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December 2011 was an interesting time for me. I?d recently turned 25, gotten engaged, and was finishing up my second year of a two-year student ministry internship. There was the hope and excitement of marriage, getting a full-time ministry job, and doing all the things it seemed my life had been building to. At the same time, there was the nervousness and fear of marriage, finding a full-time ministry job, and actually being a grown up adult.

Early that month the pastor I was interning with pulled me in his office and shut the door. I immediately tried to determine if I?d done anything wrong because I felt like I was getting in trouble. Instead, he told me the creative director for the church was leaving and that he was going to push for them to hire me for the position.

Uh? ok. Thanks? I think.

A couple of weeks later, our senior pastor found me in the office and asked if I had lunch plans. We went to lunch where he told me about the position, his expectations, and what he needed out of the creative director for the church.

The thing that stuck with me the most from that day was how much he talked about how he needed me to support what he was doing from the stage. He didn?t say it in a way that was arrogant or egocentric. Instead, he laid out the idea that he knew he could only do so much and that the supplements to his message were really going to be what elevated it from a simple sermon to a memorable experience.

As designers and graphic artists for the church, it?s important for us to remember our #1 goal is not to produce the prettiest artwork or ground-shaking designs. Our main goal must always be to support the mission and vision of our leaders. That?s not an excuse to settle or create ugly content. It?s simply a reminder to put our own desires aside in an effort to support those placed in leadership above us.

So how do we do that? Our brains are wired differently than most high-level leaders. The biggest thing we can do is show them that we?re on their side. If we can bring them into our process, and not only ask for their input, but also value it, they begin to trust us more. When they trust us more, they?re more accepting of our ideas. When they?re more accepting of our ideas, we get to create the artwork we love to create.

The best way I?ve learned to show pastors and leaders I?m on their side is through a list of questions designed to get specific input from them. The questions also allow the leader to dream a little. They?re broken down into three categories: tangible, abstract, and spiritual.

The tangible questions are simple; they?re all about the specifics of the series/event:

  1. What?s the name of the series/event?
  2. Is there a subtitle?
  3. What?s the series/event about?
  4. Is it topical or textual? If textual, what?s the text?

These four questions are all about the specifics. They?re the most basic of basic.

When we move into the abstract, we start to tap into the creative nature of the leader. They?ve likely been thinking through whatever we?re designing for much longer than we have, so it?s possible they already have ideas. To pull those ideas out, I ask these questions:[quote]When we move into the abstract, we start to tap into the creative nature of the leader.[/quote]

  1. Are there any examples of graphic styles you like for this series/event? Can you provide examples??(These examples don?t have to be of the same exact series/event. We?re just looking for overall styling and look here.)
  2. Is there anything you absolutely don?t want on the artwork?
  3. Is there a creative thread you?re weaving throughout the series/event? If so, what?

Lastly, what sets us apart from secular designers is that we?re designing for something with a higher purpose. We?re not just creating art to sell a product or event. We?re creating artwork in a desire to help others connect with Jesus in a new and fresh way. To help me get deeper into the series/event and connect better with it, I ask these questions:[quote]What sets us apart from secular designers is that we?re designing for something with a higher purpose.[/quote]

  1. What excites you about this series/event?
  2. What do you hope the church gets out of this series/event?

When we understand our relationship with the leaders of the ministries we design for, we?re?able to design better?artwork and get that artwork approved. It all starts with knowing our role and building trust with those leaders.

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