How A Simple Style Guide Can Change Everything


02 Jul 2014

I’ve always been a great doer. I’ve never had a problem putting in the long, hard hours to make our church’s media, website, print, or whatever else look great. But, as I’ve set out to be a leader, I’ve struggled with giving things away. Lately, this side of me has began to rear its ugly head.

You see, our new church plant is filled with amazing, fully-capable leaders. It’s incredible, really. Our Launch Team is made up of the kind of leaders that pastors dream of having in their churches. We don’t just have musicians, we have some of the best musicians that I know. We don’t just have administrators or teachers or creatives. We have leaders who spend their spare time helping other ministries improve. We’re not perfect, but I can easily say that we are incredibly blessed by the team that God has given us.

This amazing blessing of these fully-capable volunteers has brought a unique challenge for me. If I want this awesome team to stick around, I’ve got to stop being a doer and focus on being their leader. This means that I’ve got to get my hands off of projects and spend my energy equipping others to get their hands dirty. Quite honestly, this does not come easy for me. I’ve spent years in the habit of handling things myself without letting others in. This has led to several hard lessons in this season of getting established in this new organizational structure.

A few weeks ago, I requested for one of our church’s volunteers, a local photographer, to snap photos at one of our events. I went about this in pretty much all the wrong ways. I asked him to do it very last minute and never even discussed what I was looking for. The worst part? I got frustrated when his photos didn’t align with the vision I had for the project. But, wait. How could I be upset with him for not meeting expectations that had never been communicated to him? I then realized that he wasn’t the problem. I was.

So, before our next event, I requested a meeting with him where I apologized for how I had handled the previous project. I then presented to him a PDF style guide that I had created that thoroughly laid out exactly what I was looking for in his photos. This simple guide (that only took about an hour to create) communicated all of the vision that I had locked away in my head and made it clear for him to follow.

Guess what? That changed everything. Not only was our relationship strengthened, but his photos at our next event blew me away. Was he able to capture hundreds of perfect moments in that short amount of time? Of course not. But he submitted just enough photos to show me that he took my style guide to heart. He had caught the vision. More importantly, I had communicated a plan, took my “doer” hands away, and allowed him to work in his area of passion.

Moving forward, I will be creating more of these style guides for many areas that fall under my creative department. God has given me a big vision for our church and I’m learning that it’s much greater than me. To accomplish what He has called me to do, I must do less and lead more.

Piedmont Chapel Photography Style Guide - Page 1Piedmont Chapel Photography Style Guide - Page 3 Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 12.27.15 AM

Have you ever created a style guide for your volunteers?

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Kendall Conner

Kendall Conner serves as the Creative Pastor at Piedmont Chapel in Greensboro, NC. He is a graphic designer, video editor, and all-around media geek, but above all enjoys seeing lives changed. Together with his beautiful wife, Holly, they strive to use media to spread the message of Christ and equip others for ministry.

Comments

  1. Kendall, this is a great post and very timely! I have recently assumed the media and communication responsibilities at the church where I serve and guides like this are one of the projects I put down in my notes. This will be a great help in getting that started. Thanks for all that you do and the ways you share your wisdom!

  2. Wow, what a great post. I am by no means in your position however, I am a volunteer at our church. Through some major events in my life God presented me a way to serve Him in my local church. It is so awesome and wonderful. I create the presentations for services and events and I want you to know your posts have helped me a lot. Thank you.

    • Kendall Conner : July 2, 2014 at 10:49 am

      Thanks so much for sharing this, Sue. It’s such an encouragement for me! Continue to pour your best into this area of ministry that God has given you. I guarantee that you will be blessed as you bless others through it.

      Thanks for reading TCP! :)

  3. This is awesome! This has been in my head, but you have crafted it perfectly! I probably wouldn’t mind if all of your guides eventually made their way to this site…

  4. This is great. Sometimes I see church websites that could really shine if only the photography was more intentional.

  5. Great stuff! I actually wrote a style guide for us with fonts, colors, headers and print material for sign ups, but this captures so much of what I think about conveying and didn’t know how to do.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Kendall Conner : July 7, 2014 at 9:46 am

      That’s awesome! We have a basic style guide like you’re mentioning, but we’re working on a more comprehensive guide. It’s so important as you get more and more people involved!

  6. Hey, Kendall. Thank you for another great post. I am trying to grow into that leader space myself right now. This is all very encouraging.

    However, I am wondering about the photos you get. Our senior pastor is always asking me to fill up our website and print material with photos from our own church. I totally agree, but I get very concerned about not having permission to use these photos.

    Can you help me to understand what is necessary to use these photos? Especially the ones with children in it? I see other churches doing it, so I know it must be possible. But then again, I also hear lawsuits against other churches, too. Any direction here?

    • Kendall Conner : July 7, 2014 at 9:51 am

      Hi, Scott –

      That’s a great question. First, I get a lot of our photos from Lightstock.com and Unsplash.com. Both are amazing resources and come with all the rights you need.

      Second, the best answer for taking photos (including children) is to post signs throughout your church that read “Notice: Photo and video cameras are in use around this facility for both security and promotional purposes.” That’s what we have done with advice from several larger churches.

      HOWEVER, I would be careful with children. Our photographers naturally feel more comfortable taking photos of children whose parents they know, so we lean towards that. Large group/activity photos aren’t as much to worry about.

  7. Kendall…first things first. Great blog. Conveying a unified brand for my home church is something I’ve taken to task since joining the production team. I actually created a site for us at brandfolder.com (if you haven’t seen this site before you might want one for Piedmont).

    Check it out: https://brandfolder.com/destination

    We haven’t addressed the photo section yet so this post is most helpful.

    • Kendall Conner : July 3, 2014 at 9:28 am

      Clint, thanks so much for the kind words. I love the Brand Folder idea! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Great post! I’ve kicked around this idea for a while. Using a style guide for a variety of purposes is a brilliant idea. I’ve spoken with our communications folks a few times about a general style guide for internal functions, but I hadn’t considered using this for volunteers. These tools enable volunteers to take more ownership of their work, which creates more buy in from them. The more we can delegate leadership, the more we can multiply our influence.

    • Kendall Conner : July 3, 2014 at 9:53 pm

      “The more we can delegate leadership, the more we can multiply our influence.”

      Yes! Exactly!

  9. Jason Worthington : July 4, 2014 at 12:46 am

    Are the photos on these style guides what you received from the photographer, or are they stock and google images you put together as an example? Great blog.

    • Kendall Conner : July 7, 2014 at 9:45 am

      Hi, Jason –

      I found these photos on Lightstock.com and on Instagram pages from other ministries that I follow.

      Thanks for the kind words! :)

  10. Kendall,

    Great post! What software platform did you use to create these? Do you have a downloadable file you could make available for others to use?

    Thanks – ross

    • Kendall Conner : July 7, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      Hi, Ross –

      I simply created these in Apple Pages. I don’t have anything that I can send you now, but will definitely consider including something on future posts.

  11. Great stuff, I have really been struggling with the same type of thinking as you. Thank you for being so open, your posts and writings have helped me dearly as I’ve been trying to grow in my position as the Creative Director of my church. I appreciate you taking your time to share your thought and wisdom.

    Are these style sheets up for grabs? I would love to start incorporating the same structure in all of my creative areas, and what you have here is exactly the direction I want our photography to go. I can easily make my own, I just wanted to know if you would be cool if i grabbed these and modified them for our church.

  12. As someone who just started at my current context, this helps immensely. Our church has never had any in house stock photography. And this is excitely how I think our photos should look as well. Thanks for the tips. I am loving this site.

  13. Thank you for sharing this. I can relate to what you are sharing here. I too need to lead, so much more can be done. And yes, a guideline is appropriate for this to happen. Thanks again. I am getting ready to go to the next level but need others help, but I need to explain what I need, so others can help more effectively.

  14. I just discovered this great article! I’m in the same position, but it’s regarding the presentation (Pre/post service and worship slides.) I chose someone based on tech skills and willingness to serve, and assumed that I could teach style. But the frustration (for both of us!) is the trouble I’m having communicating that style! It winds up being a bunch of don’ts, like don’t use Comic Sans, don’t use that pixelated chunky Bible image during the Scripture slides, etc. It is so hard for me to come up with a way to verbalize style! I admire how you’ve done it here.

    The temptation is to just do it myself. And to sneak onto the computer during the week and delete the worst backgrounds without saying anything.

  15. Thanks for posting this, Kendall. How do you handle permissions for using photos of your members online? How do you handle child safety issues when it comes to images of kids on your website? I’m redesigning our church’s site right now. Even though we’re a small country church, as I request images from our church family, and take some pictures myself, I’m thinking about the whole permissions/legal issues. Any advice or insight is appreciated.

    • I’m pretty sure there’s a comment above that covers it, but at our church, we have notices at the front that state that by entering the building, you are consenting to be photographed/recorded. However, we also try to keep photography of individuals to people that we personally know and are fairly certain won’t mind being photographed.

  16. Thank you for this! I just used this idea to create a style guide for our photography. Looks awesome!!

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