design team

How To Train A Volunteer Design Team

Despite competition from the likes of Canva, Affinity Designer, Pixelmator and others, Adobe’s Creative Cloud still rules the roost when it comes to graphic design. In 2013, they took an interesting step, choosing to move to a subscription model rather than a one-time fee. There are pros and cons to both, but I have always believed it can be a real asset for the church in building an effective volunteer design team. Here’s why:

(Disclaimer: this article assumes that you don’t have an abundance of graphic designers at your disposal and need to train some)

Adobe’s subscription model can work in your favor

I’ve been at churches where crazy amounts of money have been spent on outsourcing graphic design. Why? Because there’s no one in-house to do it. Sure, there are people who are willing, but how do they learn? They don’t even have the software they need to get started in the first place.

This is where Adobe’s subscription model can work in your favor.

In the short term, outsourcing makes sense. But in the long term, what if you could provide the volunteer with the software and provide the training in exchange for, say, one hour a week of work or two projects a month? With Adobe’s current prices and the above estimates, you’re looking at around $30 USD a month for 12 volunteer hours or 6 projects. That’s considerably cheaper than outsourcing your design work. Right?

Build your own design team!

Imagine you were the only musician in your church and you lead worship because there is no one else. Do you pay extortionate amounts of money to bring in session musicians, or do you train a team with the people you have? I’m hoping you’d do the latter. Why shouldn’t it be the same with design? You can empower volunteers and build a thriving creative ministry at the same time!

In order for this to work, you need to set clear expectations and guidelines. The subscriptions should be run in-house so that you can deactivate the software remotely if you have to. There has to be a high value on training, and it’s important to pick people with the right attitudes and heart towards serving. Having said that, here are some tips to make this model a success:

The internet is your friend

There is a wealth of information on the world wide web as far as Adobe software goes. I would recommend starting with Photoshop as it’s a good all-rounder, but if you have the budget a full creative license would be good.

You’ll find Photoshop tutorials on this website (with more to come). Udemy has some great courses for around $15 USD (one-time fee). YouTube is a sprawling metropolis of tutorials and advice. Canva can provide great inspiration and is sometimes just what you need for a quick job. Designspiration and Creative Market are good places to look for inspiration too, and research what other churches are doing. With so much information at your fingertips, there has never been a better time to learn a new skill.

The 4 Steps to Creativity

In a previous article, I talked about a method of learning that I like to call the 4 Steps to Creativity. I encourage you to read it but put simply, it’s this: Inspiration, Imitation, Implementation, Imagination. When training a design team, I recommend giving clear guidance as far as look goes. In fact, for the first few months, I would primarily find design work that I want them to mimic entirely. You provide the inspiration, they focus on the imitation. Talk about principles. Why does that design work work? What can be transferred to other pieces?

Over time, your design volunteers will learn to take principles learned from imitation and then implement them into other design work. Eventually, they’ll be pretty good in their field and then you can let their imaginations run wild!

Have SMART goals and realistic expectations for your design team

Finally, remember that you are working with volunteers. Don’t expect the world from them right away. This will be a process that takes time – but if you find the right people, they can eventually train more people. Based on the arbitrary numbers above, you could feasibly have 10 designers working four hours a month…all for $100 a month!

Set SMART goals: that is, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timed. For example, one month, you might say “recreate these two Sunday slides”. Simple. It’s quite realistic to ask a volunteer to serve for an hour a week; perhaps one week could be training and the others could be design work. Of course, in the early stages, it will be primarily training and that’s ok. You’re investing in your teams, which is great!

There is little more rewarding than seeing passionate volunteers releasing their potential to serve the church. Have you considered a model like this? Do you have any questions? If so, get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.


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