Making Great Worship Graphics on the Cheap

I was having a conversation earlier this week with a colleague about the worship graphics we use at St. Paul’s for our contemporary worship series. As modern worship services become more and more visual driven, these images do a great dual role of promotion as well as centering folks around the key idea and theme. Not having them is beginning to be a non option and not having great looking ones is a no-no. I think it is really important to provide great graphics for your services. People are used to great images and it is actually pretty easy.

And it can be dirt cheap to make them.

Here are a few examples from the last few months at my church.

Go and Tell


Ears to Hear


be healed


All of these images were made in a few minutes with minimal (CHEAP) tools. I want to lead you step by step through what it takes to make one of these.

1. Begin to get a good idea of the style of image you want to make.
I always keep my mind open to what is popular right now in text driven advertising. Look around at various businesses and other companies promoting something to see something that might catch your eye. Lately I have been really big into old school typography and hand drawn lettering. I have gotten inspiration from wilderness collective and some websites in the motorcycle community (iron & air is a good one).

Spend some time around Pinterest (yes, a manly use for it) and you can find and catalog even more stuff.

This first step helps you to start developing your eye for what you want the finished project to look like.

2. Write your copy
Copy writing is your first creative step. Come up with a great word or two to describe the series and perhaps a brief tagline. If you want to get more information in as well make sure it is quick enough to be digested easily. Many of us are already doing this step as we plan for our sermons and advertise them in newsletters, bulletins or online.

3. Begin finding an image that suits the feel.
I use a few texture blogs to get some good backgrounds for some of my images. I recommend It will get you started quickly.

But what I prefer to do even more is take images from around town or just some of my travels. No need to get a fancy camera, I use my iPhone for these 99% of the time. Just use one of the cool filter apps like Hipstamatic, Instagram, Mextures or anything else to get started.

Lately I have been using a new app called Blur on my iPhone. It takes an image and applies a pretty heavy blur across the whole image. It makes really cool colors that look great for a background. Here is a before and after.


dock edited

4. Put your text on the image.
I use my iPhone for this as well. Two apps do a great job, although there are several more. I recommend Over or Wordswag. I use Over because it has tons of in app purchases for hand drawn artwork but I have started using Wordswag a great deal because of it’s typography. Both apps use killer fonts from the Lost Type Foundry. Over’s instagram feed is also great for inspiration.

Hopefully this little tutorial will help you make quick and great looking graphics to theme your worship services. I have found any visual advertising to be really helpful in the local church and this method helps you get amazing images out there to the folks you are ministering with.

Recommended Books:
Nancy Duarte designed modern visual presentation. Invest a few dollars and pick up her books. They are well worth it. They helped me develop a new theology of preaching which involved GREAT visuals.
HBR Guide to Effective Presentations

The Most Important Word in Worship Design is…

For several years I spent half of my employable time concentrating on worship design. I led a team of people who designed three services a week for several hundred people. Music styles, preachers and other pieces in the service would change daily and sometimes at a moments notice. With multiple streams running, we had to stay on our toes.

It was during this time I began understanding how hard a task this was. As I branched out and would help other ministries and churches design and lead worship I learned one word was more important than anything else.

The most important word in worship design is context.

Who are you leading in worship? What is the culture? Are these people churched or at the edges of faith? What are the spiritual emphasis and mission of the congregation? Is this a parachute drop service or part of a larger theme?

These are all important questions to ask.

When we are so immersed in conversations about worship, whether we are musicians, dancers, preachers or techs, it is easy to forget their is purpose in our design. We can get fascinated with minute details. If you don’t believe me, check out how meticulous worship musicians can be over seemingly non-essential pieces of gear, like guitar cables, amp cases or how to mount your effects pedals!

We can’t forget each gathering will have a unique group of people who need to be led in worship in a unique way! What might work well in another situation will be completely foreign in others. It could be said that the sister word to context should be flexibility. Part of the growth in worship leadership is learning how our decisions affect those we lead in worship. Are our ideas working?!!!

The bottom line is we need to be aware that the decisions we make are in genuine interest of the context of the worship service and how it will serve to bring people to Jesus. Our own personal opinions sometimes will need to be out of the conversation. What we think might be the best idea might not be the best for our context. As worship leaders (and I use that phrase broadly) we need to always be investigating how (and are) we best interpreting what will draw our friends deeper into a life changing relationship with Jesus.

What tough changes have you yourself had to make in the last 6 months?

Rubber Ducks and Worship

Have you ever designed a worship service that failed miserably? I have. Let me tell you the story and what I could have done better.

I remember the first time I designed a super creative worship service. It was in 2005 and I was working in college ministry. Once a quarter we held an interactive, self-led communion service (sacrament police….relax, it was still consecrated). This community was used to expressive and interactive forms of worship. We put some of our favorites together, created a great environment and people really loved it. You can actually find a super old video of a service snapshot here.

The next quarter rolled around and I decided I needed to top it. I built a really interactive worship environment. I had been experimenting in film making and projection art and included some of these elements in the experience. It was super conceptual and I was really proud of it.

It went over like a fart in a space suit. A turd in a rosebush.

You get the idea.

I should have used a rubber duck as part of my planning.

Ok Chad, what does a rubber duck have to do with anything? Let me tell you…a rubber duck might be the most crucial step in any sort of worship planning, or any planning involving getting people to do something.

Programmers have used the phrase “rubber duck debugging” for years. They go through software code line by line explaining it to a rubber duck. If they can simplify it to that extent, it is ready. The rubber duck concept get things out of your head and into real life.

I really wish I would have had a rubber duck when I planned the failed service. I had a similar experience when I was first serving at St. Paul’s. I over-complicated an element in worship which led to a near catastrophic bottle neck. I allowed my own conceptual framework to get in the way of people easily understanding and having a meaningful worship experience. Keeping the simple focus of people experiencing a deeper moment with Jesus, regardless of how cool our idea might be, should be the primary focus in our worship design.

The first service went over well because of a few reasons. We repackaged worship elements everyone was familiar with. We had simple instructions posted. We didn’t rely on the ideas of a few, but focused on the response of many. Even if you weren’t regularly worshiping with us, you could have stepped in and followed along. The second service was the exact opposite. I learned my lesson quick. I actually ended up shutting down everything halfway through.

Keep it simple. Keep it about Jesus. Use the rubber duck if necessary.

Your Life Needs Margin


Your life needs margin. Trust me. Many of us are bad at stopping, relaxing or even taking time for to cultivate long term benefits in life. We have bought into the lie that life must be lived swiftly. Our break neck speed isn’t good enough. We all need to learn the power of stopping.

I like the language of margin because it helps us imagine the blank edges on the outside of information and formal work. The margins are where we make notes, realize where edits need to happen or simply exist as white space in a world of function.

I come (proudly) from a long line of workaholics. My wife and I went for almost 7 years without taking a real, legitimate vacation. We would go to see the family on holidays. That was all we thought we could afford. The older I got the more I realized I couldn’t NOT afford to take the time for space in life.

Margin Matters.

It is in this space we find renewal, rest, creativity and the ability to simply breathe. I like to think of it as an oil change. It simply needs to happen in a regular cycle and if you ignore it for long enough your engine will blow up. It’s the facts of life.

Meredith and I headed out Sunday morning for a vacation. It is still with family, but we like it that way. Both of us are looking forward to many different things, we have been talking about this vacation for weeks. We both deserve and need it.

These longer times away are the outer edge of the loop. You can only pull this off a few times a year, but it shouldn’t be the only time margin happens.

I intentionally place the time in my day, week and monthly rhythms to have times of margin. I defend them. When I schedule them, nothing interferes.

Think about where margin does or doesn’t exist in your life.

What is the one change you need to make to add margin?