What Is It Like to Work as a Church Creative?

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I got a recent question on my blog about being a creative and a Christian and the possibility of a career in the church or ministry. Here is the question and my answer. Note: This question is for Jesus followers looking for career advice.

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.

 

About the Author

Len Wilson

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Christ follower. Storyteller. Strategist. Writer. Creative Director at St Andrew. Tickle monster. Author, Think Like a Five Year Old (Abingdon).

I got a recent question on my blog about being a creative and a Christian and the possibility of a career in the church or ministry. Here is the question and my answer. Note: This question is for Jesus followers looking for career advice.

Q: I found your blog today while searching for advice on being a Christian creative. Over the years, I’ve been longing for a job where my talents could make Jesus famous. Non profits and churches in my area don’t really offer any jobs for a person like me. And while money isn’t my only concern I do have mouths to feed and my wife is a stay at home mom. I believe God has a plan for me that has nothing to do with selling products, but shouting the good news. I was wondering if you have any advice for me regarding changing from the secular marketplace to the church marketplace. My questions are: a) is being an in-house Christian creative pro a more fulfilling life than being a secular creative pro? and b) 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. Kind of like any organization, but the key when developing concepts in a church is to think of the senior leader, or the decision-making team, as a client. They’re colleagues most of the time, but bringing some of the same attitudes to the table that you’d bring to the client table makes the working relationship work better.

 

Second, what level of influence would you have, or could you acquire over time?

If you’re thinking about a specific job opportunity, this is a question to consider. 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. You don’t need to bring theological education, though it wouldn’t hurt, but you do need to be open about your spiritual journey, and not be a “mercenary,” if that makes sense.

I’ve worked in five churches in a part-time or full-time capacity, and in each one my incoming reputation was limited or even useless. I had to start from scratch and build rapport.  What starts out as a client relationship can over time turn into a real trust relationship if it goes well.

The way you do that as a staff creative, in my opinion, is to add value to the senior leader’s work in whatever way you can. The more you visualize your leader’s ideas, the better! Again, this is advice I’d offer for working in any organization.

 

Third is learning to manage the myriad voices crying for aid and promotion. 

The beauty of my current position is that I am over all creative and communication, so I am able to set the rules about what and how we communicate, and then craft the message to communicate it. Many churches split these functions up and give authority over the communication channels to a separate person, which results in you having to produce stuff that you might not otherwise think is important.

This might be your setting at first, as well. Depends on the team you’d be working with. 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, which is why I say it’s not a panacea, but in my experience it’s far superior to working in a “secular” (non-ministry) environment. For instance, my boss and colleagues care about my family and want me 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.

 

About the Author

Len Wilson

Facebook Twitter Google+

Christ follower. Storyteller. Strategist. Writer. Creative Director at St Andrew. Tickle monster. Author, Think Like a Five Year Old (Abingdon).

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