Synergy Interview: Todd Crews

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Synergy Interview: Todd Crews

SYNERGY: Share the kind of ministry you do. 

Todd Crews: We are currently in a season of transition. But, for the last 8 years did young adult ministry at the Brooklyn Tabernacle in the heart of New York City! I'm currently traveling and speaking while spending time with my most important ministry: my family

 

SYNERGY: How did you come to do this type of role? What were you doing before you entered this role?

TC: Research tells us the least likely person to be in church was a 25 year old. I was passionate about seeing that change. Before I was in this role I was serving in a variety of other ministries in my church. 

 

SYNERGY: What’s the biggest thing you had to overcome to find success in your ministry?    

TC: Taking myself too seriously, and not taking God serious enough.

 

SYNERGY: What is the risk in pursuing what you love?

TC: Anything great in this life has risk involved. I've realized in my pursuit of what I love God's plans are sometimes different than my preferences.

 

SYNERGY: What’s the biggest way your ministry has changed since you started it?

TC: Our biggest change has been developing a volunteer culture. There is an army of people playing their part in reaching and raising up young adults for Christ. 

 

SYNERGY: Tell us a few things you have to be consistent in to lead your ministry.

TC: I can't lead anything well unless I'm leading myself well. Prayer, reading, family time and things refuel me are a must. 

 

SYNERGY: What do you do to keep learning in ministry?

TC: I believe you can't have a growing ministry without a growing leader. I try to surround myself with people that are better than me and read a lot! 

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Synergy Interview: Joel Triska

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Synergy Interview: Joel Triska

SYNERGY: Share the kind of ministry you do. 

JOEL TRISKA: (Same as Rachel) Life in Deep Ellum is a church in a historic arts district of downtown Dallas. In a very general sense, there are two components to our ministry – the faith community and the cultural center.  The faith community gathers on Sunday mornings, in life groups and engages the community through our cultural center. Monday through Saturday our building serves as a community cultural center, complete with an art gallery, coffee shop, space for Deep Ellum neighborhood meetings and an event space used by our community partners.

My title is Resident Philosopher. Rachel and I used to have more traditional titles – Lead Pastors and Executive Directors – but since we recently switched our job descriptions we thought our job titles should say less about what we do and more about who we are. J Currently, I oversee the Cultural Center including the Umbrella Gallery and our Community Partners. Our community partners are other organizations that we partner with because we have common goals. Sometimes, they are Christian organizations, but they don’t have to be. If they have goals of community development or artistic celebration in the city, then we joyfully link arms with them. Here are some of our partners:

Art Conspiracy

DaVerse Lounge

Clark

Deep Ellum Community Association

Deep Ellum Foundation

Muscle Memory Dance Theatre

SYNERGY: How did you come to do this type of role? What were you doing before you entered this role?

JT: I use to be a youth pastor in Broken Arrow, OK. I’ve always had a heart for those on the fringes – the marginalized. After spending time seminary – including abroad in the Philippines – I grew in my passion for contextualizing theology. I saw that American culture was shifting and began to see myself as a missionary in my own country – which meant I had to do what all missionaries do: build new relationships, listen to people different than me, learn new customs. Deep Ellum is a very bohemian neighborhood and anti-religious. This place has taught us how to innovate our ministry approach in an effort to better connect with those who distrust the Church.

Before we came to Deep Ellum, I worked at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and taught adjunct theology at Evangel University.

SYNERGY: What’s the biggest thing you had to overcome to find success in your ministry?

JT: Changing my metrics for success. In the first several years, I thought we were failing because we weren’t big in attendance. But God showed us that what man calls success isn’t necessarily what he calls success. Currently, we measure success by stories. The story of our involvement in the community, how our neighborhood has embraced us; stories about people that we partner with, and how people are coming to and back to faith.

SYNERGY: What is the risk in pursuing what you love?

JT: Normally, people will say that the risk is failure. But failure is inevitable. If I truly want to learn from the process, failure is part of it. The real risk is quitting because it gets too hard.

SYNERGY: What’s the biggest way your ministry has changed since you started it?

JT: For me, the change is how I have stopped trying to prove or justify my ministry approach to others. We have given hundreds of tours of our building to other churches/pastors. In the past, I always felt like I needed to get the approval of others. I don’t anymore. I know what God has asked me/us to do. And it okay that it doesn’t look like what others do. In the past, I used to take it personally when someone left our church because it “wasn’t for them.” Now I don’t mind because I’m not building my Kingdom, but God’s. Our church isn’t for everyone – just like every other church. Our church is for the people God sends to us.

SYNERGY: Tell us a few things you have to be consistent in to lead your ministry.

JT: Self-care and personal growth. This includes rest and relaxation. This includes healthy habits in eating, exercise, meditation, and friendship. I have friends that truly know me. I attend groups where I can be imperfect without apology.

Orient myself around people not like me. Because I often meet with people of different religions or with different worldviews, my faith can be stretched and I can learn to accept people where they are at – like God does with everyone. This empowers me to be a spiritual leader in the marketplace, not just in my church.

SYNERGY: What do you do to keep learning in ministry?

JT: Talk with people who don’t see things like me. Listen to them. Try to see things from their perspective.
Also, I listen to LOTS of podcasts.


Joel likes most sports, loves reading and teaching theology, and is almost always in the mood for Mexican food. Click here, to find out more about the ministry of Life In Deep Ellum.

TW: @joeltriska

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Synergy Interview: Rachel Triska

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Synergy Interview: Rachel Triska

SYNERGY: Share the kind of ministry you do. 

RACHEL TRISKA: Life in Deep Ellum is a church in a historic arts district of downtown Dallas. In a very general sense, there are two components to our ministry – the faith community and the cultural center.  The faith community gathers on Sunday mornings, in life groups and engages the community through our cultural center. Monday through Saturday our building serves as a community cultural center, complete with an art gallery, coffee shop, space for Deep Ellum neighborhood meetings and an event space used by our community partners.

For the first five years I oversaw the cultural center and Joel worked primarily with the faith community. Two years ago we switched roles. There’s a lot of overlap in what we do but at the end of the day – I spend my time thinking about what God wants to do in and through the faith community and our resident philosopher, Joel, reflects on the possibilities of what God might accomplish through the cultural center.

SYNERGY: How did you come to do this type of role? What were you doing before you entered this role?

RT: Early in life, I dreamed about the type of church that engaged its community seven days a week. I understood the incredible impact a church can make in just two days a week and felt led to ask the question: What if people outside the faith had a reason to be in the church throughout the week? What if they believed the church existed primarily for them? This dream (and a very strong sense of calling) is what made me willing to give up my aspirations of going into judicial law to become a pastor.

Before we came to Deep Ellum, I worked at Evangel University. I was the Residence Director for Spence Hall and served as an adjunct professor in the theology department.

SYNERGY: What’s the biggest thing you had to overcome to find success in your ministry?

RT: A mistaken understanding of what “success” is. I believed “success” equaled a large congregation. God made it very clear that success for us was not that. He didn’t Life in Deep Ellum to be a big church. The understanding that success was a big church with a big budget was hard to let go of early on but I’m so glad God helped us surrender it. It’s a incredibly freeing reality – God calls churches to different things. It’s a mistake to buy into the idea that the only way to succeed in ministry is to pastor a mega-church.

SYNERGY: What is the risk in pursuing what you love?

RT: Love makes you vulnerable. Love requires you to show up in ways that move you beyond what you know and what you can do on you own. The risk in pursuing what you love is finding you actually need God.

SYNERGY: What’s the biggest way your ministry has changed since you started it?

RT: I’ll answer this in a personal way. For me the biggest thing that’s changed is I show up every day. What I mean is this – early on I spent a lot of time trying to be what I thought I needed to be as a pastor: I needed to be strong. I needed to have answers. I needed a clear vision. I needed well written sermons. In the last few years, God showed me that what’s needed is for me to show up and be me. Not what I think is needed but who God made me to be. I’m strong but I’m also tender. I have a lot of clarity but I don’t always know the answer. Well written sermons aren’t nearly as powerful as vulnerable and real ones. God knows what this community needs better than I do from their pastor and he called me and Joel here – which means they need us to be the real us not some polished up version of ourselves.

SYNERGY: Tell us a few things you have to be consistent in to lead your ministry.

RT: Consistently have someone helping you grow in your personal and spiritual life. I have a spiritual director that I meet with on a weekly basis. She has no connection to or investment in the church. She’s someone who cares about me and sees me first as a person not as a pastor.

Consistently practice confession. My spiritual director also serves as my confessor. I talk to her about my sin regularly. There’s no wisdom in a pastor thinking they don’t need to talk to other people about their sins.

Consistently take time off. I learned this the hard way. After our first five years, I crash landed in a sabbatical. I was burned out and unsure if I would come back to ministry when the sabbatical was over. God did a lot of work in me during that sabbatical and helped me see that rest is an expression of trust in him. When we rest, take time off, go on vacation, take a sabbatical, what we’re saying is, “God, I know this isn’t all up to me. I know you’ve got this.”

Consistently talk to people outside the faith. Don’t get pulled into the Christian bubble! Blow that sucker up by hanging out and being friends with people outside the faith. And make sure you don’t turn potential friends into projects. Friendships with people outside the faith are not first and foremost about “winning them to Jesus;” they are about learning to love people unconditionally just as God loves us.

Consistently put family first. What do we gain if save the whole world and lose our family?

SYNERGY: What do you do to keep learning in ministry?

RT: I read a lot and widely – fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, journal articles. I spend a lot of time listening to people who think differently than I do. I’ve learned to ask, “Why do we do it that way?” If the answer is “that’s the way we’ve always done it” or “that’s the way everyone else does it, then we challenge the status quo as a staff to determine whether that’s how God actually wants us to do it. 


Rachel enjoys running, reading the classics, and expressing her inner child while playing with her two daughters. Click here, to find out more about the ministry of Life In Deep Ellum.

TW: @RachelDTriska

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8 Keys To Starting a Youth Ministry From Scratch

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8 Keys To Starting a Youth Ministry From Scratch

Starting anything - especially a ministry from scratch - can be a challenging and almost overwhelming task. Having made the journey of really starting two student ministries from scratch here are a few principles that I have found transferable no matter the size of your church or culture of your town.

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Implementing Creativity In Your Services

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Implementing Creativity In Your Services

The creation story, in Genesis, shows us how creative God is. Like an artist putting brush to canvas, a world of spectacular beauty was created. We serve a creative God, who uses extremely creative methods to show us who He is and how He loves us.

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Stepping Out of the Ordinary

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Stepping Out of the Ordinary

It’s kind of funny how so many people want to be so different, but when they have a chance to truly be different they stick with the regular, the common place, the bland, and generic normalcy of life and ministry.

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Handling Introverts In Ministry

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Handling Introverts In Ministry

I’ve been called many names throughout my life, some nice and some not so nice. I’ve grown to accept the compliments and dismiss the criticisms. However, in college I was called something that I had never heard before – INTROVERT!

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How To Reach A Postmodern World

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How To Reach A Postmodern World

Being a millennial, I feel as though, I have a keen sense to sniff out inaccuracies. I have a tendency to go looking for them. For lack of a better term, we are a generation of cynics and over-analyzers.

I am guilty, and not only by association, to belonging to a generation of know-it-alls

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