In this interview with Phil Bowdle (Creative Arts Director at West Ridge Church), we discuss the behind-the-scenes goals and plans for the Easter services this year at West Ridge Church.
What does Easter look like at West Ridge? How is it different than the typical service?
Just like most churches across the country, Christmas and Easter are our?largest in attendance days. Weekly, we have 4,000-5,000 in attendance. Over the last couple of years, we?ve had?around 10,000 in attendance for Easter. This means we have to add a few extra services to accommodate this number.?During normal weekends, we have 3 Sunday services at 9am, 11am, and 12:45pm. For Easter this year, we will have 7 services on?Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Every year during Easter, we see huge amounts of first-time guests. We see unchurched, dechurched, and guests visiting us for the first time. It?s a huge opportunity for us to create an experience for them where they can encounter the love of Christ and the love of our church.
Because we have so many guests,?we don?t stray too far from what we do on a normal?weekend. We want to give people a glimpse of what they?ll experience each and every week at West Ridge. The style is the same, but the scale of what we do on Easter is bigger. We?ll have more people involved for our teams to create a high-impact, memorable experience across the whole weekend.[quote]Because we have so many guests on Easter,?we don?t stray too far from what we do on a normal weekend.[/quote]
What are you hoping to accomplish as a creative team through this Easter experience?
As a team, we simply want to tell a story. Through every song, video, transition, and teaching element, we want to share the Easter story in a memorable and compelling way.
Our intention is not to produce a show that just wows people, but we want to create intentional moments where our audience can connect with God. That means removing distractions and barriers?from the parking lot to the stage?that keep people from taking their next step.
What involvement did your pastor have in the process?
Every series we do looks a little different on how the collaboration looks between our senior pastor, lead pastor, and me (Creative Arts Director). Sometimes it?s a very specific direction our teaching team has in mind for the content. Other times, it?s more of a general direction where we collaboratively find a way to approach the topic.
This year for Easter, I pitched an idea of how we could tie-in the direction of our series we?re kicking off after Easter called ?Elephant in the Church? and bring that big idea into the Easter theme. I shared some ways that we could bring this theme to life within various elements of the service, how we?d promote it, and some main scriptures we could pull from. Our senior?pastor?was good to go with that direction. From there, I asked him a couple of questions like, ?What tone do you want the theme to have?? And, ?Anything specific you?d like to see within the Easter experience?”
I?m incredibly blessed to serve with Pastor Brian Bloye. He leads incredibly well and empowers our lead team and staff to lead their areas. Many churches across the country experience major conflict between the Senior Pastor/Creative Director role. There are always some tensions to manage here, but my role as Creative Arts Director is to fall under the authority of our pastor and support his vision. It?s really important to me that our?creative team enhances his vision, not drains it.[quote]It?s really important to me that our?creative team enhances our pastor’s?vision, not drains it.[/quote]
For series and service planning, once I know we are heading the same direction, our pastor really entrusts our team to creatively bring it to life and does not micromanage the process.
How are you building buzz and awareness for Easter?
We?re using a lot of our regular communication channels like stage announcements, promo videos, invite cards, social media, and posters around the community.
Ultimately, we are putting our energy around two things: (1) Equipping our core audience to share with their circles of influence, and (2) creating intrigue and anticipation around the theme that we?re kicking off.
The week after Easter, we are kicking off a series called ?Elephant in the Church?. Throughout the life of the church at large, there have been a lot of things that aren?t talked about. It?s time that we talk about the ?elephants? and create conversation around issues that are often avoided by churches.
To help build awareness about the series, we?re simply trying to create intrigue. Throughout the 6 weeks before Easter, we will be placing elephant stickers and symbols in windows, bathrooms, floors, and ceilings. We?re building a 15-foot elephant that we?re placing in the middle of our atrium. For the first couple of weeks, we?re doing all of this without explanation. Our singular goal is to have people across our church saying, ?What?s up with that elephant in the church?? After a couple of weeks, we?ll be introducing the concept of this series and asking our church to submit questions of the ?elephants? that they?d like to see addressed during the series. Then during Easter, we?ll introduce this idea through looking at the story of Thomas and ask the question, ?Is Jesus Alive?? We then are building our service around celebrating that not only has Jesus conquered death, but He is alive and alive in us.
How are you balancing the tension between creating a service for guests and creating a celebration for the believers in the congregation?
I know there?s a lot of debate around this, but as a creative team we honestly don?t spend a whole lot of time talking about creating for guests or?believers. We do?spend a whole lot of time talking about how we can create space for people to connect with God.[quote]We walk into every service knowing it?s someone’s first time.[/quote]
We walk into every service knowing it?s someone’s first time. With that in mind, we?re very intentional about helping everyone feel welcomed, not using churchy language, and giving a little bit of extra explanation where needed to shepherd people through moments in a service that may be unclear to them. For example, we may not change the songs that we?re going to sing because we have guests in the building. What we will do is take a moment to share with our audience why we sing and what our purpose is in doing it.
Tell us?about the different dynamic you?re experiencing this year.
It was a year ago right after Easter when I stepped out of the Communications Director role to jump into the Creative Arts Director role where I oversee our creative teams in worship, production, media, and communication. With some transitions and new hires that were already in queue, I?ve made seven new hires in the last seven months. It?s been a crazy transition, but I could not be more excited about the team that God has built here. We have some incredible people that are dedicated to building a creative culture that tells the story of what God is doing in and through our church. So on the heels of pulling off our first huge production of our Christmas services in December, we?re jumping right in as a new team to take Easter to the next level.