Today I’m excited to be talking again with Larry Hubatka from Elevation Church. For those who don’t know, Elevation Church was founded in 2006 by Pastor Steven Furtick and his wife Holly in Charlotte, NC. Elevation Church has now grown to 13 locations–10 in the Charlotte area, 1 in Raleigh-Durham, 1 in Roanoke, VA, and 1 in the greater Toronto area.
Elevation Church always wanted to equip and empower other ministry leaders, from broadcasting weekend messages to participating in conferences and internship programs which help people learn how Elevation Church works. There is a practical side to ministry that seminary doesn’t always teach you, and that’s what Elevation Church wants to share.
Can we equip people for ministry? // Most interns that come into Elevation Church’s internship program are young and new to ministry. The experience they receive in this program is very hands-on and teaches them about the practical aspects of ministry as well as the the behind-the-scenes work that needs to be done. It can be a challenging program, but most people leave with the feeling that it was the best thing they’ve ever done. An experience like this one often helps the interns decide whether this calling into ministry is right for them. Elevation also offers a one day event called Inside Elevation, which lets you get a good idea of how the church operates and reaches out to the community.
A crash course in ministry to help guide the next step. // Elevation is starting a new program called Seven Day Seminary. It’s impossible to get an entire seminary education in seven days, but Elevation does hope to train and equip people quickly. Not intended to replace seminary, Seven Day Seminary is instead a crash course which includes 25 to 30 sessions over 7 days. If you’re feeling called into ministry, but aren’t sure if it’s right for you, this can give you a sense of what to expect.
Practical training versus spiritual formation. // Everything in ministry is connected, both the spiritual and the practical parts. There won’t be a perfect ratio of work/life balance because it’s all connected in the end. So going through short training events like the ones Elevation offers can help those who are struggling with whether this is their calling, and that is what Larry and the rest of the team at Elevation hopes to accomplish in these programs.
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00:33 // Rich welcomes Larry to the show.
00:43 // Rich gives us some background to Elevation Church.
00:55 // Larry details the different locations of the church.
01:25 // Larry talks about his role and the structure within Elevation Church.
02:46 // Larry tells how Elevation Church has evolved in the 10 years.
06:17 // Larry talks about the Intern Program at Elevation Church.
08:15 // Rich and Larry discuss Inside Elevation.
08:59 // Larry talks about Seven Day Seminary.
15:15 // Larry talks about integrating your whole life as part of the basics of ministry.
15:17 // Larry offers contact info and details of Seven Day Seminary.
Helpful Tech Tools // Hangout
Influential Book // The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
Inspiring Leader // Mark Cuban, Elon Musk, Michael Bierut, Mark Zuckerberg.
What does he do for fun // Family. Surfing the web, digital blogs. Digital marketing. Team building. Sports.
Rich – Hey everybody, welcome to the unSeminary podcast, my name’s Rich, the host around these parts. Thank you so much for tuning in, I know there’s lots you could be doing as you’re getting ready to minister at your church this weekend and I’m just so thankful that you’ve decided to spend some time with us today. Today it’s our honor to have Larry Hubatka with us, from Elevation Church. Larry welcome to the show.
Larry – Thanks Rich, thanks for having me.
Rich – I’m so glad that you’re with us. For folks that don’t know, Elevation Church was founded in 2006 by pastor Steven Furtick and his wife Holly. A great church, really impacting Charlotte, North Carolina and beyond and I think you have 13 locations right now?
Larry: That’s right, so there’s 10 in the Charlotte area and then 3 outside. One in Raleigh Durham, one in Roanoke Virginia and one in the GTA, Greater Toronto area.
Rich – Nice, now as a boy from Toronto, I’m just so thankful that you guys are…
Larry: Yeah, nice.
Rich – I’m not there anymore, but I really appreciate…
Larry – But you’re still on the Blue Jays and Joe Carter?
Rich – Well, but yeah that was the last time anybody was doing a good job with the Blue Jays.
Larry – Nice.
Rich – Except for this year. So anyway, Larry leads a creative team there, you oversee film and all kinds of things, part of the weekend process.
Larry – Yes.
Rich – Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your role at Elevation?
Larry – Sure, so Creative Pastor’s a little different at different churches, sometimes it Creative Art’s Pastor, sometimes it’s Creative Pastor, a bunch of different names. For us at Elevation, Creative Pastor means overseeing design, brand management, communications, marketing. So we have a separate team, it’s really our Worship Pastor Wade Joye who oversees programming and worship. So sometimes it’s all combined into one, for us it’s broken out. So ours is a little bit more like me playing the role of a Creative Director at the church and we’re actually structured with a little bit of an agency model. So the Creative Department runs like an agency, with each of the different areas or teams operating like clients.
Rich – Cool.
Larry – So it seems to work pretty well for us.
Rich – Good, yeah that’s very cool, nice I love that. That’s good to hear, kind of the inside. Now one of the things I noticed about Elevation, I would say over the, I don’t know, year or two, just as an outside… Now if you don’t follow Elevation you really should, it’s a fantastic church doing all kinds of great things, but one of the things I’ve noticed, there seems to be a bit of a shift, which is around almost helping other churches doing a bit more of that. I visited a couple of years ago, where I kind of had to come through a backdoor to let somebody show us around and talk to us, but that seems to have changed a little bit, you seem a little bit more proactive on helping other churches. Is that true, am I seeing that right? What’s happening on that front?
Larry – I hope so, I hope we’re helpful.
Rich – Yes.
Larry – You know, we’ve not been around for that long. We’re in our 10th year of ministry right now and it’s not like we’re so far removed from… Even the first few years, I still remember, I’ve been at the church from the very beginning and I still remember, just in the early days where you are struggling to find volunteers and you’re doing the setup and the teardown with the team and the team unfortunately is like the same 8 people every single week and you’re like, “Come on people, stick around and help us load this trailer up,” and it’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, this speaker feels so heavy.”
So it’s not that far removed, we still get it and I hope from early on, you know, Pastor Steven’s done an awesome job of just setting the town to say, “We’re going to be a church that wants to be a part of the community,” versus feeling like we’re going to come in and do our thing and try to make a big name for ourselves. I think we really decided that we wanted to… We used to describe it this way, “We really hope that the city would be in tears if something ever happened to this church and we had to shut our door.” So you want to be kind of woven into the fabric and feel like, when you talk about the city of Charlotte and the other communities that we’re in that you have to talk about Elevation Church.
So to answer your question, I think from early on we had that sphere, we really wanted to help people. You can only do so much.
Rich – Right.
Larry – I mean, some of it was like we didn’t have the resource to do a whole lot based on what we hoped we’d be able to do one day but we did what we could. So we started with things like, providing our resources and the assets that we would create for the weekend online and making them available, putting Pastor Steven’s sermons up online, just doing anything you could to say, “If we’ve got something that might benefit another ministry let’s do that.”
Then it slowly evolved into an internship program and an apprenticeship program, which is like a 6 month commitment for somebody to come and feel like, “I’d love to see how Elevation does its thing, events,” like one day events where people will literally travel. We were just talking this morning about the next event and there are literally people coming in from all around the world, which is pretty fun for us.
Rich – It is cool.
Larry – You know, the 10th year of ministry we’re able to have that kind of an impact, that’s been really good to us. Then we’ve got this Seven Day Seminary program which we’re super excited about, which is like a crash course and hands on practical ministry. We’ve never done it before, but we’re believing that it’s going to be helpful. They’re going to get an idea of like, “Okay, so I went to Seminary and it was awesome and I’m really thankful for it, but there’s a practical side to ministry also.” Yeah there is, it’s one of the things that we’ve discovered ourselves in the first 10 years.
There’s a lot to learn for us still on the day to day side of ministry, how do the way volunteers greet somebody in the parking lot affect the preaching of the Gospel? How does team building play into this? There’s a lot to what we’ve experienced that I thought, “Gosh, this would really be great,” and Pastor Steven’s said, “Let’s do something like that and offer to people.” So Seven Day Seminaries are kind of a fun one for us right now because it’s fresh.
Rich – Yeah absolutely that’s great. You know, obviously here at unSeminary we try to provide practical training as well and when I heard about Seven Day Seminary I was like, “Gosh that just sounds great,” what a great…
Larry – Yeah you’re right.
Rich – Let’s step back to just get a sense of, what are you doing on the intern program, how does that work? Give us the insight behind, how is that helping you as a church, for other churches that might be listening in today?
Larry – Yeah that’s a good question because there’s several different goals when we do a program like that.
Rich – Yeah.
Larry – I don’t oversee the program, I am involved because there are interns that work in our department and obviously we’re vetting people when they come in through the application process but the team that oversees that is really trying to accomplish a couple of different things. Can you equip people for ministry?
Rich – Yeah.
Larry – Interns typically are 18 to 25, it’s not a set rule, but typically that’s about the range that they’re in. But for them to come in, be exposed to, again a real life ministry experience, it’s very hands on. I would think that our interns that come in for ministry training, they typically come in for one or two terms, fall, spring or summer, but when they come in it is probably the hardest thing they’ve ever done but I think almost all of them walk away feeling like, “That was the best thing I’ve ever done.” So it’s a really wide scope and when you think ‘intern’, sometimes you think, like they go and get your coffee…
Rich – Right, right, do the photocopies.
Larry – “We’re not going to put anything significant on you,” but I literally, before I jumped on this call with you, I was just having a conversation with our Creative Team about a piece we just did, highlighting the experience of one intern and this intern was literally talking about the things that he was able to do during his internship and I thought, “That’s the stuff that I do, that’s the stuff that like all of our staff do.”
Rich – Right.
Larry – I guess for us to be able to expose an intern to that and honestly help them figure out, “Is this the calling that God has placed in my life to do a ministry this way at this level?” It’s awesome. Some of them stick around and we invite them to come and join the staff. Some of them go back to their churches and they jump in there and they take what they’ve learned and try to apply it or translate it. But it’s been a great experience for us as a church, it just lets us expose people, train people and obviously it helps us as the same time.
Rich – Absolutely. So that’s obviously a long commitment right?
Larry – Yeah for sure.
Rich – Three or four months long?
Larry – Right.
Rich – Then obviously on the other end you have stuff like kind of a one day come, kind of get a… it’s a glorified tour.
Larry – Yeah right.
Rich – You’re seeing the facilities, you’re getting a bunch of input on kind of how ministry happens, which obviously is great, I would encourage people… What is that called, I forget what that’s called, that [Inaudible 00:08:14]?
Larry – So that one day event’s called Inside Elevation.
Rich – Right if you haven’t done that you really should. It’s a great opportunity to get a good sense of what’s happening at the ministry there.
Larry – Yes.
Rich – It’s a good thing to bring volunteers to.
Larry – That’s right.
Rich – I’m assuming like, hey if you want to kind of help cast vision for your people, I literally just had a conversation like this this week with a team member of ours, a volunteer, where they have never… we’re the biggest church they have ever been to and for them to cast a vision for, “What is it that God might do at your church?” Obviously everyone doesn’t want to become Elevation, Elevation’s Elevation and you guys would say that in what you do.
Larry – Right, absolutely.
Rich – But it’s a great way to cast vision. Now in between those two you have the Seven Day Seminary. Tell me about that, what are you going to be covering, what’s somebody going to be getting out of that, as they go through that experience?
Larry – Yeah, we’re getting a lot of questions about it, because one, the name is pretty intriguing. Somebody would say, “So let me get this straight. You think you’re going to give us a Seminary’s worth of education in seven days?” Well we’re not going to do that, we can’t do that, it’s not possible.
Rich – Right.
Larry – Seminary is amazing and you should go to Seminary.
Rich – Right.
Larry – Just know why you’re going and what you’re going to get out of it. We actually were inspired by Seth Godin’s altMBA program, I don’t know if you’re familiar with it?
Rich – Yes, yes fantastic.
Larry – He’s like one of my very favorite authors, I know he’s inspired a lot of us on the staff and Pastor Stevens saw his altMBA program and thought, “That might be a really good approach for us to take in terms of trying to equip and train people quickly.” So the short version of that program is, he says, “This is an alternative to getting your MBA. Come and spend 30 days with us online and it will basically train you how to work with people and how to tackle projects.” But we thought, “Well that principle could really work well for us.” We are an alternative to Seminary in a lot of ways, but it’s not a replacement for Seminary, I think it’s more of the, “Come and spend seven days,” and literally it’s like a crash course, we’ve never done it, so I’m telling you what we’re planning to do.
Rich – That’s right.
Larry – Talk to me in a few months and I’ll [Inaudible 00:10:06].
Rich – Yeah.
Larry – But our goal is to have you come in and literally for seven days, we’ll still finalizing the schedule and it looks like it’s 25 or 30 session over seven days, where we cover everything we can possibly cover. Sessions from Pastor Steven teaching directly. He’s going to be doing a bunch of interviews with some of his Pastor piers around the country who we would say are some of the greatest church leaders in the country. Then a lot of the staff will be teaching, but this is really us helping somebody who feels like they might be called to ministry but they’ve not actually known what to do to get started.
Rich – Right.
Larry – So I kind of think the profile on something like is, somebody who says, they might be working in a church, maybe they’re in a smaller church, maybe they’re in the general market and a business person. So they could be a mom, somebody who just has some leadership acumen, who thinks, “I’ve been called to ministry, I don’t exactly know what the next step is but if I come and do this Seven Day experience, I’ll probably get a good feel on whether or not ministry in the local church is for me.” That’s kind of the goal.
Rich – Very cool.
Larry – Some of these people might stay connected to Elevation Church, some of them might just go back to their churches, or they might feel like, “Yeah, I love ministry and now I’m going to wait and figure out what God does and what doors he opens up.” So the goal is really like, inundate you in seven days, hopefully a short enough period that you can actually take a week out of your life to do it, but long enough that you can really get immersed. I’m super excited, I think we’re ready for it to get here.
Rich – Yeah, so now is this different than a conference? Like a straight up kind of a three day conference, how would this be different?
Larry – Well it’s going to be real hands on.
Rich – Okay.
Larry – So our general approach is, we like the challenge assumptions, just in general, about how we do ministry and Pastor Steven is like, he’s wired this way. So he’s really wired to say, “Okay, so maybe we’ve always done it this way, but why don’t we try something different?” So the biggest difference will be just the hands on part of it. I don’t know what you studied, what did you study in school?
Rich – Yeah I actually went for ministry stuff, I trained for this kind of thing. So yeah I went to Seminary.
Larry – I was a science major.
Rich – Yes great, very cool.
Larry – So I was a science major at the University of Washington.
Rich – Lectures and labs.
Larry – Exactly, so lectures, it’s not completely fair but it is a good connection, people understand it. A lecture might feel more like a conference and a lab might feel more like what Seven Day Seminary is.
Rich – Yep.
Larry – Where it will be hands on and you get to get your hands dirty a little bit and then decide, “Okay I liked that. That was actually interesting to me. I can see myself doing more of that.”
Rich – Right.
Larry – Or say, “No, ministry in that format, in the local church may not be for me. Obviously I love the local church I want to go to, but maybe being on staff at a local church might not be for me.” So either way, we’re trying to help people really dive in and understand, “If this is the calling God has placed on my life, what could it look like?”
Rich – Right. Okay very cool. Now how would you, we kind of talk about the ratio between practical training and then I would say spiritual formation, like I’m assuming that part of this is going to be a bit about candidates, their inner relationship with Jesus.
Larry – Sure.
Rich – How does that ratio work out?
Larry – Clearly it’s all connected. We’re talking about developing whole people. So even in the way that, I’ll use our staff as an example. Every time we interview somebody that we’re considering to come on staff, number one question almost always is, “What about work/family balance?” It’s a funny question, because to a certain degree we have a little bit of a canned answer and we tell them the same thing. It’s not really about trying to compartmentalize and figure out the perfect ratio, I think this is a lot more about integrating all of your life together because you live one life.
Rich – Right.
Larry – So your ability to say, “Now if I’m called to this as a husband and a dad, well it’s really my family’s calling to this too, we’ve got to be in this together. We’ve got to communicate well about the different seasons, we have to bring our families along with it.” So that’s how it relates to us in a higher, staff development scenario, but I think from a practical versus personal development, I think it’s a little bit of the same. They’re so intertwined, it’s hard to break them out, but I think we like to break it out because it makes us feel better, “Well I’m going to go and do some spiritual development and some spiritual training and them I’m going to go and do some hand on practical training.”
Rich – Right.
Larry – So it maybe sounds like we’re speaking out of both sides of our mouths but that’s a little bit like saying, “I love The Hunger Games movies, that guy couldn’t speak to me through The Hunger Games.” Well in some ironic way I watched a movie and I was like, “What a great concept, I should teach my team on sacrifice, on work ethics.” So a little bit of that.
So we’re going to lead with a practical side meaning there’s definitely a hands on way to approach the basics of ministry, but clearly it’s all connected.
Rich – Right.
Larry – You can’t come in and do this if you’re not spiritually filled up and serving out of a good place.
Rich – Right.
Larry – We’ll touch on it but it won’t be all one or all the other, but we’ll definitely lead practical as our entry point into the conversation.
Rich – Okay very cool. Anything else you want to share about Seven Day Seminary? Tell us about how we can find out more information about it.
Larry – Oh yeah, thank you for asking, that’s great. If anybody obviously is interested or any of the different ways to experience Elevation Church, you can always go to the church website, elevationchurch.org but specifically for Seven Day Seminary, go to sevendayseminary.com and it’s spelled out. If you go with either the number or spell out the word seven, it will get you there, but sevendayseminary.com, there’s a short application process and I want people to do it who are… So the perfect person would be the person’s who’s thinking, “I always felt like this pull to me to do something like this and I never fully pursued it.” Well cool, you can pursue it now for a week and figure out if this works. Now it’s November 7th through to 13th, hang on, let me make sure that’s correct. Yes November 7th through to 13th.
Rich – Great.
Larry – November 7th through to 13th.
Rich – Yes.
Larry – It will be a week here in Charlotte, North Carolina and we’re excited about it. So that’s probably it. You asked some great questions, I think the same kinds of questions we get when we’re chatting with people about what’s going on here in the ministry.