Church Creative Director Ryan Hartsock

April 18, 2005 by

Newspaper adA few weeks ago we received an e-mail from Ryan Hartsock, the Creative Director at Four Corners Community Church in West Chester, Ohio. He sent us some samples of work that he hoped didn’t suck. Rather than simply taking a look at his work, we decided to ask him a few questions.

(Newspaper ad, right: “We have really tried to depart from just delivering with some cross and other “Christianese” symbols. This was one of our ads in a campaign of taking interesting pictures and adding some sort of tagline.”)

So you’re on staff as a Creative Director at your church—what do you actually do?

Ryan Hartsock: My job is a bit nebulous in nature. I deal with people’s experience with the church from newspaper ads and visuals in the theater (where we meet) to videos and other more mundane things.

What kind of experience/education do you have in the creative field?

Hartsock: My background was initially in English education and taught 8th graders for five years. I also went to film school and produce and write. Most of my experience has been in small doses here and there for various people in a freelance-type position. This is my first “full-time” job as a creative.

Bulletin front and back(Bulletin, at right: “I have really tried to bring a sense of excellence to our bulletins. When people get bored they look at the bulletin and it should be provoking and/or visually interesting. [This one is] from our series on what makes a hero, looking at obscure heroes of the Bible and what they teach us about life journeying with God.” See below for Hartsock’s favorite bulletin.)

What’s your vision for marketing Four Corners Church?

Hartsock: I want to be a place where God is experienced through all the senses and where people are constantly challenged to look beyond stigmas and preconceived notions.

What kind of marketing did you do when you launched your church in September 2004?

Hartsock: We had a major marketing campaign in order to make people aware of who and what we were before we launched. Our community, as most, was crowded with churched but still there were quite a few wondering what place they had in the “pew”–we wanted to be a place for those people. We launched a web site, a major newspaper ad campaign, served our community and gave away tons of stuff.

Backdrop (Backdrop, right: An 8’x8’backdrop for the Connect table where people get information.)

What marketing have you done since then? Has there been a difference between church launch marketing and your current work?

Hartsock: We continue to “market” our church thoroughly. We continue to try to spark interest with ads and service as well as expanding our web site (the site will actually get refined again soon). I don’t know if things have changed or just become more challenging. It always is hard to continue the creative pace. I struggle often to stay innovative and communicative with culture.

How effective has your marketing been? Have you received feedback, gauged the results, seen attendance go up?

Hartsock: I think our marketing has been mainly successful. We had some amazing results during our launch from our initial push. I think things have cooled a bit but we continue to grow. The feedback is not so much verbal, although there is some, but mainly I see feedback as new people coming to see what we are doing.

banner(Banner, right: “A banner we have hanging at the movie theater where we meet. I was trying to play off the iPod ad craze.”)

How important has marketing been to the growth of your church?

Hartsock: Hugely important. I think we had to carve out our place in the community. But we have had to match the marketing with community and an authentic sense of warmth and welcome.

What’s your favorite piece of marketing you’ve done for your church?

Hartsock: My favorite piece would have to be our initial bulletin (see below). I had grown up a pastor’s kid and was always amazed bulletins were so bland and underused as a way to communicate with people. I tried to have a bulletin that communicated a story and was visually simulating at the same time. The subway door as a metaphor for the doors we must walk through as people in order to grow. The back conveyed the core values of the church and the topics of the series on the station map.

'Doorways' bulletin front 'Doorways' bulletin back

What’s the biggest mistake churches make when it comes to marketing?

Hartsock: I think we try too often to compete with each other instead of communicating to people what role our individual churches fulfill in the community. We are not ever going to create one church for everyone so the least we can do is clearly communicate our individual core values and visions to the community.

Who are your marketing heros and why?

Hartsock: Hmmm…I think more of visual influences that inspire me to create:

  1. Mark Arnold (designer of What’s So Amazing About Grace? visual edition)
  2. Apple and Nike’s ad campaigns
  3. Saul Bass and his ever-reaching influence
  4. HOW magazine and the designers they showcase
Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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7 Responses to “Church Creative Director Ryan Hartsock”

  • cryptblade
    April 18, 2005

    Some really pretty creatives. Eye-catching and in a good way too.

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  • Knowledge Lab
    June 1, 2005

    Pastor of Marketing

    Church Marketing Sucks ponders the possibility of having a design and marketing position on the church staff and they interview the

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  • Eric Frady
    November 25, 2006

    Great concepts. I am involved in helping a new church in NC. I need lots of ideas and this is a great site for that. What other info can you share to help with our launch, the first of 07. Thanks!!

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  • Don
    April 8, 2008

    So here I am…a 62 year-old “returning pastor” – after 22 years in the radio and TV network business…
    I’ve got a traditional church with 65 people, but a local newspaper budget. Also, I am hearing that some of the “baby-boomers” are tired of the “stage bands and youth-oriented “Sunday Shows” in churches.
    We even have some younger (as in 30 somethings) families who are coming to our church “go back to their parents’ type of worship. Hey! I’m just observing and listening at this point.
    Got any suggestions for an “old man” trying to help a 121 year-old church be different while it survives?

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  • Joshua Cody
    April 8, 2008

    Don, check out our Church Marketing Lab ( We have a discussion board over there that would be the exact place to get this sort of advice. Head over there, and there’s nearly 2000 members who would be more than happy to help you out.
    Best of luck in moving forward with this; it’s great what you’re doing! Hope to see you in the Church Marketing Lab.

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  • david Boedeker
    May 28, 2009

    I am tired of boring churchy bulletins! Do you have any links where I can buy some cool stuff?

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  • Bridge Element
    August 8, 2011


    CreationSwap has some pretty cool designs for churches.

    A lot of our clients also use their free graphic with their church’s websites. They have been an awesome resources for churches, we point everyone to them for graphics.

    Hope this helps.

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