Every week, we’re excited to share a five-pack of useful tips for those serving in creative ministry! Each Thursday, we post practical advice on topics such as media, social networking, design, and marketing. While these tips may be simple, they have the potential to radically improve your church. These images are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram ready, so help us spread the word by sharing them with your followers!
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Having spent over ten years serving the Church through creativity, I’ve learned a few things. Whether through projection, audio, lighting, marketing, print, branding, web, or service planning, I’ve faced many hits and misses over the years that have shaped me into the creative pastor that I am today. But, as I stand back and assess my journey over this time, one truth stands out to me.
As you can imagine, I have my share of horror stories from over 500 Sundays.
I remember a service back in the day where I used my personal laptop to run our PowerPoint (yes, I said PowerPoint) and a screensaver full of pictures of my friends filled our church’s projector during the sermon. And you think your lead pastor has it out for you! ;)
I can remember being right in the middle of one of the most heartfelt messages I’ve ever heard and when the pastor called on a video to be played ……..cricket…cricket…….. something went wrong and despite a LOT of prayer, that video never played.
I’ve made major typos in bulletins, designed graphics that looked hideous, let cringe-worthy feedback through sound systems, and tried many ideas that simply didn’t work.
But, while it’s fun to look back and laugh at these kind of things, it’s not the mistakes that you should remember over the long haul. You must hold onto the wins.
This week, I travelled to Baltimore, MD to a church where I worked full-time for five years. My wife and I had made the trip for a funeral and it had been over a year since we’d been there. While we certainly experienced the tears of the occasion, there was a lot of joy found in the reunion we had with members of the congregation.
I was able to connect with so many people that I had served in that ministry and I was incredibly blessed by their genuine excitement to see us. After many hugs, stories, and laughs, I felt like God was using this time to remind me of a simple truth.
Ministry is about people.
This time of reunion reminded me that all of the hard work that I had given in my time serving there wasn’t about making perfect ProPresenter slides or a compelling brand. It was about ministering to them.
Our wins in creative ministry should always come back to changing peoples’ lives.
Did we successfully bring people a little bit closer to Jesus? Did you help people experience the wonder of the Gospel? Did we use the creative resources God gave us to minister to His children? Did you invest in volunteers who served with you? Did you, like a good pastor, cater your “message” to minister to the unique group of people that He’s entrusted you with?
Over these ten years, I’ve seen the things that I thought were so important fade away. Videos come and go. Logos get redesigned. Services are forgotten. While we should certainly strive to give both God and our congregations our best, we must not forget what is truly important. It’s peoples’ lives that matter for eternity.
Creative ministry, like all ministry, is about the people.
One of the biggest traps that we can fall into is believing that progress can only be accomplished through huge projects or complete overhauls. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, I would argue that one of the best ways to move your organization forward is with small, consistent improvements.
I serve in a brand new church plant that’s only six weeks old at the time of this being written. Although we are only a few services in, this is a principle that I’ve had to remind myself of constantly.
Whether your church is a few weeks old or has been around for a hundred years, there is always room to improve your Sunday services.
It can be easy to get discouraged that any change to make things better is out of reach due to lack of time, money, or other resources. But we’re better than that. God has equipped us for the exact season that we’re in. We simply have to embrace where we are and make the improvements that we can make.
Last week, rather than wallowing in my pile of can’ts, I sought to make small improvements in areas all around our church that would make a noticeable impact on Sunday. Some were technical. Some were practical. All were creative.
- We created what I call “Pinterest-y” themed centerpieces in our coffee area.
- We used pumpkin spice air freshener all around our building rather than our traditional scent.
- We changed our lobby/pre-service playlist to a more spirited, hipster vibe. Listen to it here.
- We updated the design of our announcement slides.
- We changed up our stage lighting to include more colors.
- We started using a new set of motion backgrounds for our songs.
- We changed our order of service to include a fun, warm opening from one of our pastors.
- We took more photos on Sunday morning of real people in our church for social media.
All of these were relatively easy to accomplish, but made a huge impact on Sunday. People really took notice of the changes and I can honestly say that it was our best service yet.
You’ll also notice that I said we changed, we used, we started…
That’s because I got other people involved on these small projects. Even when it was in the smallest capacity you can imagine. But do you know what happened when these projects turned out to be a success? We celebrated our victory.
Getting people involved in small, tangible improvements is the easiest way to keep your church progressing and your volunteers smiling.
It’s a win-win.
So, what can you do this week to make your church better? Who can you get involved to help you do this? Creative Ministry is more than what happens in the tech booth. Don’t be afraid to use your creativity all around your church.
Small improvements make a big difference.
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.
Have you ever created a style guide for your volunteers?