner with Anthony and Middlebrook, The Church Law Group, Grapeville, TX. []

When is an intern not an intern? In addition to providing a six-part test that indicates when an individual is an intern, the DOL has also provided some common examples of when an intern will not be considered an intern (and therefore is an employee). Please note that the presence of any one of these “Unpaid Intern Prohibited Factors” probably means the intern needs to be classified as an employee, especially when the unpaid internship program is not part of a formal academic experience: • The employer uses the intern as a substitute for regular workers or as a supplement to its current workforce; or • But for the intern, the employer would have hired additional employees or asked its existing staff to work additional hours; or • The intern is engaged in the employer’s routine operations and/or the employer is dependent upon the intern’s work. How to know whether to classify a worker as an unpaid intern or an employee? We wish there was a brightline legal rule that would be a specific answer to the situation. However, until we get more specific guidance from DOL, the best practice is that you endeavor to ensure your internship program meets as many of the DOL’s

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Faith & Film

Churches embrace

filmmaking to reach people

Strong mainstream acceptance of faith-based movies creating an entirely new industry, says a film insider. BY rOnALD e. Keener

Actor John Schneider plays hannah’s father, Jacob, in October Baby.

First-time film actress rachel hendrix as hannah in October Baby.

The New York Times in early April headlined its review of the faith and family film, October Baby, as “Film inspired by ‘Abortion Survivor’ is Quiet hit.” Quiet indeed, a hit for sure, when it came out just two weeks earlier on only 390 screens and was no. 8 among movies – no. 1 of independent releases – in a weekend that included such big ones as The Hunger Games. On the weekend of April 13, it added 150 more screens, a fact that had a lot to say about the ability of moviegoers to deal with touchy subjects as abortion, and to see it from the view of faith and redemption. What is less evident in the success of such Christian-themed films is the role that churchgoers and congregations have been playing with this

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movie and others like Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and Courageous — all Christian-oriented movies produced by Sherwood Pictures, a ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, GA.

Using action squads that role of churches is what is called “action squads,” which is a group that commits to purchasing 1,000 tickets in order to make sure the movie plays in their town. the promotion and distribution of films, especially those with Christian themes, have changed since the days of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, when the church community was involved in pushing that controversial film. Kris Fuhr, vice president of theatrical marketing for Provident Films, which marketed October Baby to Christian audiences, explains how they go about reaching a broad audience. “We ask the group to work with their local theater to purchase 1,000 tickets for the opening weekend. Some groups are able to do this for $5.00 a ticket and sometimes they have to pay full price, depending on the theater. An action squad cannot use a ‘dollar theater,’ and the theater must have five or more screens.” Fuhr says the squad leaders are usually lay leaders who get the support of the senior pastor, who might coordinate with a sermon series or a small group or Bible study on the same theme. “We have a list of pastors we invite to the pre-screenings we sponsor,” says Fuhr. “Once a church commits to the 1,000 tickets, we allow them to pre-screen the movie to a maximum of 50 folks who need to be from other churches or groups within the community.” Churches are not permitted to pre-screen for their whole congregation.

Power of prayer there is another “help” in the promotion of films – prayer. “Movies are a hard business, and we pray over everything: the idea, script, production and marketing. We ask God to open doors for us and to close doors that won’t be fruitful,” says Fuhr. “We pray for him to order our steps so that all might be to his glory not to ours.” Fuhr finds that not all churchgoers want to go to a theater, and would rather view the film at the church. But she says such churches are missing a huge opportunity to reach people. “Many of the folks who most need to hear the message of Christ would hesitate to enter a church, but don’t think twice about going to the movies. You have to go where the people are, just as Christ did.” For churches who are considering getting into the film business, Fuhr has this to say in the way of a caution: “it’s not for the faint of heart, and a season of prayer would be advised before undertaking such a project.”

Scott Mills of LifeWay Films says much the same thing, but is a bit more encouraging of congregations that want to enter storytelling through film. “i would tell them to go for it. it is a great ministry opportunity for your church. Be patient, find a great story, and involve as many people as you can from your church body. “While production is important, don’t get too hung up on that. that will come as you do more and more of it. Who knows, you might have a kid in your youth group who is the next great film producer,” Mills says.

Marketing and licensing LifeWay Films is a unit of LifeWay Christian resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, the second largest denomination in the country, and began its division last October, working presently only in the areas of distribution and marketing, Film s produced in 2006 an not production or d 2008 by Sherwood Pictures. financing of films. they began when they helped engage the church around the Sherwood Pictures film Courageous last year. Mills describes LifeWay Films’ involvement as one of becoming a part of a film’s marketing team, and given the size of the denomination, that is a major marketing impact. “We also provide licenses to churches so they >>

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Faith & Film

es. , by Sherwood Pictur Courageous, 2011

can legally show films at the church,” he says, and they have about 16 films they license or plan to do so. “We are committed to providing quality films, not a quantity of films to the church,” he says. “We also create Bible studies with many films so that the impact of the film does not stop with the credits, but moves people from the film right into God’s word.” he believes the turning point for churches and the production of films came with Sherwood’s Fireproof (2006), but that “there were not many films to follow it in theaters, so we lost momentum. in

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Productions. 2011, by Grooters The Frontier Boys,

2011 there were five faith-based films in theaters: The Grace Card, Soul Surfer, Seven Days in Utopia, Tyler Perry’s Big Happy Family, and Courageous.” October Baby is leading a new group this year.

A growing opportunity “i see momentum for Christian films and a growing opportunity as films get better. Many churches are still not engaging films because they do not want to invite people to a film that is not a good film,” Mills says. “time will make the films produced better.” “More and more people and churches are creating God-honor-

ing content and our culture needs it. God is using these resources to teach people, as a tool to heal marriages, to challenge men to be godly men, and many other aspects. “the body of Christ needs to support this movement. it is easy to be cynical when the movie does not match the quality of the big multimillion hollywood blockbusters, but we will get there,” he says. LifeWay’s next film is called Unconditional, which is a story about forgiveness, healing from a loss, and getting out of one’s comfort zone to reach people. it

is based on a real life story of Joe Bradford, a man in nashville who has devoted his life to working with kids in the inner city. Getting films with a Christian message, however well done and without religious polemics, can be a difficult task. Andy erwin, who with his brother, Jon, made October Baby, said in an interview that major movie studies turned them down on the film. One hollywood executive who is a believer and liked the story, turned him down because of the abortion topic.

filmmaking crew, a myriad of legal obstacles, funding sources, tax incentive programs, geographic locations for filming and how the location is impacted by the various tax incentives,” nori says. he sees not a market segment in faith and family, but “an entirely new industry,” similar to the birth of the

Christian music industry in the 1980s. And the marketing of these films is changing too: “the days of spending a promotion and advertising budget for airing tv commercials, print ads and web advertising are ending. People follow people, people do not follow corporations,” nori says. CE

Investors backed film that’s why they produced the film independently. “We have several passionate pro-life Christian investors who put up the money for this film,” erwin says, “and we’re determined to get it out to a nationwide audience.” One of the film companies partnering with LifeWay films for public screenings and church exhibitions is Destiny image Films in Shippensburg, PA. Looking at the current trend in faith and family films, most of them are done independent of major studios. Joel nori, general counsel, says, “the new era of marketing today is really based on personal relationships and a reputation for providing top quality content that has a message, a purpose and support.” Destiny has worked with three films in 18 months. if churches get into film production, there are some facts of life they need to keep in mind, says nori. “A feature film has many different revenue streams that contribute to recouping the production and distribution expenditures that allow a film to break even and become profitable much faster than before. Screenings at churches are one of the revenue streams that must be planned for because it impacts several other revenue streams, such as DvD sales, digital sales and domestic licensing sales. “Churches must consider production budget, distribution partner,

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Faith & Film

: Mine field or mission field? Three congregations are reaching out to those working in the entertainment community.

BY KAren COveLL Churches across America, both large and small, send missionaries around the globe to use their gifts and talents to reach others with the love of Jesus. these churches commission their missionaries and support them in prayer and with finances. they donate supplies and resources and welcome their missionaries back on furlough with open arms, and even share precious time on the pulpit for updates, pictures and prayer. there’s nowhere that they wouldn’t send one of their own — except perhaps to one place: hollywood. As the founder of a nonprofit Christian ministry, the hollywood Prayer network, and as an active member of the Producer’s Guild of America, i have one foot in hollywood and one foot in the church — and neither one is easy. i balance my time between apologizing to the church for the immoral programming and behavior of entertainment industry professionals, and apologizing to the industry for the inappropriate comments and behavior from the church. What is the disconnect between these two worlds, and does anyone in the church see it? the answer lies in our perspective. the church can either view hollywood as a mine field like Sodom and Gomorrah, where Christians who dare to go there could get chewed up and spit out or might compromise their faith and sell their soul to the devil. Or it’s a mission field like niniveh, where Christians can go as ambassadors for Christ, ministers of the Gospel to that unique people group and be an instrument to change lives and culture.

A miraculous community

Kim Dorr-tilley, pastor to the entertainment industry at Bel Air Presbyterian Church.

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the radical Christians who come to hollywood have experienced a miraculous community with entertainment industry professionals who are committed believers. these Christian professionals fellowship together and reach out to coworkers and associates. in fact, since January 2012, there are more than 6,000 known Christians in hollywood, involved in 16 vital ministries, and actively committed to churches that believe hollywood is indeed the world’s most influential mission field. there are many churches in Los Angeles that not only welcome members of the entertainment industry, but have specific entertainment industry fellowship groups that meet on their campuses. three of the more prominent examples are Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, a 112-year-old church of more than 5,000 members, which hosts the Bridge Fellowship class; First Presbyterian Church of hollywood, a 105-year-old church in the heart of hollywood, which has birthed six entertainment ministries out of its vision for hollywood; and Bel Air >>


Faith & Film

Presbyterian Church, with some 3,000 attendees, more than half of which work in the entertainment industry, which hosts the Beacon, a biweekly gathering of church members who are entertainment professionals. these churches have recognized the importance of reaching out to the cultural decision-makers and influencers in their own city. they empower their media professionals as missionaries to a mission field that needs prayer, support and resources. through their entertainment fellowship groups, Sunday School classes and ministries, they gather the creative members of

nies) being in one industry. the impact, just in terms of the number of people employed, is huge.” Pastor Kim Dorr-tilley, a talent agent who owns a boutique agency, also holds the unique position of pastor to the entertainment industry at Bel Air Presbyterian Church. “A number of years ago it became clear that more than half of our congregation works in the entertainment field and the industry poses unique challenges to this group of influential people. “Our leadership at that time began to consider how best to minister to this group, which encompasses all

Dan Baumgartner, senior pastor, First Presbyterian Church of hollywood.

their church to offer prayer support, accountability and friendship.

Six ministries birthed Dan Baumgartner, senior pastor of hollywood Presbyterian Church, a church whose past leadership birthed six active hollywood entertainment industry ministries in the past 25 years, says, “When i came to Los Angeles, i don’t think i really realized the extent of the entertainment industry in hollywood. Clearly, i knew it was big. But coming from Seattle, it felt like the equivalent of Starbucks, Boeing, Amazon and Microsoft (all Seattle compa-

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ages, socio-economic levels and ethnicities. they wanted to find someone who ‘spoke the language’ of this people group, who understood the challenges and risks in a personal way, and who could bring a theological perspective to particular questions and circumstances that permeate this industry and its people. Our church leadership concluded that it needed to ‘pony up’ with an ordained position to show its long-term commitment to impacting culture and caring for the people involved in its creation,” Dorrtilley says.

Loved regardless Steve Williams, an industry professional and leader of the Bridge Fellowship at Lake Avenue Church says, “it’s important that the church provides a refuge and a place to receive those from the hollywood community who are broken and in need of a place where they’ll be loved regardless of their success or failure in hollywood.” Why aren’t more churches reaching out to the people who shape our children and our culture? Why aren’t large American churches commissioning creative people and sending them out as marketplace missionaries to hollywood? it’s simply spiritual battle. the enemy doesn’t want Christians to have influence, or to reach the people who are influencing every people group across the globe. therefore, the church has believed the lie that the City of Angels is too scary, too far gone and has giants that are far too big! the leadership of hollywood Presbyterian Church never believed this lie. henrietta Mears had an outreach to Paramount Studios in the 1950s and many people became Christians, including Jane russell. in 1984 the church launched Actors Co-op, and it continues to produce award-winning plays in two theatres on their campus. its members are not only union professionals but committed believers. Baumgartner says, “Since my start in 2010, i have attended nearly every show that Actors Co-op has produced. i love them. And to be honest, i love the very idea of them! the idea that we would have theaters on campus; that the plays have been carefully thought through for content; that people from all over the community would be drawn to the campus and challenged with quality artistic performances, and occasionally with follow-up conversation and thinking — i just love it. i think it honors Christ, and is an open door to people who normally would be very uncomfortable on a church campus.” inter-Mission had a 20-year run out

Steve Williams, leader of the Bridge Fellowship at Lake Avenue Church.

of hollywood Presbyterian, gathering together the community of believers in film, television, music, news and media with speakers, panels, seminars and retreats. Act One was birthed almost 15 years ago and still trains writers and executives to work as hollywood professionals. hollywood Prayer network began in 2001 with hollywood Presbyterian Pastor Scott erdman, and it’s still growing its membership of prayer warriors who pray daily for the people in the industry. hollywood Connect celebrates 10

years of connecting new believers into our community and offering an exhaustive website containing resources for work, spiritual growth and practical needs. And finally, the Greenhouse, which is 3 years old, is gathering hundreds of industry professionals of diverse faiths on a tv studio lot every month for inspiration, networking and community. erdman says, “My hope for our church is to be a springboard for ministry to the entertainment industry, which was taking shape in the 1980s and continues to this day. this was and

is a very exciting time as many of our prayers are being answered.” now is the time for more churches to join the movement of God in hollywood. it only takes three commitments: the church leadership needs to recognize that God loves the people in hollywood; the church must commit to pray for the people who create our culture, instead of ignoring, boycotting or talking against them; and finally, the church needs to commission, pray for and financially support young people who want to come to hollywood as media missionaries. As more churches join this movement of God, we will experience a cultural shift. And in time, God will bring a cultural revival. CE Karen Covell is a producer and founding director of Hollywood Prayer Network in Hollywood, CA. She may be reached at or

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Redemptive movies do have appeal

Sherwood Baptist commits to making no-nonsense films to change lives and impact the world.

BY rOnALD e. Keener

While hanging out at Disney World with some church staff during a 2001 retreat, Michael Catt couldn’t help but admire the distinctive quality of work and attention to detail that went into every single thing in the park – from landscaping and design to architecture and engineering. the senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, GA, and his team thought: “if a secular company can be this committed to excellence, why can’t the church of Jesus Christ?” From this challenge was born Sherwood Pictures, the moviemaking ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church. it has since produced four full-length movies: Flywheel (2003), Facing the Giants (2006), Fireproof (2008) and Courageous (2011). the movies have been in at least 75 countries, translated into more than a dozen languages, used by major airlines around the world and shown in prime time from America to the Middle east. Courageous opened in theaters in several countries overseas – a first for Sherwood Pictures. When Courageous released on DvD, it was no. 1 in the retail sales market, which was incredible for a low-budget Christian film. Jim McBride, executive pastor of Sherwood Baptist, shares with Church Executive some thoughts about moviemaking and how churches can use films to communicate the Gospel without compromise. After several movie projects, how do you sum up Sherwood’s impact on our culture? ultimately, that’s for the Lord to decide. We don’t 26 | ChurCh exeCutive | 06/2012

always see the fruit of our labor. While we’ve heard from tens of thousands of people who have been impacted by the movies, we will never hear from most. Our goal has always been to use entertainment to change lives. We want to present life from a Christian worldview. in my own heart, i was tired of cursing the darkness of this world and felt it was time for us to turn on some lights. Has Sherwood Pictures accomplished the business goals it may have set from the beginning? We didn’t have a business plan. it was a step of faith. We don’t approach movies as a way to make money, but as a way to change lives and impact the culture. if you get into movies to make money, you are doing it for all the wrong reasons. it’s about people, not paychecks. What will you say to other churches who are considering venturing into films? We are encouraged to see others involved in this aspect of ministry. For too long, the church has given the arts to the world by default. if we want to impact the culture, we have to be involved in the arts. But don’t do it just because someone else is doing it. i’ve gotten more than a hundred e-mails from people saying they want to make movies. the question is: has God called them to do that? Another caution: if you don’t have a great compelling story, don’t make a movie. Cheesy and poorly told stories only hurt the effort to impact the arts. And you’d better have an incredible editor. the reason most movies fail is not poor acting, but poor storytelling and editing. Courageous was edited down to two hours from 136 hours of footage. You have to know how to cut out the parts that don’t really contribute to the story. if God has called you, do it. But don’t do it to be cool or because you think you might make a buck. if God’s not opening doors, don’t try to push them open. i remember

Partners at Sherwood Pictures: Senior Pastor Michael Catt, seated; Alex Kendrick, Jim McBride, Stephen Kendrick.

REDEEMING THE VALUES OF MASS MEDIA Still shots from Sherwood films; actor Kirk Cameron, above right.

one conversation that went like this. “Pastor, how soon could i tell my investors they’ll get their money back?” i said, “You can’t make that promise. You don’t have any control over that. if you are asking investors to partner with you so they can make a buck, get out of the business now. that’s an unworthy motive.” Are there ways in which congregations can be involved with Sherwood to engage the culture through the ministry of filmmaking? We write all our scripts and do not accept scripts or story ideas from outside the team. We have several story ideas in the pipeline that will take us into the next decade if we continue making movies. We do have a DvD/PDF disc that anyone can order from our church bookstore. it has a summary of how we go about making a movie and will give you a rough idea of the process we use. My best response [to this question] would be this: Where God guides, he provides. You don’t have to chase key men when you know the one who holds the keys. We didn’t set out to get a major studio to embrace our movies. We were in three theaters with Flywheel and hoping for 12 with Facing the Giants. God opened the door for us. i believe it’s because we were a church that was prayed up and in unity. God has been our best marketer, financier and promoter. Others have helped, but God’s been our source. unfortunately, some want a system, plan or magic button to push and see all this fall into place. there is no magic formula except trust and obey. How were you able to tell a redemptive story without compromise while also making it a box office success? i am opposed to movies that use profanity or play around the edges to try to impress the world. i’m burdened by people who want to make movies to impact the culture with a redemptive story and try to see how much like the world they can be. i remember sitting with someone who wanted to make a “Christian” movie. they told me it would be about a gang and they would need to use profanity, nudity and graphic violence to the get the message across. i disagreed with them then. i disagree now. My point is, Courageous had a gang and violence and we didn’t play around the edges with any of that and we made it work. the question is: Are you trying to impress filmmakers or are you trying to please God? CE

In February this year the “Christian Oscars” were held in Hollywood. The 20th Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry celebrated the faith, family and inspirational films of 2011. The event brought together movie stars and film producers and gave awards to popular films for what were judged morally uplifting content. It is sponsored each year by Movieguide, founded by media critic and publisher Dr. Ted Baehr. It’s purpose, says Baehr, is to “redeem the values of the entertainment media according to biblical principles by influencing media executives to adopt high standards and by informing and equipping the public, especially churchgoing families.” “When we started Movieguide in 1985,” Baehr told Fox News, “there were only one or two movies being made with a strong, explicit Christian content or values, but now there are well over 50 each year. Every studio now has a Christian film division, and several studios are doing major movies with strong Christian content. And now all of the major studios, not just Disney, are making movies for young children and families.” Movieguide rates films using more than two dozen criteria. This year’s report concludes that seven of the top 10 films of 2011 scored high on its index and therefore qualify as films with “strong or very strong Christian, biblical, moral and redemptive content.” []

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Faith & Film

Memphis church film



Calvary Church, a congregation of 500, tells a story of forgiveness. BY MArK hODGe

Can people look past their differences and help one another? A film titled The Grace Card offers an answer. the movie, which opened nationally in February last year, tells the story of two officers from the Memphis Police Department and their journey from conflict to forgiveness. The Grace Card was produced by Calvary Church in Cordova, tn, in association with Graceworks Pictures, a Memphis production company. it was a practical extension of the vision of our lead pastor, Lynn holmes, for Calvary Church to be an authentic community. the inspiration to venture into filmmaking could be credited to Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, GA. After attending a showing of Sherwood’s movie, Fireproof, in fall of 2008, Dr. David evans, a Memphis optometrist, began to dream about the potential for Calvary Church to produce its own faith-based film. The Grace Card is our A journey from conflict to forgiveness. first film project, but having produced a live, full-scale multimedia easter presentation in the Memphis community for 15 years, we had a base of creativity and experience to support the idea.

Locals in auditions After God confirmed the project, we began planning in January 2009 and held acting auditions in April 2009. Filming was completed in november 2009. After the initial edits, professional screenwriter howie Klausner (Space Cowboys) further developed the screenplay. Calvary Church members and volunteers were involved at almost every level of the production, and several major areas. Actor/comedian Michael Joiner, local Memphian Michael higgenbottom, and veteran actor Louis Gossett

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Jr. were joined by Calvary’s own Joy Parmer Moore, Cindy holmes hodge and rob erickson. More than 50 Memphis churches were represented at the acting auditions. Only two members of the entire cast received remuneration. The Grace Card was shot entirely in Memphis, with the full cooperation of the Memphis Police Department. Saint Francis hospital gave us unlimited access to an entire floor of their facility. Local restaurants provided free meals for our crew during shooting, and several churches assisted with snacks, drinks and manpower. Financing of the movie was made possible when Dr. David and esther evans borrowed against their business to provide some $500,000 so we could move forward. We were also able to share the premiere of the film with the Memphis community at the Orpheum, a historic theater in downtown Memphis.

International impact the team at Affirm Films, a division of Sony, and Provident Films, led us through much of the post-production and helped us market the film. The Grace Card is now available on DvD and has a coordinating small group curriculum and devotional book. the movie has been translated into several languages and released internationally. We continue to hear stories of healing and transformation from all around the globe. The Grace Card has given us the opportunity to demonstrate to our city that we are genuine and passionate as we answer the challenges of a diverse culture. We are considering more film opportunities and outreach to the Memphis community and beyond. CE Mark Hodge is pastor of worship at Calvary Church in Cordova, TN. More information about The Grace Card is available at


Faith & Film

Serving the


Film producer connects churches that make quality faith-based movies with the best distributors in the industry.

BY rOnALD e. Keener Chris Bueno and his wife, Denise, believe that an inspiring, redemptive film can have the power to transform a person’s life and worldview. in 2009 they founded Ocean Avenue entertainment in Carmel, CA, a venture primarily focused on the distribution side of the business. “As a producer, i realized years ago that mainstream distribution channels through major studios like Sony, Fox and others were, for the most part, closed to faith-based productions. the main reason for this is that none of the major distributors thought that a Christian movie could make any money,” says Bueno. “When The Passion of the Christ exceeded $600 million in theaters worldwide, the studios took notice,” Bueno adds. “Providentially, just before Mel Gibson’s blockbuster was released, i had just started to initiate meetings with major studios in the hopes of establishing key mainstream distribution relationships.” At the time, there was really nothing else in the production pipeline that was targeted to this underserved audience, according to Bueno. he says this was when he found a little movie produced by Sherwood Baptist Church titled Facing the Giants. Bueno says that all he saw were a

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few scenes on Alex Kendrick’s laptop. Kendrick is one-half of the brotherteam that directed the film. “We helped the church by actively working with them on each subsequent rough-cut, getting the film to the point where we could present it to the studios for possible distribution,” says Bueno. After a number of months, Bueno says they finally found the best distributor, in this case Sony and Provident Films. they then negotiated with the studio to get the best possible deal for the producers. After the success of Facing the Giants, Bueno negotiated with Sony/Provident for the release of Sherwood’s subsequent two films, Fireproof and Courageous. More recently, Ocean Avenue expanded its role to include overseeing the marketing efforts for the films the company represents. Last year, Ocean Avenue released Mighty Macs in theaters and again worked with Sony/Provident in a collaborative way to release the DvD this February.

Telling redemptive stories When asked what a “redemptive” film means to him and his wife, Bueno says they want their lives and faith to reflect God’s kingdom. he uses the example of working with director David Cunningham. “Our company

recently finished the director’s cut of To End All Wars, that stars Kiefer Sutherland. A counselor assigned by the courts in Los Angeles to work with gang members has used this stirring film for the last number of years. She said this movie has been one of the single greatest tools she has used to literally change the cycle of revenge in the hearts of these gang members, showing them the real courage it takes to forgive. When a movie can accomplish that, it is bringing the kingdom of God into our culture and world.” According to Ocean Avenue’s website, the company’s purpose is to “tell engaging, entertaining and redemptive stories in which truth and hope prevail.” “We’ve gone to many movies that kept us entertained and engaged but there was nothing redemptive or hopeful about the story. With movies like these you feel like you’ve wasted a couple hours that you can’t get back. At the same time, we’ve watched way too many redemptive films, but because of either poor storytelling or faulty execution, they failed to entertain or engage. For this reason, the most successful films are those that are entertaining in an engaging way and at the same time present a story of redemption that leaves us

TARGETING CHURCHGOERS Chris and Denise Bueno also founded WingCinema, a company that provides licensing and resources to show inspiring movies and documentaries in churches. The Buenos plan to premier their first film this fall. Says Chris Bueno: “There continues to be a genuine need for good quality movies that appeal to a churchgoing audience that are released in theaters. This may not be an underserved audience any longer, but the plethora of these recent faith-based films is still lacking.” Ocean Avenue, his other company, is developing a slate of high quality Bueno faith-based movies that the church family can watch together in their local multiplex. They have a novel way of presenting these movies in theaters, which circumvents the need to advertise to the general market and primarily focuses on the target audience, the church family. “This slate of films will inspire and strengthen the church, and can be a great outreach to the local community,” he says. []

Films can have redemptive messages without being overtly religious.

with hope,” he says. there have been seismic shifts in the entertainment industry in general in the last few years, Bueno says. “Movies and tv shows streaming via netflix and hulu were non-existent 10 years ago and this, among many other things, are dramatically altering the entertainment landscape. As it relates to faith-based productions, we don’t believe we have an underserved audience any longer. Consequently the bar has been raised and people have higher expectations for films that do target this audience.”

Collaboration and prayer For churches that might have a desire to get into film production, Bueno says, “it’s not as easy as it might look to the outside observer for a megachurch to produce a movie. Alex and Stephen Kendrick, who are pastors on staff at Sherwood Baptist Church, are uniquely gifted at telling engaging stories that really minister. And i don’t believe they could have ever accomplished their objectives without the generous support of Michael Catt, the senior pastor, and Jim McBride, the executive pastor. “it was also through the members of their church that they literally secured the production funding and cast their movies. Sherwood is also a church that values the power of prayer. Before we negotiated the deal with Sony/Provident for Facing the Giants, every time we went to a studio to pitch the film, there were dozens of people at their church praying for our meeting.” there are churches working in film, Bueno says, adding that he and Denise are co-producers of a recently completed film titled Not Today, produced by Yorba Linda Friends Church in Yorba Linda, CA. Bueno and his wife were introduced to this project through Brent Martz (writer/producer), the pastor of creative events, and Jon van Dyke (writer/director), the technical director on staff. Matthew Cork, their lead pastor, has a passion for abolishing the slave trade among the 250 million Dalits in india. their church is at the forefront of the fight to abolish slavery and has committed millions of dollars to build schools and provide a Bible-based education for these Dalit children. Given these objectives and to help raise awareness of this issue, Cork commissioned the production of a film that addressed this subject. “that’s when the church came to us, in the hopes of helping them shepherd the project from concept to completion to distribution,” says Bueno. “We >>

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have an innovative plan to platform this film in theaters this fall.” [www.]

Marketing to congregations Some films are especially useful to congregations to educate, inform and inspire their audiences, Bueno says. “Movies like Courageous and Fireproof have proven to be uniquely suited for use in churches, given their strong ministry application. Churches are able to utilize them, for example, to help strengthen marriages or encourage men to become godly fathers to their children. even though the marketing effort for these films is still extensive, because Sherwood Pictures is now an established brand, they have a tremendous advantage over practically any new faithbased movie targeted to the church. “in the last 10 years, the major

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studios have gone to great lengths to try and tap this churchgoing audience. in our opinion, many of these studio films have not been appropriate for a church audience, but that has not stopped them from marketing some of these films in the hopes of boosting the box office results. “Because of some of these misguided marketing approaches, many pastors have become wary of the marketing efforts for many of these movies. then there are some films that may be appropriate from a content perspective, but do not entertain and engage as well as they should,” Bueno says. As a result, attempts to market to the church have become more difficult and costly, he adds. “At the very least any marketing effort must incorporate an opportunity for decision makers within the church to view the entire movie. Ocean Avenue

understands these challenges. this is why we believe it is so important to release the best faith-based films. Our objective is to build trust with churches by better serving the needs of their congregation.” Bueno notes there is a certain amount of criticism of faith-based films that needs to be understood. “One of the knocks we hear quite often is that many of these faith-based movies only preach to the choir – that we should be producing movies that are not so targeted to the church.” “While i applaud movies like Blindside that are successful in the general market and are also embraced by a church audience, it doesn’t negate the need for movies to also inspire and encourage the church,” says Bueno. “the choir needs preaching and teaching as much as the congregation.” CE

Using film to

move parishioners to action

Film editor Gabe Cox reviews takes on a documentary of the Story team.

the Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, tx, has created a ministry called the Story team. We are using essays, photos and films to tell stories about the ways God is at work in the church, the city and around the world. the effect has been powerful. When people see a story unfolding in front of their eyes, there is a tangible impact that lasts much longer and runs much deeper than if they simply listen to a pastor explain a sermon. Stories have always been a part of the church. in the time of Jesus, stories were primarily used orally to teach and encourage. today we use cameras to continue this tradition. We hear about many of our stories through word of mouth, and we’ve also created online systems to gather stories from our Austin Stone family. nearly all of what the Story team creates are documentaries. they are films about normal people facing various challenges in their walk with Christ, and our job is to tell the story that the Lord is weaving in their lives. the church has on staff a film editor, a director of the Story team, and a supervisor who manages the projects and leads the communications team. Filmmaking is a powerful tool that can breathe life into the local and global body – not to become more insulated or flashy, but as a way to motivate, mobilize, reconcile, redeem and renew the dark places in our hearts and in our world. it is a unique art form that encompasses multiple facets of creativity (written, visual and musical) to create an experiWEB BONUS: interview with insiders on joining Faith & Film. ence that can be poetic, lenging and inspiring. Film makes far-off or difficult issues more reachable. it encourages people who are going through trials when they see a film about others suffering. it challenges the church to live in radical obedience. it presses peoples’ hearts to adopt or support an adopting family and help the marginalized when they see a film about a family that has gone through the hardships and trials of adopting. these are just a few of the ways we’ve seen film encourage, edify and strengthen the local body in Austin, and it’s been amazing to hear of people being moved to action. Currently, the world is telling better stories than the church because their shots look better, their stories are better crafted, and the time and energy they spend on telling stories is generally blowing the church out of the water. if the Christian church would invest time, resources, encouragement and energy towards artists, we could begin to see the tide change. We could see the world looking to the

Jeremy rodgers, right, interviews for a story on missional community.

church for creativity for the first time in centuries. We could see the art of filmmaking become a powerful tool to glorify God and share the good news of Christ. CE — Jeremy Rodgers is film production manager at The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. []

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How to keep your

youth pastor

By William Vanderbloemen

Conventional wisdom says that the average youth pastor stays only 18 months. Right now at some church in America, someone is asking the question many of us have heard at one time or another: “Did you know a youth pastor stays at a church an average of only 18 months?” While there may be data backing up this statistic, what’s interesting is how conversations like this color the youth pastor as a commitment-phobe, laying all of the blame at the youth pastor’s feet. What if part of the problem – and the solution – were in the church leadership? What if churches asked, “What can we do to hire – and keep – a great youth pastor?” Our team brainstormed and came up with a number of ways that can help churches increase the chances of a long, 34 | Church executive | 06/2012

fruitful tenure for their student pastors. Don’t treat student pastors like second-class staff: It’s probably not intentional, but a lot of youth ministries get looked down like the “baby church” compared to the “big church.” Because most youth ministries have their own programming and staff, it’s easy to look at them as an ancillary part of a church. This causes youth pastors and their teams to feel isolated from the church’s overall vision. To avoid this, integrate your youth ministry with the mission of your church. Give your youth pastor input into overall strategies and opportunities for ministry. No bread crumbs: Youth pastors often get the budgetary bread crumbs, both in pay and in money available to

their ministry. Remember these pastors are not only dealing with adolescents, but with volunteers, as well as parents. They work weird hours and go to places your pastor of adults would never have to visit. This is a unique skill set and they should be compensated appropriately. Develop them: Provide opportunities for learning, networking and mentoring. Don’t be afraid your youth pastor will leave if they network with other churches. For many pastors, it’s this kind of camaraderie that they can’t and don’t get in the church where they serve. Encourage them to reach out to others. They’ll stay engaged and not burn out. Pay for their conferences and networking lunches. R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Some youth pastors leave because the church where they serve imposes regulations that simply don’t make sense in their context. Having an 8-to-5 schedule on top of their nightly meetings, dressing in

professional attire and being treated like a student instead of a pastor are things that get youth pastors searching for that next job. Allowing flexibility for student pastors will show that you value them and their ministry approach. Create a safe place: Many times, pastors worry their student pastors are simply using the position as a stepping stone into other ministry roles. Sometimes, that is the case. But there are those who truly have a calling and a passion for students. Create a safe culture where young pastors can be very honest about their calling and specific career paths. Too often, senior leaders are driven by scarcity, a fear that something won’t last. As has been said so many times before, get the right people on the bus, develop them and see what God does. Communicate: You may understand and support your student pastor, but is this message being communicated throughout the entire church leader-

ship? Are your elders or deacons, other staff members and key volunteers viewing your youth ministry through the same lens? Junior high and high school are such critical years. Students are trying to understand so much about life, faith and relationships during these six short years. By supporting, valuing and encouraging student pastor in your church, the students will be shepherded in ways that allow for spiritual growth to continue. These students will be our decision-makers in a decade or less. Pouring into your youth ministry with due diligence is vital to creating disciples who will influence your community for generations to come. CE

William Vanderbloemen is CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group, in Houston, TX, a retained executive search firm. []

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Ways to get financially fit By David Lee I like to describe the recession our nation has been experiencing for the past few years as an equal opportunity recession. It has put so many of our churches in challenging situations that have required leaders to make difficult decisions. At the same time, we have seen healthy churches emerge and flourish. We have uncovered six things that financially healthy churches do right. Adopt these behaviors if your church is serious about becoming financially fit: ”Garminize” your mission. Make sure all the stakeholders in your church have the right address entered into their spiritual GPS. If everyone is clear on the mission of your church, they’ll end up at the right location regardless of where they started in their life journey. Making “yes” and “no” ministry decisions is seldom easy, but having a clear mission makes them easier. Strengthen your leadership. Healthy churches are led by men and women who demonstrate authentic

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transparency, vulnerability and humility, undergirded by an active board that practices true accountability. These leaders are comfortable with their weaknesses and they surround themselves with qualified people who complement those weaknesses. We can clearly identify poor leadership as the No.1 reason many churches have failed or closed. Build and maintain healthy liquidity. Healthy churches have financial margin, otherwise known as cash. A healthy cash position for a church means having 16 percent to 18 percent of annual income as unrestricted cash. An unhealthy level of cash combined with weak leadership can be toxic for your church. In fact, we have identified that a lack of adequate cash is the No. 2 reason churches have failed or closed. Can you identify an opportunity that your church was unable to pursue because you lacked the cash? If you own property, or if you have (or are considering) multisite campuses, you need to consider capital replacement costs based on the age of your facilities and plan accordingly. Create a proactive culture. Healthy churches evaluate constantly to identify critical contributors and barriers to the fulfillment of their mission. Rather than reacting to financial pressures, healthy churches make hard decisions – like cutting expenses (ministry and staff) – sooner rather than later. In the context of your physical health, what would be more costly – treating or preventing an illness? The same goes for your church. Don’t spend everything. Healthy churches create financial margin by building reserves or savings into their budgets. If you are considering taking out a loan, try this: “Pay” yourself the anticipated monthly mortgage payment ($700 for a $100,000 mortgage) for a year and see if your church can continue to be effective in ministry. The result will be $8,400 in the bank for reserves and clarity as to whether you can afford to take on debt. A helpful guiding principle is: Don’t spend in anticipation of growth. Spend in response to growth. Recruit volunteers. Healthy churches rely more on volunteers to serve in positions that were previously salaried. A November 2010 study conducted by GuideStar found that 22 percent of ministries used one or more volunteers in previously paid positions. Healthy churches tap into the resources and talents of their entire congregation. But remember, people volunteer when your mission is crystal clear! David Lee is a ministry development officer with Evangelical Christian Credit Union (ECCU), Brea, CA. []


what matters

Leadership book offers secular – and God-honoring – ways to lead faith-based organizations. BY rOnALD e. Keener

Many arguments have ensued among church leaders over whether practices that work effectively in the business world have a place in Christian organizations. Metrics, for one, is a concept that many successful companies embrace to drive performance and clarity of goals; however, many church leaders still struggle about what to measure and how. in his book, In Pursuit of Great and Godly Leader-

ship (Jossey-Bass; A Leadership network Publication, 2012) Mike Bonem illustrates through the experiences of scores of church, university and ministry leaders how secular practices can be applied with faith-driven organizations to encourage growth, effectiveness and excellent stewardship. Bonem responded to questions from Church Executive about the practice of meaningful metrics, which is covered in depth in his book in the chapter “Do You Measure What Matters?” What are metrics or measurements? Aren’t those for businesses only? Metrics are simply a tool that helps to define our goals and to tell us if we’re making progress. You may think that “goals” are another business term, but i think of them as a way to make a vision tangible. if the vision is to make a difference in a community, decreasing the drop-out rate at the local high school might be a specific goal. Metrics for congregations will look different than for businesses, but they are still quite applicable. How should churches measure growth and results? Are there inadequacies in how

churches use metrics? everyone measures growth in attendance, but few even try to measure spiritual growth. everyone measures the growth in their total budget, but few measure the growth in money given away to outside ministries. everyone measures new members who come into the body, but few measure the number of “missionaries” commissioned for ministry. Congregations need to wrestle with hard-to-measure standards that are more closely linked to their missions. the typical metrics – attendance, budget, new members – focus everything internally. they make it hard to turn outward and focus on the church’s broader mission. What is so complex about measurements in the church? the simple answer is that the things that matter most are the hardest to measure. it’s hard to measure transformed lives. it’s hard to measure marriages that are saved. We don’t have the same kind of quantifiable bottom line that a business has. Is there a better way to communicate results? the business-oriented approach focuses strictly on numbers. But the ministry approach will always come back to stories of how God is at work and how lives are being >>

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changed. in other words, the metrics should support the broader narrative. How should we deal with measurements and accountability with staff and volunteers? if a church has developed top-level metrics that are mission-driven, then it’s only natural and appropriate to create the next level of metrics (those that relate to individual staff members or ministry leaders). in business someone might be fired for not “hitting their numbers.” the conversation about missing a target should look much different than in business, but too often we don’t even have the conversation in ministry settings. Mike Bonem In what ways do metrics matter for churches, for the lead pastor? Metrics, when they are used properly, clarify and support the vision for the church. they remind everyone, “this is the hill that God has led us to take right now.” When people want to point to other “hills,” the pastor can acknowledge the worthiness of these alternate ideas but then refocus everyone on the task that is before them.


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You say measurement is a tool to give a strong indication of health or effectiveness, but not one to be used apart from godly wisdom. Do you have a good example of this? Because our ultimate goals can be so intangible, most metrics are simply surrogates to give an indication of success. therefore, ministry leaders need to have their antenna up for other signs that something isn’t right. One church was seeing great results, but the pastor became concerned by the number of failing marriages, so he called a “solemn assembly” to focus on this issue and then launched other related initiatives. the issue wasn’t surfaced by metrics – it was identified through the promptings of the Spirit. What do you want the reader to know or do after having read your book? i hope that readers will realize that metrics can be powerful, useful tools. Measurement is not the enemy, and it’s not unspiritual. i also hope that readers will gather a small, diverse group of leaders to talk about how they can measure what truly matters for their ministry. CE