Ministry design must reflect the ministry, not me.
Design and art in general is naturally subjective and at the same time expressive. Through its different mediums such as graphics, typography, video, photography, music, lighting, presentations and the like, ministry can be enhanced considerably. However, due to the nature of art, it can sometimes bring tension and we must remember to keep a biblical perspective in design. (For the Christian, we need a biblical perspective for all of life even outside of the context of ministry.) Having not only been there myself but also having worked along side people in media and design, it is critical that people involved in ministry design as well as ministry leaders to not only understand this but also live by it.
The Expressive and Subjective Nature of Art
Bringing art into the context of ministry design, the expression and subject are crystal clear. All ministry art desires to express the glory of God for the glory of God through its various uses in the church ministry context. Although we all agree upon this, the way in which this is creatively expressed is unique to each person.
In the midst of a broad direction, disagreements of style and taste, disappointments in expectation and deadlines, the obvious differences of the relationship between a hired designer and client and the relationship of Christians coming together to serve one another sometimes gets lost.
In general, the people involved in ministry design are usually trying their best to express through their own abilities and creativity to the glory of God. It is when a leader desires to change the direction of design that tensions rise and feelings are easily hurt. And its for this reason that most leaders accept things as they are even if it means losing a portion of the intended focus or idea. Sometimes, if there is a very talented designer on staff, leaders becomes too reliant on these individuals to the point where the leader finds it extremely difficult to give his opinion and the vision, message and even the identity of the ministry can get lost in someone’s designs.
And this is a real dilemma for leaders. It is a blessing to have people on staff who understand the identity and vision of the ministry but if they are struggling in design, it is the leader’s responsibility to clarify and give direction. But this is where the leader needs help from the artist because not all leaders are artistic and sometimes, it’s hard to find the right words for a re-direction. For the most part, the leader must trust the artist because the leader might not know what solutions are available. But the burden is upon the leader who must always both trust in God’s sovereignty and at the same time also be responsible stewards of the ministry.
Solving the Leader’s Dilemma
Artists are not design machines, creating generic posters out of bland templates. Artists are artists because there is a creative drive within that desires every part of the design to express in a way that is uniquely theirs.
However, artists serving in ministry must always remember that designing for ministry at its very core requires humility. I would go so far as to say that the solution to the leader’s dilemma is mostly in the hands of the artist.
We must proactively provide the freedom and opportunity for leaders to critique and even change the direction of any design we’ve worked on.
It is humility that allows the balance of finding the appropriate direction of design for ministry while also allowing for the unique expression of the artist. This can sometimes be very frustrating because we get attached to our work. I know how this feels. There are times where I’ve worked on some projects combing the internet and designing in front of the computer for many hours to prepare a certain poster only to have to scrap it all after more discussion and input from a leader.
But I believe it is through humble obedience that we are able to remind ourselves that all that we make is for the glory of God and not for ourselves. Sometimes, it is in our desire for recognition that the critique and opinion of others wrongly affects our emotions. If we become overly defensive or critical of other people’s opinion on a certain ministry design, it is a sure sign of our pride. For the sake of God’s glory, we must kill pride. And as leaders, we must recognize this in our staff and direct and communicate with wisdom and sensitivity.
Also, as a volunteer or staff designing for ministry, it is of utmost importance that we initiate conversation and conceptualize together in regular intervals with the leader. Most of the time, the leader doesn’t have any ideas for how things ought to look or feel. But if we are able to suggest multiple options, even if we go back and forth, in the end, the process will have be much more enjoyable through its collaboration.
Humility is Not Limitation
Growth and development starts through challenge. And humility in art leads us to explore completely new forms of expression. Because if it had not been challenging, my creativity would have only remained within the boundaries of what I already knew. It is only through the difficulties and challenges that those boundaries were surpassed.
In the long run, through greater exploration of creativity, we will have within us a more useful road map to discern with greater clarity the needs of the ministry and the kinds of designs that would be appropriate and useful for any new project.
So remain humble, remain open, and continue to give all glory to God.