Commandment #1: Thou Shalt Ask Questions
When your pastor or another leader comes to you with the title of the next series, you should have questions- lots of questions. You might ask the person giving you the assignment, or you might ask yourself to check your understanding- but either way, these questions must have answers before you start designing. Here’s what you should be asking:
- What’s the big idea of the sermon series? What’s the main thought that it’s about? This will tell you a lot about what they hope to accomplish with the sermon series.
- What is the felt need that this series is covering?
- What book or passage does this series really take place in?
- What is the overall tone (or feel, or mood) of the sermon series? Your pastor may not be thinking about this right now, but it’s essential for you to get it right.
All of these questions help shape your design and creative process, so that you’re able to create something that resonates with the meaning of the series. For example, we have two sermon series on grace on Ministry Pass- one is fun, called “Family Vacation,” but the second is from the book of Lamentations and is called “Grace in Grief.” So you can see how, while the topic is the same, the tone, passages, and big ideas all converged to create radically different designs.
Commandment #2: Thou Shalt Know You Audience
This may seem obvious, but make sure that your design is going to fit your church. If your church is liturgical, that’s obviously going to mean that you use different imagery than a church with a very modern or trendy worship style. Similarly, if your congregation skews younger, that’s going to require different designs than if the average age is over 50.
Commandment #3: Thou Shalt Value Clarity Over Cleverness
Recently, we ran across this sermon series title in a Facebook Group: “Already, But Not Yet: the Life of David from the Fields to the Palace.” That’s a mouthful, right? The worst part is, the first part of the title doesn’t make a lot of sense without the context. It’d be much better to opt for something like, “The Life of David: from the Fields to the Palace” and leave it at that. Clarity trumps clever wordplay every single time.
Commandment #4: Thou Shalt Value Timelessness Over Trends
As a designer, it’s easy to get excited over new trends and designs- and that’s totally understandable! But here’s why you should value timelessness over trends: The amount of work that goes into a sermon is huge. The average pastor spends 10 hours every week writing, preparing, rehearsing, and preaching the sermon. They spend more time on the sermon than they do eating during the week. However, sermons are one of the most underused pieces of content in the church today- there are so many clips, quotes, and other content that can be pulled and used on social media!
If you’re going to utilize the sermon better, you need a design that will still be relevant in three years on your church’s social media feeeds. So try to be a little more timeless than trendy in your designs- although it’s not terrible to be trendy sometimes.
Commandment #5: Thou Shalt Think Beyond Your Screen
When you’re designing, you HAVE to remember that there are other environments besides just your screen. Projectors, other screen sizes, the environment, and a variety of other factors can influence how the design looks, so make sure it’s easy to read in less-than-ideal environments.
Commandment #6: Thou Shalt Prioritize Content Before Creativity
Once, Justin’s church designed a series called “Outer Space,” so that they could use some fancy lighting equipment and effects in their auditorium. While it looked amazing in rehearsal, the series itself fell flat because it didn’t have a strong, compelling idea to support it. If you start with the creative elements instead of the content, the sermons aren’t likely to be great teaching tools- you have to have some spiritual meat behind the idea, because that’s the purpose of your sermon. So, when you’re designing, focus on the content and let that inform the design- not the other way around.
Commandment #7: Thou Shalt Not Steal
This is a pretty simple one: don’t take someone else’s work, throw your church’s logo on it, and claim it as yours. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel or pressure yourself to be super creative if you’re feeling stuck- there are lots of sites (Like Ministry Pass and Igniter Media) that will allow you to purchase and edit their designs for a fee- but don’t steal designs from another church.
Commandment #8: Thou Shalt Follow Style Guides
If your church has a style guide, take it into consideration as you’re designing. That way, when people go to the resources page on your website, there’s cohesion between all of the different elements. If you don’t have a style guide, consider making or getting one to help guide your process.
Commandment #9: Thou Shalt Get Feedback- But From the Right People
As a designer, it’s important that you learn and grow- and part of that process means getting feedback. You need constructive feedback from people that you trust and that are qualified to speak into your creative process. When you have less-informed feedback coming from many voices, it can be confusing. So make sure you seek out feedback- but only from the right people, because that’s what’s going to help you grow!
Commandment #10: Thou Shalt Spell Check
We could tell you some embarrassing stories about this, including one time where we had a spelling error plastered all over one of our designs, even though our series goes through many sets of eyes before they’re released to the public. So, make sure you check and double-check your spelling- it’s easier than you think to make a mistake!