Travis Clark of Canvas San Francisco on being patient and avoiding the allure of explosive growth

This week we’d like to introduce you to Travis Clark. Travis and his wife Jena are the founding pastors of Canvas, a young, thriving, and inspiring community based in San Francisco.

The following interview is from a series I did as part of another project, GTHR.

From time to time we like to highlight community builders. These individuals captivate us. They draw us out. They invite us into a fuller way of being. They are relentless seekers of a simpler, more integrated, transparent, participatory version of ekklesia. One that reminds us of our beginnings and reunites us with our divine calling to be vessels of redemption for a world desperately out of order.

Their lives tell stories that beg to be shared. And we’re excited to introduce them to you, in their own words.

This week we’d like to introduce you to Travis Clark. Travis and his wife Jena are the founding pastors of Canvas San Francisco, a young and thriving community based in San Francisco’s Marina district.

In one sentence, what is your purpose, or reason to be?

We exist to point creatives to their Creator, that they’d become fully alive followers of Jesus.

How did you come to be where you are right now?

We launched in October, 2013 with the support of a parent church and many contributors. We have continued to see steady growth in our church primarily due to our Sunday gatherings and weekly Community Groups.

What big decisions along the way have brought you to the here and now? The ones where courage conquered fear.

We chose a strategy of slow and steady growth over attempting a strategy that is aimed at more fast and explosive growth. The fear was that slow would be too slow or even too “under-the-radar.”

We simply felt that earning our right to be in San Francisco was a better approach than assuming that we have the right from the beginning.

This is quite the opposite of most church planting strategies, but we are thankful we went this route as it’s allowed us to grow and not overextend ourselves or the church.

We simply felt that earning our right to be in San Francisco was a better approach than assuming that we have the right from the beginning.

When did you realize you wanted to be in ministry? Any interesting moments as a child?

I realized it in high school while watching a pastor speak. No light from the sky for me. Really just a quiet assurance that I exist to come alongside people, serve them, and point them to Jesus.

What’s your process these days for fostering community, relationships, and generosity (both within the community and abroad)?

We put a high value to our Community Groups. We think consistency and commitment to one another drives real community. Through an event called “Community Link” we offer people the opportunity to join a CG for 18 months and experience the power of community.

Regarding generosity, we foster this by first being personally generous as a team. We try to be a team that is ready to give of our own funds in order to have a personal heart of generosity. Second, we decided as a church to say “yes” to everyone who asks for help and give however we can whether big or small. Third, we celebrate generosity as a community through stories.

By doing this our hope is that people see generosity as something we get to do, not something we have to do.

And when you’re not doing any of the above, where can we find you?

In a coffee shop reading or exploring the neighborhoods of San Francisco.

Down time and work/life balance: How does this vibe with you? How do you make it all work?

Balance is a moving target but is an absolute necessity for longterm sustainability and health. We practice Sabbath once a week and keep a close read on the pulse of the season we’re in and our own health. We’re not afraid to say “no” or take a day off if that means better productivity and focus in the long run.

Most difficult situation to date?

Working through a problem with SF Planning Department.

Biggest triumph / accomplishment?

Seeing the generosity of our church continue to grow to the point that we are able to be self-sustaining.

What would you tell your five year-ago self?

Bigger is not better. Better is better.

Bigger is not better. Better is better.

Who do you look to for inspiration? Or, who madly lights you up and makes you want to chase down your dreams?

CS Lewis, Matt Chandler, and Seth Godin.

Future plans? What dreams are in the pipeline?

Raise up more leaders so that we can begin more Canvas congregations throughout San Francisco. I’d love to start another congregation in the next 2 years but I believe this is dependent on raising up, empowering and freeing leaders.

What three pieces of practical advice would you share with someone who wants to create, shape, and inspire a community of their own?

Know the community you desire to serve, keep it simple, surround yourself with people smarter and more talented than you.

Any favorite methods, tools, or technology you’ve found to be essential?

Work Board for task management. DISC Assessments for potential hires or new leaders.

A personal mantra?

The best is yet to come.

Where can we find you and your community online?

Twitter: @travisclark
Instagram: @_travisclark

Twitter: @Canvas_SF
Instagram: @Canvas_SF
Spora: /canvas

🤝 Stay in touch

I send an email several times a year with a handful of the most interesting things I’ve written or uncovered at home, abroad, and on the web.

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