Does great design really matter in church communications?
Yeah, I absolutely think it does.
Now don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of things that are more important than an eye-catching sermon graphic. I mean, let’s face it: The sermon itself is pretty important, right? I think most pastors would agree. If the message content is not impactful, engaging, challenging, or inspiring, then even the most well-designed visual art won’t make a difference. Nobody will give a flying rip about the amazing font selection and color combinations if the pastor isn’t on point and if the message — the very Word of God — fails to stir or move us in some way. Furthermore, the graphics are only meant to enhance the sermon, not distract from it or supersede it in some way.
Did you hear me, designers? This isn’t a contest between your graphic and the pastor or his message. Don’t get all competitive. You’d be treading into the territory of distracting folks from Jesus. And that’s not cool.
With that in mind, professional design still matters and shouldn’t be dismissed outright. People need something tangible to which they can relate; something with which their senses can interact. Great graphics can bring visual organization to the overall service and exceptional sermon graphics can provide congregational engagement beyond what might normally happen, even beyond what you would’ve expected. And this isn’t just true for the megachurches. Within the last decade, churches of every size and denomination have come to realize the importance and effectiveness of good design.
So let’s look at a few rules and some elements you should consider when crafting those sermon series graphics:
First: Contemplate Your Ultimate Goal.
This is where you actually need to communicate with your pastor — preferably face-to-face — and ask him some detailed questions about the theme and title of his series. As you begin to learn more, you’ll come to a better understanding of what he has in mind, which will then, hopefully, lead to some inspiration. Here are a few questions I usually ask before ever whipping out my MacBook and diving into Affinity Designer, Photoshop, Canva, or anything else:
Second: Brainstorming Sessions Are Your Friend.
Nothing beats a roundtable discussion at the local coffeeshop with your fellow Church Comms staff. Round up some of your creative digital media folks and bounce your design ideas off of them. It’s even better if you’ve got two or three drafts of graphics for the sermon series. Even if these guys and gals aren’t design savvy, they might notice something that slipped right past you or they might have a genius idea that you missed by a mile. Gathering several creative and diverse thinkers into a group and putting them into one room will almost always result in an outbreak of innovative ideas, productive discussions, unique strategies, and an ultimate game plan for the sermon series.
Side note: Don’t intentionally exclude the pastor from these little gatherings. Always let him know that he’s welcome to be there and to chime in with thoughts and ideas.
Third: Don't Forget About Your Audience.
These people are important too. I mean, they’re the ones who will be stuck staring at your design for 30 to 45 minutes every Sunday morning, right? Before you get too deep into your design, think about the demographics of your congregation for a typical worship service. Of course, you can’t predict visitors who may randomly show up on any given Sunday. But if you’ve been established in your position on staff for a while, you should be well-acquainted with the type of people who attend on a regular basis. Are they mostly traditional? Contemporary? Is there a blend? What are the age demographics and family structures like? Do you have a lot of youth and/or millennials and young people? All of this will — and should — factor into your design. A 65-year-old blue-collar congregant likely won’t engage with an edgy sermon series graphic and title the same way that a 30-something millennial would. (No offense to any edgy and hip 65-year-old dudes out there.)
If your church is blended, then aim for a design that will bring engagement across the board. This goes for everything from font selection to colors to graphics, visuals, and photos — the whole nine yards. For example, traditional congregations tend to be more comfortable with serif fonts like Times New Roman, Georgia, Baskerville, etc., whereas contemporary audiences won’t bat an eye at artistic fonts that match the theme of the design. In fact, they prefer them.
I’ve really only skimmed the surface here. Obviously I don’t have the time or space to teach a graphic design course on my blog. I could rant for days about all of the techie and artsy stuff that goes into this process. And maybe I’ll write a follow-up at some point or discuss some in-depth design methodologies on an episode of Rescuing Churches. But, for now, I’ll just say this: The pastor’s sermon series is both a representation of and a reflection on the church. Paired with the graphics and visuals you design, it has the opportunity to impact people in a unique and powerful way far beyond what could typically be accomplished through words alone. Never take this opportunity for granted.
I’m sure I left something out. What are your thoughts on sermon series graphic design? How do you go about acquiring info from your pastor before beginning your design? Leave a comment below or send me a message and we might even discuss it on an episode of Rescuing Churches.
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