What’s your name?
Where do you serve, what is your title, and how long have you served there?
Let’s go back a few months. So for the last 4 years I have been doing graphic design and publications for YWAM. Youth With A Mission. For 2017 and 2018 I was based in Kona Hawaii at the medical ships base. In 2019 and 2020 I moved to Europe and was working at the YWAM Lausanne UofN Campus in Switzerland. Alongside graphic design I also worked in hospitality. I have also taken my students on overseas outreaches. Outside of YWAM I have also done many short-term and long-term missions trips both on my own to different ministries and alongside friends. I am also a VA & Lead Designer at ‘Mr. Curch Marketer’.
How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t go to church?
My job essentially is to visually express the need to share the gospel in the nations to potential missionaries. I use my gifts and talents to create enticing and intriguing publications and graphics as we promote our schools and programs to future missionaries. For those who don’t know YWAM is a missionary training program, we do anything from 5mo gap year programs all the way up to full time staff at bases all over the world taking the gospel to The ends of the Earth. I like to believe that the purpose of my gifts and talents in design is for something greater than the four walls of the church. I think sometimes we limit ourselves to just showing pretty things to the members of our church when really our first priority should be expressing outwardly to bring people intonour family from the community.
What were some of the things that you experienced that shaped the way you approach your work?
Before I went into full-time missions I was a church graphic designer for 4 + years two of those years being an intern. I really have grown in my skills and most importantly my ability to learn new skills has increased ten fold since starting that role. I used to limit myself by saying “oh, I don’t know that” or “oh, I don’t understand that” or “I can’t make that thing the way you want it” and I began really challenging myself. We live in such an age of technology… what is stopping me from learning the things that I need know to to fulfill the needs of the church visually? So instead of limiting myself and putting myself in a bubble of my known knowledge, I would seek out YouTube videos and blogs and tutorials to teach myself the thing that I didn’t know and along the way I would just pick up all this extra skill like a sponge. Whenever I see people asking in the group “Hey, how do I learn more about graphic design or gain new skills?” It’s the first thing I tell them, you don’t need school to be an amazing designer. You just need a willingness to learn and invest in yourself through challenging your perceived limits.
What’s the one thing you wish people knew about your job?
I wish people knew the time and emotion that it takes to create things. I think in that sense the design role at a church is often just kind of swept under the rug. If you don’t find yourself in a community that really understands the value of creativity and its place in the gospel then often it’s something that’s just passed on to a secretary, or a part-time youth pastor role. There are people who are literally bursting with creativity who need a trusted outlet and (side note) a lot of times they don’t have a bachelor’s degree. I don’t. But I had an eagerness and God gave me the creativity and an outlet to hone it. I wish every church had the space on their staff, the funding in their budget, and the willingness to invest in that creative person who has the creative key to pushing their church forward through visual design.
What is the one tool for your job that you can’t live without, and why?
Illustrator 100%. I can literally create and duplicate anything thanks to the amazing options and functions it affords me. Bonus, if I make graphic in the bulletin and suddenly the pastor decides he wants to put it on the side of the building I can also blow it up without losing any quality because it’s vector based. Really i could not do what I do in Illustrator without a travel friendly laptop. I’m going on 6+ years now with my yoga computer (not a mac, shocked!) she’s traveled to Hawaii, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Switzerland, China, Japan, Germany, Liechtenstein, France… She’s been around and she’s been so loyal. She’s probably going to need to be retired soon, but until that opportunity arises itself she is literally the key to my success.
What is the biggest mistake that you see churches making when it comes to communications and marketing?
I’ll jump back up to my comment from above, and I think it boils down to not seeing the value and the necessity of communications and marketing. It’s amazing that your church family knows Christ and it’s amazing that you can put lyrics up on the screen and you can make things look beautiful on your stage but if you’re not drawing people in to your congregation from the outside then what’s the point? I love making my church, and my school and my YWAM base look beautiful, we have propresenter we have a graduation every 3 months and we make it look fantastic. But, if we were not promoting outside of our four walls, if we were not marketing to our potential students (and staff) then we would die as a base because they get filled up while they are here and move on to greater things. If when we went on missions trips and we didn’t send out one of the villagers into the churches and towns to tell them that we’re having events we would be preaching to the trees. God created opportunities for us to expand the kingdom and that includes communicating his desires, communicating His wants for the people around us. That includes marketing Him… He has the best story ever written! That’s what sharing the gospel is, it’s marketing this story, marketing this truth, marketing this fact, and convincing people that it’s the best decision for them to make in their lives. If marketing and communication is that integral to the gospel being shared why would it not be a priority in the church?
Who is someone that you look up to in the church communications world?
I don’t really know many of the people that I look up to by name, but I love seeing the trust and grace that is given to push the bar in churches such as Bethel, Hillsong, Elevation. I feel like they really grasp the impact that creativity has on the gospel presentation as a whole. More than that they’re willing to allow the creatives to be on the forefront of the process, they don’t just say “Hey this is our idea that we came up with in a meeting that you weren’t at, now make it happen.” They invite them in and say “We’re feeling this… what can we do together to express this well?” I think that kind of relationship is what I look up to. I want to run alongside my fellow creatives as a leader and create with them not just force them to take my ideas and make them something. I know that’s not exactly the answer to the question But, I really do look up to those kind of relationships in church communities.
We enjoyed reading your amazing story, Kristen. It really shows that you are an incredible storyteller. Your insights are one of the most memorable to us as we could really relate, especially the part that it is really important for church staff to understand the value of communications & marketing and the work behind every successful milestone.
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