Archives For Design

Q+A :: How often should you change a church bulletin design?

Kent Shaffer —  January 5, 2012

Q+AHow often would you change a church bulletin cover or bulletin look?
- Mark :: South Carolina

It really depends on each church’s resources and the cultures of the church leadership, the congregation, and the people they are called to reach.

Personally, I think bulletins are a waste of money, so I recommend trying to get rid of them altogether or condensing them to 3.5″x7″ cardstock with announcements on one side and contact info/prayer card/visitor card on the other side.

However, for a variety of reasons that is not an option for most churches. Here are some ideas for you to mix and match:

  • Custom Everything Bulletin per Series ($$$$)
    Some churches have gorgeous tri-fold or quad-fold church bulletins designed weekly by designers who win ADDYs. The front cover features a custom graphic that changes with each series. The bulletin layout and dimensions change every few months. Special event graphics inside are custom designed. And each week’s announcements are carefully limited in length and placed to create a look as seamless as a brochure. The cardstock is premium and that value is noticeable to the touch. The visitor card is on an inside perforated flap, and there is a place for notes. Sometimes the church splurges to get a special embossing, spot varnish, or foil stamping on the cover. The printer is the best local shop. This approach while aesthetically marvelous costs about $1 per bulletin printing if ordering gigachurch quantities, and that does not include the cost for the graphic designers and copywriters.
  • Custom Bulletin Template per Series ($$$)
    A more affordable custom approach is to custom design the church bulletin cover for each sermon series and then print the weekly announcements on the inside. The frequency of a designing and printing a new cover design with every sermon series will still be costly, but the bulk printing of the bulletin template will help cut costs. Be aware, however, that bulletin templates can often make the announcements look more awkwardly pieced in than seamlessly stitched.
  • Premade Free Bulletin Template per Series ($$)
    A handful of websites offer free downloadable sermon series graphics. Sometimes these design packages come with bulletin templates. Either way you may very well still have to rework the file to make it work for your church’s needs. This is a great solution for cutting graphic design and printing costs, but the value is really in how you approach it.
  • Pre-printed Paid Bulletin Template ($$)
    While not versatile in customization, pre-printed bulletin templates have been a popular choice among small churches. They streamline production costs and are easy to use. However, be careful; there are a lot of ugly preprinted bulletin templates that do more harm than good.
  • Custom Bulletin Template per Season ($)
    Custom design the church bulletin to reflect your church brand rather than a sermon series, and you can bulk print a year’s worth of bulletin shells at a great rate. Use the money you saved to build a well.
  • Custom Card per Series ($$)
    Most bulletins quickly end up in the garbage, so consider streamlining your announcements into a simple sheet of cardstock front and back. The front can feature the sermon series graphics or a sermon outline, and the back can have the announcements. With a high quality printer and a good paper cutter, you can print these in-house with three 3.5″x7″ bulletins to each page.
  • Custom Card per Year ($)
    Ditch the tri-fold and the sermon series graphics, and use a single sheet of cardstock to list announcements on one side. Use the other side to feature church information, a prayer request card, or a visitor card. You can professionally bulk print a year’s worth of the church information side.
  • Projection Screen Videos ($$)
    Videos take time to create but can be a fast and fun way to make announcements. These can get pricey if too many paid staff members get involved. However, it will still likely be cheaper than most printed solutions. Don’t be boring, cheesy, awkward, or embarrassing. There is an art to good videos. Check out Whitney George and Gary Hornstein’s insights if you want to do church announcement videos well. 
  • Projection Screen Slides ($)
    Photoshop. JPEG. Done.
  • Church Website & Blog (-)
    If you have a good church website, this is incredibly fast, easy, effective (for reaching core members), and low cost.
  • Facebook & Twitter (-)
    The best place to reach people is where they spend their time. 1 in every 7 minutes spent online is spent on Facebook. Use social media. 
  • Lobby Chalkboard Easel (-)
    Find a good calligrapher or fine arts illustrator in your church, and you can have some of the coolest and low cost church announcements around. 
  • Lobby Interchangeable Poster ($)
    Design a large poster for each week’s announcements, print it at Kinko’s, and then place it in a prominent place like where people enter the auditorium.

These are just a few ideas. Mix and match them.

How would you answer this question? Leave a comment to help Mark out.

Scott Belsky on Making Ideas Happen

Kent Shaffer —  May 12, 2011

Catalyst Conference Dallas

At Catalyst Dallas, Scott Belsky of Behance discussed making ideas happen.

Most ideas never happen.

Ways to make ideas happen.

  • Overcome reactionary workflow (i.e., emails, texts, social media messages, voicemails). Unplugging is becoming the competitive advantage of the digital age.
  • Have a culture of capturing action steps. As leaders, we must have an action oriented nature.
  • Reduce your amount of insecurity work (i.e., social media, analytics, actions that don’t push the ball forward, etc.).
  • Never stop optimizing. Don’t be confined by the horizon of success.
  • Spend energy on how you organize.
  • Creativity x organization = impact
    You need both creativity and organization. You can have all the creativity in the world but zero organization equals zero impact.
  • Share ideas liberally.
  • Share ownership of ideas.
  • Divided interests equal divided results.
  • Seek competition.
  • Overcome the stigma of self-marketing.
  • Value the team’s immune system.
  • Find and empower the hot spots.
  • Incentivize innovation by tolerating failure. Many organizations wants innovation but only reward success. Innovation and failure go hand and hand. Allow pockets of failure.
  • Push people into their intersection.
  • Gain confidence from doubt. All remarkable people at one point did something great that others thought was crazy. When everybody keeps telling you’re crazy you’re either crazy or you’re onto something. Nothing extraordinary is ever achieved through ordinary means.

Creativity is not only an opportunity. It is a responsibility.

Further Reading:
2012 Church Conference Calendar

Moleskine Notebooks, Sketchbooks, and Journal Alternatives

Kent Shaffer —  March 11, 2011

Moleskine Alternatives

Moleskine notebooks have been the favorite planning tool of many creatives and pastors over the years. Some love them because of the durability. Some love the paper texture. Some use them just because of the hype.

But a Moleskine isn’t the only option for your prayer journals, sermon plans, and brainstorming sessions. In fact, here are 15 Moleskine alternatives to consider. Unfortunately, Moleskine did not submit review samples for comparison.


Field Notes Memo Books

Field Notes Memo Book

Dimensions: 3.5″ x 5.5″
Page Count: 48
Cover: 80#c (270g) French Dur-O-Tone  :: Packing Brown Wrap :: Saddle Stitch Binding
Paper: 50#t Boise Offset Smooth :: White

Styled after agricultural memo books and ornate pocket ledgers, Field Notes come in a 3-pack of lightweight memo books. It is a simple design but an endearing one with a clever layout on the inside covers to keep record of ownership and contents as well as the practical convenience of a 5-inch ruler. Although sturdy in construction, they are probably best kept out of back pockets for the sake of longevity. Available paper formats include plain, ruled, and graph paper.

Current Price: $9.95 for 3-Pack at

Ecosystem Artist Journal Small

Ecosystem Flexi Cover Artist Journal (small)

Dimensions: 3.5″ x 5.5″
Page Count: 192
Cover: Flexi Cover :: Onyx :: plus Elastic Closure, Bookmark, & Inner Pocket
Paper: White :: Blank

Ecosystem’s journals are created from 100% post-consumer recycled material. The cover is soft and flexible with enough texture to grip one’s fingers. Unfortunately, it and the glued binding do not look like they could handle a beating too well. The paper is good – just thick enough for quality writing while keeping the journal compact. Available paper formats include blank, ruled, graph, and calendar.

Current Price: $9.95 at (color change: grape)
See more Ecosystem products.

Piccadilly Essential Notebook (small)

Piccadilly Essential Notebook (small)

Dimensions: 3.5″ x 5.5″
Page Count: 192
Cover: Hard Cover :: Black :: Smyth Sewn Binding :: plus Elastic Closure, Bookmark, & Inner Pocket
Paper: 80 GSM :: Off-White :: Blank

This Piccadilly notebook has the opposite strengths and weaknesses of the above Ecosystem journal. Picadilly features smith sewn binding, so you never have to worry about pages falling out. And the hard cover ensures this notebook will hold up even with rough use.  The paper seems too thin and maybe even cheap in comparison to other pocket notebooks.

Current Price: $6.95 at

Rhodia A6 Webnotebook

Rhodia A6 Webnotebook

Dimensions: 3.5″ x 5.5″
Page Count: 192
Cover: Hard Italian Leatherette :: Black :: Smyth Sewn Binding :: plus Elastic Closure, Bookmark, & Inner Pocket
Paper: 90 GSM Clairefontaine Brushed Vellum :: Ivory :: Ruled

I am quite fond of this Rhodia pocket notebook. The hard cover wrapped in leather is pleasant and feels expensive  to touch. The downside is its soft leather wrapping appears to attract dents and markings easily. The paper has decent thickness and is smooth. The binding is Smyth sewn.

Current Price: $12.00 at
See more Rhodia products.


Ciak Notebook

Ciak Notebook (12 x 17 cm)

Dimensions: 5″ x 6.5″
Page Count: 256
Cover: Man-Made Leather :: Smyth Sewn Binding :: Tan :: plus Elastic Closure & Bookmark
Paper: 100 GSM Recycled :: Ivory :: Blank

Ciak journals are handmade in Italy. The leather is soft, and the pages are thick. Add in some Smyth sewn binding, and what is not to love? (Unless you are the type that needs a back cover pocket.)

Current Price: $21.99 at (color change: black)
See more Ciak products.

Ciak Multicolor Notebook

Ciak Multicolor Notebook (12 x 17 cm)

Dimensions: 5″ x 6.5″
Page Count: 288
Cover: Man-Made Leather :: Red :: Smyth Sewn Binding :: plus Elastic Closure & Bookmark
Paper: 90 GMS :: Multicolor :: Ruled

Like the above mentioned Ciak journal, this multicolor notebook offers a soft leather cover and durable Smyth sewn binding. Where it differs is it has more pages that are slightly less thick and that come in a rainbow of signatures.

Current Price: $21.99 at (color change: black)
See more Ciak products.

Piccadilly Primo Journal (medium)

Piccadilly Primo Journal (medium)

Dimensions: 5″ x 7″
Page Count: 288
Cover: Soft Cover with Dot Pattern :: Black :: Smyth Sewn Binding :: plus Elastic Closure & Bookmark
Paper: 80 GSM :: Cream :: Ruled

Once again, Piccadilly delivers a terrific cover and great binding, but at just 80 GSM, the pages are too thin for my taste. The cover’s dotted pattern adds a nice textured grip to the touch.

Current Price: $12.95 at

R.L. Allan Journal

R.L. Allan Journal

Dimensions: 7.75″ x 5.06″
Page Count: 256
Cover: Pigskin Leather :: Caramel Tan :: Smyth Sewn Binding :: Semi Yapp Edges :: plus Bookmark
Paper: Lightweight India Writing Paper :: White with Red under Gold Edges :: Ruled

R.L. Allan is Scotland’s prestigious Bible publisher and the only publisher to be granted the Queen’s Royal License to publish the Authorized KJV in Scotland. With a century and a half of experience, R.L. Allan has refined their reputation into one of the world’s finest craftsmanship. You get that quality in this journal. The cover is a thick pigskin leather with semi yapp edges to protect the page edges. The pages are a very thin India paper held in a Smyth sewn binding. The page edges have a red bleed with shining gold tips, and the ruling is a very tight 1/8 inch. For 256 pages, it is very thin at 1/2 inch. It is quite beautiful. The only downsides are you must be careful the ink you choose if you want to prevent bleeding and you either must write small or use two lines to accommodate the tight ruling.

Current Price: $42.00 at

Ecosystem Hard Cover Artist Journal (medium)

Ecosystem Hard Cover Artist Journal (medium)

Dimensions: 5.25″ x 8.25″
Page Count: 240
Cover: Hard Cover :: Onyx :: plus Elastic Closure, Bookmark, & Inner Pocket
Paper: White :: Ruled

This Ecosystem journal lacks the Smyth sewn quality binding that many other notebooks offer, but a few special qualities overcome that flaw to make it one of my favorites. The cover is very stiff and firm but has a very appealing softness to it despite not being leather. And the paper is very thick and smooth. Perhaps I like it so well because its strong cover and thick pages make me believe it can endure a lot of abuse and travel. I only hope the simple binding can last the journey with it.

Current Price: $16.95 at Barnes & Noble
See more Ecosystem products.

Clairefontaine Basics Notebook

Clairefontaine Basics Notebook

Dimensions: 5.75″ x 8.25″
Page Count: 96
Cover: Cardstock
Paper: 90 GSM Clairefontaine Paper :: White Smooth Satin Finish :: Ruled

Clairefontaine claims to be the best paper in the world for writing. All I know is these notebook pages are thick, incredibly smooth, and beautiful. Although they have a certain college-student-backpacking-through-Europe look, I’m not so sure the cover and binding would hold up through a rough semester at seminary. It may not offer what most would want for long-term archival journals, but the quality is certainly an upgraded treat from traditional spiral bound notebooks.

Current Price: $9.00 for a 2-pack at
See more Clairefontaine products.

Ciak Sketchbook

Ciak Sketchbook (15 x 21 cm)

Dimensions: 6″ x 8.5″
Page Count: 256
Cover: Man-Made Leather :: Lime :: Smyth Sewn Binding :: plus Elastic Closure & Bookmark
Paper: 100 GMS :: Ivory :: Blank

Like its smaller counterparts, this Ciak sketchbook has a quality cover, binding, and pages. It makes me want to draw. Depending on your artistic technique, the flexible cover may or may not be a plus.

Current Price: $21.99 at (color change: black)
See more Ciak products.

Rhodia Classic Meeting Notebook

Rhodia Classic Meeting Notebook

Dimensions: 6.25″ x 8.25″
Page Count: 160
Cover: Laminated Cardstock :: Black :: Spiral Binding
Paper: 80 GSM :: White :: Ruled with Sections

Rhodia’s meeting notebook makes meetings more efficient with a practical layout and clever design. Each page features a spot for the date, meeting summary, meeting notes, and action items. For convenience, each page is also microperforated for easy tear outs. It is perfect for board meetings or brainstorming sessions.

Current Price: $22.00 at (size change: 9″ x 11.75″)
See more Rhodia products.

Behance Action Journal

Behance Action Journal

Dimensions: 6″ x 8″
Page Count: 200
Cover: Hard Cover :: Black :: Stitched Binding :: plus Elastic Closure, Bookmark, & Inner Pocket
Paper: 100% New Leaf Sustainable :: Dot Grid with To-Do List

Behance’s Action Journal is a creative’s dream. A dot grid page layout provides just enough structure for precision and just enough freedom for the creative groove. The right side of each double page spread conveniently features 7 spots for action items and a box for items on the backburner. And with thick microperforated pages, you can take them with you as needed. The cover is firm and almost stiff but as soft as suede. The design is beautiful. My only complaint is it is so nice I almost don’t want to use it. (almost).

Current Price: $17.50 at
See more Behance products.


Quo Vadis Habana Notebook

Quo Vadis Habana Notebook

Dimensions: 6″ x 9″
Page Count: 160
Cover: Flexi Cover :: Black :: Smyth Sewn Binding :: plus Elastic Closure & Inner Pocket
Paper: 90 GSM Clairefontaine :: White :: Ruled

Quo Vadis’ Habana Notebook comes with a leather cover that reminds me of important executives. The paper is classy, thick, and smooth Clairefontaine paper. And the notebook even comes with an inner pocket. It is really quite nice and maybe too nice. It would be a perfect fit for senior pastors and administrative roles, but it is a bit hard to picture creatives with such an executive look and feel.

Current Price: $20.00 at

Ecosystem Sketchbook

Ecosystem Sketchbook

Dimensions: 7.2″ x 9.9″
Page Count: 128
Cover: Hard Cover :: Onyx :: plus Elastic Closure, Bookmark, & Inner Pocket
Paper: White :: Blank

I wish I had this Ecosystem sketchbook back in my days at art school. I love the size. The pages are generously thick. And the cover is the same stiff yet very soft quality found on other Ecosystem hard covers. The paper is thick enough to accommodate just about any medium from charcoal to quality ink and probably even watercolor. However, a bit more tooth and texture to the paper would be nice from a fine arts perspective.

Current Price: $15.56 on
See more Ecosystem products.


Rhodia Mouse Pad Clic Bloc

Rhodia Mouse Pad Clic Bloc

Dimensions: 7.5″ x 9″
Page Count: 30
Paper: 80 GSM :: White :: Graph

I have been using paper on a clipboard as a mouse pad for years. The convenience is hard to beat. Now Rhodia has a polished solution with their mouse pad notepad. Streamline your workspace by merging your mouse pad with your notepad.

Current Price: $5.65 at
See more Rhodia products.

Special thanks to all the companies featured for contributing complimentary products to this review. Some links are Amazon affiliate links.

How to Build & Lead a Creative Arts Team

Kent Shaffer —  March 4, 2011

Whitney George at Seeds Conference

At Seeds Conference, Whitney George of Church on the Move (Tulsa, OK), Pace Hartfield of Fellowship Church (Grapevine, TX), and Marty Taylor of Northland, A Church Distributed (Orlando, FL) gave a behind the scenes discussion of how they lead their creative arts teams.

WG: It is not so much about what you do as who you are. What are the personalities like that make up your creative team? Those personalities will shape your art.

MT: Each week, we focus on some specific attribute of God and we connect that attribute to some type of call & response for the church to act on that week.

MT: We don’t ever buy anything just because it’s cool. We buy something because it will help the message.

WG: You don’t do all the lights for the sake of lights. You do it to create environments for worship. God did the same for us when He created a beautiful environment for us to worship in.

PH: And sometimes creating the environment means turning the technology off. Sometimes that is most powerful.

WG: It is about using it in the right way. You always want to keep at the heart of what you are doing, “What am I trying to say?”

WG: When we opened our new auditorium, we asked, “What is the appropriate response?” We thought up a lot of crazy ideas but decided that the appropriate response to launching a new auditorium is worship.

MT: We find out 6 weeks out what a weekend will be and start planning.

PH: We plan 10 weeks to a week out, and sometimes start planning 6 months in advance. We start with whomever will be teaching. Ed Young Jr. will do a mind dump and journaling, and the create planning team will read it all. Then we meet as a group to talk it out. We leave more on the cutting room floor then in the final sermon.

PH: To as best you can, match the leadership style of your pastor. When your pastor feels that support, he will trust you more.

WG: I have to remember that God didn’t call me to run Church on the Move. He called me to serve Church on the Move. You have to make sure that mindset is aligned if you want to be creative.

WG: One of the main things about collaboration is that when start going up, you will see the fruits of that, the disjointedness, showing up on stage. The tech guys and the media guys and the worship guys need to be able to speak into the lives and process of everyone around them.

WG: During rehearsals, we have someone always watching it who is not doing it. That kind of feedback in the time you are putting it together is critical to a great worship environment.

PH: We always have to keep one hand free to adjust for what God wants. You have to be careful to never spiritualize your laziness. Don’t do things on the fly. God is in the details.

MT: I think the approach is greatly affected by how you view the video and the lighting and everything. If you look at the lighting as just another tool, as another worship leader, then it helps to evaluate if it is working together.

WG: Stop thinking of worship as one thing and lighting as one thing and production guys as one thing. They are all one thing together. They are all communication.

WG: Honor and serve. Start honoring the sound man. He is as much of the process as the person on stage. Serving them means respecting their process and putting yourself in their shoes. That relationship is essential.

Further Reading:
2012 Church Conference Calendar

Whitney George on Building a Culture of Creativity

Kent Shaffer —  March 3, 2011

Whitney George at Seeds Conference

At Seeds Conference, Whitney George of Church on the Move (Tulsa, OK) discussed building a culture of creativity.

When most people think of creativity, they think of artists. But really that is an incomplete definition because you can be creative at anything – mathematics, engineering, parenting.

Creativity at its core is really nothing than solving a problem of some sort. We all have the capacity to be a creative person.

But creativity for artists comes with unique challenges.

As artists, our challenge, our problem, is one of communication. If you think about it, all art is communication. Often, it communicates feeling.

The power of the arts is it can take you places that you didn’t know you can go. It can communicate things that you otherwise cannot.

When you think about the Great Commission, our responsibility is to communicate the gospel. And as artists, we communicate the gospel through the arts.

So how do you build a culture of creativity? Ask yourself these four questions:

QUESTION #1 – Have you given the right people a voice?

If you want young people to buy into your church, give them a voice.

That doesn’t mean ask anyone. Find a young person who has a relationship with your church and genuinely cares. You don’t have to take every single suggestion. But it matters to listen. When you show that you care about what they think, then they will go to town to work for you.

If you want to build a culture of creativity, you must continually find new people, give them a voice, and give them an opportunity to serve. Like attracts like, so get great people.

QUESTION #2 – Have you got the right people on the team?

The idea of the lone genius is actually a myth (research proven). Creativity always works best in groups. Where people often have pitfalls is not willingness to do something but rather choosing the right people for their team.

Avoid These People

  • Avoid people who cause tension.
    Tension is the biggest enemy to the creative process because tension makes our guard go up. Sometimes the senior pastor creates tension because of his position of authority.
  • Avoid people who dominate the conversation.
  • Avoid people who don’t participate.
    If you aren’t going to engage the conversation, there is no point in you being in the room.
  • Avoid people who always agree.
    You need people who will ask the tough questions.

Get These People

  • Get people who have a selfless heart for the church.
    They may not have the best ideas at first, but they give themselves. You want people who use their talents and gifts to build the church and not people who use the church to build their talents and gifts.
  • Get people who have familiarity with each other.
    Familiarity breeds comfort with each other.
  • Get people who move the conversation forward.

QUESTION #3 – Have you put in the time?

There is nothing sexy about creativity and the creative process. There are hundreds of decisions to come up with a result that looks like a genius idea. Creativity works in really small sparks.

Creativity is horribly inefficient. That’s okay. It is like that for everyone. When people do anything very well, they make it look easy.

QUESTION #4 – Are you ready to just do it?

Don’t get hung up wondering “How?” Just do something. Take the first step.

What God has called you to do, He has also given you the grace to do.

Further Reading:
2012 Church Conference Calendar

What’s New with Clover Church Websites

Kent Shaffer —  November 10, 2010

It has been over a year since I blogged about Clover church websites. This year Clover has released 12 new features that make it an entirely new product.

Clover has been generous enough to support for over 2.5 years, but this post isn’t an ad. Instead this post is my written admiration and appreciation for what I believe is one of the most user-friendly, powerful, and all-inclusive church website solutions available.

This year Clover completely overhauled their content management system, Greenhouse, and relaunched it with the following 12 new features:

  • New Media Player
  • Podcasting
  • New Calendar
  • Password Protected Pages
  • Font Sizing Options
  • New Dashboard
  • Linking Within Site
  • Image Slideshow
  • Linkable Pictures
  • Photo Albums
  • List Pages
  • Form Pages

Clover is low cost and super convenient. Despite being Flash-based, each site is search engine optimized. Of course, like any content management system, Clover is what you make it. The default templates are beautiful, but be careful you don’t get carried away with odd choices for fonts, colors, and more.

Clover isn’t for everyone, but I’d recommend it for the majority of churches.

Language and Relationship Based Internet Strategy

Kent Shaffer —  October 26, 2010

At the 2010 Internet Ministry Conference (Grand Rapids, MI), I spoke on creating a tailored Internet strategy with language and relationships. Here is the outline of my talk:


This is a story about two brothers – identical twins, Abe and Eli. Like most twins, Abe and Eli were more than brothers. They were best friends. They did everything together. They went fishing. They threw rocks. They watched the same movies, listened to the same music, and dated the same girls… er, I should say fought over the same girls. But they made it threw that messy conflict. In college, they shared the same friends with whom they also shared a same rent house. Life was good. But then things changed… Abe and Eli graduated. They got jobs. And as their careers demanded, they moved away to separate towns.

Five years passed without Abe and Eli seeing each other face to face. Five years passed quickly. But then one day Eli receives a phone call. His stomach sinks and his Adam’s apple knots into the back of his throat. Abe had been in a serious car accident. It does not look good. Abe is in a coma. So Eli books the first flight to Boston and makes his way to Abe’s bedside. It is difficult to see, but Eli believes that Abe will make it through this.

So Eli determines to take care of Abe’s house until he is better. After all, he knows Abe better than anyone else. So Eli hops in his rental car and drives across town to Abe’s house. Eli doesn’t have a key, but he does have a hunch that Abe still hides a key box around the back of the house just like they had at their college rent house. Sure enough, he is right.

Eli laughs as he entered the house. Everything is just like Abe – the same quirks and details he had always had. “This is going to be easy,” he thinks, “I know Abe.” But what Eli doesn’t know is… “Woof, WOOF, Woof!” A beast lunges at Eli as he opens a door. It is Zeke, Abe’s 3-year-old German Shepherd. Eli had never met Zeke, but he is confident he can handle some dog.

But Zeke is not just “some dog.” Zeke does not respond to any commands. Eli takes Zeke outside. A rabbit is spotted and zoooommm! There is no response to whistles, clapping, or “Come here, boy!” It is a long chase through the suburbs. The drama continues and continues with each day Eli spends with Zeke. One night Eli gives Zeke table scraps to win him over, but instead Eli finds himself rushing a wheezing dog with allergies to an emergency vet.

The good news is after seven days, Abe came out of the coma. With tears in their eyes, Abe and Eli celebrate the come back. Eli jokes, “I am glad you are well. Perhaps now you can take that dog of yours to obedience school.” Abe pauses with a puzzled look then laughs. “Ha! No need for that. Zeke has already been to obedience school. In fact, he was best in class. The problem is you don’t speak Zeke’s language. He has been trained to respond only to specific commands in German.”

This is a lesson about language and relationship. Eli’s relationship with Abe gave him intimate understanding about how Abe would want his house maintained. But Zeke was not Abe. Just because Eli had a good relationship with Abe doesn’t mean that he has a relationship with Zeke, which would have helped him avoid the allergy fiasco. And just because Eli knew how to handle some dogs doesn’t mean that he knows how to speak Zeke’s language.


Outside of prayer and obedience to the Holy Spirit and God’s Word, language and relationship are some of the most important keys to successful ministry strategy.

Language is cultural relevance. Relationship is emotional relevance.

When you speak someone’s language, it increases the potential of you forming a meaningful relationship with that person (language creates intimacy through understanding). But at the same time, the better your relationship is with someone, the easier it is to speak their language (relationship creates understanding through intimacy).


I believe that much of the good that is done for the Kingdom is done through relationships. Relationships are timeless and enduring. Relationships are driven by love, God’s love, which selflessly and sacrificially heals the hurts of others. There will always be hurting people, lonely people, the neglected, the abused, and the rejected. People crave good relationships.

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.
- Colossians 4:5-6


Language defines how you do ministry. It is what connects who you are with who you are called to reach. It is more than words. It is the details of how you communicate through every touchpoint. The tricky part is language is rooted in culture, and culture is always changing.

I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.
- 1 Corinthians 9:22

Language is cultural relevance. And it is important to clarify that cultural relevance is not gimmicks and novelty and entertainment. True cultural relevance is understanding people well enough to speak their language and interact with them in a way that better engages them.

If you want to tailor your language, you must:

  1. Know Thyself (and how you are evolving)
    If you do not know who you are, you will be misguided. You will lack purpose. You will lack vision. And the Bible is plainly clear that without vision, the people will perish. The corporate world calls this branding. In ministry, we call it our calling.
  2. Know Your Audience (and how they are evolving)
    People want to hear a message that is focused on them. A message tailored specifically to you is more effective than one designed for the entire nation.
  3. Identify the Communication Channels (and how they are evolving)
    Once you know who you are and understand who you are called to reach, then you can best determine what is communication channels you should choose and how to use them. There are hundreds of communication channels, but not every one is right for you.


Every touchpoint you have with someone online or offline communicates something – be it good or bad. There are tens of thousands of ways to communicate, so I am not going to cover many of them.

Instead, I encourage you to focus on building real relationships and speaking a language that is authentic to your calling and relevant to people’s culture. The more you do that the easier it is to naturally understand what works within your unique context.

I will, however, lightly cover four areas among many that should be considered when tailoring your ministry strategy.

  • Design
    Your design is your credibility. You can’t stop people from making assumptions, but you can create an image that produces the right assumptions. Good design temporarily supplements relationships by creating a perception of your ministry before you have a chance to build a real relationship. Good design helps people overlook faults within your approach.
  • Social Media
    Do not do social media for social media’s sake. Merely having a Facebook page or a Twitter account does not help you. In fact, using social media the wrong way will hurt how people perceive you. You must add value.
  • Search Engine Optimization
    Focus on people’s needs and not the obvious. If you are Grace Church from Chicago, IL, don’t optimize yourself for “Grace Church” and “Chicago church.” The people who need you the most will not be searching with those terms. Instead optimize yourself for “Chicago divorce help,” “contemplating suicide,” and “Chicago addictions.” With these search engine optimized terms, you can help hurting people in the moments of need with valuable instant online content and ways to receive ongoing support.
  • Community
    Online community can be a tricky thing. People often do not use the tools you’ve created in the way that you have intended. Online community must constantly be evaluated and tweaked. You can force people to interact the way that you want, but you can give subtle nudges with the language you use and the online environment to steer community interaction.


The better relationship you have with someone, the easier it is to put yourself in their shoes and answer, “Why should anyone care?” Why should someone care about the postcard you sent them? Why should anyone care about your ministry?

What are you going to do that will cause people to actually care?

Further Reading:
Church Conference Calendar

Expository Sermon Series Graphics

Kent Shaffer —  August 13, 2010

Sometimes designing sermon series graphics can be tough. It’s a design niche riddled with puns, goofiness, and bad art, which is problematic for artists on the hunt for design inspiration.

What you create is a direct result of your inputs.

This is true of everything in life. If you want to be a better designer, surround yourself with the best quality you can find. If you want to worsen or stagnate your skills, surround yourself with subpar work.

Designer Jim LePage is creating some inspiring illustrations for each book of the Bible. His sermon series art is complete up through Hosea. More design candy to come. I find his style and interpretation to be some fresh inspiration for designers creating expository sermon series graphics.

Here are my favorites:


Sermon Series Exodus


Sermon Series Numbers


Sermon Series Judges


Sermon Series 1 Samuel


Sermon Series Nehemiah


Sermon Series Job

For Discussion:
>> What is your favorite source of design inspiration for sermon series? Share links in your comments.