In a Slump

It hit me a couple of weeks ago when I realized the worship planning team or someone—the pastor, probably, late Saturday night—used a banner I had designed at least fifteen years ago to signal this Sunday was Communion Sunday. Surely we must have done something different or new since then, right? Nope. I couldn’t think of anything beyond an on-screen graphic done up a couple of years ago for a Good Friday service.

I think I’m in a bit of a slump. Why can’t I come up with something new and different? Why are people okay with my fifteen-year-old designs? They’re not that good.

So, what’s a person to do? If you’re in the same place, maybe one of these ideas will help:

Give yourself a deadline. Better yet, commit to someone else that you’ll be thinking about doing something for next year’s visuals.

Gather together. I know it can sometimes be tough, but talking through ideas with a group can be enough to light a spark. Be choosy about whom to invite. You don’t want easy-answer or fix-it people. More helpful are those who are good with questions—and as good at listening—to help pull out ideas you already have.

Sketch more. Yes, sometimes a complete idea appears out of thin air, but most of the time, we need to work hard on a concept, considering it from many angles. Freehand sketching works best for me: filling page after page with different versions of the same idea until something feels right. A Moleskine notebook and 0.5 Artline pens are my preference, but the format is less important than just doing it.

Get out. It’s a problem for artists and designers everywhere, not just in churches: We look at the work of other people doing the same kind of thing we are. My wife is a good one to take me—or sometimes to push me—to hear a speaker or attend a concert or visit an art event, and I’m often pleasantly surprised when a particular design problem is solved by something I’ve heard or seen in a place I wouldn’t have naturally gone to for inspiration. Social media doesn’t often help, as much of it feeds you more of what you tell it you like. It might be time to . . .

Log off. If you’re visually inclined, social media—Pinterest in particular—are sometimes good places to go searching, but curiously I find myself copying what I find there rather than being encouraged to take my own risks with pieces of my own creation. I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps it’s because visuals shown are often in perfect, finished form before being posted. We rarely benefit from seeing the process—even though, as you probably know, beauty is often found as much in the process as in the final piece.

Take a class. You can’t make a degree out of it, but a friend of a friend invited me along to a calligraphy class. I not only learned an appreciation for this art form, but became inspired watching the works in process. Sometimes just seeing other people struggle can encourage you to keep working through your roadblocks.

Get out. Sometimes the best thing we can do is to stop being the person who is always called upon to provide the visuals for worship. Saying “no” or “sorry” might just give someone else a chance to exercise their creative gifts.

I think with this, I’ll work at getting out of my slump and think hard about a new way to communicate what the Lord’s Supper means to me.

Dean Heetderks is a member of Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Cutlerville, Michigan, and art director of Reformed Worship. Show and tell him about your experiences at

Reformed Worship 125 © September 2017, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.