How to Lead Design When You’re Not a Graphic Designer

I graduated with a degree in mass communication and marketing. But when I stepped into the role of Communications Director, I found myself faced with leading our church in graphic design and artwork.

If you’re in this position too, don’t worry. You can still lead design for your church without being a graphic designer.

Here are five lessons I’ve learned. I hope they are helpful to you!

1. Learn to identify good design and bad design.

Let’s be honest, there’s some really terrible design work out there. And unfortunately a lot of it is produced by churches. Learn to identify what makes the difference between a well-designed graphic and a poorly designed graphic. Take notes from churches that have a well-developed creative and design department. Check out Elevation Church and Mars Hill. Another great place to draw inspiration from is the Church Marketing Lab on Flickr.

Keep in mind: Be inspired by these designs, don’t just imitate them.

2. Take advantage of free resources.

Did you know that there are a ton of free resources available to you? These sites are gold mines and huge time savers. I’ve included a list of sites at the bottom of this post that should help you out.

3. Find an experienced volunteer.

The best resource for me has been volunteers. Find someone in your church who is passionate about your church’s mission and willing to serve by creating graphics and artwork that visually support that mission. These volunteers should have real-world experience and background in design. Ask to see a portfolio of their work. And, make sure to give them clear expectations and deadlines for projects upfront.

4. Learn the basics. 

I found online tutorials and articles to help me navigate the basics of Adobe Creative Suite. While I still don’t tackle major design projects, this gave me enough knowledge to create simple, basic graphics when I don’t have time to organize a volunteer.

5. Keep it simple.

The worst thing you can do is over complicate a design. Trust me, I’ve done it. It may seem boring, but always lean towards simple. Pick one or two fonts and stick with them. Brady Shearer over at Pro Church Tools has some good advice on this. If you have a solid design volunteer, have them create templates for your pre-service slides, web graphics, etc. and stick with those templates.

 

What do you think? How can you lead design for your church without being a designer?

 

Design Resources

CreationSwap
Vintage Church Resources
Seeds – Church on the Move
Lightstock (non-cheesy stock photos, plus one free photo a week)
Unsplash (10 free hi-res photos every 10 days)

 

5 Leaders I’ve Learned From

When I was an intern at my church, I read every book and blog I could find about church communication. I have a degree in mass communication and marketing, but that doesn’t mean that transferred into church communication. Today I want to take time to recognize leaders who shared their resources and knowledge to help people like me who were just getting started.

Here are five leaders I’ve learned from.

1. Tim Peters

Tim writes very practical articles about how to develop a communication strategy and simplify your communication systems. Plus, he recently came out with Sayge Resources if you’re looking for more church communication goodness. Website // Twitter 

 

2. Kem Meyer // Less Clutter Less Noise

Less Clutter Less Noise is an essential read if you want to learn about church communication. It reads like a collection of blog posts and you’ll fly through it. Kem’s kind of like the queen of church communication. Website // Twitter 

 

3. Phil Bowdle

My favorite thing about Phil is that he provides actual tools and shows you how to implement the ideas he shares.  Also, if you send him a question on Twitter, he’s always responsive and ready to share his knowledge with you. Website // Twitter

 

4. Brady Shearer // Pro Church Tools

Pro Church Tools has only been around about a year but Brady shares amazing tips and tricks for churches looking to master the basics of media. If you’re like me and not a designer but often faced with leading design for your church, you need to check it out. Website // Twitter 

 

5. Church Marketing Sucks

Yeah I know, this technically isn’t one leader but it’s my post so I can break the rules. Church Marketing Sucks is the mac daddy of articles for everything from promotions and marketing to design and websites for the church. Website // Twitter

 

So there you have it! Leaders that I have learned from. Now, this isn’t an inclusive list. There’s no way I could list all the leaders I’ve learned from but these are a few who made a big impact on me.

What about you? Which church communication leader have you learned from?

How to Start in Social Media

Social media is not a fad or a trend. It has radically changed how people communicate on a day-to-day basis.  But still, there are churches that remain unsure about how to make the leap into social media. It can seem overwhelming, so here are a few tips to get started in social media.

1. Pick a platform.

You don’t need to be on every social media platform right off the bat. Look at the make up of your church. What social media do they use most? Is it college students? Try Twitter or Instagram. Mostly young family’s? Try Facebook. For most churches, I’d recommend starting with Facebook.

2. Set a strategy.

Who do you want to reach? What will you post? How will you manage your social media presence? Outline a strategy before you start. It’ll provide clarity for you and your team. And, if you have leadership who doesn’t see the value of social media, a well-defined strategy will provide you with answers to their questions about why your church needs to engage in this space.

3. Curate some content.

Your church is bursting with content. Post photos from events along with links to register. What’s the message for Sunday’s sermon? Post verses that will prepare the hearts of your audience. What’s the worship team singing this week? Post a video with a new worship song or a behind-the-scenes photo of practice. Ask questions about what people took away from the sermon series. And, include images when you can.

4. Start a schedule.

There are many free tools available to help you post on a consistent schedule.  The two best tools I’ve seen are Hootsuite and Buffer. These have free and paid options. If you’re just starting, try to post at least once a day. Develop a rhythm where your audience can expect to hear from you. Find a volunteer or staff member who can manage this schedule and commit to interacting with people on a weekly basis.

Remember, social media should be two-way communication. It’s more about conversation than publication.

What do you think? What are other tips for churches starting in social media? 

Bulletins Are Not Magic Bullets

The weekly bulletin is a struggle for me. Truthfully, I’m not a huge fan of bulletins. I’m from a digital generation so I prefer to read and receive my information online. However, I concede it still can be a valuable tool in church communication.

In my experience, the bulletin is the number one communication request. People always seem convinced that a blurb in the bulletin will result in truckloads of people attending their group or signing up for an event. The bulletin rarely delivers on that expectation. As communicators for the church and advocates for our audience, it’s important to keep the bulletin clear of clutter and take the time to explain why the bulletin is not a magic formula for success.

Here are two reasons why the bulletin is not a magic bullet.

1. The bulletin is a high-level communication piece.

We focus our bulletin on connection points for first time guests and information that impacts 80% of our Sunday morning audience.  Keeping that in mind, it’s unlikely that niche opportunities and specific ministry events will hit the right person. It might but the chances are small.

2. More = less.

The more you cram into your bulletin, the less effective it becomes. Adding every event or happening at your church will not accomplish your objectives or allow your audience to take next steps. More is not an effective communication strategy.

When these requests come though, I try to explain the above and offer alternatives. You can see my post on how to make a no feel like a yes for more about that.

What do you think? How do you keep your bulletin communication clear?

Marketing Tool: Road Signs

If you’re like me, you are always looking for simple and inexpensive ways to let your community know about your church. One marketing tool that we’ve experienced success with over past few years has been road signs.

Road Signs 2

I love one story about a young lady who saw one of the signs, came to church and was baptized the next week. That’s what I call a win!

Signs are relatively inexpensive (a few hundred bucks) and are an easy way to generate exposure around your city. We typically order 50 at a time from a local print shop. That may not sound like a lot but it stretches a long way. This is a “shotgun” approach to marketing, meaning it’s not highly targeted but it serves a purpose for general awareness.

A few tips to keep in mind: 

1. City Limits

In Raleigh, we have to place these outside of city limits or we get phone calls from the City of Raleigh (which has happened). Also, we can put them out on Friday and collect them on Sunday. We’ve actually had volunteers in the past who would put road signs near our Sunday morning location on Friday afternoons and then collect them after church services. Most city websites have city limit maps you can download too, so look at those before you start scattering signs all across your city.

2. Font Size

We’ve made the mistake before of not choosing a font large enough to be clearly read from a distance. Make sure you use a large and bold font so that people can read them quickly and easily  as they drive by.

3. Placement

Place the signs in high traffic areas for maximum exposure. We try to put them right at the corner of an intersection where people will stop so it gives them more time to read.

If you currently use road signs or plan to try them, I’d love to hear how it’s working for you! 

3 Ways to Communicate in Bad Weather

I live in Raleigh, North Carolina.

snowpocalypse

This really happened in Raleigh in February 2014. This is a road that I drive every single day to go to work.

That means that I’ve seen schools close for even the possibility of snow. And by snow, I mean flurries. Just look at what happens when it actually does snow in Raleigh.

It’s important to communicate with your church and keep everyone updated when there’s inclement weather.

Here are three ways to do that:

1. Post it on your website.

Create a web page that’s the first thing people will see if they visit your website. It’s a key place to keep people informed about any potential cancellations to services or events. Include “updated on” with a time stamp too so people know if  the information is current.

2. Change your answering message.

Believe it or not, people do still use the telephone. Make sure to update your church’s answering message if you’re going to be out of the office for a few days. Let people know  you’re currently closed and when you plan to reopen. Also, include an alternative way they can get in touch such as an email address.

3. Share through social media. 

Social media is a great way to keep people up-to-date in real-time. If there’s bad weather coming, people look to social media for traffic reports and news updates so it’s a perfect place to share how your church services and activities are being affected by the weather.

What do you think? What are other ways to communicate during bad weather?