Designers vs. Pastors

January 22, 2010 by

Let me begin with a confession. I’m a pastor, I am not a designer. In fact, I have to admit that I actually suck at design. But, my saving grace is that I have a huge amount of respect for people with God-given gifts in graphic design. I recognize the blessings to have been privileged to work with some of best designers in the context of the local church.

Recently, a comment made by a designer friend prompted me to seriously consider many of the issues that seem to face designers in the church. She said the worst part about being a designer is when people don’t like your work.

That got me reflecting about how often the designers in the churches that I have known talk about the issues they have dealing with church leadership and senior pastors. I wonder if this is simply an issue of communication glitches, because we have more in common than we realize. These are, I believe, three big issues we have in common:

It sucks when people don’t like your work.

Designer: You put your heart and soul into a design, and it hurts when people don’t “get” it.

Pastor: You pour yourself into your sermons, and sometimes people just don’t get it. It hurts for you, too.

Everything is “last minute.”

Designer: You can’t do your best work because everything is a rush job.

Pastor: Crisis management comes with the suit/robes/fancy shirt. Also: Funerals are almost always unexpected (and they seem to come in sets of three)!

Everyone else “knows” how to do your job.

Designer: Every person in the church gets to tell you about the colors they would have picked, or how it could be better. None of these people have a background in design beyond “clipart.”

Pastor: Everyone in the church is a theologian. They also know how to administrate everything, plan the event better and, in general, have a solution for everything.

The things we have in common are greater than the things that separate us. Pastors, remember that your designer has a ministry that is just as significant as yours. They deserve respect because of that. Don’t second guess them the same way that people do you.

Designers, love your pastors. They are on the front lines and taking hits all the time. Pray for them, and make them funny shirts and birthday cards. We love that stuff.

Everyone: Remember, it’s not about us and it’s all about Jesus.

Post By:

Erik Germesin

Erik Martin Germesin is an associate pastor at Lompoc Foursquare Church and is in the process of moving to Pittsburgh, Penn., to start a new church. He blogs at
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19 Responses to “Designers vs. Pastors”

  • Ron Geyer
    January 22, 2010

    This reminds me of comments offered by a client after he participated in the critique of a design we (architects) presented for a new School of Music at the University of Georgia:
    “I just realized that what you experience is similar to what it would be like if, after composing a symphony, the audience stepped up to criticize your phrasing and dynamics and even your key. I’m not sure I would stand for it.”
    Although servants aren’t entitled to work without the approval of those they serve, it’s nice to have your investment acknowledged.

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  • Greg
    January 22, 2010

    I have been both a pastor and a designer and I cann attest to the truth of this post. I have experienced first-hand the way the church undervalues art and creativity. However, I tend to believe that it has more to do with wanting everything cheap and free (mainly because the church also seems to undervalue craftsmanship, and excellence in general).
    I am thankful for forums like this one that let me know I am not alone and that others are pushing the church to aspire to creative excellence.

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  • Mary
    January 22, 2010

    Very interesting article. Thank you

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  • Mary
    January 22, 2010

    I wanted to mention just a few of the many experiences I’ve had with pastors as a designer.
    The first one was the green paper request, after it was printed the Pastor wanted it Neon but it was just a bristol green. He made my boss cry about being “disobedient” and laughed about her crying in front of me.
    I worked with visiting missionary designing his logo which had to include 4 symbols. I showed him several good ones and he picked one, exclaiming “This is it, this is of God!” The next day it was determined it wasn’t really of God after all I had to keep at it. The same thing with a mailer. After a week of this “finding God’s Will” for his art I bailed out and he was assigned a new artist from his home church.
    God showed another pastor the brilliant idea of using a generic labeling scheme for his junior high group’s bumper sticker. Ok, first of all Jr High kids don’t need bumper stickers, they don’t drive and the whole generic look means nothing to them, they don’t shop warehouses. But God told him.
    Another one was sure God wanted a wicker baby carriage clip art for his logo for his New Birth Church. First of all clip art is not to be used as a logo legally and, a baby carriage to attract newcomers to a brand new church? No amount of reasoning would persuade him and I passed it to another artist on staff. Found out years later he and his wife were in the throes of Infertility therapy and were childless.
    Unfortunately this was typical of the 10 pastors on staff at the large church where I worked. God’s supposed will was used as a weapon for art. When that happens there is recourse.

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  • Adam Lehman
    January 22, 2010

    I’m a youth pastor. My wife is graphic designer. This post is INCREDIBLY true.

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  • Bernie
    January 22, 2010

    Thank God for pastors who see the value of having any design work done at all and for those pastors who are making room for the gifts of others to emerge. Thank God for pastors, boards and councils that find funds within their budgets to pay for the work being done by designers. Designers need to listen well and pastors need to speak with clarity. Pastors need to listen well to designers and designers need to speak in simple terms – so us pastors who are not designers can understand. Lastly, pastors (I confess) need to plan thing out in advance and assist designers in not getting hit up by other departments that press for their work to get done first, rather than the work that impacts more people, the whole church. May we use all our gifts to make the local church be the best it can be and not suck.

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  • Danielle Hartland
    January 22, 2010

    Can I just say that this is the most helpful and balanced blog post I’ve ever read re: “Designers vs. Pastors?” Cause it is.
    Thank you for trying to bring the sides together, rather than setting up an environment for attacks and insanity.
    This rocks.

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  • Erik Germesin
    January 22, 2010

    Thanks for your response everyone. I’m totally humbled that it made it in, much less that people thought it was good!

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  • Kevin Shorter
    January 22, 2010

    I like this article as it addresses the respect factor of both the pastor and the designer. I get the privilege of frequently working with designers. The truth is that I do have an idea of what I want communicated in the creative being done. The key is being respectful and working with the designer. If there is something about the creative you do not like, build off of what you do like about it. Compliment and gently request your changes. We all need to have thick skin when it comes to feedback, but it is better when we offer the feedback nicely.

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  • ocube
    January 23, 2010

    As a Designer I constantly battle these creative issues with both Churches and Charities and for sanities sake, I mostly designer for corporate bodies as they not only pay better, they treat me better as well. For me its not about taking feedback badly as I will tell you now, coporate bodies are more brutally honest, for me its about respect. I am treated as a professional and my opinions are taken seriously as it affets sales. In the church I get the impression some of the leaders dont se the imapct my work has on the overall success of their ministry and mostly treat me as a neccesary evil they have to endure.
    In balance I will say some Churches have treated me with an understandng of what my skill bring to the table but they are really few and far between.

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  • Mary
    January 24, 2010

    “God’s supposed will was used as a weapon for art. When that happens there is recourse.”
    I meant when God’s will is used as a final authority on graphic design there is NO recourse. That is the silver bullet that we designers have to submit to regardless, or be labeled rebellious.
    Pastors don’t tell architects where to place the load bearing wall or number of trusses when building the church, nor tell the plumbers what size pipes to use or the electricians which wires to use. But they all have seem to have direction, if not outright control, of the newest ad or slide with direct insight from God.
    This of course may come from the churches decision to hire cheap inexperienced designers who they have to lead along when they should be hiring experienced professionals that want to serve the Lord in their chosen field of design.
    We can give you a successful tool to reach people
    We can do just exactly what you want.

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  • Bryan
    January 25, 2010

    I disagree with the designer. I think their sentiments continue to forward the perception of the “creative” as an overly-sensitive type.
    Instead of the worst thing being people who don’t like your work, I think it’s people who won’t let you work. Most pastors I’ve worked with just want you to execute their poorly conceived ideas.
    Let me do the creating, thanks; that’s my gifting, not yours. If you don’t like it, I’m secure enough to deal with that. But, I find that you usually do.

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  • bondChristian
    January 25, 2010

    I think you might be leaving out a few people… maybe everyone. :>)
    I think everyone deals with these issues. The problem is that none of us recognize that others deal with it too. Thanks for reminding us.
    -Marshall Jones Jr.

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  • sean salter
    February 10, 2010

    When designers that work for churches realize that they are in the business of making money they won’t take rejection so personally.

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  • Bill Graybill
    February 11, 2010

    Good discussion. As a pastor and a coach I see another side of Ron’s comment. I think the church values the work but gets into a mindset of cheap or free because that is the world we live in. Everything we do is free for anyone who shows up. And if not free then as cheap as possible so as many as possible can take part. When you give it all away you struggle with sticker shock in the real world.
    I have learned this moving from pastoring to coaching. It is the same issues that we all face like Marshall points out.

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  • Sheila
    February 11, 2010

    Regarding cheap or free, perhaps that’s partly due to lack of finances. For more on these creative issues, check out Bruce & Stan’s book entitled “I’m fine with God, It’s Christians I can’t stand.” Some interesting thoughts on why the church often sucks at being creative…

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  • Jonathan
    February 17, 2010

    Hmm, if funerals come in 3’s then maybe the 2nd and 3rd shouldn’t be unexpected. :)

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  • Shawn
    March 1, 2010

    Fantastic article. This is a great tool to bring perspective. Succinct and poweful. Well done!

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  • Inquiring Artist
    February 8, 2011

    I am looking for hours on what website can give me advice about what I am facing as an artist/writer/designer in dealing with the churches, and finally, I found your website.

    It has been my experience many times of some churches and church leaders about their “always-free” mentality. What I meant is that they will ask a design, or a lesson or an artwork, but they will not pay it because they thought it is free in the name of the ministry. Or if they pay, they will always ask for a big discount since they explained, anyway it is for the Lord. For example, I am writing lessons and designs posters for churches, some uses them but some don’t pay.
    What will I do to avoid this or how will I deal with this as an artist/writer? I really need advice about this. Thank you very much.

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