Phil Vischer made his first animated film when he was nine years old; by the age of fourteen, he was convinced he would be a filmmaker when he grew up. After a brief stint at a Bible college, Phil struck out on his own, looking for a way to integrate his faith with his filmmaking.
This quest led him to a tomato and a cucumber. The year was 1991, and Phil was a newly married 25 year--‐old with no financial backing and no idea how his vegetables would ever see the light of day.
Today, almost 50 million VeggieTales videos have been purchased and Phil’s faith-filled stories can be found in one-third of all American homes with young children. Although Phil’s original company, Big Idea Productions, collapsed in bankruptcy in 2003, Phil continues his creative involvement with VeggieTales through its current owner.
Phil also is actively developing new ways to integrate faith and storytelling through his new creative shop, Jellyfish Labs (jellyfishlabs.com). Phil captured the breathtaking rise–and heartbreaking fall–of Big Idea Productions in the book Me, Myself & Bob, which was published by Thomas Nelson. He is also the author of the popular children’s books Sidney and Norman and 47 Beavers on the Big Blue Sea.
Phil’s latest project is a 13-DVD series called Buck Denver Asks What’s in the Bible? That will take families all the way through the Bible–Genesis to Revelation. He also started JellyTelly, an interactive, online “mini-network” for children.
Phil lives with his wife Lisa and their three kids in Wheaton, IL.
David Staal serves as President/CEO of Kids Hope USA, a fast-growing, national non-profit organization that partners churches with public elementary schools to provide adult mentors for at-risk students. In addition to his position at Kids Hope USA, Staal serves as senior editor and columnist for Christianity Today International and chairs the advisory board for a state college. Prior to joining Kids Hope USA, he served ten years in leadership for Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, following a 13-year corporate marketing career. Staal’s sixth published book released this year, titled Show Up (2016; Dust Jacket Press). He lives in Grand Haven, Michigan, with his wife Becky.
Chris Folmsbee is the director of discipleship at Church of the Resurrection, one of the nations largest and fastest growing churches. He is the author of more than a dozen books on topics such as spiritual formation, practical theology and effective models of ministry. Chris is also the founder and managing director of Burlap (www.thinkburlap.com | @thinkburlap), a ministry designed to help churches reach and engage Millennials. He lives in Leawood, KS with his wife Gina and their three children.
Nils Smith is the vice president of Social Media and Innovation at Dunham and Company based in Dallas, Texas. Nils most recently served as Social Media Pastor at Community Bible Church in San Antonio, Texas where he launched the ministry of OnlineChurch.com that grew to over 15,000 in weekly online worship attendance from more than 100 different countries around the world and a global Facebook community of over 850,000. Nils is also the author of the book, Social Media Guide For Ministry, and co-host of the Social Media Church podcast.
Steven Siwek Jr. is a Jesus freak. He founded Medical Marketing Solutions (MMS) when he was a naive 19 year old. Now, 6 years later, Steven continues to run MMS along with two other marketing companies he started. Steven is also the director of a documentary entitled Future of the Church. He lives in Phoenix with his precious wife Chandis.
Thom Schultz is the president and founder of Group Publishing and Lifetree Café. He’s the author of many books including Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore and The 1 Thing, and he’s the director of the documentary film When God Left the Building. Thom is the founder of Group Cares, a non-profit organization that provides mission trips for thousands of volunteers each year. Thom’s blog, HolySoup.com, challenges the status quo.
Joani Schultz is Group’s Chief Creative Officer. She oversees the creation of Group’s resources, training, and services for children’s ministry, youth ministry, adult ministry, and church leadership. She’s the author of numerous books including Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore, and The 1 Thing. She leads the teams that create Group’s Bible curriculum, vacation Bible school programs, books, magazines, conferences, music, and trainings.