I recently got an inquiry from someone who was assuming creative and communications leadership for a large church. He'd been on my blog and, having read a few posts, wanted to distill several ideas to a bottom line question: What, in my view, makes for a great local church creative or communications director?
Show me an image of a disciple in the form of a story, and I will show you a ministry, program, or activity that "works.”
It's a great question, isn't it?
Here's what I told him:
A great church creative director is equal parts brand ambassador, storyteller, metaphor maker, creative coach, and strategist. (I use the terms creative director and communications director interchangeably, depending on my situation, but will use creative director for the rest of this article.) Sometimes I call it a "church like Pixar."
Let me explain each:
1) A great church creative director is the brand ambassador for the church.
There's no one else in a large church, senior pastor included, who has the same global view of what is going on as a good creative director. This person is the main representative and protector of what the church values and what needs to be minimized or eliminated. This isn't to diminish the visionary role of the senior leader.
In fact, the two jobs should work closely together, with the creative director co-developing, strategizing and executing ideas with the senior pastor. He or she is constantly making decisions on how best to push church messaging toward what matters. For example, here's a recent post I wrote on how to develop marketing to inspire your church to invite people.
This is done, though, with lots of diplomacy. Churches are, by definition, collaborative, because the head isn't a person, like a secular organization, but Christ, under whom we all follow together. This means you've got to be able to inspire and persuade with the "why," and not just dictate with the what.
2) A great church creative director is the primary storyteller.
A disciple of Jesus isn't someone who checks the boxes on a set of beliefs, but someone who is in the ever-increasing process of receiving and becoming Jesus. As such, the most transformative way this happens is through stories, not principles. Stories are models of changed hearts, lives, and communities. This is why we do what we do.
Show me an image of a disciple in the form of a story, and I will show you a ministry, program, or activity that "works.” There are three types of stories: Stories of being in mission with our community, stories of being relationship with one another, and stories of Jesus being made more real in people's lives. We've done all kinds of stories like this at St. Andrew, and we need more - we can never have enough. (Here's one example.)
The catch is that you can't be responsible for locating all stories. You need others around you to feed you good stories, which means you need to inspire your fellow staff and volunteers that we are all storytellers, and we are all story receivers. We both listen to the stories, and we tell them again and give them back to each other. They are like life blood to our community.
3) A great church creative director is the primary maker of metaphors.
One of my mentors says, "change the metaphor, change the world." Deep metaphors greatly influence human behavior. They drive people's lives. For example, if you think of life as a battle, or if life is a journey, you'll behave accordingly.
They're the reason that sermon series are so crucial. What sermon series do is give you six to eight gems of an opportunity each year to introduce sanctified metaphors to help people re-orient their sextant toward Jesus. This means more than just making a pretty typeface for "Galatians." It is finding metaphors that help drive how we preach, teach, and understand God's Word.
My site is full of examples of this, like here and here. It is one of the top three most important things I do: I cast vision for new metaphors, and look for fresh images to represent the same ideas, in the form of creative briefs that I write for each upcoming sermon series.
4) A great church creative director knows how to do the work, but spends time coaching.
With a team of multiple talented creative people, I don't actually do many tasks anymore. Well, that's not true - I write, but usually internal documents that go to other creatives and pastors for directing their efforts. Sometimes, I dive in and make suggestions on designs or video edits, but mostly instead, I do a lot of management by walking around - popping into offices and cubicles.
This morning, I changed a sentence of copy on an ad, I approved a new sound effect on an animation, I watched a video in production and made comments, and I listened to one of our team members vent about a workflow problem.
5) A great church creative director doesn't just solve problems, but makes sustainable strategies.
I am a champion of good workflow. I don't want to just solve the problem, but fix it so that my world becomes a machine that runs on its own. In fact, I identified 8 Big Steps you can do to help your department run like a finely oiled machine from concept to publication. If you do this well, you're no longer solving the problem of the week, but focusing your energy on developing great ideas. This process takes up to seven years, as I outline here.
What do you think makes for a great church creative director?