What place does design have in gospel ministry?

I went through uni with a great student group called FEVA (Fellowship for Evangelism to the Visual Arts) and this was a constant topic for designers and artists. They loved Jesus and they loved good design and making beautiful things. So students were always wrestling with the question, “Can we glorify Jesus and do mission to the world with art?”
This was always answered carefully and well. And it’s been something I’ve had to think through again recently.

The gospel is a spoken message. You can’t proclaim Jesus without words. No matter how beautiful something is, people are blind to the glory of Jesus without the Holy Spirit helping them hear/read human words as the very words of God (1Thess 2).
What’s more, you don’t design to make the gospel attractive, because the gospel is attractive already. Trying to make the content of the gospel more attractive will only result in diminishing the glory of the gospel.
But the gospel is a communicated thing. It’s meant to be communicated. And all communication is designed. That’s a key idea; all communication is designed. Communication is the clothes which adorn a message and make paying attention to it attractive. We design to adorn our communication of the gospel. We don’t want to make the gospel more attractive, but rather, we want to make our communication of it as attractive as possible.

Another attempt to pictorally display church

Recently we had our AGM which gave us another opportunity to try and help our church see itself. That might seem like a strange idea, but for most people, they only see (or even hear) about the aspects of their church they’re involved in. This can lead to misunderstandings about why the staff are never around, or a feeling that God’s not at work in your church, when there might be things to be very excited about.

We want our church family to see itself well… see how God is at work in it, and how God is at work through it.

So, we came up with this infographic that tries to display something of the messiness of church. A growing church family is organic and interrelated. It’s interdependent. This info graphic isn’t meant to make church “understandable”, but rather it’s meant to make the messiness of church understandable. (See it large here).


The difference between giving someone a brief and giving someone a job…

A job is… “I want a coffee table with four legs, 1200x900x500, in wood.”
A brief is… “I have a coffee every morning and I want to out it down in something…”
A brief is a problem, a need, something that requires a solution.
This is what we should be giving our leaders, our MTSers and especially our designers; problems and the responsibility to implement solutions.
So don’t ask your designers for a postcard… Tell them you need to give people something so they know about the Christmas Carols night. They might still come up with a card… But at least it was their idea, and not just your job.

Keep your coders and designers friends… have clear boundaries

If you’re managing any web development stuff, there’s two worlds that exist in a binary star-like dance. There’s the world of the coder and the world of the designer.

Sometimes, these co-exist in the one person – a hybrid. but these people are more like a pulsar who are invisible for periods of time.

The coder’s world is all about what does it “do”… and (more importantly) what doesn’t it do? Once they know what you want it to do, their brain starts working away at what they need to do to make it do what you want it to do. Use this skill! They will ask you questions that you don’t even know you need to answer; “Ok, so after they press that button, what’s meant to happen? They get an email or you get an email, what???”

The designers world is all about how it looks. This is usually a static idea. When the web page pops up, before the user does anything, this is what they will see. They care about how people will feel in the site, what mood they will have.

Coders don’t want to work out how things are meant to look. That’s not their job spec. They don’t want to decide how much drop-shadow a menu should have. They don’t want to decide how much spacing should be around that header. They just care about what will happen when you click it.

Designers don’t want to code. (I think its like surgery to them)

The trick is to keep these worlds distinct, and yet, get them talking about all those little fiddly bits. Get your coders asking your designers, “You need to show me what you want it to look like, after the user does X”.

Loving people leads to good design

A very cool website was recently launched: http://divineinspiration.com.au/
I’m not a designer. I somehow ended up as a student with FEVA – a great bunch of Christians trying to evangelise students in visual arts and design degrees. I married a designer. I really don’t think I care that much about how things look.
But that’s a fool’s point of view.
Just because I don’t care, doesn’t mean others don’t care, and it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.
And more importantly, I do care. Everyone cares how things look. It affects them in ways they don’t even realise. Design matters to humans. God made us with the ability to see that things are pleasing to the eye (Gen 1:9).
Designing things well is an act of love. It rightly springs out of a desire to help people read, understand, be motivated, care, engage, etc.
sure, like everything design can be used in bad ways or with bad motives. But don’t use that to deny that design should rightly spring from a Christian desire to love people in just another way.

12-14 words wide… Maximum!

If you’re printing something to be read, take note of how many words appear on each line. Then look in your average novel, and count how many words per line they have.
Human eyes only deal with scanning across about 10-14 words per line. Anything more than that and they loose their place, they get mixed up on the return path and generally get annoyed.
That’s why type setters use columns. It’s not a pretty thing, it’s a loving thing. They just want to make it easier for people to read.

To make an overall improvement, start with just one thing

If you want to improve something in your ministry, say your public meetings, or the content of your bible studies, don’t think that the only way to do it is by a massive overhaul.

Sometimes, quality has slipped over time. Or maybe it was never there. Sometimes, there hasn’t been a solid biblical foundation laid out to encourage people putting effort into it.

But sometimes, if you want to see something improve, you just need to start with one aspect. The quality of the public prayers, the quality of the kids talk, the quality of the music, the outline, etc.

Of course we’d like all those things to be great, but by working hard at improving one of these aspects, it will cause all the others to ‘lift their game’ so to speak.

We noticed this at NextStep. Our membership team improved the event, the process, the talks, until we got to the point where the booklet didn’t ‘fit’ with the quality of everything else. So we took the opportunity to make the booklet amazing. Fully colour printed, beautifully designed. Looks tops!

Guess what happened next…

All the other aspects of NextStep got put under the microscope to get them to match the quality of the booklet. All the content got re-evaluated, and there’s so many changes to make for the next one.

Do one aspect well, watch the others rise to the challenge.