If you would ever use the word “opulent” to describe a school, then you would use it to describe the Kings School at North Parramatta. Better equipped than many university campuses, this is clearly a place where the fees are being spent on improving the buildings, and having top resources in classroom. It was also the venue for this year’s Create Conference: a gathering of Christians who wanted to learn how to be more creative.
Unusually for a Christian conference, the presenters were chosen not for their theological training, but for their professional skill in their particular area of creativity. There were a great many seminars on offer, indeed choosing the ones to attend was quite a struggle. It was a long day, with registration opening at 8:30am (I arrived a little after 9), and the last session finishing at 6pm. There were certainly a few hundred people attending, and there were enough breaks that it was possible to meet some new people, and catch up with some old friends.
Arriving late, I missed the introduction to the day, and came in some of the way through the opening talk. This was the main time that the bible was mentioned during the day, and – while it felt a little like a token gesture – there was perhaps some truth in the comparison of the Genesis 11 story of the Tower of Babel (the explanation of how the world came to have different languages) and the emergence of the internet, where yet again, everyone is united together to a common aim.
The encouragement was for churches to get online, and to be online in a positive way: some in the audience would be better equipped than others to achieve this, I think, but there were certainly seminars on offer to help people with this. Some statistics in the talk were also noteworthy: the average Australian (according to Nielsen) watches 13.3 hours of television per week, and uses the internet for 13.7 – often doing both at the time. Describing people as having a “thirst for pixels” also seemed quite poignant: how much time and mental energy do we spend these days in soaking up pixels of one kind or another.
With this talk over, I headed to (ad agency creative director) Simon Mcgrath’s seminar from kernel to ‘pop’; this was an hour spent looking at the best creative work from ad agencies, and thinking about how this could apply to church marketing. If anything, it brought home that the ad agency work is still of a much higher calibre than anything that’s being done in the amateur circuit, and that it’s indeed a hard task to compete.
At morning tea (a range of pastries, or watermelon and strawberries for the health conscious), there was a chance to compare notes, and recharge for the next run of sessions.
In introduction to film, Michael Anderson helped us consider the issues involved in making amateur films that have a better aesthetic than the average YouTube video. The most useful advice was that the first film you make should be no longer than 25-30 seconds: any longer, and the editing will break your spirit. Beyond that, a list of traps for young players: too many cast members, scenes that need special permission for filming, and elaborate costumes.
In the session called using your space more effectively, there was an opportunity to talk about some of the challenges with a heritage-listed building, and then we split into other seminars. I took one on “colours and lighting”, where we looked at the effect of colour and light on the mood of a space. Then, I took a different seminar called “the good the bad and the ugly” – this was a very quick walkthrough of how to look at your building with the eyes of an outsider, and make it as accessible as possible.
Just before the afternoon tea break was the session on recent thinking on communication theory, where Michael Anderson (again) walked through the 4 different learning styles (visual, aural, reading/writing, kinesthetic), and how ignoring them will limit how much different people can learn. Lots of advice (and practical examples) on how to structure things for learners of different ages.
The last session I had of the day was writing to engage workshop. We brainstormed a range of different needs, and a range of biblical truths, and then tried to pair them up, to see how different bible passages might answer those needs. We also learned the technique of the “five whys” – asking someone why five times, in order to try and get to the underlying need that a person has. Lastly, we saw that it’s important not to be happy with the first run-through of an idea: keep reworking it, and you’ll end up with something that’s a better fit.