Creation of the Week #40 Madi Myers-Cook's Portraits of Rwanda

Some of the best art created by humanity was made to show the nobility of a people often seen as sub-par or helpless. Madi's recent project, Portraits of Rwanda is one such as this. 

When we think of Africa, the images that often come to mind are images of helpless children covered in flies, or of women, bare breasted with a hopeless stare. We think of the add's we've seen from countless NGO's and non-profits asking us for resources to solve hunger once and for all. 

Though none of these organizations intend to give us the impression that all Africans are helpless and in need of the salvation we wealthy and wise Westerners bring, that can be the unintended result. This, my friends, is a terrible brand issue that needs to be resolved. Part of returning dignity to the poor is returning their dignity. This means believing in them to accomplish great things the way our God always has.

ENTER MADI MYERS-COOK

Madi went to Rwanda to tell the stories of women rising above poverty and their past to be entrepreneurs and chase their own dreams. She did this not by bringing financial relief, but by giving the gift that she did have, the same gift Peter gave to the cripple at the temple, the Holy Spirit working through her.

In her portraits, you can see the nobility of each person shot, the passion, the joy, the strength, the life present in each face. It takes a special gift to bring out the true heart of a person and capture it in a moment. Madi has that gift in abundance. I'm super excited to see more from her, and I especially hope that she writes about the project so that we can see more.

Be sure to check out Madi's Instagram account for more photos and details about each shot.

 

This Creation of the Week is by Marcellino D'Ambrosio
Creative Director at Sherwood Fellows

3 Reasons to Hire an Agency Instead of a Communications Director

Guest post from Sherwood Fellows.

I just stepped out of a sales meeting with a parish that’s considering hiring our agency in place of a full-time communications director.

As someone who’s been heavily involved in parish ministry and marketing in the business world, I suspected that using an agency like ours instead of a hiring a communications director would be great for a parish in many ways. They approached us about this- not the other way around. As someone who has long been waving a banner for parishes to hire communications directors, I saw it as a bit of a sacred cow. But the conversation with that parish confirmed a lot of my thoughts on this subject, and so in the spirit of transparency, I thought I would publish them.

Don’t think I’m just making a case for everyone to use Sherwood Fellows. How a parish goes about its communications affects everything: the future of the parish and even if more people will come to Mass. Parish leadership needs to make an informed decision.

Communications work shouldn't be managed by volunteers- it is absolutely essential to long-term parish success, and it needs skilled proficient labor to be done correctly.

So the question I am taking up with this blog is if you are looking at making your first major investment in communications, should you hire one professional or several professionals?
As a caveat to my title, I do believe that the goal should be to have an in-house team and a partner agency. There is a reason why every Fortune 500 agency operates from this model. The question I am taking up is specifically in regards to timing- which one should I get first?

Here are three reasons you should hire an agency before hiring a communications director.

1. A Jack of All Trades is a Master of None

Usually, a church that is hiring their first communications director is hiring someone who will oversee strategy, do a web redesign, do a rebrand, probably choose software, dabble in video production, definitely post on social media, and do lots of graphic design for promotional materials.

In the marketing world, these are all different jobs for different people.

A full-time communications director rarely can be proficient in all of these things, and they are almost never given a budget to hire outside help to do the things that they are not proficient in. That means some things will be done poorly, or not at all. You’ll probably have to hash out for agency help anyway to fill in the gaps.

So why not just hire an agency that can do all of these things until you have proven the value of communications and can afford a larger budget?

2. More Efficient Spending

Because a one-man communications director performs a wide array of tasks from strategy to design, hiring them means spending your money inefficiently.

For instance, the value of creating a communications strategy is much higher than the value of a poster design. If you hire one communications director, you pay the same amount for both. Not only will one probably be lower quality than the other, but you’ll be grossly overspending on the poster or grossly under-spending on the strategy.

If you hire an agency, they will allocate funds to different members of the team based on the value of each task. Their account director will be specialized in strategy and will be paid market value for it, and they can most likely get the poster done for a much cheaper than you would have paid your communications director for their time.

An agency’s ability to allocate funds across different roles makes your investment more efficient and potentially far more valuable

3. Craft the Right Position for the Right Person

When the strategy is done by an agency before you hire a full-time person, you have a much much lower risk of structuring the job in a way that will burn out your budding talent. The usual way that we hire communications directors in the church is very flawed because we don't already have someone on staff who understands communications before we make the hire.

If you don't have someone on staff that already is an expert in communications, you are almost assuredly going to either hire the wrong person or hire the right person for the totally wrong things. Ideally, you’d have an expert in communications that structures the job and then helps you hire accordingly. If you don't have that expert on staff already, you don't know exactly what a marketing professional can do or what you should expect from them.

If you make an uninformed hire, they’ll most likely end up as a foot soldier who operates at the beck and call of the other ministries, unable to achieve conflicting goals from four bosses with conflicting visions.

I have seen this over and over, and it often leads to either burnout or simply ineffective work, or both. This is because communication strategy starts at the very highest level of organization leadership and permeates each level of leadership after that.

For a communications director to be successful, they need to be able to hold the entire staff and culture of the church accountable to the brand and strategy that has been established. Basically, their role on staff needs to be set up according to these communications principles. If you hire a (good) agency first, you are likely to have a much better understanding of what you need in a director, and you will set them up for much more long-term success.

Of course, this all depends on hiring a great agency (that is actually good at consulting and strategy and all the other pieces as well). Also, I believe the ideal is to have both an in-house staff and a partner agency; there is a reason why almost every successful company uses both. It’s more of a question of who to hire first.

Objections and Rebuttals.

I brought these thoughts to the Catholic Creatives group, and the perspectives of communications directors and other people with parish work experience were insightful. I wanted to bring up some of their objections and give a clear answer to them.

“I think a major downfall of an agency, especially if they aren't officing right down the road, is that having that personal, face-to-face expert on communications can have a huge impact on the success.”

Communication doesn’t have to be face-to-face to be personal. Online communications tools like Slack (which is free) make communication easy, and they make everyone accessible. An agency would feel like they’re just down the hall. People in the same office already Skype or call each other already.

“I think that you will find that your biggest struggle will actually be ... getting people to actually buy into the value of what you are doing or the value of Communications Director full time for that matter. I may have the position but sometimes I do have to convince other people on staff why I am requesting we do things a certain way or why a certain aspect is so important.”

That’s certainly a challenge, but any parish that’s really considering a Communications Director should already understand that they’re making an investment for a reason. And they also don’t want to waste money or time by not having that Communications Director armed with the right branding and tools. An agency can’t convince someone to buy something they don’t need, but the people who already understand will recognize the value of preparing the right assets for the Communications Director, whether full-time or part-time. In fact, with the right assets, even a part-time Communications Director would have a huge headstart.

“As an agency, your major downfall is going to be the fact that you don't have the ability to build a relationship with the people who are running the ministries at the parish. These people are present day in and day out and, believe me, it takes time to gain their trust.”

Definitely a good point. Not just any agency could walk into a parish and be effective; they’d try to run it exactly like a business. Only an agency with a deep understanding of the parish ecosystem and a true love for the mission of the Church could make this work.

“As far as strategy, it depends on what the church is trying to accomplish. If they want to grow the parish as a whole, then that's one thing and strategy is definitely needed. If they are just trying to increase communication within their own parish and get more parishioners involved then good luck. The Catholic Church is its own type of beast and traditional strategy just doesn't always work."

Again, an agency with a strict business mindset might not cut it. The agency would have to know that just putting something on the website doesn’t mean anyone will see it. A modern communications plan doesn’t mean “just online.” It means using best-practice thinking to use all available communication channels to accomplish the parish goals -- and that includes the bulletin.

“So if you were to be approaching parishes, I'd suggest drawing a STARK distinction between your agency and any other agency because you're actually Catholic and have the knowledge and sense of how things work in the Church and pitfalls to avoid.”

And that’s exactly where Sherwood Fellows stands out. We’ve all been deeply involved in parish ministries and are committed Catholics. We’re not going to help a parish like we would help a retail store. We’re familiar with how parishes work, and we love to see parishes thrive.

Whatever the parish, I think these challenges can be overcome with commitment from both sides, and an agency like ours could help produce great results and set up the future Communications Director for success.

What do you think?

“I think a major downfall of an agency, especially if they aren't officing right down the road, is that having that personal, face-to-face expert on communications can have a huge impact on the success. If no one at the parish is fully committed to implementing a strategy or the day-to-day aspects, there is only so much an agency can do.... ”

“The church I work for did some branding prior to the Comms Dir position being created. However, the person who helped with this was a parishioner and volunteer. The agency did not, however, help with any branding from a larger perspective. We have a logo, letterhead, some fancy mailing stickers and business cards, but that is as much as I know that they created for the parish as far as collateral.”

“I think that you will find that your biggest struggle will actually be the part that you were discussing about getting people to actually buy into the value of what you are doing or the value of Communications Director full time for that matter. I may have the position but sometimes I do have to convince other people on staff why I am requesting we do things a certain way or why a certain aspect is so important.”

“As an agency, your major downfall is going to be the fact that you don't have the ability to build a relationship with the people who are running the ministries at the parish. These people are present day in and day out and, believe me, it takes time to gain their trust. That is really, really difficult to do when you aren't actually present on site. Also a note on the ministries - there is no perfect system to get them all on board and good luck getting 60 plus ministries to try to comply with your branding guidelines - it just won't happen. And if you try to force it in their parish I believe it will end badly. You have to remember the years that these people have spent investing in their own parish before "outsiders" came in to try to run things. That isn't to say it wouldn't work - but it's delicate.”

“As far as strategy, it depends on what the church is trying to accomplish. If they want to grow the parish as a whole, then that's one thing and strategy is definitely needed. If they are just trying to increase communication within their own parish and get more parishioners involved then good luck. The Catholic Church is its own type of beast and traditional strategy just doesn't always work. For example, posted a SoMe post about a call to action and almost nobody responded for a week. Posted the same message in our bulletin and I had more than a dozen people respond to the call. So, something that should have worked based on our modern marketing principles, didn't inspire anyone to do anything. That's not to say that strategy isn't important, I've done more of it in the last six months than ever, but the strategy for the church isn't necessarily going to work as it would for a traditional nonprofit or for-profit business.

I was youth minister at a parish that hired an agency and while the kickoff worked well for a branding and website redesign, the follow through wasn't there. Like a previous poster wrote, they weren't down the street and definitely not in the office - they weren't there for the daily or weekly corrections in message that the parish wanted. It basically devolved into ministries sending their weekly images for the TV display in the vestibule and monthly/quarterly meetings where the parish staff tried to explain the minutia of parish life to the non-Catholics who were running the agency.

So if you were to be approaching parishes, I'd suggest drawing a STARK distinction between your agency and any other agency because you're actually Catholic and have the knowledge and sense of how things work in the Church and pitfalls to avoid.

As far as the daily/weekly life of the parish, that's where you're weakest against the comm director position. If you could somehow insert yourself in the everyday - maybe a slack board for each parish where they can post thoughts about messaging or happenings in the parish (bishop visiting, sudden and unexpected deaths that impact the parish, frequent renovation updates, etc). Of course, it would require someone to be committed to that. - Andrew Sciba

5 Great Ways to Waste Money in Parish Communications (and How Not To)

Guest post from Sherwood Fellows.

Now that churches have begun to take communications a little more seriously, they are beginning to spend money to help fix the problem

The big kahuna of problems, the one that is getting worse by the minute, is this: if churches don’t learn to communicate to the new generation of millennials now, they will have to close their doors in twenty years. Or sooner.

Churches have seen droves of youth graduate, go to college, and then never return to the pews, and churches have caught on. They’re scrambling to hire part-time communications directors, cobbling together budgets for new websites, creating communications committees, and marshaling funds for promo videos.

But what they don’t know is that in their beginning forays into communications, they are wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on poor communications investments and many times aren’t much closer to fixing the problem as they were when they started spending.

As a voice crying out in the wilderness for the Church to invest in communications, these efforts are actually very hopeful to me. So don’t let my alarmist tone actually alarm you.

But I do want to help churches investment in this field wisely so that the investment yields a hundred fold (and so that people like myself get bigger budgets to work with!).

Here’s my concern: because churches don’t have the right definition of communications, their communications initiatives often end up leading them into costly, ineffective, long-term blunders.

So let’s avoid these blunders before they happen. I polled the Catholic Creatives group (a collective of over more than 1,000 committed Catholic designers, marketers, and artists) about this, and the answers boiled down to the following mistakes. I’ve anticipated some objections, so I’ve thrown in a little Aquinas style to address them. Let’s get started.

Mistake #1: “Getting Into” Communications

Their biggest mistake is thinking they need to "get into communications," when in reality, they already communicate whether they realize it or not. -- Chris Duffel

Your church already communicates through every experience that your parishioners have when they come to your masses, meet your staff, hear your homilies, walk by the bulletin board, and call your office. The mistake most churches make when getting into communications is thinking that “communications” refers to external elements: logo, website, videos, and social media.

The truth is this: your website and your social media emanate from your brand (your parish message) just as much as your homilies and your bulletin do.

To communicate effectively, the impression that people get from each interaction should be uniform. Every element of your communication, from a homily to a logo, should be shaped by the message you want people to hear. And if you don’t know what that message is, the external stuff doesn’t matter.

So if you hired someone to build you a website but you skipped over branding, go back and do it. Before you do anything else, the lion’s share of your time and money should be spent on your branding.

Again, “branding” doesn’t just mean a logo. It means understanding your purpose, your primary audience, your language, your visual aesthetics and what they mean, and how each part of a parishioner’s experience fits into your brand.

Don’t put the cart before the horse. Start with “wax on, wax off” before moving on to the crane kick.

(You aren’t ready for this yet)

Objection #1:

“Sounds like too much of a commitment, though! We don’t really have the budget set aside for branding… We need a website tomorrow because people are calling us every day asking for Mass times.”

See Mistake #2, Committing Halfway.

Objection #2:

“We are totally on the right track then! We have a volunteer committee making the brand, and are looking to hire someone to redo our website in July!”

See Mistake #4, Volunteer Committees & Free Work

 

Mistake #2: Committing Halfway

In the Catholic Creatives poll, multiple people echoed and re-echoed their frustration with church communication initiatives: “Parishes don’t value this enough, so they expect the youth minister or parish secretary to also handle parish communications.”

Stop piling communications into other job descriptions. Please.

Every church has to prioritize where its money goes. If it doesn’t decide to commit to good, strategic, thoughtful communications, that money will be wasted, because there won’t be results. No communication is only marginally worse than bad, haphazard, and unprofessional communication, no matter how well-intentioned.

Don’t settle for making communications a side note to the job of someone who isn’t trained or proficient in this. Don’t settle for treating it like icing on the cake. It is essential.

Objection #1:

“But Anthony... I value it, I just can’t afford a full-out branding process right now!”

Sure, for the sake of argument, I’ll let you have that excuse if you promise to do it next year.

Objection #2:

“We promise that we will ink that branding thing into our budget for when the fiscal year turns over; we just don’t want to do a cheap job on something that important right now. In the meantime, we just need a website that wasn’t made in the Jurassic Era.”

Proceed to Mistake #3:

Mistake #3: Jump First, Think Later

There’s a lot of pressure right now to jump into having a Director of Communications.

As soon as people on the parish council imagine the possibility of competing with Elevate mega church down the road, people begin to get excited. As soon as the parish secretary realizes that if a communications person gets hired, then wouldn't have to do the bulletin anymore or they wouldn't have to write the emails, they will put pressure to move quickly.

As soon as everyone realizes that they actually could have updated confession times on the site, everyone goes bonkers.

Even if you are saving money for a bigger branding investment in the future, and you need something to hold you over while you save for that, you should give yourself the time to strategize before you do something drastic. Like, for instance, hiring a communications manager to help you be more efficient at communicating an unclear message.

As Chris Duffel said in the Facebook group, “First define clearly what's the problem is with communications at the specific parish. More detailed the better. That's the hard part. If you have sufficiently defined the problem, the solutions are often obvious. If you have defined the problem as ‘we are bad at communications’ you haven't sufficiently defined the problem because you can't act based on that definition.”

This sort of strategy work will help guide you in prioritizing skills in your hire. An employee is a gigantic expense to add to your plate. Don’t let yourself be forced into hiring the wrong employee because you need to move fast.

(Pro tip: Freelancers or agencies can help buy you time before you make your first hire. I wrote a second blog about why churches should hire agencies before they hire communications managers. It has some great advice on this. Read about it here.)

When hiring communication people, we see this time and time again: parishes Frankenstein together a job description that should never be expected from one person.

A graphic designer is not an IT manager is not a web developer. Don’t try to hire a person to do all these things because you just happen to really need someone to fix the internet, and your website needs work, and both need to happen asap.

Objection #1

“Ok, cool, Anthony! We are starting a communications committee with volunteers who can consult and help us think things through before we do anything huge. Maybe they can even help us with some of the things you are mentioning, pro bono. We even have someone from HP’s corporate marketing team there!”

Hold that thought and keep reading.

Mistake #4: Volunteer Committees & Free Work

Volunteers can be incredibly helpful, and pro bono work is great. I would never frown upon free stuff, because I’m Italian, and we love free things. 

However, we all know that free usually isn’t free. Volunteers must be managed by someone who really understands communications. The odds that your volunteer really knows communications well enough to do that is very low.

The odds that they’ll approach it with the same seriousness as a professional are even lower.

You definitely don’t want to delegate branding and website to volunteers and then paying a professional (your communications hire) to use tools crafted by amateurs. You wouldn’t hire a professional construction crew to build your church and toss them they keys to a volunteer-made crane when it’s time to raise the roof. Not safe.

You probably would get more mileage out of getting a professional crane and teaching a volunteer to use it. That’s exactly what a real branding process does for you.

Again, if it isn’t clear yet, here are the things that you should never ever give to volunteers:

Branding & Logo

Do that professionally. It’s the seed from which all the other things grow. Do this right, and your volunteers will have a solid shot at doing really good work. Don’t do this, and your volunteers will have great ideas, run in circles, do a couple good things for you, and most likely fizzle out when they aren’t getting traction.

Website

Your website is your mothership for communications. Most of the other things that you do are little X-wing squadrons that you send out from your bigger, badder, more important website. Don’t hire someone for $20k to do a video, and someone for $10k to do a website. Put your money into your communications infrastructure first.

Here are some things volunteers can be good at:

  1. Ideas
  2. Consulting
  3. Social Media (given good branding)
  4. Web Updates (given a good website)
  5. Photography

Objection

“Great! Actually, the person I was telling you about from the HP Marketing Team is interested in leaving his corporate job and working for us! I am trying to figure out how to hire him! He is a rock star.”

Finally, let’s move to Mistake #5...

 

Mistake #5: Going for Shiny

When parishes are really ready to invest in communications, they begin looking for their anchor hire: the director that is going usher their communications into the new millennium.

If your parish is ready to buy, there are some serious dangers that you need to be aware of and avoid if you want your program and your hire to be successful.

Firstly, don’t just get excited about shiny. You may come across resumes of people who have worked for very large companies -- someone who did marketing for American Airlines, or someone who did marketing for H-E-B, or someone who worked in the corporate office at Dell, etc. You’ll get very excited about the buffed resume and forget to focus on your strategy and the real priority of needs. 

Secondly, corporate America has some really great things to offer the church world, but corporate experience isn’t the same as parish experience, especially because your parish looks more like a startup than it does a Fortune 500 company. Fortune 500 marketing departments often have an almost impossibly granular division of labor between roles. The person you will hire needs to be very adaptable to different roles and to organizational change. They’ll need to do many different creative tasks.

Whatever the case, if you have strategized and branded correctly before you hire this anchor, you will know exactly what you need and what role they will need to fill. Don’t lose sight of that vision. (And please, please plan to give your first hire a sizable budget. You can’t get results from nothing.)

No one person or one thing is going to be the silver bullet that fixes your communications problem. You will need a team to turn your brand perception around in your parish, city, or community. Whoever you hire will absolutely have a select skill set that is narrower than the needs that your parish has.

If you get the right person and don’t plan a budget for them to hire out agencies to help fill the gaps, you will burn your anchor out and lose the investment before you had a chance to see it bear fruit.

 

Go Forth and Be Effective

Congratulations -- now you know the blunders to avoid. If you’ve already made some of them, don’t worry. You can always get on the right track.

Just remember to value communications by doing it the right way. Get your strategy down, do first things first and take the time to make good choices, and make sure to hire the right person and give them a budget so that they can be successful.

Then proceed to communications, evangelization, and marketing success at your parish.

How Spending 100k on Communications Can Make You A Million in 5 Years

Guest post from Sherwood Fellows.

If Your Parish Wants to Grow, Invest in Communications

One of the biggest objections that I hear from Catholic churches and other nonprofit organizations when they are considering investing in communications is that they simply don't have it in the budget to spend more than a few hundred/month on it.

This is understandable for many reasons. A 2001 study found that Protestants in the U.S. donated an average of $1,093 to their churches in 2001, whereas the average amount given by Catholics to their churches was $495.

Furthermore, we are seeing a drop in donations to churches across the board; some creatives in the Catholic Creative group who work in diocesan offices reported a 20% drop in yearly income. So Catholics are working with less than half of the budget of the average Protestant church, and yet our churches need to do more than ever to keep people in their pews.

Parishes have been doubling their efforts, putting money into youth ministry and music programs and better facilities in an effort to keep up with the growing need for a parish to create community in the midst of a disconnected and disinterested culture.

So I get you. Money is always tight. Our budgets are all accounted for, and adding big expenses for "fancy" design and "professional" media seems a bit superfluous to those unfamiliar with design and its effects on a community.

It seems like a nice thing to do, but not until we already have heaps of extra money and a bunch of extra time on our hands, because how is that new 200-pixel logo really going to help us more than having another youth ministry staff member, or Spanish-speaking minister?

What if I told you, though, that doing the logo could be the direct cause of having the heaps of extra money and heaps of extra time on your hands? What if I told you if you invested in a real way in design (not just hiring an entry level person to do some part time work), you could hire that new youth ministry assistant and bookkeeper next year?

What if I told you that the feeling of drowning in ministry that your staff is experiencing right now will never go away until you invest in professional design?

Bold claims, I know. But I hope that by the end of this blog, I will give you a small insight into why design matters for your organization and how it can lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars saved, and even more won from committed disciples.

Appearances Matter

Let’s start with a story. There was once a police officer named Chief William Bratton. This policeman became chief of police in New York City in the 90s, when crime was at an all time high. Murder, rape, and burglary were serious problems that were ramping out of control, as an under budgeted police force tried to stretch meager resources to cover the growing crime in the city.

Bratton knew that he could not focus on all things, and that stretching his resources would never be a winning strategy. So he decided to make a psychological play few outsiders could have expected: He focused all their resources on cleaning up graffiti and enforcing subway tickets, two things that were the lowest priorities of all past officers.

What happened next was astounding. During the next ten years, the crime rate plummeted -- burglaries, rape, and murder all dropped to the lowest they had been in years. https://www.city-journal.org/html/how-new-york-became-safe-full-story-13197.html

The lesson from Bratton speaks to the subtle but powerful influence that the appearance of things can have on a person's psyche. Design, appearance, and environment profoundly affect how people behave. It also speaks to the issue of budget.

In the church, we approach prioritizing our spending similarly to the ways that the police chiefs previous to Bratton would have done: when approached about our website or our logo or our ugly bulletins, we say something like, “the appearances of things are nice, but we can’t justify spending money on addressing all that if we aren’t already nailing it with the bigger stuff.”

We have limited resources, we are spread thin, and in that tunnel vision, we allow ourselves to place it on the bottom of the pile. We forget that appearances can have a powerful and unexpected impact on everything else.

So here is my thesis: If you have to pick and choose between giving people an intentional, positive emotional impression of your organization and bailing water, start with the former, and you'll get what you need plug up the holes so that you can stop bailing.

 

How Can this Help us Make Money?

1. Trust

You will be able to raise more money if more people trust you more, and less money if people feel like you are in perpetual crisis mode.

“He who has, more will be given him.” This is a classic “stewardship” lesson out of the bible, but we tend to read it spiritually and don’t realize how true it rings simply on a psychological level. People will probably give more money to those organizations in which they trust more.

But how does something like design help people to trust you more? Let’s take something as insignificant as your website as an example. Of people polled, Nearly half (46%) of people say a website’s design is their number one criterion for determining the credibility of an organization (Source). In 2012 (5 years ago), 46% of church attendees said that a church’s website was important in picking a church to visit (Source).

Your website, your logo, your bulletins, even the language you use in your greetings and announcements at mass all have a significant (but subtle) effect on whether or not your congregation trusts you as an organization. If you look at the most successful churches with the highest rates stewardship, participation, and involvement of volunteers, you will find excellent design/media across the board.

2. Clarity

You are without a doubt wasting your time. This is a fact of organizational life. You have people duplicating each other's work, communication issues that cause backups, inefficient processes/ tools... every organization has these. You probably are already aware that clarity is usually at the root of these issues.

What people don’t know about professional design, is that when it is done well, it creates a cohesive inner clarity that permeates organizations and helps team members understand each other. Without the clarity professional design processes have to offer, each day, each week, each month, each year, you are leaving more and more money on the table as your organizations spend time inefficiently.

Seem far fetched? Think about it. All of your staff probably has a halfway-decent understanding of their own roles, and they probably believe that they understand the mission statement fairly well. However, the mission has probably simply been communicated verbally: bare words, without lots of intentionality behind the delivery method.

When we begin branding with a team, we present different aesthetic directions that we feel like we can take with adapting an organization's mission into a visual identity. When we do this, teams MARVEL at how not on the same page they were about the mission (even with the closest members of a team).

This is because as long as something stays conceptual and not physicalized in symbol, color, or font choice, everyone is free to read whatever connotation they would like into your statement. When you have to make design decisions about your brand, you will be forced to achieve a level of clarity in your vision that you would never have been able to achieve while thinking about it in the abstract.

This clarity cascades through all levels of your organization and affects the communication and efficiency in all levels of your team.

3. Mission

The goal of every church is to make disciples. This is the great commission, what every parish and every priests and every Christian exists to do. However, we find this mission difficult to get people on board with as our religion is cast more and more universally in media as bigoted and small minded.

It goes without saying that being a Christian in our culture is to swim upstream. The part that we don’t really think about with this though is that the fewer people we convert to this mission, the less resources we have to keep working. Committed members are all that we have keeping us going.

So it stands to reason that we must do everything that we can give them a deeply emotional and clear connection between the mission of Catholicism in general and our parish in particular.
Especially in major cities, all someone only has to drive for a few extra minutes to find a different parish. If your parish doesn’t live and breathe the mission of the Church, people can go elsewhere fairly easily.

How does something like a functional website work to achieve that?

Let’s say that someone wants to go to confession, and maybe they haven’t been in a while. They look up nearby Catholic churches on Google and find your parish website. They try to find your confession times for a few minutes, but the navigation is so confusing and the website is so slow to load that they give up.

The impression this gives is very clear: your parish doesn’t care about getting people to confession. Whether or not that’s actually the case doesn’t matter so much. If you don’t tell a clear story to people (for instance, having a promo for returning Catholics on the homepage), people will tell their own stories about you.

There’s a lot people can overlook, and maybe people can overlook an old logo, an ugly bulletin, and a broken website for a long time and see the heart of service that lives at your parish. But if you really have that heart of service, why in the world would you bury it under bad design?
It’s the equivalent of being a really great person but having bad personal hygiene. You’ll have a hard time starting conversations with people.

You could call this shallow thinking, or you could call it a search for honesty. People expect transparency -- meaning that your messaging, your design, and your work are all consistently with each other. You wouldn’t hire an editor who had a misspelling on his website.

Final Words

The beauty of great design is that you only have to do it once.

When you go through a professional branding and design process, you come away with all the tools you need to communicate to your parish and to the outside world. You have all the design decisions made for your bulletin and even for the next flier you have to make. Your website is clear and gets people the information they need so they don’t have to call the parish office a million times.

Most of all, once you have great design, all you have to do is focus on consistency: making sure your clarified message is heard over and over until your parishioners can repeat it to their friends who ask what their church is all about.

At the end of the day, some people will always join your parish despite bad communication -- maybe they have friends there, or they liked the first homily they heard. And that’s great. But don’t think that just because some people join despite a bad website that a great website wouldn’t help bring more people, and therefore more budget for your parish to continue its mission of conversion and service.

So if you think your parish needs better communication, talk to us. We’ll help you stop bailing water and discover where you’re going as an organization and how you can get there.

Creation of the Week #39 Imagine Sisters by Dan & Christina Rogers

And as we ask God – “What is it that you have created me for?” – we pause for a moment and listen for the whisper: “Can you imagine?
— Imagine Sisters

Imagine Sisters was one of the first Catholic media movements I ever saw that truly impressed me. I remember seeing it for the first time and being so amazed at the simplicity of the idea and its impact. Instead of arguing people into an appreciation of the religious vocation, they just showed it. They shared photos of sisters in authentic, beautiful, and joyful moments, and that was enough. It had a huge impact on religious vocations in the US, and now it's back.

Thanks to Dan & Christina Rogers of Avenue Creative, Imagine Sisters 2.0 is here, and it's amazing for all of the same reason it always was-  it's showing, not telling. 

Every photo on this site displays beautiful young women in love with their vocation and their commitment to Christ. It feels alive and joyful, it beacons but never begs for attention. The website is well thought out, never being pushy, but always giving the visitor calls to action that leads deeper into an encounter with the feminine religious vocation. 

The amount of work that it must have taken to relaunch this apostolate in these new, beautiful garments must have been astounding. Especially the full-length documentary "the Light of Love," which is just as intentional and professionally created as everything else Dan & Christina do.  

 

Just to show the reach that this movement already has, look at the numbers they are boasting.

This goes to show the impact that professional media can have when it is used to reveal God's love to the world in the faces and story's of his children, but I have a feeling that Imagine Sisters is just getting started. 


This Creation of the Week is brought to you by Marcellino D'Ambrosio of Sherwood Fellows.

Creation of the Week #38 Ryan Stout's Arsenal Kickstarter

For those of you who didn't see this, Ryan Stout raised just short of 1,000,000 on his kickstarter since posting on Show Off Tuesday two weeks ago. What was his kickstarter for? Well. Watch the video and check 'er out.

Ryan made Arsenal, which is a pretty incredible piece of technology.

"Arsenal is the world’s first intelligent assistant for DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Ultralight hardware lets you wirelessly control your camera with an intuitive iOS or Android app. And advanced machine learning algorithms help you get the perfect shot every time."

It's auto everything from 100 feet away with your smart phone. It's amazing.

"Set the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, see a live preview, and trigger the shutter from your smartphone."

It does HDR photo stacking & Focus Stacking for you with no photoshop layering required. 

If these aren't the most sureal timelapses you've ever seen, point me to what you've got because I've never seen anything like this:

Ryan Made an amazing product, displayed and documented what it could do super effectively, and priced them at unbelievably reasonable prices. We don't have to be making Catholic art to make the world a more awesome place to live. Ryan. Way to add some more magic to the universe. If you are a photographer, get Arsenal. Let's help Ryan break 1,000,000!
 

Creation of the Week #38 Jesse Weiler's Massive Reach

How many of you guys have gotten 1 million impressions with a $20 boost?

Running social posting on facebook is one of the most effective ways to communicate with an audience, but none of us are doing it like Jessie Weiler, who recently did exactly that with the simple meme he designed for Liturgy Memes.  I get excited when someone shares one of my posts 100 times. This post he did has a wopping 7,670 shares as of 11pm, May 22nd.

Sometimes those of us who design cool images and shoot awesome videos don't give enough credit as a group to those of you out there who do the work of actually getting those things in front of people. It's a tough gig and it's one that takes a lot of learning. If you want to know how it's done, hit up Jessie on the slack or on facebook. Jessie runs the social pages for the Liturgical Institute, and he has some of the biggest numbers in the game for a grassroots Catholic Organization. If you want to know one of Jessies secrets for massively growing your reach, check out the blogpost he wrote "How to Get More Likes on Facebook"  here.

So here's to you guys out there who are determined to get your facebook adds down to below a $1 a click rate. Here's to you who spend hours creatively defining audiences. Here's to you scientists of the online continent. Here's to you, Jessie Weiler.

 


Written By Marcellino D'Ambrosio
Creative Director @ Sherwood Fellows
{Photo Cred - Jonathan Weiss, One Secret Mission}

Creation of the Week #37 World Youth Day's Logo Rethought - Wesley Bancroft

If you’re explaining, you’re losing.
— Ronald Reagan

In the forum we had a lively discussion about the new World Youth Day logo. I will try to pull together a longer blog compiling some of the comments for later discussion. For now, suffice it to say that the consensus was that it's too complicated. It's trying to pack too many different images into one, such that each image added actually makes it more convoluted and subtracts from the overall cohesion of the whole logo. It makes each image more difficult to make out and comprehend. Thus, the need for the logo explanation.  In the words of Joe Marshall: "If you have to explain a logo you're losing."

But we would be remiss if we didn't give any ideas for improvement, which is why Wesley Bancroft, one of the most amazing brand designers in the country spent a couple hours this afternoon playing with a new concept. In his words, this image is "just a rough concept on how you can appropriate the culture where WYD is happening and encapsulate the Universal aspect of the Church at the same time." 


"It Harkens the Panamanian Native Patterns, including the Aztec and Loom patterns. All of the other Catholic motifs are obvious. The patterns are a dynamic system both in the typography and the mark. Here is a rough idea for how you could make the brand unique and dynamic utilizing Native and Ancient patterns of Central America. The  mark on the left could be a globe, a host, or the four-corners of the earth. Each unique pattern in the positive space also represents how each of us is unique but unified."


**Reference the one above to see how the brand architecture could be dynamic and differing with each application:**

Wesley wanted me to make sure that it's clear that this is just a grayscale concept and not intended to be a working mark. Ether way, though, Wesley, you are a genius. Let's hope they ask you to do the next World Youth Day brand. We'll all keep our fingers crossed. For those of you who would like to see more from Wesley, check out his portfolio. If you REALLY want to get your mind blown, go to our patreon, support the community, and listen to Wesley's talk that he gave at the Summit on branding. It was a serious game changer.

 


Creation of the Week #36 Patrick Thomas' Easter Vigil

Patrick Thomas' photos of the Easter Vigil at his parish are stunning. To say they got their monies worth hiring to take shots of their Vigil liturgy would be an understatement. You can be a master of the trade with all of the best equipment, but without a worthy subject matter, these skills mean little. Patrick Thomas did an amazing job capturing the event, but what subject matter he had to work with! The vision that these shots portray of the Church shows a universal Church that is alive, vibrant, and solemn. I get the sense that I'm watching a clandestine celebration of the early Church, where the people came from every race and nation to a secret and solemn ritual. It's beautiful and intriguing. Great work, Thomas. 

 

This Creation of the Week is by Marcellino D'Ambrosio of Sherwood Fellows

 


Catholic Creatives just shared our vision to bring more value to the community and give you guys the opportunity to partner with us as we work to bring about a New Renaissance in Catholic art, innovation, and creativity. 

Creation of the Week #35 Cameron Smith's Resurection of the Body

I love Cameron Smith's work. It's a marriage of surrealist and realistic inspirations, patterns and figures, bright and subdued colors, and modern and classical expression. This kind of this is often done in Graphic design where images are easily cut from backgrounds and patterns are easily layered, but I've never seen someone combine so many seemingly disparate contrasts in single fine art paintings. Cameron Smith does it with such tactile beauty that it makes me want to put down the mouse and pick up a brush.

The Ressurection of the Body

The Ressurection of the Body

I thought it fitting to post this as we conclude the Easter octave, looking forward to our own resurrection. What a beautiful belief, that we profess as Catholics, that the body is not a thing we have, but it is us, and it is good. I feel the goodness of the body in Cameron's painting. This is the kind of art we need to be making, the kind that expresses the goodness and beauty of truth in a way that can be touched and experienced by the world.

Here's another one of Cameron's paintings for your inspiration. Thanks for creating this week! Keep on it brother! 

Fountain Blue

Fountain Blue

You can find Cameron's FB page here.

 

Creation of the Week this week by Marcellino D'Ambrosio of Sherwood Fellows

 

 

 

The Amazing Guide Catholic Creatives Regionals

We Believe

We believe that the Holy Spirit is bringing a new Renaissance about in the Church in art, creativity, beauty, and innovation. The Spirit is calling us as a Church to move away from a defensive posture to an offensive one, and in order to do that He’s creating community, infrastructure, and support systems for the leaders, artists, creators, and innovators. Catholic Creatives is a part of that movement.

This Community Needs You

Catholic Creatives need support not just online but real, in-person community. That’s why we are looking for leaders to help host regional CC events. We want to build you up as missionaries to this community and give you the resources you need to be effective in your city, because only out of thriving community can a New renaissance be birthed.  To that end, we’ve compiled some of the lessons we’ve learned over the last year as our community has grown, so we made this guide to give you what you need.

First, let’s start with who we are.

What is Catholic Creatives?

Primarily this group’s primary purpose is to build a support community for creatives. We do that by

  • Supporting and Encouraging each other
  • Fostering Collaboration
  • Encouraging a Culture of Honest Critique
  • Broaching Taboo Topics,
  • Killing Sacred Cows (obstacles to good media/art/business)
  • Giving our members a platform to speak to the larger community.

How do the Regional Events fit into our vision?

CC exists to build a community where artists/makers  & innovators find belonging. That’s why in everything we do, we always take the utmost care in inviting people to our events who match our values and who would contribute to each other. When someone takes on the role of hosting a regional Catholic Creatives event, they essentially become a curator of our regional community. Regional communities are the places we see the greatest ideas, collaborations, and businesses grow out of because proximity matters. Eventually, we would love to see regional groups living together in community, working together in coworking spaces, and building their own economy together. The regional events are beyond important for us as a community, so let’s do them intentionally.

Currently, there are two kinds of CC regional events, the Hangout and the Meetup.
 

Hangout

Happy Hour, informal, 2-3 hour event. Can be at a bar, during a larger event or anywhere alcohol or coffee is readily available. The hangout is a great way to start the ball rolling with a regional community.

Meetup

Half design sprint, half party, the meetup is an awesome half day community builder hosted at an event space or a members house. In a CC Meetup, the leadership selects a problem that the group will brainstorm on. They will lead the group through the design sprint process and after the event, write up a case study on their discoveries.

The guiding principle for both:

Exclusivity has always been a hallmark of Catholic Creatives. This does not mean that we are Elitists. Creativity is not owned by designers and artists. Anyone can be a Catholic Creative, but not everyone is. We curate the community because we cannot be everything to everyone. The needs of the Catholic Creative are unique and therefore a community geared towards them must be created as a safe space of belonging for them.

This Means That:

Every CC event must be exclusive. People can only invite their friends if they clear them with the admins first.

How to Curate:

When you invite people to into your regional events or into regional online groups, always default to a smaller group of the right people rather than a larger group with the wrong people mixed in.

So who are the people you’re looking for?

Catholic artists, creators, ministers, & entrepreneurs who express their Catholic worldview through their medium, whether that is a canvas or a business. Look for talent, an entrepreneurial outlook, and charisma.

Who is this group not for?

  • Domineering people who take over conversations and don't leave space for others.
    If a person needs a ton of work to host, doesn't understand social cues in a big way, and takes over conversations, they might not be the right person.
  • Hobbyists - People who don’t really value creativity and aren’t pursuing excellence in it.
    To a hobbyist, art might be entertainment or a nice thing to have, but not a critical need.  
  • Self-promoters. This community is only safe if the people in the group are all contributors.

Process:

Host a Hangout

If your city hasn’t had a hangout, start there.

You don’t need our permission to have a hangout, but it would be good to for us to know when you’re doing one so that we can help you and hear how it went after.

Create a private facebook event, use our branding to create any design elements needed, and start inviting people. Know that you will have to reach out to people individually if you want to be successful. A post inside of the CC facebook group is generally not enough.
 

Host A Meetup

Once a hangout has been successful, let’s set up a google hangout and talk strategy for putting on your first meetup.

A meetup will require the following:

  • A problem to solve (Ie. The Ugly Church Bulletin, The Vatican Website...etc)
  • A creative space
  • Food & Drink
  • Someone to lead the design sprint
  • Design sprint materials (post-its, sharpies, wall posters)

Meetups are a blast and always lead to a much deeper community than hangouts, but they require more planning. The good news is that we're here to help, so get in touch with us and we’ll help you set it up.

Brand Guidelines

You are welcome to use our fonts and design elements as needed.

Brand Guide

Fonts

 

Want to get in touch about hosting a regional event?

Name *
Name

 

 

Creation of the Week #34 The Bible Project

A while back my son just sort of yells across the living room without warning or prompting:

"Dad, what does 'messiah' mean? - Kolbe

"Me in my mind: Where do I begin? ... Do I jump to Judaism? That would make sense... do I hand him my Scott Hahn collection? Too early... ]

No... like any good dad with a wifi connection, I turn to YouTube. We then proceed to spend about 45 minutes sitting on the couch together, me and my little 4 year old son watching these videos and talking about what was uncovered. Mostly we talked about what he saw, not so much what he heard in the narraration.

"Is that solider a bad guy or a good guy?"

"Is that guy an angel?"

"Can we go to that castle (the temple) sometime, maybe this summer?"

Kolbe just needed to see it first, and I think part of me did too.

Enter the The Bible Project, Creation of the Week and a Portland based non-profit crowd funded creative studio. It's been great to see the group progress from the early videos to the most recently published ones, and to see the quality constantly increase, and the willingness to try new things pay off with each new graphic venture. Everything they make they give away for free, though if you offer your dollar bills I'm certain they won't turn them down. This creation of the week is really dozens of "creations" that are summarized in this one post. Mostly the following:

  1. Theme videos (holiness, image of God, Kingdom of God, Dozens of others on YouTube)
  2. Podcast
  3. Animated short films (Wisdom, Torah)
  4. Print Materials (A few dozen large format posters)

The work really stands on it's own (see screen captures of the animated films below) and needs little in the way of explaining. It is just top to bottom thoroughly engaging and rooted in the narrative arcs of scripture. It's well worth your time to sit, watch, and then share these videos. 

the garden of eden

the garden of eden

king david

king david

the crucifixion

the crucifixion

some sort of badass soldier... maybe the COTW should have been swords, or zombie horses.

some sort of badass soldier... maybe the COTW should have been swords, or zombie horses.

The videos have been personally helpful to me because there is a significant gap between what my 4 year old can glean from his "kid bibles" and my Ignatius Press "full bible". And if we are being honest, they help kick start us into reading and loosen whatever grip lethargy may have on our hearts and minds. That's what engaging works of art do, they clue us in to something of the clarity of the truth, something that may not be as readily expressible with words, or certainly not in the say way that an image can. With hundreds of instantly made and intuitively felt design decisions layered on top of one another to produce an affect that washes over the viewer,  works of art like these operate on a different level that that of those who deal in words. 

All of these resources mix an exceptionally high level of production quality, with what seem to be a fairly open and approachable theological bent. The printed material is also all free and super high quality. Dig it. Download any and all of the artwork, and if you can support the effort. 

 

The best part of this CoTW is that it has given me cause to return to these books to be able to enter into these stories anew. I hope it will result in the same for you.

enjoy.


This Creation of the Week is by Christopher Duffel, architect, father, and sharer of wisdom. 

Creation of the Week #33 The Catholic Woman - Corynne

Friend, I am so happy you are here. Please know that you are infinitely valued and that the Church needs you.
— Corynne of The Catholic Woman

The Catholic Woman is a ministry that seeks to illustrate the many faces and vocations of Catholic women. They publish letters group members write to one another every week.

Check out this video they did on Artistry & Motherhood. IT'S SO GOOD.

I love this ministry for many reasons. Their design is beautiful and smart, their content is so vulnerable, their Facebook and Instagram are active and incredibly consistent. These are all hard things to pull off for any ministry and they make The Catholic Woman stand apart, but these reasons aren't why I love what they are doing. It goes much deeper than that.

Why I Love TCW

I can't write this feature from the standpoint that many of you could. I can only write from my own experience as a man growing up in a Church that I felt didn't understand me. It took a long time for me to find my place with Her. I believe gender is one of the most difficult topics for any of us to touch on because our deepest wounds lie in deep recesses of our identity as men and women. Our scars, the lies the evil one speaks over us, tend to tie themselves to our conceptions not of ourselves as people, but ourselves as a man or a woman. 

When I was in high school, I thought I wanted to be a priest and applied to be a seminarian for the Diocese of Dallas. I was rejected because I wasn't "pastoral enough," that is to say that I was clearly not going to grow up to be a docile bank manager. I challenged authority, pushed the boundaries of acceptable behavior wherever I was and did not have a diplomatic bone in my body. Throughout my life, I've been diagnosed, medicated, scolded punished for my boyness. In my mind, this diocesan vocations committee brought all of the weight of the Magisterium to bear in its prognosis of my lack of a "pastoral disposition" 

When I finally was accepted and sent to St. John Vianney seminary, I found a Church that had an entirely different image of Masculinity that I was compelled to pursue. "The Vianney man," as they say, was clearly German. He was on time, he was disciplined, he read St. Thomas Aquinas, had played football or baseball in high school, and never displayed emotion in public. He was some strange Frankenstein of the ideal red-blooded American male and JPII's theology of the body. He was all of these things, but most of all, he was not me, and I knew it the second I was fraternally corrected for singing too high during mass because we all know that if you sing a high C you are probably just waiting for the right time to come out of the closet. 

Belonging

The point I'm making is that we all have felt at times like we've had to hide who we really are in order to fit some idealized image of what our gender should look like. I love the way God has called me to manhood, but the road that got me here has been long, winding, and riddled with potholes. Often times, what I needed the most on the journey was simply to be told that I belonged. 

That's why I'm so grateful for what Corynne is doing with The Catholic Woman. Even if she isn't intending to minister to me, she has simply by offering everyone who comes to her site to freedom to be where they are at. Thank you Corynne, thank you for your beautiful ministry. Keep it up.

 by Marcellino D'Ambrosio,
One of those crazy Catholic Creatives

 

 

Creation of the Week #32 Totus Tuus Oklahoma Rebrand - Y&YA Office of Tulsa

I have to confess that this project is one that I had a hand in. Anthony Kaiser, the head hancho over there in the Y&YA office of Tulsa asked our agency (Sherwood Fellows) to help rebrand Totus Tuus Oklahoma in a hurry. As soon as I got off the phone, I hit up Daniella Madriz because she's amazing and we went for it. The end product was not only a killer look, but a much more profound understanding of what makes Totus Tuus special. Take a look through this brand guide that Daniella created to show the client how to use the brand. 

The goal of this rebranding was to attract more prospective teachers and give them the sense that Totus Tuus is a legitimate way to spend a summer in building the kingdom. The twelve stars are the stars of Mary pointing at the crown of Christ. The brand relies heavily on blues and golds to tie in the Marian theme subtly. Daniella kills it all the time, but this was such a slam dunk I had to put it out there.

Hat's off to Anthony Kaiser over there for leading the charge in getting Totus Tuus rebranded. I hope that more Dioceses follow your lead so that the program grows. Next, hopefully someone will make a website for Totus Tuus that I'm not embarrased to link to. 

The Catholic Creatives Manifesto

Let's face it. The Church is no longer the great Patroness of the Arts. She doesn't have the same reach and scope she once did at the time of the Renaissance. Yet the world's need for her influence has not lessened over the centuries; if anything, the desire for tangible beauty is greatest now in facing the wave of nominalism coursing through millennial culture. To answer this desperation, the Church needs to blaze new trails for the gospel to pass into the hearts and minds of this new generation. 

This is why the Church needs new DaVincis, Mozarts, Michelangelos, and Beethovens. This is why it needs aesthetically and philosophically articulate creative leaders, artists, and risk-takers: to recast the gospel message as surprising, attractive, beautiful, sublime, and, above all, relevant. The time is ripe for a New Renaissance, a counter-wave of beauty (as an antithesis to nominalism) that can place the gospel back in the center of a cultural dialogue.  

We also need more awesome beards. And hats. Definitely more hats. 

We also need more awesome beards. And hats. Definitely more hats. 

But unfortunately, there are few places within the Church where creatives feel a sense of belonging. For the Catholic creative, the secular artistic community cannot wholly be home; there we are often quietly or not-so-quietly chastised for our archaic religious leanings. And yet, in the church they love, Catholic creatives find themselves again displaced as they recognize the Church’s lack of emphasis on innovation and cultural relevance. Furthermore, the Church’s culture, at least in America, hesitates to embrace the weird, the edgy, the rebellious, or the skeptic, all of which are traits that creatives especially manifest. A blue-haired, inked-up graphic designer feels far less a freak at a sketchy concert venue than walking around a Newman Center. Classics majors, steeped in traditions of philosophy and art, find themselves out of place at parishes where mediocre 70s folk and saccharine preaching are standard. 

Community is essential for creatives. Community is essential for Catholics. Community is essential for human beings. Thus the Catholic Creatives movement was very reasonably formed to assemble all those who affiliate with that trio of demographics. We want to create an open place to collaborate with other individuals like ourselves who pursue the very important work of being creative within, for, or adjacent to the Church.

That is why this movement was sparked, and why creatives from all over the world are gathering in Dallas, March 23rd–26th, to talk about creating a New Renaissance in creativity and culture. For more information, visit www.ccsummit.xyz.

Finally, consider the following:

There is a group that posts the same picture of Jeff Goldblum every day. (It’s called The Same Picture of Jeff Goldblum Every Day because of course it is, this is the internet.) There are Facebook groups for the cute-animal-obsessed, for tracking current events, for lifestyle and health support, for science enthusiasts, and many many many for meme aficionados. Point being, our generation has looked to the digital space more and more to connect with the like minded peers around the world. Our definitions and approach to community have evolved with the dawn of a well-connected global society.
 

But who isn't excited for Jeff's appearance in the next Thor installment. 

But who isn't excited for Jeff's appearance in the next Thor installment. 

So Catholic Creatives has an online community. We have a Facebook group and a Slack channel and an email newsletter and a blog. We have in-person meetups where we brainstorm solutions to issues in the Church. We have a annual summit where we can come together for real human conversations. But all of these are a part of a greater movement taking place in the Church towards a new culture of art, innovation, and creativity. And that's somewhere we can all belong.

Helpful Resources for Stock Photos, Graphics, & Inspiration

We get asked a lot about stock photography, free graphics, and other items. Someday we dream of creative a stock photography site specifically for Catholic stock photos and graphics, but until then here are some resources that many of us in the group use a lot. So, whether you're a professional graphic designer or a volunteer learning on the fly, we all can use a little help & inspiration.

FIRST: Putting it All Together

While being inspired & having great photos is important.  BEFORE you set off on a spirit quest to find all these resources, take time to familiarize yourself with basic communications principles.  There is no better place to do that for church communications than through Brady Shearer at Pro Church Tools.  There's an incredible website, podcast, social media presence and more you need to familiarize yourself with:

https://prochurchtools.com/

Photos:

One Secret Mission

https://www.onesecretmission.com/

One Secret Mission is the Unsplash for Catholic stock photography. It's royalty free, artistic Catholic  stock photography. It's amazing. Use it.

Unsplash

http://unsplash.com/
Royalty Free artistic photography. They have single handily made the internet more beautiful.

 

Lightstock

www.lightstock.com
Sign up to receive a free photo of the week
Super high quality real-life images


Freely

www.freelyphotos.com
High quality, categorized photos


eCatholic Churches Stock Photos

http://photos.ecatholic.com/gallery/freestockphotos/
Solid generic photos for Catholic Church imagery


Inspiration:

Likable Art

http://www.likableart.com/
Cory is a fantastic Catholic graphic designer.  He can assist you with your project, or you can check out his work to inspire your own.

Church Marketing Sucks Blog

http://www.churchmarketingsucks.com/
Great place for inspiration and ideas on how churches are upping their communications game.


Church Marketing Lab

https://www.flickr.com/groups/cfcc
Samples of other churches' work.  Utilize the search feature to find inspiration for your designs "Advent" "Youth Ministry", etc.  NOTE: Although this group has no longer been moderated, there is a huge archive of designs for you to draw inspiration from!


7ulio.com

http://7ulio.com/
Amazing graphic designer who offers some sweet freebies!

Your favorites?

What are a few of your favorite resources to use for inspiration?  Comment below!

3 Tips for a Better Bulletin

The bulletin is THE primary communication tool at the majority of churches around the world. So, let’s make sure people get the message.

Tip #1 - Make Sure Important Information is Visible

One Sunday, a parishioner fell ill and someone needed to call the ambulance. As someone who was helping him on the phone, that person quickly reached for a bulletin to give the operator the address of the Church, but she couldn’t find it! Luckily, someone overheard what was going on and quickly relayed the information - crisis averted - and we learned to make it really EASY to find our contact information.

  • Mass Times - (if space allows) add other devotionals like daily Rosary & Adoration - let people know you have an active prayer life in your parish
  • Physical Address, Website, & Contact Information & don’t forget social media
  • Staff contact information - add a photo next to each member so people connect a name and a face

Not only do you want important information visible, but you want it to be predictable. Be consistent with the layout & placement of these pieces of information so it’s intuitive for people to find and easy to reference.

tumblr_inline_nc0a3iKloy1sexxg0.jpg

Tip #2 - Photos, Not Clip Art

A picture is worth a thousand words. Clip art is worth nothing. Here are 3 tips about the types of photos you’re looking for & how to get them:

  • Use photos of people - People don’t care about people’s shoes, socks, or pants - use photos that focus on faces
  • Focus on faces - When shooting a photo, make sure the camera focuses on a person’s faces, specifically their eyes
  • Composition is Key - Google “rule of thirds” - thank me later ;-)

Make a strategy regarding how you want to display pictures:

  • When will you use a landscape vs. portrait orientated photo?  (Bulletin cover ALWAYS portrait)
  • When will you use a stroke, drop shadow (please... never), or none of the above?
Now THAT's a church picnic photo!

Now THAT's a church picnic photo!

Tip #3 - Better Blurbs

The bulletin is a communication tool. While what you are communicating is important, how you are communicating is equally important as well!

  • Use headers to grab people’s attention - use a larger & bold font. Make the caption interesting and attention grabbing
  • Copy (fancy word for “blurb text”) should be short & sweet - make your text “sizzle”. People don’t get excited about a date, time, & place. They get excited about stories and people. Tell a story in a few short words about what’s going on and why people should get involved
  • Make sure there’s always a call to action - This means you want the reader to DO something after he or she reads the “blurb”. Make it clear what you want them to do, and make it easy for them to do it! (make it better: the web is AWESOME for capturing information about how effective your bulletin is. Use QR Codes, short links, and easy to remember URLs to get people to go to specific pages and be able to track their actions.)

BONUS TIP: THE SPREAD

Did you know that most bulletin publishing companies will allow you to SPREAD across the two center pages of your bulletin?  Grab a bulletin, check out the very center, it's not glued, it's simply stapled!  That means, it's no big deal for the publisher to let your content bleed across that space.  ENJOY THE EXTRA ROOM!

I'd love to continue this conversation with you more!  Find me at Tom Lelyo in the CC Facebook group or e-mail me at tom.lelyo@gmail.com  

More Inspiration

To see some of my own work on bulletins you can CLICK HERE and check out my flickR album.  Most of this work is older, but hopefully still helpful and inspirational for you!

In December 2017, the CC group had a meetup where they discussed Parish Bulletins in depth. To read their in-depth analysis, CLICK HERE.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR OWN TIPS?  DO YOU HAVE EXAMPLES OF GREAT BULLETINS?  POST THEM BELOW!

How to Get More Likes on Your Facebook Page

Written By: Jesse Weiler

Are you running a Facebook page that has plateaued a little in the likes-per-day category? Here is an easy way to get more likes!  

This works for organic posts, boosted posts and targeted ads. I prefer the results that I get through targeted ads, but I'll explain why later. 

STEP 1: Find a post of yours that has generated a lot of reactions e.g. likes and loves

STEP 2: Click the number that tells you how many likes your post has acquired and a pop-up will appear with all of their names and information as to weather or not they've liked your page. 

STEP 3: Invite that list to like your page. In this case I can invite Krissy, Kathie, and Kris. 

That's it! That's all you need to do.

Notice that some are greyed out with text that either says "Liked" or "Invited". This just lets me know if they already like my page or if I've already invited them to like my page. Facebook does limit the amount of invites you can make per day. I maxed out at about 900 invites on my first day trying this. I was allowed to do a few more the next day. You'll have to keep testing it.  

There is a type of Facebook ad that lets you pay to get likes, but my option is free and just as effective. It has dramatically increased the number of people who follow our page. We saw a 20% increase in followers over the course of one month from 5,000 to 6,000. It was all thanks to this strategy.

I mentioned earlier that I like to use this specifically for ads and here's where it gets good. Whenever I boost a post and use broad audience descriptors, I do get more likes but, they aren't likes that will likely convert. They are people in the Philippines or India that like almost every post/page they see. Those people are not going to come to The Liturgical Institute for a graduate degree. However, if I target an ad to young adult Catholics in America who are interested in graduate school, I will get a higher conversion rate on those acquired likes.

If you use this strategy correctly, you can gain followers that fit your desired demographic without having to break the bank.

 

 

Jesse Weiler is the Assistant Director of Media and Communications at The Liturgical Institute.   

Creation of the Week #31 "Rising" by Spirit Juice and the CFR's

First off, I want to give some mad props to all of the awesome music/video collaborations that have been happening over the last year, but I'm just so pumped by this new trend. The Vigil Project was huge in making that a thing, and I'm excited to see more artist/film maker teams make more of these.

Now can I just talk about how awesome it is to  see Fransciscan Friars worshiping with LEGIT original music? A lot of times art that priests and religious make can be over celebrated simply because of the novelty that is associated with a priest making art, which is why "Rising" struck me. I would have loved this song regardless of who wrote it. The lyrics are simple, but profound, the instrumentation is dynamic and open, and the spirit behind it full of worship and intimacy. The fact that it was the CFR's makes it just icing on top instead of the predominate reason for the enjoyment.

Also,  it's  awesome to see the diversity present in the group. A lot of times our Catholic art can just come off as a bit on the white side. This is just not a problem for the CFR's, is it?  

As for the Video, there's just something so beautiful about the way the Spirit Juice team has  of celebrating music and submerging you in whatever song they are filming. The lighting in this video makes me feel like I'm waking up just as the dark is fading at the sky's edges. I think this particular shine that Spirit Juice has with music comes from Rob Kaczmark's own passion for music and history, which he talks about in our podcast here.

If you haven't seen the video they did with Fr. Pontifex, it's one of my favorite music videos ever and is very fitting for Lenten meditation.


This blog is by Marcellino D'Ambrosio, CoFounder of Catholic Creatives and Principle at Sherwood Fellows, an agency dedicated to anointing new Davids in their fight against Goliath.