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The Oaks Fellowship is a large church in Red Oak, Texas?about 20 minutes south of Dallas. Most of the folks who attend The Oaks live in Red Oak, Waxahachie, and Midlothian, Texas?bedroom communities for Dallas.

Typically their pastor, Scott Wilson, begins praying in November about the following year. His goal is to figure out where God wants to take the congregation over the coming year. It?s to decide and set direction for what the conversation will be about.

That?s how they see each individual service. They are not isolated moments. Rather, they are small parts of a large conversation the church is having throughout the year. Because there are very few quick fixes that happen from one altar call, they see life change as a series of moments and decisions that ultimately leads to the goal. The service is just one of the facilitators for that.

In 2016, the conversation is about everything being worship. Our lives, our work, our entertainment? It?s all worship. Worship doesn?t just fit within the window of four songs on Sunday morning?two fast and two slow. But everything about our lives revolves around worship. So as early as December, they plan series? through to the summer based on that conversation topic.

Then for each service, they assign a grading system to determine how much creative effort will go into producing the service. A-grade services happen a few times each year and require the most investment. These are services like Easter, Christmas, and Orphan Sunday. B-grade services?requiring slightly less planning?are services like Mothers Day, Fathers Day, and Fall growth series?. Then C-grade services are their lowest level. That doesn?t mean there is no creative planning involved in making the services happen, but there isn?t quite as much investment required from the team. Kelvin Co and his team?s philosophy is that if everything is awesome, nothing is. So they are intentional about devoting the bulk of their creative energy to strategic times. This helps them manage and pace their output.

In their ?conversation? approach to church service programming, no service is a ?standard? service. They are all contributing to the overall conversation and goal for the year. However, they just might not produce a video or create a big special for the morning. Nothing is a throw away; they just pace the flow.

Their 2015 goals for the year were three-fold. One was an internal goal?(not communicated to the congregation); the other two were public.

Internal Goal

Their internal goal was to increase the quality of their first 90-day experience. Historically, they?ve done a great job at first impressions. But after that first contact with a guest, they hadn?t previously focused on the next steps. So internally, they set the goal to dominate that first 90 days from when a visitor first filled out a guest card?making themselves known to The Oaks? team.

To accomplish this, they brought a consultant in to talk about retention last year. Then they set up a 90-day communication plan to reach out to newcomers. The plan includes:

A newcomer will receive a phone call that Sunday afternoon of their visit. Then Monday morning, a staff member will deliver a bag of fresh cookies to the newcomer. And I already know what you?re thinking. But they approach it strategically by having a team of two visit each guest. One stays in the car in front of their house while the other delivers the basket. The idea is that the homeowner will see that it?s just a quick stop, so there?s no obligation to invite the staff member inside or anything awkward.

Then, sometime later in the week, they get a letter.

That Saturday, the senior pastor calls each and every newcomer. Yes, he calls 30-35 people each Saturday. And while that would be a recipe for burnout for most senior pastors, he absolutely loves it. The goal of course, with that call, is to get them to come back the next Sunday morning.

If they do return, they transfer the newcomer to a V2 category. They send them a letter that tells them their next steps to get involved.

This process continues with diminishing intensity for the rest of the 90-days in an attempt to seamlessly transition a newcomer into a member of the church. Their goal is not to overwhelm the visitor, but rather to make a large church feel small and accessible.

Check out the rest of their plan in this PDF from The Oaks.

Public Goals

Finally, The Oaks Fellowship had two public goals. These were the two things that dictated the conversation each service would be contributing to. The two goals were: love your neighbor and make a disciple.

Kelvin Co saw this as an opportunity to do something unique for Easter. He developed a large scale communication plan for Easter that would require a bigger budget and more resources?something they haven?t prioritized in a few years. But because the idea tied in perfectly with the two goals from Pastor Scott, they got the budget approved.

Their pastor actually trusts the creative team so much that he lets Kelvin and his team choose the message topic. That?s not normal for most churches, but there?s a high level of trust involved there?along with a pastor who can adapt to someone else?s ideas. Sometimes, even, Pastor Scott doesn?t experience the creative elements for a given A-level service until the technical run-through.

All of this team dynamic and these goals contributed to what happened at the Easter services in 2015. Specifically, the two public goals directly affected the theme for the Easter services and the creative elements the team developed.

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One reply on “The Oaks Fellowship’s Creative Process”

The Oaks is my church and I love it. I did find it odd though to read above that a public goal for 2015 was to “make a disciple.” I attended every Sunday throughout the year other than 2-3 when traveling. I don’t remember them ever teaching what a disciple looked like or how to make a disciple. It’s also ironic they let their discipleship pastor move on and never rehired anyone for the position in 2015 (and still don’t plan to). I mention this just to highlight the idea that sometimes what we think we’re communicating through our creative processes doesn’t actually make it to the congregation and sometimes our creative planning can be superseded by our praxis when our day to day practice doesn’t line up with what we’re communicating. God, help our creativity lead us to make disciples.

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