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Cobbling Together a Church Visual Ministry

Recently, I followed up on our church leadership's announcement that we needed help in the Audio/Visual department. As an artist and lifelong Protestant church-goer, I've long struggled to see the value of artistic talent. I'm not looking to make no icons! And the gift of art seems... not impactful when we consider the Great Commission, the task of loving God and loving others, and the consistent reliance upon grace that we're called to live out in the Christian life. If my God-given gifts can't really be used to honor God or serve His people, what's the point, right?

Even as a graphic design intern in 2017 at my childhood home church I struggled to feel like the tasks I was given were entirely relevant. Why did each ministry need its own branding? (A question I've since recanted upon more studies of graphic design and identity, branding, etc). Why are we working on t-shirts when we could be preparing evangelism media to instruct our congregants to engage in more local missions? What good are these post card promotional media for summer camp when the leaders and instructors on that camp don't have any theological alignment or standards for instruction? I've since realized some of these questions were a result of maybe questionable approaches or tactics developed by a rapidly growing, crazy large church, and that these problems are not necessarily ubiquitous.

I've also come to learn in the last few years that graphic design (or all design, really) distills down to good communication. Hierarchy informs readers of implicit rank of relevance. Color informs readers of mood. Type selection informs formality. These are universal design concepts that can be manipulated and tweaked for the express purpose of conveying a subversive message, but no designer would disagree that the elements of graphic design communicate far more than we are ever talk in school. Jonathan Baldwin and Lucienne Roberts do a great job explaining design from the everyday practical application to theoretical concepts. (Should be noted that as a UX designer, I can't not link out to Don Norman's Design of Everyday Things here. And no, I'll never give you an Amazon link. Not sorry about it!)

So, all of this to say, my current church here in the DFW area is pretty young. Maybe 3 or 4 years old? When I joined a little over a year ago it was about 80 people large and meeting in a coffee shop. Now, my guess would be ~250 people attend on a weekly basis and we moved into a larger worship space which immediately felt clogged. We tend to be minimal when it comes to a lot of the somehow-now-considered-traditional branding and "merch" opportunities for churches. We're a Reformed church, so worship falls back on Scripturally-based hymns or significant theological sentiments. So, where does a Reformed church find itself on the topic of visuals?

I've discovered that we have tons of announcements and ministry opportunities. Those things require constant communication to let new and old members alike know what is going on in the community and how to get involved. I also learned that the designer who had been creating our slides didn't even go to our church... which, for obvious reasons, seems like an unhealthy practice. Especially when two of the first women I met from the church over a year ago also identified themselves as designers.

After learning the ropes of the ProPresenter slides, I mentioned casually that I could help with the intro/outro slides. The team was enthused, and we waited for the original slide files (or even just one or two of them) for me to get to maintain, edit, and establish some sort of consistency in my own designs. And we waited. And, even longer, we waited. It got to the point where I took screenshots of the slides set up in ProPresenter and just started recreating entirely new ones in Illustrator on my own time, expecting to not get the original slides.

And I was entirely overwhelmed by the volume of work it is to step in solo to managing just slides for an entire church. Thankfully, this isn't my first opportunity working in church visuals. There's a fantastic Facebook (I know, I know) page for Church Communications teams. It's got a buzzing community happy to help with best practices, design critiques, and management of general comms. While I haven't leveraged the community there yet, I have spent time perusing the visual media portion of the page to see what the standards and trends are today. As a UX designer, I've spent more time learning about user patterns and really entrenched myself in the research/academic side of human-computer interaction. This has come at the expense of staying up-to-date on visual and graphic design trends.

So, this is a lengthy post. And I see I have no visual added yet. But, I wanted to share that this is going to be part of my creating journey at large here, and I'll likely talk about it again. I know I want to talk about the challenge of the current sermon series visual I'm working through. I know I'll have to process delegation, feedback, and the struggles of being short on creative inspiration. For now, I'll drop a process pic from the sermon series here. Or maybe the Women's ministry slide? We gotta shift away from pink flowers. As a feminine girl, we gotta shift away from that.

Wanted to reference the majesty of Creation while honoring the heritage of Judaism, referencing early Jewish mosaic art. Genesis is a blend of human heritage and culture as well as God's awesome power, and I was hoping to reflect that in this first stab. I also took this route because I didn't want to just embrace the inescapable grasp of minimalism everywhere.

Yet, in the end, minimalism got me. Sometimes we just need to be direct with little extra.


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