Coming back to Omaha is like weaving back into the fabric of life. -Alexander Payne, director of Sideways, About Schmidt and Omaha native
Omaha. Most people had associated it with ignorant out-of-date stereotypes, the Huskers, Warren Buffet, the Counting Crows song, and that has been about it. That is changing, marked by the Big Omaha speakers who lauded the city, its culture, its trends in business/design/tech, and most importantly its people. It’s one thing for those of us who live here to sell Omaha to others, but for nationally respected experts to give accolades to Omaha within their networks and communities carries gravitas with it.
Coming out of the Big Omaha conference I don’t know if I’ve ever had greater appreciation and respect for Omaha in my life. And, I loved this city already. The conference built-up and encouraged a local cultural scene that has been burgeoning for awhile and put it on the precipice of exploding to the masses. What’s great about it is the people that comprise this scene, they are great people. I’ve been fortunate to talk to some of them in recent months online, through Twitter, meet-ups, and more. The locals obviously want to do good for themselves and their businesses, but they really want to see Omaha as a whole be successful. They cheer on their friends, who sometimes are their competition in business. I think this partly stems from if others are doing good work it will reflect well on Omaha and that is a positive thing for everyone.
Thursday night I attended the Secret Penguin/What Cheer Open House and then the kickoff party for Big Omaha at Slowdown. Lots of excitement at both events as people were conversing and networking. I came across people from Arizona, Iowa, South Dakota and Minnesota. (Throughout the conference I also met people from California, Missouri, Ohio and Viriginia. Sure there were many other states represented.) People were looking forward to the conference, but also impressed with what Omaha was doing. That was one of the goals Jeff Slobotski and Dusty Davidson had hoped for with this, that the word would get out about the burgeoning Omaha scene.
I already love this city and its people, but something else really came to the forefront during the conference for me. Start off with a question I know the answer to. Why don’t Christians in Omaha try and network with this scene? Well, if any of the comments and feedback I hear at work is any indication, Christians don’t try to on purpose. It can range from fearing the new cultural/tech trends to just wanting to be around other Christians. Also, Christianity isn’t known as being cutting edge when it comes to cultural trends. In fact, we’re known for being ten to twenty years behind the times.
Here’s where I think Christ Community Church can make an impact. We have a fully staffed Communications team and the work we create is good. During lunch, at the conference, I was telling some people about the work we create at CCC. I brought up what CCC was doing because one web designer was sharing how he helped modernize some church website by providing for them a podcast and .pdf capabilities. Everyone at the table was impressed that he’d done that for this random church, and that a church would even have such resources available on their site. I piped in that the church I work at as four podcasts. This shocked some of the individuals at the table and then I proceeded to tell more about what our Communications Team does. One guy responded, “So, you guys must be like a progressive church.” Yeah, you could say that.
As I said in my previous post, mentioning I work at a church can be a conversation killer. The flipside of that is it can be a conversation starter, especially at this conference, because it fascinated people that a church would have an Art Director, that we’d create a lot of our work in-house, that we’d want to immerse ourselves in this scene, and that I’d get the okay to go to Big Omaha. It impressed these professionals and provided an open door to share.
Many of the attendees of Big Omaha carry influence, whether it be through their lives or their work. Many of them have a great love and respect for Omaha and its people. If CCC wants to impact the city of Omaha it is going to take a multitude of ways, but one way I think is to have a proactive role in this burgeoning scene. If we can impact those that are setting the cultural trends here in the Omaha area, how many people would that ultimately impact?
Like I said, the individuals in this scene are already great people who truly love their neighbor and want the best for Omaha. What if CCC could make an impact in this scene? What if we get to the point where CCC (or any church) is brought up that people aren’t shocked, or wanting to flee the scene, but rather rave about CCC?
Let’s face it, the church doesn’t have the best track record, especially with tending to flee aspects of culture. I think that’s part of the reason Mars Hill Church, in Seattle, is having the impact they are having right now. Why can’t CCC replicate that here in Omaha? I know that is the desire of Lead Pastor Mark Ashton, and the rest of leadership, and I think we can have that kind of influence here in Omaha. It doesn’t happen over night. It takes time to build trust and friendships with the community, but CCC can, and will, impact and reach the city. I think this because while the creative work we do is solid, I believe CCC is even stronger in its doctrine and message. The leadership is filled with great individuals who love and serve God and their neighbors.
One reason Big Omaha was great was in seeing the passion people have for Omaha and its citizens. I’ve been blessed by the connections and friendships I’ve made with people in Omaha within this burgeoning creative/tech/arts/business scene. Big Omaha added fuel to the fire, and I look forward to going deeper with my new friends and contacts in the future.