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Category: Media / Communications (Page 3 of 11)

Worship Planning Process

On an email list I participate in for DCEs, someone recently sent an email looking for ideas on themes to use in Worship for Lent. I thought it might be helpful to document our worship planning process as a resource for others working in this area. Here are some of the things we do as part of creating a meaningful worship experience each weekend at First Trinity:

We’re much smarter and creative together. Myself, Pastor Chuck (Senior Pastor), Sue Brese (Traditional Worship Director) and Jubal Myer (Contemporary Worship Director) meet twice a month usually to brainstorm ideas. I lead the meeting and we spend time:

  • Picking Series Themes: We look at what other churches are doing online. Life Church and David Choate at Table Rock Fellowship have been big inspirations for us in particular. We brainstorm ideas as we browse through what they’ve done. Sometimes we use their concepts and create our own sermon titles/artwork, other times we use most of their concepts/titles. Life Church grants the rights to their artwork, so we end up using a lot of it. David’s material is more brainstorm fodder for us. We try to pay attention to the rhythm of the year and pick topics that apply. For example, our current series for the start of the new year is titled MOVE and focuses on becoming more spiritually fit at a time when people are making New Year’s resolutions.
  • Refining Sermon Titles/Themes: Pastor usually has in his mind what he wants to talk about, but we refine it with him and settle on three readings for the service/sermon to be based around. We also come up with some main ideas to help plan the worship service without having a complete sermon outline to work from.
  • Refine Artwork Concepts: I usually pitch multiple concepts to the group and we talk about them. Later I develop samples using images from iStockPhoto.com or other “Open Source” sources that we’re legally allowed to use. These are circulated among staff in the building and further refined before settling on a final graphic for the series. This gets used as a title slide, the background for the Bible verses in worship, on our sermon outlines if possible and on the website as a promotion on the front page and a banner on the series page, linked from our “Listen” section.

In addition to this group, we also bring together a larger group of staff before and after the Christmas and Lent/Easter seasons to talk about the theme and get all our ducks in a row. This process includes:

  • Brainstorming: We review notes from the previous year and decide what elements we want to keep and what new things we want to try this year. This might include new altar decoration ideas, new traffic flow patterns (like adding a Communion station to the loft for Easter Sunday) and the scheduling/training of volunteers.
  • Deadlines: During the busy seasons, we have a lot more going on and need to allow more time for bulletin production and distribution of music/scripts/etc. This means more deadlines to ensure everything gets done. We set deadlines for finding and training volunteers. Deadlines for getting content to Dona for print layout. Deadlines for sermon outlines. If it needs to get done, it gets a deadline date.
  • Review: Afterwards, we meet to review the season that was. We debrief what went right and what could be improved next year. Our awesome office manager Kathy Figini records all this and starts the process again the following year. If we had any new ideas to try for the following year, or things we should do away with, we record them so we’ll remember later.

I was talking this week with Bekah and Kathy about how the sermon series and even individual titles stand out to me more now than they used to. I never could have told you what topics we covered a year ago in worship, but now I can probably rattle off at least half of the themes, if not 70 or 80%. I think the more cohesive theme packages we’ve been developing have helped with retention. Or maybe it’s just because I work so much more with these areas now. Or maybe it’s both.

To First Trinity readers: What would help you connect more with God in worship? What kinds of series would you like to see in the future?

For everyone: What worship planning processes have you used in your church? Or what topics have you seen that really struck you and meaningful? If you have a link to your church’s sermon archive, let me have it.

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Announcements or Newsletters?

One of the tips from Erik Ticen, our awesome communications consultant at Vaughn Street that helped us analyze and improve our communication strategy, suggested we try to capitalize more on our weekend worship folder. Each weekend, 425 people get a copy, each week, plus some at some special services. We’ve always used the worship folder as an announcements sheet, primarily focusing on what’s coming up with the occasional story about what happened thrown in. In light of people not knowing what’s going on, what if we started treating the announcements as a form of story telling?

Starting this weekend and going through the the MOVE sermon series, we’re trying something different on the front page of the announcements. I’ll be writing an article, almost as if it were a paper version of a blog, highlighting some of the goings on that you can find inside the announcements. It’s less informational (though there’s certainly some in there) and more relational (kind of like a friend sharing what’s happening in their life). It invites people to engage more with the content, while also acting as a summary page, highlighting what you’ll find inside.

Let me know what you think about it in the comments, our through the First Trinity Feedback page. If you just can’t wait to see what I wrote, you can always sneak a peak by downloading the upcoming announcements page. It kinda feels like traveling forward in time when you do. Sadly, you only get that feeling on Friday afternoon before it becomes the present again.

Artwork: Contemporary Worship Sign

When I informally poll members at First Trinity about what drew them into this family of faith, I often hear some variation of: “I was driving by and saw the Contemporary Worship sign.” I’m struck by the comment, because it’s really a pretty simple sign, but it really speaks to people who are looking for something different than “traditional” church.

Side note about “Traditional” church: I struggle with this label because I believe what people really mean when speaking negatively about past church experiences and labeling them “traditional” is something akin to “empty rituals that have no meaning to me.” There’s lots of other baggage tied up in that word, but it’s often used negatively by those seeking a more “contemporary” worship style. We call our other services “Traditional”, but Sue Brese does such an excellent job of making them anything but “traditional” in the usual (read: bad) sense. They might use familiar liturgical elements and style, but it’s nothing like the “traditional (bad)” church where I grew up. I prefer “contemporary” worship myself, but I have yet to participate in a traditional service carefully planned and orchestrated by Sue and not felt like it was relevant and speaking to me. But this isn’t about worship styles, it’s about signage!

Here’s our new Contemporary Worship Sign:

Our communications team (Pat Canfield, Cathi Doebler, Carolyn Doster, Heide Edgington, Kathy Figini and Myself) has been working on it for a while. Carolyn did most of the design layout on the various options we looked at. After bringing in a few people for a sort of focus group, we narrowed it to two options, which we then sent to the EMT for a decision.

After much discussion, we felt it was important for this sign to remain as an emphasis for Contemporary worship as most people driving by would look at our building and assume we had Traditional worship available. The photo of the guitar players is certainly modern, but not over the top. I think it manages to convey both a contemporary sound, but also a warm, authentic atmosphere.

The primary content is sized to be between .5 – 1 inch larger than our existing sign, which was already quite readable from the corner. The web address is almost twice as large as the current sign. (Side note 2: Did you even know the existing sign had it? I might have known, but forgot until I went out to measure the letter heights.)

I have a dream to add lighting to the sign, but there’s some cost involved to making that happen and we couldn’t afford it right now. Maybe in the future we’ll be able to get that added. It would increase the effective hours the sign is visible, especially during the winter and the peak holiday shopping season.

Bears, Baldness and Youth: A Warning

You might know that I’m … less than full-haired. You might also know that one of my favorite wacky stories in the Bible is about Elisha getting mocked by some youth who were calling him a bald head. The whole story can be found in 2 Kings 2.

While reading Kem Meyer’s blog, I found a link to Jim LePage, who has been working on graphics for books of the Bible for the past year+. There are some really cool designs in there, but one in particular stood out:

After looking through Jim’s designs, I was led to his Tumblr account where he’s been collecting some other Biblical artwork he’s come across. That led to Todd Goehner’s Biblical Advice Posters. Lo and behold, what did I find?

Be sure to browse through the collections. There are some pretty cool graphics in there.


Telling Stories: Bridging the Information Gap

One thing I hear on a regular basis at church is that people don’t know what’s going on. Sometimes it boggles my mind because I feel like we’ve made big strides to get the word out about what’s happening around here. Our online calendar is always up to date with what’s happening here. We even print out the calendar and put it at the Information Center for people who can’t get online. We publicize every event, class or special function that’s coming up in the weekly announcement sheet. You can download the announcements online as well. We post links to upcoming events on our website.

But despite all this, people still say they don’t know what’s going on at their church. I think it’s because there’s a large gap in our promotion plan. Imagine having a conversation with someone about something their looking forward to. Maybe it’s a special celebration, a concert, a new movie coming out or something else. You hear about all the lead up, then it finally happens and they never talk about it again. Wouldn’t that be a little odd?

We do it all the time, though. We talk about the events and classes that are on the horizon, even getting farther and farther ahead of the timeline, but we rarely take time to talk about what happened. When people say they don’t know what’s happening at church, I think they really mean they don’t know what happened at church. It’s a fair criticism, because we rarely talk about what happened. You know, the rest of the story?

As I craft the verbal announcements, I’m going to work on incorporating more storytelling and less “informational” type stuff. The information can easily be found online or in the written announcements—why keep saying the same thing verbally? The Executive Ministry Team also recently decided to write something for the announcements after each of our meetings. Obviously, it’s not always appropriate to share everything we talk about in a public way, but there’s lots of stuff that we can talk about, so why not?

I’m also working on a new section for the website titled simply “News”. It will be a new menu item where you can find stories and news from ministries that happen around First Trinity on a regular basis. Sadly, I hit a snag as my favorite plugin for making it work the way I want is broken on the new version of WordPress. I’m looking for an alternative, but there are surprisingly few options available. It’s kind of annoying after finally figuring out a system for telling the story to have it break before I could even install it.

Artwork: Change-ing Our World

Tim Hartnett recently circulated a flier for feedback regarding our Change-ing Our World ongoing fundraiser for missions at First Trinity. As I work on communications pieces here, I’ve tried to remember Kem Meyer‘s slogan: Less Clutter. Less Noise. Rather than a wall of text explaining the concept, I wanted to distill down the basics into an easily digestible chunk of information.

I quickly came up with the first two steps. Commit and Collect made sense, but I was struggling with the 3rd. Kathy Figini and Bekah Freed were the only ones in the office to bounce ideas off of, so we went to work. Kathy suggested “Clang!” as an option. We laughed a bit, generated a few more ideas, then I decided to give “Clang!” a go. In the end, I think it works perfectly.

Most of the text is in a light blue, except for a few key phrases in white. We decided to make “Change Our World” in white, but leave off the “-ing” part in the title. It gives the poster an active voice, despite the use of an -ing verb in a subtle way. “Serve others in Jesus’ Name” started on a Crossroads Workcamp flier from several years ago. Bekah kept the emphasis on a recent publicity piece so I decided to carry it over here as well.

This is the poster version of the artwork but there is an almost identically themed version for use as a flier that will be distributed after Christmas.

Artwork: I Am Short Course

One of the things I get to do on a regular basis at First Trinity is create artwork for use in worship, PowerPoint, on the web and other projects. Here’s a recent one I did for Sue’s newest short course, titled “I Am.”


There wasn’t a clear visual associated with the series, so I went with a text treatment of the key phrase, “I Am.” After some searching online, I found this great tutorial for making a typographic poster. I liked the look, so I kept the color scheme, but I changed a single phrase to white instead of black to make it stand out a bit for people. The font is Myriad Pro, Bold Condensed, a standard font in Adobe’s line of products.

If you aren’t familiar with the Short Course concept at First Trinity, check out Sue’s post about this current class.

The Value of an Expert

We had a meeting Thursday morning with Bethany from ASI Signage. We’ve been talking about replacing our navigational signage inside the building ever since our communications consultant met with the staff and a few others to talk about the results from our communications study.

Like many projects, it was difficult to figure out where to start. We knew we needed a comprehensive plan, but we also didn’t know where to begin. We’ve cobbled together additional signage over the years, and the system has kind of become like a knotted ball of yarn. Some are professional quality (Randy Edgington’s work), others are generic plastic signs, while still others were just printouts that we taped to the wall.

So, in order to get a better handle on the problem, meeting with Bethany seemed like a good idea. It was an eye-opening experience just to have to try to explain how people navigate our building and where things are in relation to each other. When you start talking about it, it sounds so complex. There are lots of people coming into our building for the first time each week (whether to worship, basketball, volleyball, support groups, the preschool, or other activities) and we do a terrible job helping them find their way via signage.

I learned so much about our signage and what works/doesn’t just from talking with Bethany. One particular gem was that one of our most visible signs says “Cry Room.” She also wondered why we don’t just just the universal symbols for restrooms instead of our own creation on a floor plan of the church. Good point.

I’m eager to hear back from her about a proposal. Once we know a total cost, we’ll be able to plan how and when to upgrade the signage. And hopefully it will help guests and members alike navigate our building a little easier.

Fantasy Idol Standings: The Final 2

We’re down to the final two on Idol. Thanks to my diligent wife, here are the almost final standings for our Fantasy Idol pool:

Jen – 8
Pat – 11
Sue – 11
Jason – 14
Jaime – 14
Kathy – 15
Tracy – 15

Idol just hasn’t been as good for me this year, and may actually be my last year watching it. It might be partly because we’ve been so busy with things at church and home that I just haven’t gotten into it as much this year…

Fantasy Idol Update: The Top 6

Here are the standings after four weeks of eliminations, as calculated by Jaime:

Jen – 4 pts (still the one to beat!)
Pat – 5 pts
Sue – 6 pts
Jaime – 6 pts
Kathy – 7 pts
Jason – 7 pts

One of these years, I’m going to win my own game on my own blog. Right now, it’s not looking promising.

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