My first full-time job in ministry was in a traditional church. I use that term loosely, though. We sang worship songs written within the last 15 years. We read our lyrics from a projector rather than from hymnals. The pastor always preached with sermon slides. But the style in which those songs were sung, sermons were preached, and the look of the sanctuary all communicated days of yesteryear.
Looking back to my time there, I’ve realized that a big part of my frustration in that environment was that I’m anything but traditional. That ministry was full of good, God-fearing people who I loved, but the style of the church was something that I always desired to change. In my inexperience, rather than seeking to create graphics and select media that were fitting for that setting, I always leaned towards what was popular in more modern churches. But whenever I showed that contemporary media in our traditional environment, it stuck out like a sore thumb.
As a young guy with big dreams for what I thought ministry could be, I always desired to push our traditional church forward. I think that it’s healthy and vital for all local churches to stay relevant to the next generation. However, I’ve learned that you cannot change an entire church through media alone. In fact, as I sought to modernize our ministry through my designs, because they stuck out so much, I wonder if they did more damage than good. The modern logo that I created may have reflected the latest branding trends, but it didn’t communicate who we were as a church. The sleek website I designed wasn’t true to what people would find when they came through our doors. The motions and mini-movies that I projected weren’t designed to communicate to our audience.
I spent all of my days at this ministry creating media for the church I wanted to attend, instead of the church that God had called me to. Looking back, I imagine how much more powerful our media ministry could have been if I would have embraced who we were as a church. …if I would have created designs that were tailor-made for that audience. …if I would have focused on the people rather than what was trendy. …if I would have told our story.
When you sit down to create your next sermon slides or download your next set of motions, remember my mistakes here. Rather than abandoning your church’s flavor for the sake of something new, learn to embrace it. Bring a level of excellence to that style that your leaders and congregation have never seen. Remember that you’ll never move an organization forward and change the minds of people with quick, extreme change. Instead, start where you are and make small changes for the better. Use your media as a method to point people towards Jesus, not a more modern style.