A few weeks ago we received an e-mail from Ryan Hartsock, the Creative Director at Four Corners Community Church in West Chester, Ohio. He sent us some samples of work that he hoped didn’t suck. Rather than simply taking a look at his work, we decided to ask him a few questions.
(Newspaper ad, right: “We have really tried to depart from just delivering with some cross and other “Christianese” symbols. This was one of our ads in a campaign of taking interesting pictures and adding some sort of tagline.”)
So you’re on staff as a Creative Director at your church—what do you actually do?
Ryan Hartsock: My job is a bit nebulous in nature. I deal with people’s experience with the church from newspaper ads and visuals in the theater (where we meet) to videos and other more mundane things.
What kind of experience/education do you have in the creative field?
Hartsock: My background was initially in English education and taught 8th graders for five years. I also went to film school and produce and write. Most of my experience has been in small doses here and there for various people in a freelance-type position. This is my first “full-time” job as a creative.
(Bulletin, at right: “I have really tried to bring a sense of excellence to our bulletins. When people get bored they look at the bulletin and it should be provoking and/or visually interesting. [This one is] from our series on what makes a hero, looking at obscure heroes of the Bible and what they teach us about life journeying with God.” See below for Hartsock’s favorite bulletin.)
What’s your vision for marketing Four Corners Church?
Hartsock: I want to be a place where God is experienced through all the senses and where people are constantly challenged to look beyond stigmas and preconceived notions.
What kind of marketing did you do when you launched your church in September 2004?
Hartsock: We had a major marketing campaign in order to make people aware of who and what we were before we launched. Our community, as most, was crowded with churched but still there were quite a few wondering what place they had in the “pew”–we wanted to be a place for those people. We launched a web site, a major newspaper ad campaign, served our community and gave away tons of stuff.
What marketing have you done since then? Has there been a difference between church launch marketing and your current work?
Hartsock: We continue to “market” our church thoroughly. We continue to try to spark interest with ads and service as well as expanding our web site (the site will actually get refined again soon). I don’t know if things have changed or just become more challenging. It always is hard to continue the creative pace. I struggle often to stay innovative and communicative with culture.
How effective has your marketing been? Have you received feedback, gauged the results, seen attendance go up?
Hartsock: I think our marketing has been mainly successful. We had some amazing results during our launch from our initial push. I think things have cooled a bit but we continue to grow. The feedback is not so much verbal, although there is some, but mainly I see feedback as new people coming to see what we are doing.
How important has marketing been to the growth of your church?
Hartsock: Hugely important. I think we had to carve out our place in the community. But we have had to match the marketing with community and an authentic sense of warmth and welcome.
What’s your favorite piece of marketing you’ve done for your church?
Hartsock: My favorite piece would have to be our initial bulletin (see below). I had grown up a pastor’s kid and was always amazed bulletins were so bland and underused as a way to communicate with people. I tried to have a bulletin that communicated a story and was visually simulating at the same time. The subway door as a metaphor for the doors we must walk through as people in order to grow. The back conveyed the core values of the church and the topics of the series on the station map.
What’s the biggest mistake churches make when it comes to marketing?
Hartsock: I think we try too often to compete with each other instead of communicating to people what role our individual churches fulfill in the community. We are not ever going to create one church for everyone so the least we can do is clearly communicate our individual core values and visions to the community.
Who are your marketing heros and why?
Hartsock: Hmmm…I think more of visual influences that inspire me to create:
- Mark Arnold (designer of What’s So Amazing About Grace? visual edition)
- Apple and Nike’s ad campaigns
- Saul Bass and his ever-reaching influence
- HOW magazine and the designers they showcase