God called you to a specific church, in a specific location, with a specific audience to reach for Jesus. As part of creating communications specifically for your audience, don’t try to make your communications look like those from any other church and be cautious in the use of glossy, pre-done, nationally sold pieces. The same goes for fancy websites, the sort of expensive templates that all use beautiful, grinning people in the website headers.
Don’t be guilty of bait and switch where you send out some slick, fancy piece, or have an over-designed website if you’re a little church plant meeting in a basement. Big, glossy and professional is not always more appealing—many people are looking for a real, intimate, and honest interaction about God. They might miss you if you come across looking too slick and professional.
Keep in mind the parable of the talents
Jesus did not expect a person with one talent to do the work of the five talent person, but Jesus expected the one-talent person to make the most of what he or she had. If you are a tiny church with few resources, don’t feel you have to create publications or a website like the ones you saw at whatever big church conference the staff most recently attended. Be who YOU are, communicate to your people with the resources you have, and the Lord will bless your efforts.
Variety is standard in professional communication
The reason there are so many different types of professional designs is because there is no ONE perfect way to create any one communication piece. An excellent example of this is the variety in magazines. Go to your local Barnes and Noble or other big book store and look at the magazines. The design, style, and even the paper used, is very different for Architectural Digest than it is for Car and Driver. Both are professional, well-designed publications, but both serve a very different audience and their style reflects that audience, not some absolute standard.
For the editor of Car and Driver to think he’d be more professional, or cutting edge if he created an issue of his magazine in the same style as Architectural Digest would make about as much sense as it makes for the pastor of a small neighborhood church pastor of 300 in a farming community to attend a mega-church creativity conference in Dallas, come home and decide the church needs to create publications that look like the ones the mega-church in Dallas created. That is just goofy.
Why conference clones don’t make a successful church communications program back home in your church
Goofy or not, it happens all the time. In seminar after seminar people come up to me and ask what to do after their pastor comes home from the big conference with a stack of samples or the notes from some design or web seminar they attended (usually given by a staff member of the mega-church who has absolutely no concept of the resources and realities of smaller church communication ministry) and ask that the church secretary to figure out how to create stuff like this. The person asking me is usually the church secretary or communication person who is overwhelmed with their current work and has no idea how to implement what is now asked. In addition, that person often knows that the proposed cloning of communications:
- requires a financial outlay in terms of software, images and reproduction systems that the smaller church most likely cannot afford,
- will create materials that might have worked for the conference-sponsoring mega-church, but are not appropriate for their little local church,
- requires the current communication person possess skills or software and a budget they don’t have to create the desired results.
The sponsoring church of course has a way to solve the problem if you are not able to produce communications at your little church like the big host church—you can buy them! The mega-church offers templates, copies of their sermons, PowerPoints® slides, and graphics for sale on their website. To buy them is goofy multiplied.
For a little church, in a different state, with a completely different culture, to suddenly start handing out slick communication clones from a mega-church half a nation away will not automatically make you a big, impressive church. Visitors and spiritual seekers want authentic encounters with real people and purchased PR isn’t the way to do it.
Doing our best does not mean imitating someone else
We all want to do the best we can for our churches, but to imitate communications created by a completely different church in a different setting, with totally different resources and audience is not the way to do it.
It’s easy to forget that the big church currently admired, didn’t create the fancy stuff they do now when they were a little church. The fancy communications they do now are not what got them to where they are when they sponsor the conference.
I’ve seen this reality firsthand. As I mentioned in an another article, I got my inspiration for The Five Steps from a Shaddleback Church conference. One other thing I have from that conference is an 8 ½ x 11 manila envelope I purchased at their Resource Tent. It is filled with some black and white photocopies of examples of the communications they used to grow the church over twenty years ago when it was first starting. Needless to say, they are all very different than the pieces they use today.
What they used then was appropriate when they were a much smaller growing church; what they use today is appropriate for the mega-church in Southern California they are today. Don’t confuse what is appropriate for a church at a different time and place in their growth process with what is appropriate for you.