Behind the Scenes of Riverwood’s Summer Series— “If”

.“What if?”

This was the question that sparked our newest series, If. For every series, I sit down with our Lead Pastor, Todd, and hear his heart and vision for the next series. Todd’s very visual, so generally he provides a short brief with some visual ideas and cues, the inspiration for the series, the goals for the series and some verses connected to the general message being communicated throughout.

From this brief, I try and distill some basic themes. From these themes, I lay out different ideas.

For IF, I had a few different ideas. From three different sentences from Todd’s creative brief, I was inspired to create three different concepts. I laid out each of these concepts with some visual inspiration and the rationale for that direction.


We landed on the one idea that stemmed from the idea of the word “if” opening up to all kinds of possibilities. Then, we decided to take a direction that was inspired by outdoor adventure (hiking, camping, etc.), which fits with the direction of the series and also seemed appropriate for a summer series.

The Creative Team for the project consisted of JR, our graphic designer; Kirsten, our videographer; Cole, our assistant videographer; and myself as creative director.

Our team decided to travel to Rushing River Provincial Park in Northern Ontario to capture photos and footage that were used for the visuals of the series. Visuals included; a series graphic, a teaser video and opener video, a series bumper, and online promotion for the series.



Ultimately our goal with any visual communication is to provide a representation of what is being taught in our services and inspire people with a more poetic angle on the message of the teaching. It’s our prayer that our creative labours will help people connect in deeper ways with the message brought to our church throughout the series.

Below are some photos from the shoot in Rushing River!

Zach Oulton
Creative Director

Team Night

Processed with VSCO with e3 presetOur Worship and Creative Team works hard to host what we call Team Night every couple months. Team Night is a place for those who serve with our weekend services to come and worship together, spend time in community, and learn from each other. We believe that God has created every person in his image, and as a creative God, so too has he made each of us for creativity.

Together our teams work to create six incredible worship services every weekend where people worship Jesus, connect in community, and are encouraged, inspired and challenged through the teaching of our pastors and leaders.

We met on February 23 for Team Night and it was an awesome night! Our assistant worship leader Dan and his wife Rachel led worship, I shared some of what’s on my heart for our teams and then we broke off into groups to discuss how each of us could grow in the areas we serve with.

A highlight for me was watching one of the members of our Warehouse lighting team, Rudy, train a student from our Uprising community, Isaac, on the lighting system at the Warehouse. This is such a beautiful picture to me of what the Church is built around: people from all walks of life coming together for a common purpose and vision. This picture reminds me of what the prophet Joel foretells:

“Then in those days I will pour My Spirit to all humanity;

        your children will boldly and prophetically speak the word of God.

    Your elders will dream dreams;

        your young warriors will see visions.

    No one will be left out. In those days I will offer My spirit

        to all servants, both male and female.” – (Joel 2:28-29, VOICE)

God pours out his Spirit on all people, both young and old, and uses them to encourage and strengthen each other. He uses people of all ages to bring his Word to a broken humanity in desperate need of the saving grace that is only found in Jesus.

This is why I love Team Night!

— Zach


Building A New Website

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-10-32-34-amI took a risk. Riverwood has challenged my technical abilities as a graphic designer, and one of the first changes I wanted to make was the functionality of the website. Our old website was hard to navigate and looked horrible on a mobile device. In this day and age, a church’s website is a powerful tool online. Not only is it one of the first things that come up if you do a Google search looking for local churches, but people get to see the first look at your church’s online presence. So with the novice web development and coding experience I had, I initiated the update.

So, here it is: Riverwood’s new website. Our creative team and senior leaders met about overall planning, structure, getting rid of our old site, coding, designing, and figuring out why we even needed a website— and finally, after about a year of working on it, we’ve finished!

In the early development stages, we’ve focused on who the website is intended to target. In our previous site, we made the mistake of putting almost an entire slideshow of announcements for regular attendees. Yes, our church has a lot of people who want to know what’s going on around here, but we decided to focus the front page of our new website for individuals who are looking for a church or are new to the faith. Our church has been focusing on the word “community.” We encourage everyone to find a Worship Community, a Small Group Community, and a Serving Community; to be fully engaged in the church as Jesus intended!

We use the phrase “Welcome Home” because who doesn’t want to be greeted like they’re at home? We adopted the term “Welcome Home” from Hillsong Church, but we didn’t just borrow the phrase because they are a megachurch and because it was the trendy church thing to do. “Welcome Home” speaks of belonging; to a church family, to friends, and to God. It’s just another element that supports our focus on community. We want every person who comes through our doors to feel the sense of “coming home.” You might have also noticed that the imagery on the front page uses scenes of our church life, our buildings, and a lovely drone shot of the CMHR. We want to engage our viewers in feeling a connection with our church, our community, and our city. Everything on our website is intentional and directed towards newcomers or people who aren’t yet actively engaged.

I’m very excited about this important tool used in the life of our church and how much more we can reach out to others!

-JR, Graphic Designer

Some important things to note:
  • You can find all our past sermons at
  • Talk It Over (Our weekly message-aligned Bible study for small groups) can be found at
  • If you need to contact a staff member directly, find their info here
  • Our website is fully responsive on desktop and mobile devices. (Try resizing your browser window and see for yourself!)
  If you encounter any problems or want to know more about the development process, or you simply want to give us a friendly pat on the back, comment below or send an email to

Behind the Scenes: Video Production

If you’ve been to Riverwood just once, or even researched us a bit online, you know that we place a heavy emphasis on video. We believe that video is one of the best ways we can showcase creativity, it’s an effective ministry tool, and most importantly, it’s a special way of touching someone’s soul. We do lots of video around here. Everything from live streaming services and filming events to creating sermon illustrations and what we call, “over-offering” videos.

In any creative field, what you are trying to create will fight you every step of the way. What you are creating does not want to exist. And that fight is so much fun for me. I love the battle of dragging these videos, kicking and screaming, into existence. The sense of accomplishment when you see the videos come to life, is so satisfying…you won the battle. Let me give you a look into the frontline of this struggle.

The Setup

We have an idea, our lead pastor Todd has an idea, there are messages to be said; we need a video. Shooting an interview with someone for a sermon video— no problem at all, let’s make it happen. We grab the gear, which consists of: two cameras, audio gear, tripods, lighting, extra batteries, and lots of storage for footage. We arrive on location and our next step is to figure out framing. Believe it or not, lots of time goes into creating the seemingly perfect backgrounds. It’s not so much because we want people to say ”wow, that background looks amazing”, rather we want to create an image that looks 100% natural, so viewers focus on the subject at hand.

The Shoot

screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-3-10-04-pm “Ready when you are!” is what we usually say. The director (usually Dennis or Zach) begins asking questions or giving pointers. As the shoot goes on we are encouraging the speaker not to worry about messing up. Some people are great on video, others have lots of bloopers and do-overs. However, I’ve found that it doesn’t matter how natural someone is in front of the camera. That is the magic of video! We can capture someone’s story very effectively, without having to put them through the fear of speaking from the stage. We’ll usually shoot about 30 minutes of raw footage, while we only use probably about 3-4 minutes of that.

The Edit


Now we get to the fun part, in my opinion. This is what we are here for. The edit is where the story is crafted. It is the difference between an SD card full of footage, and a polished film. Here at Riverwood, we use multiple programs for creativity, and for video we use Adobe Premiere Pro, Plural Eyes, and Adobe After Effects. We begin with “cleaning the footage”— syncing audio, organizing thoughts, putting a very rough cut together. Then we begin to polish. This includes everything from transitions, camera angle switching, audio enhancements, music selection, colour correction, and everything else you don’t notice (but you do), when you watch the final video. When all that is done, we bring in our creative team and we watch it together. We have grown accustomed to making changes, and that’s great. We know that we need other eyes on it before it “goes to screen”. Many times the opinions of others are what make or break the video.

Winning the Battle

How do we know if a video is “good” or not? I think there are two answers to that.

We have a creative team, and part of trusting their opinion is knowing that they will always be honest. There have been times I have created videos that have not gone to screen, because we agreed that they could be much better. Humility is key. Inversely, when we create something that is amazing, we know it. We get the opinions of others.

When a video I’ve worked on appears in the service, and there are reactions (laughter, tears, smiles, etc),. That is the ultimate sense of winning the battle for me. When I can see the physical manifestation of how that video has impacted someone, how God spoke to someone through that video, I know I have done a good job.

Ultimately, when you boil it all down, forget about all the technical parts of this process, this fight… that is the goal. We setup, shoot, and edit, time and time again because we know that these videos are impacting Riverwooders, and touching their souls, using the talents God has given us to make much of His name. The war has been won.

– Cole Lazaruk, Assistant Videographer




Prince of Peace

From the moment this series— “Grit” started we knew that we wanted to communicate really visually. Video provides an incredible opportunity to illustrate a concept in a way that isn’t possible on stage. Our Videographer Kirsten and myself sat down with Todd and heard his vision for illustrating the comparison of a personal devotional life to a sailboat’s keel. A keel is filled with thousands of tonnes of lead that help keep a sailboat stable, even in the midst of storms and intense wind. Todd had recently visited a harbour in Gimli Manitoba that had several sailboats, so we loaded into his truck on a chilly Thursday morning and drove out to Gimli.

As we approached Gimli it started to rain very lightly. No problem, it was raining in the story of Paul’s journey to Rome that we would be telling so it seemed appropriate. We pulled into the harbour. Todd hopped out to talk to the owner, Jeff, who immediately treated us as if we were all old friends. We found Jeff’s boat and it seemed like a good option. We got out of the truck and I am sure that I was almost blown over. The wind coming off the nearby lake was insane! Immediately our thoughts are all racing, how are we going to manage sound in such windy conditions?

We decided that with some strategic mic placement and angling away from the wind we’d be able to manage. So we started setting up. We got into place, audio levels were good, cameras were in position and we were ready to start shooting… until it started raining harder. Sometimes the timing of weather is perfectly annoying eh? So we packed everything up and hopped back into the warmth of the truck. While we warmed our hands by the vents and waited out the rain we decided to drive over to the lakefront and get some b-roll of the waves. We pulled around and got out. It was FRIGID. I couldn’t believe how cold and wet it was.

As I struggled to see through the rain on my glasses and shivered against the cold damp wind, it reminded me of the song Prince of Peace by Hillsong United.

“My heart a storm, clouds raging deep within
The Prince of peace came bursting through the wind
The violent sky held its breath
And in Your light I found rest”

Suddenly these words that I’ve been listening to quite a lot recently had significantly more meaning. The sea, in the Bible, is often representative of chaos. And we were definitely experiencing that firsthand. But Jesus, the Prince of peace, comes “bursting through the wind.” I thought of the story of Jesus calming the storm. He brings peace to chaos. And I was suddenly encouraged! Sure these conditions weren’t ideal, but we’ve come here to communicate an incredible concept, that consistent time spent in prayer and with God can establish a stable base for our life. Jesus wants to use this message we’re trying to communicate to bring his Church into deeper relationship with himself. All of these weather problems aren’t going to stop the Prince of peace!

So as we continued to struggle with cold and rain and wind, we did eventually push through to find a location to shoot the video and communicate this important discipline. And it’s my prayer that as we seek to communicate creatively to our church, that God would also use the moments that we are creative to speak directly to our hearts and encourage us to push through for his Kingdom and his Glory!