Time for another victim in the ‘Do we really need…’ series, where we challenge common elements of church communications, this time it’s the turn of sermon series publicity!
If you produce sermon graphics, as many churches do, you probably spend a lot of time on them.
You may therefore produce designs for some, or all of the following: Posters, Blogs, Social Media, Powerpoint Slides, Youtube, CDs or Flyers. Each additional item produced means extra work for your volunteers or staff, on top of all their other responsibilities.
So, there must be a reason we go to this extra effort?
Advantages of sermon series graphics:
- They help to retain attention for a topical series of talks
- The publicity gives your churchgoers an idea of upcoming messages
- Posters inform visitors and passers by about the sermon series
- The designs provide visual variety for the church website and notice boards
- These graphics aim to maintain a visual consistency across different media relating to the series (e.g. posters and CDs both carry branded graphics)
You may sense a ‘but’ coming at some point, but these are all great aims!
Critically, I want to emphasise that I’m not downplaying teaching, or criticising its prominence in church life. Bible teaching is of primary importance to the Spiritual health of the church.
So, is it not worth the extra work then? What am I moaning about?
Ok, time for some reflections on sermon series designs, and some observed downsides.
Disadvantages of sermon series graphics:
I’ll try to say this gently; lots of sermon graphics are, well… terrible. Because the graphics are directly related to a spiritual theme, they often suffer from the ‘Christian Art’ issue. The link between message and images is rarely subtle and they end up being kitsch.
We might not think this matters too much, but if we’re wanting our graphics to form part of our witness to the outside world, we should aim to produce the best designs we possibly can.
They take too much time – time which could be spent on any number of other things. As we considered earlier, there can be several elements to creating sermon imagery, and the workload can easily add up.
Additionally, graphics creation is often a task which falls to those who are already some of your busiest staff/volunteers.
Sermon graphics do one thing very well – they sit in a slider on your homepage and the create the illusion of content.
This means your website looks busy, and changes regularly, with each new series, which is good. Unfortunately, that’s about where the positives end, as the image rarely links anywhere helpful, and doesn’t serve much more of a purpose.
Still, because of this illusion, we don’t feel the need to spend much time creating any other online content.
Nice sermon graphics don’t get bums on seats. If I can be completely frank, I doubt that even the most amazing graphic about the most exciting series persuades many to come to church. Furthermore, the main audience who will see the content are our members and regulars, so they’ll be at church anyway.
Be honest, when was the last time a first time visitor told you they’d come the service because of the poster outside? I’m sure it happens occasionally, but not often. Do let me know in the comments if your experience differs, though!
Of course, sermon graphics aren’t just there to persuade new people to come to church, there is value beyond this, and we’ve already thought about some of the advantages.
For these reasons, I suggest that we are not always realistic when we consider the ROI (Return on Investment) for sermon series images – if we consider it at all.
All I want is to urge a bit of perspective here. For example, instead of sweating over the perfect designs for the upcoming series, how about we spend time strategising how to publicise our family service to those in the village who wouldn’t otherwise dream of coming through our doors.
Still, notice that I’m not saying you should scrap all of your series publicity. Done well, and efficiently produced, it can be really beneficial!
With that in mind, let’s think about some solutions to the problems we’ve considered.
Keep it simple
Don’t go overboard, and don’t feel you have to reinvent the wheel with every single sermon series. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best.
Invest in designing a template that can be reused
This is what big brands do with their social media! The main thing you need to sort is the text layout and your branding. If these stay the same but you overlay them on a different image each time, then all you need to do is select an image! Try adding a filter or a translucent colour overlay to stop the text blending into the background. Not only will this save you time, but it’ll help you to maintain a consistent brand, whilst the image variety will stop everything looking the same!
Use the right tools
If you’re a whizz with Photoshop, great – it may not take you too long, but it’s entirely possible the tools you use could be slowing you down. Find something that works for you and stick with it. Canva or Buffer’s Pablo might be a great place to start, as there are prebuilt templates for common uses (e.g. slides/social media), and it’s easy to add images and text.
Don’t be cheesy
Avoid terrible church stock photography and try to come up with a few ideas, rather than going with the first thought that pops into your mind – or your pastor’s mind!
If your design makes people cringe, it won’t be doing its job. Do the best you can with it, and if you don’t have the skills or the time, ask a professional (like myself!) to create your sermon series graphics for you! I’d love for you to get in touch 🙂
Review your communication priorities
Discuss whether sermon graphics need to be the first thing your website visitors see. If you think they should be the most prominent thing you present to people, justify it. Every church will come to different conclusions here, and it’s ok to disagree!
Overall, if you decide that there are other messages that should be given higher priority than sermon series, reflect this in the time you’re putting into them.
As always, clear communications goals will enable you to better prioritise and manage your workload, resulting in better publicity, fewer overworked volunteers and – crucially – more people reached with the gospel.