Q: Is being an in-house Christian creative pro a more fulfilling life than being a secular creative pro? Can I expect to make a good living as a Christian creative pro or should I accept lower salaries working for churches?
In my experience, being an in-house Christian creative is more fulfilling. However, it is not a panacea.
A few things to consider:
First, as an in-house creative professional, you basically have one client.
The senior pastor, or whomever it is that makes the decisions in your setting, is your one client. In most churches, particularly large churches that can afford in-house creative staff, one person or a small team make most creative decisions. If you’re a part of that team, you have much creative freedom and autonomy. If you’re not, you don’t.
Second, what level of influence would you have, or could you acquire over time?
Most pastors I know, and I’ve worked and consulted with quite a few, are open to creative input and in fact crave it, but need to know there’s a level of trust there. Be open about your spiritual journey, and don’t be a “mercenary,” if that makes sense. What starts out as a client relationship can over time turn into a real trust relationship if it goes well.
Third is learning to manage the myriad voices crying for aid and promotion.
The reality is that you might have to create bake sale and parking lot signage, but the goal is to move toward more meaningful messaging. Also, some churches have good personal boundaries, and some don’t. Kind of like with any organization. So ask about that.
Fourth is the upside: I love the ability to find harmony with my faith and my work life.
People are people, of course, and bring their brokenness to any job, but in most church settings, your boss and colleagues care about your family and want you to cultivate a healthy family life. And I love learning about my faith on the job – being exposed to other people’s wisdom and teaching.
Last, on salary, seek a reasonable competitive non-profit range.
As for salary, yes, it can be equivalent to a non-profit so it’s a bit lower than some commercial industry rates, though some large churches pay quite well. Expect to reasonably ask for a non-profit industry range.