Flashback Friday

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Here are some church media and children’s ministry guest posts I wrote previously for The Church Media Blog (From our friends at WorshipHouse Media) and the Kidzmatter blog (from our friends at Kidzmatter.com/Awana.org) that are still relevant and useful. Enjoy!


CHURCH MEDIA

Seven Tips for Church Media Production

Ten Tips for Balancing Quality and Schedule

Transcendent Vs. Relevant Church Media


CHILDREN’S MINISTRY

Five Keys to Building a Rock Solid Creative KidMin Team

The Power of Art and Media in KidMin

 

LifeKids Project Launch

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Timbuktoons recently had the privilege of producing a show intro and several animated music videos for LifeKids next project which officially launches tomorrow!

On Friday, April 1, Mr. Music is back, now with Emily and Guy the Bible Guy to bring you the latest LifeKids album, Bible Adventure Worship! Sing along with your kids to 14 of their favorite songs like “You Are Awesome,” “My BFF,” and “Count on Jesus.” Mark your calendar to get it on iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Apple Music.

We’ve been working with LifeKids for years and have made so many great friends there. They give most of their resources away for free on their Open site. If you are looking specifically for KidMin resources, here’s the latest free resource (animation by Timbuktoons of course 🙂 See animation sample on the Timbuktoons Facebook page.

The Secret Ingredient to Your Overnight Success

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So, I’ve been working on a book idea of late and it’s going to be a lot of work. One of the things with writing a book is you have to get people to buy it.

But before you get people to  buy it, you need a book store and/or website to stock it. But before you get a bookstore to stock it, you need a publishing company to publish it. Oh, but before you get a publishing company to publish it, you need an agent to pitch it to the publishing company. And finally, before you get an agent to pitch it to publishing companies, you need to research and connect with an agent. But before you connect with an agent, you need to write a really good book proposal about your book idea.

All of this got me thinking about what it takes to launch a successful creative project, be it a kids TV show or a book, or any other creative project. We often see the product launch of someone who “just came on the scene” and we think, “Dang. How come I didn’t do that?” We all have these creative ideas. Why don’t we act on them? Here’s why. It’s hard work. That’s right. Your secret ingredient to overnight success looks a lot like blood, sweat, and tears. Work.

The word passion means suffering. What do you care so much about you’re willing to suffer to see it birthed? What creative idea has enough clarity and potential that it’s worth spending countless hours on?

Pixar’s overnight success was 20 years in the making. I think that’s the norm. A long journey with lots of perseverance and a lot of pain that leads to moments of breakthrough…that leads to more suffering…er…passion to keep on going. I’m not being negative, just honest. It will never be easy. We need to get out of cushy mode and do the hard thing. There’s a phrase the Navy Seals use that is relevant if we really want to do something that matters. “Yesterday was the last easy day.”

So, what’s the upside? The upside is you get to experience the journey and do something that matters. If you are a Christian, this is where you discover your calling and your various assignments. It’s where you work on things bigger than you for purposes bigger than worldly success. It’s where true satisfaction occurs in the midst of hard work.

I have a friend who’s been working on a screen play for a feature film for over a decade. God keeps taking him back to this one project. It’s not usual for him to stick with one creative idea for so long but He keeps going back. After over a decade, he’s finally seeing some traction and it’s happening one step at a time.

So, the next time you see someone successful and a little bit of envy starts to rise up, remind yourself that their overnight success only took twenty years to happen. Find your passion, suffer for it, enjoy the journey, and keep working hard.

5 Keys to Building a Rock Solid Creative KidMin Team

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I’ve had the privilege of working with many great churches of all sizes and many denominations through our work at Timbuktoons and we’ve worked hand-in-hand with creative KidMin teams to plan and produce animation, motion graphics, and reusable assets for long term use. I’ve seen some great teams and we’ve learned a lot about how important a rock solid creative team is for your children’s ministry. Here are five key steps to building your team!
1. START WITH STRATEGY
This is the corner stone of everything to follow…. Read the full article here.

Official Book Launch: Calling All Artists

forpostSee details and purchase options here.
(or go directly to Amazon)

Well it’s finally here. Six months in the making (although I could argue decades) with many late nights and early mornings, encouragement from my wife, kids, and great friends, I’m proud to announce the official release of my first book: Calling All Artists. (See printed manuscript from last week at left.)

After compiling and editing 210+ pages (39,790+ words), setting the master manuscript up with all of the correct styles needed for e-readers, uploading to Amazon it’s finally ready for purchase.

It’s available for Kindles (and Kindle app on iPhone/iPad and other devices) at Amazon.com.


ENDORSEMENTS

I was extremely humbled by these generous endorsements from some very kind industry veterans. Some also have some amazing interviews in the book along with several other TV, Feature Film, Broadway, Music, and Video Production veterans!


An immensely practical guide for the creative in all of us. Todd Hampson’s work has blessed me and thousands of others – his writing about the nuts and bolts of being a working creative will bless many more. Highly recommended!

Phil Vischer — Creator of VeggieTales and What’s in the Bible?


When someone with Todd Hampson’s credentials and experience talks about creativity, I listen.  In fact, his new book, “Calling All Artists” was the kick in the pants I needed to move forward on my next project.  If you live a creative life (and all of us should), then I recommend the book.  You won’t regret it.

Phil Cooke — filmmaker, media consultant, and author of One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do


Having been an adjunct professor in the cinema and media departments of two major universities, I know firsthand the positive impact this book will have on students.  Whether graduating from college or deciding what to do with your life, this book answers hard questions,  provides insightful information, and gives you life changing tips on how to make better choices and start a creative career in the 21st century.

Kathleen Cooke — kathleencooke.com, Co-Founder Cooke Pictures, cookepictures.com


Todd Hampson’s “Calling All Artists” e-book is a GREAT tool for anyone just getting into animation or even those that have been in it a while and want to reinvent themselves and/or reignite their passions.  As artists, we are not very good at looking internally or into the future, so planning our careers is a mysterious journey.  Todd really gets you to organize your thoughts and aline them with your talents!  That is THE path to success for any artist!  Additionally, his optimistic viewpoint toward the industry, and his excitement about it, is a breath of fresh air we all need to hear!

Tom Bancroft — former Disney Supervising Animator, Director, Studio Owner, Character Designer, Author


Todd Hampson listens and delivers! I have personally had the privilege of working with Todd and his company Timbuktoons developing an animated series for kids. He and his wonderful team were able to grant my every wish, and then some. The information he shares in this book will absolutely help artists on their creative journey.

Cassie Byram — actress, singer, song-writer, and Executive Creative Producer, Oodles World Inc.


Needless to say, I’m really excited about this book, most of all because I think it is going to help thousands of artists discover their creative calling and how to thrive in a creative career. I’m planning a few promotional events to help get the word out about the book but I couldn’t wait to share the news. Please tell your friends and share this link (http://ow.ly/zG06i) on social media to help get the word out!

 

 

Project Highlight: “Bible App For Kids”

This is an amazing time to be a creative. Location is not a factor for most creative projects. With online collaboration tools giving organizations the ability to hire companies based on their key creative strength, it makes it possible to produce complex projects without having to hire an onsite team to pull it off.

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Timbuktoons worked with LifeChurch.tv/YouVersion Bible App, One Hope, and Ovenbits in the latest story launched in the Bible App for Kids available for all devices and found in the App Store, Google Play, and Amazon.

“Two by Two” depicts the story of Noah and the flood through 8 interactive story panels with user triggered animation and a ton of characters. Timbuktoons handled animation planning, character rigging using interactive game software, rough animation and final animation production, as well as setting the files up to dish off to Ovenbits to program the interactivity.

You can read more about it here.

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Transcendent Vs. Relevant: Why Church Media Should Lead Creative Culture

Here’s another guest post I wrote for my friends over at the Church Media Blog. I have included the first paragraph and a link to the full post.

In both creative and in Christian circles I hear a lot about being relevant. Relevant is an adjective that means “closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand.” It means the solution is pertinent or applicable. It makes sense. It’s current. Relevance is relevant but is it over used? Has the term been come to mean “cool”, “hip” or “in style”? The applications of relevance have to do with breadth. Reaching a wide demographic and not being out of date. The goal here is to hit the middle of the bell curve. Read more…

 

The Power of Art and Media in KidMin

I started guest posting over at KidzMatter.com and here’s the first paragraph and a link to their site.

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Media is a powerful tool, and is used to teach, train, influence, tell great stories, bring awareness, stir emotion, persuade, and engage. Billions are spent on production and distribution, and media reaches every corner of the world. On YouTube alone, 2 billion videos per day are watched. – See more.

New Resource for Ministry Creatives

I started guest posting over at the “Church Media Blog” with my friends from Worship House Media/Sermon Spice/Salem Communications. My first post went up yesterday: 10 Tips for Balancing Quality and Schedule

Check it out along with all the other great posts and contributors. If you produce content for a church or ministry, this blog will be another great resource for you.

Tell them Todd sent you!

 

5 Character Branding Tips for Your Children’s Ministry

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We’ve all seen the power and appeal of an iconic character, and we all know the importance of effective branding for the world of specialty coffee and niche computers, but what does all of this have to do with my children’s ministry department? Well, more than you may think. Whether intentional or not, your ministry has a brand which can either help, or hurt your ministry’s mission. First, let’s define what a brand is.

Look up brand in the dictionary or on the internet and you’ll get several different versions. Traditionally, a brand is thought of simply as a type of product, or a logo (aka “brand mark”). It has commercial or pop-culture connotations. But a brand is much more than that. Those are pieces of a brand. Seth Godin, famous marketing expert (just google “Seth”, and his blog will be first on the list) defines a brand as, “the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

You’re not selling a product or service. You are creating an experience…a touch point based, relationship driven experience. For what’s it’s worth, here’s my “Children’s Ministry Brand” definition: A children’s ministry brand is the totality of the story, vision, mission, promises, and goals of a specific local church expressed experientially thru the children’s ministry department.

A brand is much more than a logo. It’s the totality of what you stand for. It’s the essence of your mission. A brand has many visual touch points (like logos and collateral) that help convey your brand, but it is really experienced by all 5 senses. It’s about the total experience. How people are greeted, how easy the check-in process is, how safe the environment feels, how fun the visuals look, how connected your ministry feels to the rest of the church. The list goes on. But is branding Biblical? Obviously the term “brand” is not in scripture, but all of it’s components sure are.

Remove your modern day brand connotations for a moment. Now use your imagination to go back to the time of the book of Exodus. In chapter 31 we see where God called and appointed a man named Bezalel to be the chief artisan of the Tabernacle. Everything about how the tabernacle was made including the materials, colors, types of wood and precious metals, production of statues, priestly utensils, layout of the structure, and many other details were specifically dictated by God and performed thru Bezalel and other artisans.

That’s branding! Even things like, incense, the smell of burnt offerings, the details of the priestly garments, all were part of the tabernacle’s experiential “brand”. Knowing how the 5 senses impact humans, God wanted the Israelites to build a structure that accurately conveyed God’s character, mission, purpose, values, and promises. At the risk of sounding irreverent…that’s a brand!

If God went to that much trouble to impact those who came in contact with Him thru the old testament system, shouldn’t we go through that much trouble to leverage our ministry brand to facilitate the great commission? Our ministry environments should be well thought out touch points that support the mission of our church. Many churches do a great job at this and have taken the time to be intentional about how their brand impacts children and parents. But many have not. It’s well worth the time and effort to peel back the layers, think thru, plan, and execute an intentional brand for your children’s ministry.

Now…what about the character part? How do you “brand with character”? It’s no secret that in the realm of children’s merchandising, once an iconic character is established (think Disney, Pixar, or popular TV cartoon characters), companies line up to license the character(s) for use in their products. For example, Sponge Bob Square Pants is an $8 billion licensing franchise. He shows up on everything from clothes, to toys, to band-aids and macaroni and cheese.

I’m not suggesting that we attempt to license a children’s ministry character, but I’m pointing out the underlying fact that children connect with characters enough to drive a multi-billion dollar industry. What if children’s ministry leaders developed characters that helped support the brand (i.e. vision, mission and goals) of their church, while facilitating spiritual formation in the children that come in contact with their ministry?

Well developed cartoon characters have a long shelf life and multiple applications from outreach events, environment graphics and t-shirts, to motion media and curriculum. Well developed KidMin characters can positively change the trajectory of your ministry.

If this peaks your interest at all, I want to share 5 character branding tips for your children’s ministry. These are chronological steps with one step feeding critical information into the next step.

1. Perform a “Brand Audit”
This is a discovery process. It is a detailed analysis of your current brand and typically includes: internal and external surveys, a collateral audit, a language audit, and time spent with core leaders and stake holders to discover the vision and history of the ministry.

2. Develop a “Brand Guide”
Using the results from the Brand Audit, a 10-25 page Brand Guide is developed to establish key entry points to your brand. Brand Guides typically include: brand story, vision, mission, brand mark (logo), personality, color palette, typography, photography, and other key brand components.

3. Develop Brand Characters
Using the Brand Guide, you can develop characters that support and facilitate the brand. It is key to focus on concept and personality first, and visuals second. The development of characters for a brand typically includes: research and brainstorming, gathering reference material, concept art, settling on a direction, written descriptions of the character personalities and backstory, designing the characters, turnarounds (how each character looks from all angles), pose and expression sheets (to show the characters personality and range of emotion), final color art, character packs and exported art for print and other usage.

4. Plan an Internal Brand Launch
This is very important. To effectively roll out a new or updated brand, you must launch first to your team of staff and volunteers. Many of them should be involved in the entire process, but this is your in-house event to unveil the final product, talk to them about how to effectively communicate the brand, cast vision, and share the purpose behind the new brand. It also prepares your team to communicate the brand to the parents and children in your ministry.

5. Plan an External Brand Launch
This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. This is where you get to unleash the wow factor. You can launch the brand at strategic events such as a back-to school night, promotion Sunday, ministry orientation, or during a key holiday event like Christmas or Easter.

You might be saying. “Ok. This sounds awesome, but I don’t have the time or resources to pull it off. What am I supposed to do?” Well, there’s no doubt it will take some intentional planning, vision casting, and some effort, but don’t let that stop you. I have a saying that I use to motivate myself and others: “Anything is better than nothing.” Whether forming healthy eating, work out, or Bible study habits,…or intentionally branding your children’s ministry, “anything is better than nothing”. If this proposition seems overwhelming and out of reach, here are a few suggestions which may help:

Look first in your church body. You may have volunteers in your church with the exact skills and experience needed. Or, they may have key connections to companies or people who can help. God has a way of putting the right people in the right church body. I’m currently volunteering to help the children’s ministry at my church rebrand all of their environments with custom wall murals and branded characters. Find artists, or creative business owners in your church and ask them to help. You might be surprised at what you find.

Talk to other ministries that have gone thru rebranding or branding with characters and ask them about the experience and what resources they used. Study ministries you admire to see how they handled branding, and ask them for an informational interview. You would be surprised how willing people are to share information.

Plan for a rebranding phase as part of next year’s budget or as part of a new building campaign. There are logical times to walk thru a rebranding and/or character development process. Leverage those opportunities and plan effectively for the next decade and beyond. It will generate momentum and create a buzz about your ministry, attracting more people to your church to hear the message of Christ!

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What are your thoughts on “branding with character”? You can leave a comment below.