Topic: Dealing with church leadership from a volunteer perspective?

A few months ago my wife and I joined a new church.  Since the membership is relatively small (about 200), the talent pool is a bit limited.  We ultimately decided to come to this church because of its close proximity to our home as well as the core values that we found stated on their website.  While looking over the website, I quickly discovered that it could use a facelift.  The content was good and up to date, but it just didn't have a professional feel to it.  After a few weeks of attending the church, I decided that I would offer my time to come up with a new fresh design for the site.  While I'm not a professional designer by trade, I do have a technical background and have done web design as a serious hobby for quite some time.  So for the past few weeks, I've been trying to offer my little bit of web skills in helping our church redevelop their website. Like many of you here, I've been doing this purely on a voluntary basis. The current site was done years ago in Frontpage by one of our members. While it does a nice job content-wise, I thought we might be able to update it a bit for a more modern look. For the new site, I used Joomla CMS and a free opensource template. Since my graphics skills are limited, I found some royalty free sites to use for the artwork. Generally I try to use art that will work relatively well with the basic design without having to do a lot of touchup within Photoshop/Fireworks. So now I'm at the point where the site is finished. After soliciting feedback from both people within the church (including associate pastor and worship leader) and outside, the feedback has been very favorable, except the head pastor wants to change one of the images on the site to another image.  It just so happens the image he wants to change is the header image that is seen on every page of the site.  There is no hiding it.  Now the image I was using worked very nicely because it was in Adobe Illustrator format so I was able to import it into Fireworks and change its properties to match the theme of our site. The pastor would like to replace this image with another image that is a clip art based jpeg image. Now I'm not sure what to do. The "designer" in me is saying that doing this will probably make the site look less professional if I'm even able to make it work, but the head pastor is the boss so what he says goes. When I asked him specifically what he didn't like about the image, he just said he didn't like it. I asked him if the color was what he didn't like, and he said it wasn't anything to do with the color. Then he said that he didn't know why he was being so particular about this element of the site but he just didn't like it. So now I'm not sure what to do. He sent me the clip art image of what he "thinks of what would look good on the new website".  The image doesn't match the color scheme of the site, and it's format will make it difficult to blend in with our background.   Also, in general, I don't really like using "clip art" for websites.   Anyway, I think that most of the people who have seen the new site agree that it is a nice upgrade to what we have now.  And I'm sure he means well with his input yet he is the only one that has made any mention of this image thus far.  How do you guys handle situations like this? Obviously everybody has their opinion as to how something should look/work, but as a designer, you have a feel for what works the best too. How do you handle input from other people when you know that the change they are wanting to make may not be in the best interest of the site?

I do believe that while these situations are quite common when dealing with people, pastors being no different, there is the potential that these types of things driving people away from wanting to serve. Maybe my mindset is different but I suppose if I was in this position as a leader of a church (or any nonprofit organization for that matter) and somebody was offering me something very much improved over what I currently have, maybe not perfect, but at no cost, I'd be very thoughtful of when such an offer is made and limit my input to something that was a "show-stopping issue", an example being something that is in direct conflict of the church's values or beliefs. I do not think that this is the case in this situation because he did not state he had an issue with it from that perspective, just that he didn't like the design. I know the talent pool at our church is very limited, with me really being the only person who has any experience with web or graphic design. If this wasn't the case, our current site would probably already have had a more professional feel to it already. I guess I expect to have to deal with these situations at my daily job where I'm getting paid to do the work, and that I just didn't expect it in this scenario in a church setting where I was essentially volunteering my time on a no-cost/unsolicited basis.  Overall, I generally feel that if I'm going to offer something at no cost, then perhaps I should have more latitude or final say over issues that are design related.  This is not to say that I wouldn't solicit any feedback and/or act on that input, but there are certain areas such as general design where I can speak more intelligently to the issue than somebody who may not have that background.  I apologize for the rant as I'm just a little frustrated because this is the second time I've been faced with such issues with the first time being at a completely different church.

Re: Dealing with church leadership from a volunteer perspective?

Welcome to Godbit and to the wonderful world of dealing with clients wink

I'm sure most of us on here had a similar situation(s) over the years and can sympathise with what you're facing at the moment.

Have you got a demo of the old site/new site/'clip art' image that we can have a look at?  We might be able to suggest ways of incorporating the image or how you can discuss things with the Senior Pastor.

I'm sure you'd get some great ideas form the guys here!

James Cooper --  God loving, banjo playing, geek!

Re: Dealing with church leadership from a volunteer perspective?

Josh -

Do you feel this is driving YOU away from serving in your capacity as web designer?  Having had that happen at our previous church, it can take a while to recover from.  We are currently in month 7 of a re-design process for our current church, the design and functionality will be reviewed by the leadership council starting tonight, and I shudder to think what wonderful nitpics while emerge from this.

In once sense, you'll have an easier time convincing a paying client to stay out of it than you will from pro bono clients, since the freebie folks aren't financially invested in the process and so don't know how to value your expertise.  The pastor's "input" in this case is probably his way to materially participate in the redesign.  Perhaps if you can discover a different way for him to participate, you can slide this clipart off to the side with a large negative margin, so to speak. wink

That's my 2 cents :^{>

Honored to Serve for Him - Tom ('Mas) Pickering <)><

Re: Dealing with church leadership from a volunteer perspective?

maspick wrote:

Do you feel this is driving YOU away from serving in your capacity as web designer?  Having had that happen at our previous church, it can take a while to recover from.  We are currently in month 7 of a re-design process for our current church, the design and functionality will be reviewed by the leadership council starting tonight, and I shudder to think what wonderful nitpics while emerge from this.

In once sense, you'll have an easier time convincing a paying client to stay out of it than you will from pro bono clients, since the freebie folks aren't financially invested in the process and so don't know how to value your expertise.  The pastor's "input" in this case is probably his way to materially participate in the redesign.  Perhaps if you can discover a different way for him to participate, you can slide this clipart off to the side with a large negative margin, so to speak. wink

I would be lying if I didn't say that I was a little frustrated with the situation.  I think where I go wrong is that I assume that the leadership is going to defer any design insight to me because while I don't do this as a profession, I have the closest background to anybody that does.  I have a day job where I get paid for managers to nitpick all day, and nitpick they do smile.  I've also done contract work with the same result.  But in those two instances, I come to expect "unsolicited input" whether it makes any sense or not, and I accept that because it's my job.  I suppose my mistake is that I was hoping to offer a professional solution "as-is" at no cost to the church without having to make any other major modifications to the site.  This was probably an unreasonable expectation on my part.  I do believe that our end goals are the same but it just so happens his background in anything web-design is much more limited than mine so he really doesn't understand why certain elements just seem to fit better than others.

Re: Dealing with church leadership from a volunteer perspective?

Josh -

The key word here was expectation, which is a first cousin to assumption.  The lesson we learned about pro bono work is let them know up front we'll make the decisions regarding the overall design - they like it, fine, it comes as is; they don't like it, fine too, we'll quietly move on.  Bottom line for us is producing something we'll want others to see.  If the "client" insists on changing things to the point where we wouldn't want others to see the finished product, we're done.  Especially when it's a church, which means this falls into the realm of ministry for us, producing something that's less than our best is not acceptable as our gift to God.  Maybe you can use that as your argument to the pastor.

That's my 2 cents :^{>

Honored to Serve for Him - Tom ('Mas) Pickering <)><

Re: Dealing with church leadership from a volunteer perspective?

maspick wrote:

The key word here was expectation, which is a first cousin to assumption.  The lesson we learned about pro bono work is let them know up front we'll make the decisions regarding the overall design - they like it, fine, it comes as is; they don't like it, fine too, we'll quietly move on.  Bottom line for us is producing something we'll want others to see.  If the "client" insists on changing things to the point where we wouldn't want others to see the finished product, we're done.  Especially when it's a church, which means this falls into the realm of ministry for us, producing something that's less than our best is not acceptable as our gift to God.  Maybe you can use that as your argument to the pastor.

You're right on that.  I thought that I made it clear but maybe not clear enough up front.  Although I know some follow the mindset that having the my way or no way approach is being unreasonable.  I don't personally feel that because it really isn't about me as much as how I want to portray the image of the church.  I don't have much attachment to the image at all other than it works well in the design.

Re: Dealing with church leadership from a volunteer perspective?

As a pastor and head web-wacko for a couple of missionary groups, here goes with my thoughts (sorry I am late to the discussion)
+ first off, every pastor I know is a control freak - self included. And they fall into two types a) those who know it and are ready to acknowledge and confess it and b) those who have such a need to be in control they won't let anyone know they are control freaks. Uh... that's supposed to be semi-humorous, but it's still true.
+ in my former life, I was a genuine, made a living from it, hacker - back in the days when hardware was expensive and programmers weren't. I even coded in Forth (among others)! Any way, every coder I ever met was/is a control freak too! And I think for pretty good reasons - after all, the work of coding is the work of putting down our thought processes for all the world to see. When people don't like what we do or think there is a different way to do it, it can be (and often is) seen as an assault on our thought processes.
+ Pastor meets coder equals the perfect storm<G>. In a perfect world, we learn from those who know more than we do and except for real good reasons, defer to the more knowledgeable. Ever meet a perfect pastor? Perfect coder?
+ so when working with the missionaries, I do what I think is best. Sooner or later they say, "I want it this other (truly ugly) way." And I say, "Well, we could do it that way, but it would be a bad idea for these reasons..." It's the same thing with weddings. A couple says, "We want to do thus and so in the ceremony." Frequently, I say something like, "Here's why that's a bad idea...". In the end, what I say to all couples - and to the missionaries for that matter - is, "I will do anything you want short of a goat sacrifice, but I always get to tell you what I think and why." So, sometimes I do things in weddings I would rather not, but it's not heretical.
+ In the end with the missionaries I had to do something similar. They wanted to use an image I thought was going to be flat out offensive to some people. We had quite a discussion about. I wound up saying, "Look, if you are absolutely set on using that image, you are going to have to find someone else to work on your site, because I won't put that image on a site I work on. Before we part ways though, please run your idea past some other people you trust, perhaps your board, and see what they think." In the end they came back to me and said, "You were right."
+ now, as a pastor, I always reserve the right to veto anything (!!!) that goes out in the name of the church. And that's 'cause the buck stops on my desk. And sometimes (many times?) I am wrong. But there are a bunch of people around willing to tell exactly how I blew it. Ah, well. Even so, I still have to make the final call.
+ and having said that, my long suffering wife delights to remind me, "Be careful how you treat the volunteers."

So, there you go...
God give you joy!

Last edited by frpaulas (2008-09-26 08:23:44)

Why prayer when you can fret and worry?

Re: Dealing with church leadership from a volunteer perspective?

Personally, I also did the website for our church, and it was also a volunteer project.
It was also the last completely volunteer project I hope to ever do.

To me, "free" means "gift."

And I've never seen anyone hand back a gift, saying

Ungrateful wrote:

"Thank you ever so much, but this is just the wrong color for me.
Would you mind getting me something in blue?"

Sheesh.

"I was blind, but now I see!"  John 9:25

Re: Dealing with church leadership from a volunteer perspective?

Being told that Maybe God doesn't want you to do 110% was my first real heads-up that using my God-given talents (though normally used in a secular environment) in ministry could uncover some incredible human stupidity.  When I was leading the Evangelism ministry of the church, we created a TV ad that demonstrated the consequences of poor choices, which transitioned into a plea to seek out our church as having better answers.  We soon got unchurched people making inquiries.  However, we had to pull the ad, previously approved by the elders, because a couple of the older members thought that it might reflect poorly on the church. hmm

Honored to Serve for Him - Tom ('Mas) Pickering <)><

Re: Dealing with church leadership from a volunteer perspective?

passmaster16,    I cannot help to think that maybe the pastor is control happy which i hope that is not the case!  It is extremely odd that he will not give you a definitive answer as to what he does not like about this image!  I have always believed that someone in a leadership position a congreagation should shoot straight and be concerned about your views or the views of others as much as their views;  so as not to discourage those who want to work and grow!  With that said;  I want to address some things from a scriptural prospective! To start with,   I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who has had these problems!   Unfortunately;  it's called life!   It is a shame that when you do something for *GOD* from your heart wanting to serve *HIM*;  that you have a problem serving *HIM* in the capacity that you beleive you can!  I like what Mas said about elders!  No offense intended;  but the pastor/preacher biblically as i read it;  is not the only decision maker scripturally in the church congregation although many congregations treat them as they are!  *GOD* does not put one man in charge of a congregation as noted here in Acts-14:23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. You see there is a position called Elder;  just as there is Deacon; Bishop and soforth. *GOD* has set up positions  so as to have a plurality of elders who actually should give some balance and be able to deal with problems that arise in an always scriptural manner!  The preacher/pastor could be one of those elders if he meets the qualifications as the bible outlines!  The body has many members and needs them all; according to what Paul said!  But one person in charge only leads to problems!  This is really another subject for another time and not  what you are inquiring about!  You should always do all things as not to cause any schisms in the body; unless the body(the church) is not being run scripturally!  And then you should bring it to their attention;  but only in love and admonision of the *LORD*!  I used to build cabinets before i became disabled;  but beleive me;  i did it as i would an art peice!  I could not leave them without doing even the smallest of all details; leaving nothing undone; if i knew a better way!  Even though i'm a newbe at web design too (a hobby at the moment);  i have also started viewing it as an art and could not leave something that i know is wrong!  We will never develope or get as good as some of these guys are;  if we do whatever pleases or suffices the situation and not live up to our *GOD* given potential!  I would suggest you have a heart to heart talk with your pastor and do as Mas suggested!  Have a Great and Blessed day my friend!
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________                                                                                     To live is *CHRIST*;  to die is gain!

Last edited by Dwayne Whitley (2009-02-06 14:50:36)

Re: Dealing with church leadership from a volunteer perspective?

passmaster16,  I'm  curious;  have you been able to resolve this problem?  And if so; what is the web address of the site?  I'd like to view it!  Wish you the best!
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                                                         The *WORD* to live by: To live is *CHRIST*;  to die is gain!