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.

14 Comments

  • Tommy says:

    Solid post here, Kendall! Great thoughts that I’ve pondered often. I like the way you chose to word this. Totally agree!

  • Michael says:

    Hi Kendall – This is an awesome post!! As the media person for my small church, the message is coming in loud and clear. Our 100 member church was recently gifted monitors which birthed our media ministry. I’m a younger guy (early 30’s) and our church is mostly made up of older members (50 and up) . Of course there’s going to be a difference of opinion in style. How do you discover what the balance should be in media? I want to appeal to the younger families that are starting to come to our church without putting off our core members.

    • Kendall Conner says:

      I would start slow, Michael. Definitely include your Lead Pastor in your planning process. Do you have a computer and presentation software? How big are these monitors? The older crowd may not be able to really see what you’re doing because of their small size.

      I would check out the stills subscription from CenterlineNewMedia.com. It’s only $50/year and will be great for getting you started. Stills will be a great introduction for people who are new to the idea of media in church and they won’t take a great computer to run them.

      • Michael says:

        Those are great ideas. We received four 55″ monitors that actually fit the size of the sanctuary perfectly. Right now, I project lyrics, announcements and sermon scriptures using Propresenter 5 on a MacBook. We’ve had the software for a couple months now and the learning curve has been quick, fortunately. I just want to make sure that I’m not being over ambitious. I have to keep in mind that the media should be enhancing the service versus being a distraction.

        That being said I appreciate your blog SO MUCH!! I’ve gained mountains of knowledge and useful resources from you. It’s my own personal boot camp :)

        • Kendall Conner says:

          Awesome! A full subscription to Centerline is my best recommendation, then. They’ve got plenty of content that will work great in your environment. Keep your lyrics large and only 2-3 lines per slide on a TV.

          Thanks so much for the kind words!

  • Colleen Brown says:

    So true your thoughts here which I can so identify with. The church I’m at sounds so similar to the one you describe. Their style is from 50 yrs ago yet their song choices is a good mix. I can take so much away from this article as I’m in the process of implementing change but I have committed to ensuring the change is done in baby steps. There is a good mix of generations but the more senior folk have been the gate keepers of what’s in and what’s out. I have expressed to my pastoral team and my elder sponsor of my ministry that we need to change if we wish to maintain the diverse demographic we currently have. They are supportive which is great and gives me a level of comfort. It’s daunting but also quite exciting. But your article has given me food for thought and keeping uppermost the objective which is Jesus at the centre of the style. Thanks so much.

    • Kendall Conner says:

      I’m so glad that you’ve benefitted from this post, Colleen. Change can be one of the hardest things in ministry. I’m praying for good things in your church!

  • Ryan Richey says:

    Great point. This is my current situation. Thanks for the great insight!

  • Exequiel says:

    This post is SO helpful. My church is very small, I’m talking 50-60 people here. And 85% of us are on our twenties or less. Although, the denomination we’re a part of is very very traditional. Taking into account that I’m one of the leaders of this local church, should I try to change the “style” or culture of the church to adapt to the needs of the young people we are trying to reach? or should I just find another church where the style is more like what I have in mind?

  • Hey Kendall, that’s a very interesting post you shared with all of us and I really appreciate it. On that same note I was wondering if you can also share with us a post describing how can someone be an effective creative Pastor? As far as The fundamentals ones need to keep being creative and the tools needed for the job. If you already have a post similar please feel free to share it with me.
    Thank you!

  • Alejandra says:

    Hi, I really think this is amazing, all of your posts have really helped me out… But I have a question, as some others have told you changes can be really scarry, and if we don’t do it for GOD then we’re not doing anything but just trying to call people’s attention, I wonder how to find the perfect point to introduce this changes… You see, I just saw your post of Handwritten lyrics, and it is awesome, and then I read this post, and I’m lost, I don’t know if this can turn in a distraction rather than helping out… It would be really awesome If you could give me an advice for this. And thank you again, ’cause what you’re doing here is really incredible.

    • Kendall Conner says:

      You’ll have to find a balance specific for the church you’re serving at. I once served at a church that was traditional – hand drawn lyrics wouldn’t have been a good fit. But I now serve at a very progressive, creative church where hand drawn lyrics could be a great fit.

      To me, it’s all about serving the house well.

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