Creation of the Week #47 Elissa Voss' Verily Magazine Shoot

Elissa Voss is an incredible photographer. I keep realizing this every time I see one of my friends get married. Chances are if you want to FSU or Ave Maria, she probably took all of your friend's wedding shots. So, hi five Elissa for cornering the Catholic wedding market. That's probably the best wedding market to be in since we tend to do a lot of them. Incidentally, now that I'm actually on my way to getting married, weddings photos are starting to look a lot less alike, so I'm actually beginning to really appreciate what all of you go through that brave the harrows of wedding photography. In any case, Elissa has always been awesome, but her most recent shoot for Verily was definitely some next level stuff.

Elissa's style is beautiful, nostalgic, and real,  She captures something so deeply of the feminine genius in her work. When I asked her what she was trying to accomplish with the shots, she said: "My focus was to capture the happy and healthy Verily woman through lifestyle images. My hope was to capture the beauty of womanhood and how we interact with others in everyday life, fully alive and loving well." In these shots you don't see some dark brooding woman, sensual and mysterious, you see women just alive and living their femininity in a real way. You really see that with the dinner party shots. "For the female friendship part," she said, "I really wanted to show the beauty of community/intimacy in friendships and how important it is just to 'be' together." That's exactly what Verily is about, women just "being," not trying to impress, not trying to put on a face, just being as they were meant to. Mission accomplished, Elissa!

That style is not so easy to capture, however. There's a lot that had to go into planning this thing, which is one of the biggest reasons I admire this work. If you go through the whole gallery on Elissa's site, you can see just how many sets, models, and wardrobe changes, and props that needed to be worked with. She had to think about light and time of day, which location to hit first, hire models,  and work with them to get authentic looking moments. A shoot like this with so many pieces can very easily fall apart. All it takes is some random unexpected detail to get dropped and you're screwed. Your battery runs out and you realized you left the spare at the last location, your SD card is full and you only bought 5 and you needed 10, you get stuck in traffic on the way to the sunset and by the time you get there its dark... so on and so forth. You get the idea. It's not exactly a cakewalk.

Elissa had to have spent countless hours in the planning for this shoot and it shows. We're proud of you, Elissa! Keep up the good work.

 This shot needs an honorable mention. Erica Tighe volunteered her house and studio for Elisa's shoot. That should be #lifegoals for all Catholic Creatives. May we all create our spaces so beautiful that professional photographers ask us to set up photo shoots in our homes. 

If you want to see more of Elisa's work, go here. If you want to reminisce on last year's CC Summit, or get really really excited about next year's CC Summit, go look at her CC Summit Gallery. It's amazing.

Creation of the Week by
Marcellino D'Ambrosio
CoFounder of Catholic Creatives

Creation of the Week #45 Matthew Alderman's UW Catholic Center

Matthew Alderman joined the community last week and posted his designs for the University of Wisconson's Catholic Center. I'm curious how many of us promptly started researching graduate degrees there, because DAMN. This Church is going to be impressive. College students generally get the dregs in terms of Church architecture, but this is going to be an incredible gift to the students there and all of the surrounding neighborhood. I would travel at LEAST 45 minutes to go to mass in this building. 


I'm not an architect, so I do not have the credibility to critique this building from that field of competence, but I will say this: If our Churches look and feel like shopping malls, UFO's, or Unitarian Universalist "churches" our evangelization efforts will be sluggish and poor at best. Our experience of Mass is the PRIMARY place where we live out our faith. I'm becoming more and more convinced every Sunday that I go to mass that our parish buildings are the starting point for good liturgy.  Architecture affects absolutely everything. Have you ever been to a modern Church in the round where they tried to do Gregorian Chant? It falls on its face. Ever been to any of the Triduum floor at a church sanctuary with a carpeted floor and lit by floodlights? No matter how spiritually rich the liturgy is, if it is encased in a building that inherently contradicts the liturgy's meaning, it is going to feel empty. 

I'm not saying that God is not present or that the Priests holiness or the musician's prayer doesn't matter. I'm just saying that the experience of God will be greatly impaired when the building's grammar denies the truth that is present in the liturgy. 

That is why I'm so excited for to see the people at the University of Madison's Catholic Center investing so much into this beautiful architecture which speaks of God's grandeur and holiness, of the wonder of heaven, and the glory of the Paschal Mystery.  Matthew, great work. We're excited to see more!

Creation of the Week by Marcellino D'Ambrosio
CoFounder of Catholic Creatives


Creation of the Week #44 Fabiola Garza's "Coco"

One day I will stop fangirling over Fabi, but that day is not today. For those of you who don't know her, she works at Disney as an illustrator and also illustrated a children's book called "The Boy that became Pope" about the life of JP II that will make you cry. If you don't have it and have kids of the reading age, make that happen asap.

Last week the cover for the new Pixar book is dropped and guess who did the illustration for it? FABI. Yeah. And it's amazing.


The detail on this thing is incredible. I love how everything Fabi does looks like she captured it at the golden hour. It's all motion, light, and life. This cover captures that especially well. All of the lines in this image lead to Coco (presumably the boy?) and his dog, leading the eye towards his face and give us a feeling of some great and exciting adventure which awaits right off page.  Both characters are mid-stride, plunging into the leaves in a playful and excited gait. This scene could have so easily been so boring as to be stupefyingly bland: A boy with a guitar and a dog in Mexican town." Fabi, however, makes this scene extraordinary, magical, and full of emotion. I love it. Fabi, we're proud of you! Keep repping Jesus out there in the real world by being amazing at what you do.


By Marcellino D'Ambrosio

CoFounder of Catholic Creatives
Michief Maker at Sherwood Fellows


Creation of the Week #43 Creation of the Week Diego Diaz' Augustinian Recollects Branding

Good design is universal.

As Catholics, we believe that beauty isn’t simply a matter of how you grew up, what age group you fit into, and what language you speak. There is a subjective experience that you bring to the table every time you see or hear art or music, but there is something objective to art.

That is the standpoint from which I want to approach Diego Diaz’ branding project for the Augustinian Recollects. It is a significant work. It is deeply meaningful in its symbolism, very attractive even on first glance, and easily recognizable in all its forms. Any American high school kid would scroll up on Instagram, give it a double tap and call it a day. But Diego Diaz didn’t design this for American kids. He designed it for an order of Augustinians in Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely believe that our culture hugely influences the way we look at art and this is especially true of branding. Just look at the way that people experience soda differently when they are shown it’s a coke. That said, design principles are part of the practical reality of composition. Certain color combinations look better. Whether you’re from Nigeria or from Scandinavia, the color wheel still applies. Contrast matters to anyone that can see, taste, or hear or feel. The Golden Ratio works every time whether you intend to use it or just happen to use it because it’s a part of nature. There are some objective rules that govern what we find beautiful and what we find inauthentic and ugly. I think Diego, along with many other designers in the community from South America show just how universal excellence in design really is.

Diego’s site says that he designed this identity to represent St. Augustine's charism, “the search for truth, service to the community, and the love for God without conditions. Colors and aesthetics are linked to the cultural identity that's manifested in each flag of the province's nations.”  In addition, he writes about how the search for truth and the church mission part was associated with exploration, which leads them to draw inspiration from maps and compasses.

Here are the criteria by which I judge a logo’s success or failure:

  1. It needs to reflect your organization’s "why" in a single, simple form.

  2. It must be distinguishable in positive and negative. This necessitates the use of negative space.

  3. It must be able to be represented in black and white.

  4. It must be distinguishable at the size of a penny, and still look amazing blown up on a billboard.

  5. It must last for at least 10 years, but probably more.

I think it’s safe to say Diego achieves each of these marks. Everything about this brand conveys energy, exploration, and friendliness while saying at the same time “take me seriously, I’m legit.” It speaks to the core values of the religious order and incarnates their "why" effectively. It has great contrast so it looks good in positive and negative and works in black and white. It’s simple and balanced, so it preserves its effectiveness no matter what size you view it at. It’s elegant and fashionable, not simply trendy, so it'll last for many years with a minimal need to update. 

Keep rocking and rolling, Diego. You make us all proud to be Catholic by doing great design, brother. Keep it up!

By Marcellino D'Ambrosio

CoFounder of Catholic Creatives
CoFounder of Sherwood Fellows


Creation of the Week #42 Therese Bussen's NFP in Real Life

In honor of NFP Awareness Week, which begins July 23, let’s talk about sex.
— Therese Bussen

What a great way to start an article! Bravo, Therese. For those of you who don’t know Therese, she’s a journalist at Denver Catholic. She used to blog for FOCUS and was known for her authentic, vulnerable writing. She has a knack for taking conversations that are simmering on the periphery and bringing them into the forefront of Catholic conversation.

That’s why I picked this article. It’s not necessarily the most personally vulnerable or edgy piece I’ve ever read on NFP, but it is the first honest article that wrestles with the lived experience of NFP I’ve read by a Diocesan news outlet.

I believe that the Church is entering a new season in its life. For lack of better terminology, I’ll call it the post-Culture War Era. For the last half century, the Church in America has been fighting the Culture War. We’ve been primarily concerned with defending the faith, and doing so through politics and apologetics. There is a place for both in the life of the Church, but they were over-emphasized to the detriment of the lived experience of discipleship.

We fought tooth and nail to prove to Protestants and the rest of the world that we were right and they were wrong, never mind the fact that the music at our parish is terrible, the architecture is laughable, the homilies are boring and unrelatable, and that our parishioners are leaving in droves. We would cover over these things by saying things like: “If people just understood the mass better, the mass would stop being boring.” I’ve been Catholic my whole life and was raised by a theologian. Sometimes mass is boring, and when that happens, it’s usually because the liturgy was unintentional and bland, not because I didn’t know enough about transubstantiation. The post-Culture War Church is pausing for a second and wondering why our arguments aren’t being effective. It’s a great opportunity to take a good hard look at our reflection in the mirror. We’re haggard, wrinkled, disheveled, and look like we haven’t showered in 2000 years.

We got so caught up in arguing that we lost our ability to look at ourselves and acknowledge the messiness of Catholicism’s lived experience. Thankfully, this is changing.

It’s changing because modern man doesn’t want perfect, white-washed, meticulously proven facts anymore. The culture has changed. After a couple centuries of massively up-heaving warfare, industrialization, globalization, the internet, and big marketing, we’ve grown disillusioned with our rational ability to understand and be sure of anything. We’ve come into contact with a rich diversity of beliefs, a multitude of contrary ideas and thoughts. We are suspicious of every message, and test its perceived value not by the air tightness of its argument, but by the authenticity of its bearer.

Struggling with our faith, and showing that struggle is actually what humanity in the post-Culture War Era is looking for.
Those who try to live NFP in their marriages struggle. That’s the truth. We have to be OK with showing that, or else we will have NO credibility with a world who’s done with perfection. We have to show our wrestling so that those of us who struggle don’t feel like we’re alone. We have to show it so that we can give others insight into the actual lived actions and perspectives that can carry us through their own trials.

That’s why I love that Therese Bussen is willing to go there and open up the conversation to the Diocese of Denver and to the rest of the world.

Keep on wrestling with the reality of the lived gospel, Therese. You are giving us all a voice.

By Marcellino D'Ambrosio

CoFounder of Catholic Creatives
Michief Maker at Sherwood Fellows


When You Work for Free It Hurts You and Me

Written by Jesse Weiler

We Catholics have a hard time making the ask. Just talk to almost any FOCUS missionary. In fact, I tried fundraising my salary for a year when I worked at a Catholic organization.

Instead of trying to raise more money to fit my needs, I ended up adjusting my needs to what I could fund raise. This is a bad mentality, especially if you are a creative freelancer with a family.

I’m writing this because I’ve come across too many of you who are just not charging what you should for your work. If you make a little adjustment, then you will not only help yourself, but you’ll help the rest of us too.  
Now, maybe you do contract work full time or maybe you are like me and use freelancing as a way to pad your income a little. I bring in anywhere between $10k–15k a year from contract work. This wasn’t always the case for me though. I used to make less than half of that with about the same amount of hours worked.

What changed? My attitude. I stopped thinking about helping and started thinking about working.
This may sound like a selfish switch and it may even sound like an insignificant switch. However, I assure you that if you do this, you will see a growth in your business and your income.

When you only think about helping someone when they hire you, three things happen:

  1. You significantly reduce the dignity of your work.
  2. You turn yourself into a patron instead of a contractor.
  3. You perpetuate the vicious cycle of low pay for creative work.

When creatives do this, it sends a message that our work is not worth paying for. People end up making more of a donation rather than an income and ruin future work for everyone else. (Fiverr doesn't help much either.)

We seem to be especially prone to this as Catholic creatives when it comes to "helping" Catholic organizations.
This is not good. Not good at all.
If this is something you struggle with, the first step to switching your mentality is to figure out your rate. Do you charge a flat fee for each project or do you have an hourly rate? There are tons of tools online that can help you figure this out. One thing to note; if you are full time, you should charge more than someone who is part time, especially if you are paying for your own insurance.
The second step is to stick to that rate! If you’ve done cheap work for a regular client in the past just tell them that you’ve done a skills assessment and that you have a new rate. If they like your work, they’ll try to figure out how to pay you still.

Results will vary, but I can honestly tell you that I have never been turned down because of my new price. I charge $100/hr with discounts if I’m hired for more than 20 hours of work. If you lose work because of your new rate, then just keep in mind that when you charge more per hour/project then you need less work to reach your desired income.
I used to charge $40/hr and it took me 250 hours to reach $10K.
Now I charge $100/hr and it takes me 100 hours to reach $10K.
For me, this means 150 extra hours with my kids and no loss in income. It’s a no-brainer.

Stop helping organizations and start working for them!

The Pillars of the Catholic Creatives Community

We've been working hard on distilling our core beliefs. We believe that these are the beliefs that have been leading our decisions as an organization, and that they have arisen from the organic conversations arising through the group. I'd love to use these to start a conversation with the larger community. Give us your thoughts!  

1. We Were Made to Create

The first five words - “In the beginning, God created.” In Christ we are co-creators and co-redeemers in creation. We create because it is our identity, our prayer, and our mission. The Catholic Creative lives to bring meaning to a directionless world, to bear Christ’s light into the dark places of humanity, and to solve the problems of the modern age through the power of the Catholic imagination.

2. Community First

The Catholic life is the life of relationship. CC must first be the family dinner table, a place of communion, friendship, joy, and unity. We believe that the most important thing we can do is foster a family ecology where creatives find belonging, spiritual nourishment, and are organically connected to the network of learning, mentorship, and patronage they need to be healthy and to grow.

3. There is More than Enough

Scarcity mindset causes us to see each others’ victories as our losses. It inhibits trust and is a barrier to vulnerable community. We believe that our God is rich. We see eternal abundance in Christ’s miracles; 12 baskets of leftovers, wine that overflows. We believe there is more than enough for all of us. We trust in His providence. This means we are not afraid to collaborate, encourage, uplift, and share with one another

4. Speak the Unspoken

“But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”

Speak the Unspoken means always speaking the truth in love no matter how uncomfortable it is. It means listening to the truth even when it’s hard. It means embracing conflict, because only through conflict can we grow.

5. Beauty is The Language of God

We believe that the greatest power for social change in the world is beauty. Beauty is the incarnation of the Truth, a sensual experience of abstract realities. We believe that beauty in this definition is God’s preeminent communication because the Word took on flesh. Christ crucified is the ultimate expression of God’s Divine Imagination.

This means that we must value beauty financially. We must be willing to not only be martyrs for the truth but martyrs for beauty, selling all we have for the beautiful pearl.

Creation of the Week #41 Father Tansi's Garden

This has been a hard past few weeks. I've been wrestling with deep dissatisfaction with myself. I've been drinking from the barrel of self doubt and just trying to see if it has a bottom. It doesn't.

There are times when I really don't want to face the world, and times when I want to face this community even less, when I open a fresh Google Doc and stare at it for an hour and hit the backspace more than any other key. Today is a day like that.

I've been listening to Fr. Tansi's record, Garden, and I've really needed it. It's been speaking to me in some vulnerable places and I can't say thank you enough to Fr. Tansi and to all of the people at Renewal in Motion who were a part of making it happen. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You were there for me today. 

I feel like Fr. Tansi is opening up a secret door into the garden of his own prayer, into his dialogue with a God who loves him, who's proud of him, and who is eminently present. Especially in "Rising," and "Rest." Often when I'm struggling to believe that about God and about myself, the pathway out has been encountering God's love through someone else's invitation into their own experience of the Divine. 

Garden is a work that does that for me. It's not just the arrangements, the vocals, the melody, the instrumentation...all of these are worthy of recognition. It's the heart that's behind it all.

It's beautiful in every way. Even the album art, which was done by Daniela Madriz, one of my personal heroes. 

Thanks again to you guys at Renewal in Motion for being so awesome. We love you guys!

By Marcellino D'Ambrosio

CoFounder of Catholic Creatives
Michief Maker at Sherwood Fellows


The Catholic Creative Defined

What is a Catholic Creative?

A Catholic Creative is a working or aspiring creative professional with a fire in their gut and a passion for re-imagining the world through heaven’s eyes. Put another way, a Catholic Creative is a Catholic who makes it their job to ask the question: “What could be?” every time they are confronted with “What is.” 

So… What is a Creative?

“Creative” doesn’t necessarily mean artist. And it doesn’t mean someone separate from business. It means a person who creates. This creation doesn’t have to be graphics or videos. The creation can be a business, or the design of a building, or dance program. We’re not going to limit the act of creation to just the arts or media. 

Why do Catholic Creatives Create?

Because We Were Made To

We Create because it is part of who we are. We were made in the image of a Creative God. We create because we believe that what we make has agency in our lives. It is a part of our prayer and a part of our heart's waking.

Because It’s Our Mission

The Catholic Creative creates out of a sense of mission. The Catholic Creative lives to bring meaning to a directionless world, to bear Christ’s light into the dark places of humanity, and to solve the problems of the modern age through the power of the Catholic imagination.

How do Catholic Creatives Create?

Through Incarnating the Truth

A centerpiece of our community has always been a conviction of the preeminence of beauty as the language of God. We create with the understanding that beauty holds a special and high role in God’s plan to encounter humanity and draw us into a relationship with Him. We do not define beauty narrowly - it is not only pretty, nice, romantic (although it can be those things), but it can also be startling, dark, and uncomfortable. Beauty is the incarnation of truth, a sensual experience of abstract realities. We believe that beauty in this definition is God’s preeminent communication because the Word took on flesh. Christ in human form is the ultimate expression of God’s Divine Imagination. 

Therefore, beauty will be integral to each and every discussion we have and everything we create, whether we're discussing solutions to the financial system, Facebook ad sets, building a brewery, or designing a logo. Whatever we do, we seek to incarnate depths of meaning through beauty.

Through Valuing Creativity

“Show me your bank statement and I’ll show you your theology.”

A Catholic Creative is someone who recognizes fair monetary value of work as an essential part of what will progress beauty in the world, enabling our creators to grow and raise the bar. While a Catholic Creative doesn't necessarily need to be a full-time professional, a CC needs to believe in the inherent monetary value in beauty and creativity. 

Who isn’t a Catholic Creative?

As an organization, we’re focused on cultural impact both inside the Church and outside of it. This means that we are committed to excellence by all standards, not just Catholic ones. We believe that in order to make this kind of impact, we must dedicate real time and passion towards it. The Catholic Creative does not create simply as a hobby, but as a way of life. 

The Catholic Creative, then, is called to be a witness in the world - working in the world while not being of it. This means that for the Catholic Creative creation is tied to the way we make our money and the way we spend it, whether you approach this as a creative a parent, a creative manager, a creative business owner,  or a creative minister.

What Does this Mean for the Community?

1. A Wider Net

We've gone back and forth about whether this community was a community for artists, specifically for new media creators, and what role Ministers played in the group. Defining who this community is for as we've articulated in this blog means clearer communication, more focused conversations, and ultimately, more focus on our audience. We aren't just a professional organization of artists or designers or filmmakers. There's room for anyone with the DNA listed above and we truly believe that you can come from any background or any profession. Some lend themselves to what we are doing more than others, but that doesn't need to be a stumbling block as long as you aren't afraid of questioning a consensus and believe in leading with beauty. 

2. New Guidelines to Facilitate Creative Conversations

We are re-committing ourselves to being the safest place for asking questions in which every option is put on the table and no sacred cows are left unslain. Our guidelines for discourse will ultimately be laid out more clearly in order to facilitate this and will flow from our beliefs as listed above. We will be bringing on a wider assembly of podcast guests, and creating a richer experience at our live events as a wealth of more diverse perspectives join with even more fundamental core convictions.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts! 
Email Marcellino at with feedback, ideas, or comments.


This statement is the work of community members Emma Moran, Conor Hennelly, Chris Duffel, Anthony D'Ambrosio and Marcellino D'Ambrosio. 



Creation of the Week #40 Glass Canvas' Anthem Philly Rebrand

There have not been many moments in my life where my jaw has literally dropped in amazement after perusing a Catholic ministry's website.  Last week when Anthem Philly went live, I stared at my screen for at least 4:33 seconds in disbelief.

These were the thoughts that ran through my mind when I saw this:

"This is Catholic?! THERE'S NO WAY!"

"When is my Diocese going to let me do something like this?"

"Who did this?... of course. Glass Canvas. Of course it was."

"I can not believe Bishop Chaput let them do this!"

Then I looked at the blog titles and my jaw dropped even further. At this point, I'm pretty sure I could have swallowed my desktop whole.

"I don't have my {poop emoji} together?" EDGY, Anthem Philly, edgy. Did you think I would fall for that click bait? DID YOU?
Well. I did. And I read the whole thing, which I NEVER do.

As you can tell, I think this brand the good people at Anthem Philly have adopted is freaking fantastic and puts every other diocesan rebrand I've ever seen to shame. Let me tell you two reasons why:

1. Clarity

They've clearly defined what their mission is, and who it's to.  At least 75% of the effort in my ministry when I was a youth minister was wasted because of a lack of clarity. I don't think it's just conjecture to say that most other ministries suffer from the same thing. We have bake sales that take a week to prep and raise $80, we have 3 retreats a year, a mission trip, Steubenville Conferences and DCYC's, small group ministries, discipleship programs....etc. We try to reach out to parents, to young adult core members, to punks, gangsters, bro's, and homeschooled Catholics and every other category of kid. I learned the hard way: when we try to make our ministries relevant to everyone, instead we make them relevant to no one. 

Generally, I've found that the more responsibility an organization has, the less clarity it operates with. Diocesan ministries, then, are some of the worst offenders in this category. They often don't know if they are trying to minister to the ministers or directly to the youth themselves. They don't know if they should fade into the background or lead the charge, going back and forth between the two.

Anthem Philly, on the other hand, knows EXACTLY who they are trying to reach.
Check out their brand manifesto.

Anthem Philly is calling young people back into belonging in the Church. That means they need to brand themselves in a way that they will be seriously considered by those who do NOT feel they belong in the Church. In doing so, Anthem is waving the banner for the whole Diocese, giving vision and setting the example for all of them.

I also love the language they use on their about page:
"It’s our passion to see youth ministers killin’ it in their roles serving the youth in Philly. We provide training and support to make sure they get the encouragement and backup they need."

Youth & Young Adult ministers are not known for being buttoned up professorial types. It usually takes someone who is pretty rough around the edges to dive into ministry. This site isn't speaking some political diocesan jargon or high-minded systematic theology. They are speaking the down to earth, rough around the edges language that youth & young adult ministers ACTUALLY USE. The tone so many ministers get from their Diocesan office says: "We're here to tell you what to do." In using this language and brand, Anthem Philly is saying: "We love you, we get you, and we want to help."

2. Raw, authentic outreach.

All too often, in ministry, we hide our true selves behind teaching, behind scripture, behind everyone else's story but our own for fear of being vulnerable or "making the ministry about us." It's the absolute worst thing we could ever do. Used car salesmen do the same thing. They'll tell you everything there is to know about that car they're trying to sell you. They'll tell you about how awesome you'll feel driving this model and sing its praises to high heaven. Have they ever driven it themselves? No. Would they ever buy it themselves? Hell no.

Jesus came and testified to the one who had sent him. Then he sent his disciples to do the same thing. We were sent to bear witness to Him who we know personally, not sell young people a set of doctrines that will make their lives better. In an age that is increasingly cynical about religion, the only chance we have to the younger generations is to speak to them from personal experience, to witness to the God who saved us from our own desperate struggle. 

This is why Anthem's brand is so amazing. It's gritty, It's real, and It's going to speak deeply to the audience they've targeted. 

Bravo, Anthem Philly. Good work. We hope many more Dioceses will notice and follow suit. 

By Marcellino D'Ambrosio

CoFounder of Catholic Creatives
Creative Director of Sherwood Fellows

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 ads we've seen from countless NGOs 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.


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.


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


“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.

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.