LeAnne Martin
Christians in the Arts

Monday, October 20, 2008

Joey O'Connor: The Grove Center for the Arts & Media

Joey O'Connor is the executive director of The Grove Center for the Arts & Media in San Clemente, California. He is a pastor and author of 18 books. He is currently writing a screenplay about slavery and genocide in Africa in the late 1800s. He lives in San Clemente, CA with his wife and four children.

LeAnne: How did The Grove Center for the Arts & Media come about? 

Joey: It came as a complete surprise to me. As a writer and pastor, I have always loved the arts, but I never had the aspirations to develop a non-profit ministry. The Grove came out of a time of prayer in August, 2002, while I was spending time alone with the Lord at the San Juan Mission. As I sat among the beautiful mission gardens and architecture, I thought to myself, "What if there was a place for people to get away and be renewed? What if there was a creative, sacred space for artists in the Church?" After a couple of hours of thinking and praying about this, I asked, "Lord, are you speaking to me?" By the end of my time in the gardens, I said, "Okay, Lord. I'm in." We had no plan. No vision. Only a calling.

Three weeks later, very unexpectedly, I received a phone call, and six acres of lemon and avocado were donated to develop this retreat center that didn't have a name yet. Within the year, the six-acre gift turned into a twelve-acre gift. We formed the non-profit and started doing retreats for artists in the Church.

Our vision is to see Christ in culture through the arts and media. Our mission is three-fold: 1) Cultivate spiritual transformations in people's lives through retreats and events. 2) Connect artists, non-profits and churches. 3) Create film, audio and printed resources for creative ministry in the Body of Christ.

LM: What do the retreats offer? 

JO: Right now we are offering one-day retreats on the actual Grove property. Our focus is the spiritual formation of artists and creative people in the Church. The day retreats are a combination of solitude with the Lord, small group discussions, a creative spiritual formation exercise, guest artists, pastors, and worship leaders...and a great meal. All of our retreats have received very positive feedback, but we pay real close attention to our retreat evaluations. The retreats are not focused on artistic "product" (i.e., what the artist produces), but giving artists a place to grow deeper within the Lord among others who share similar values.

LM: Tell me about Grovefilms.

JO: Grovefilms is the media ministry of The Grove. We have several goals with Grovefilms. First, we want to provide high quality church media to churches across the world. We also want to be very intentional about supporting the work of filmmakers who are Christians. Every time someone buys and downloads media from Grovefilms, filmmakers are financially supported through the sales of their products. Next, we wanted to produce our own short films and feature-length films with stories of spiritual transformation. There are a lot of great stories to be told! Last, we wanted a tool to produce sustainable income for the ministry. We want to show our ministry partners that their investments are taken seriously.

More about The Grove on Thursday.

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