An Artist’s Journey in the Church with Mike Brennan

Welcome to back to the unSeminary podcast! Today we have on the show Mike Brennan, who works as a freelance graphic designer.

Mike knew he wanted to be an artist at an early age. He went to school for graphic design and after a few years working in the corporate marketplace, he felt God’s calling to work in full-time ministry using his design skills and creative gifts.

Mike is with us today to talk about managing expectations and tensions of creatives in ministry, and how cultivating your personal creativity will help fuel your creative work at church.

  • Recharge yourself. // Part of the learning curve Mike found in working for a church as a graphic designer is that it’s very different from the marketplace. Learning to work within the ministry parameters and creating work for those Sunday deadlines on a weekly basis is a big adjustment. Additionally, being more personally invested in ministry work means you must find time to recharge yourself as an artist.
  • Set up the boundaries. // When moving into ministry from the corporate marketplace, it’s really easy for creative people to be naïve about what it will be like to work for their church. It’s important to think about and discuss: what are the expectations that you bring to the table, expectations the organization has, and how to set up boundaries to protect both parties? If we don’t set up boundaries, we can have skewed expectations and get easily hurt or jaded.
  • Have the hard conversation. // Approach the difficult conversation of expectations in love and with humility. It’s important to know this isn’t a ‘me versus them situation’ but that people are rooting for each other. You can be more open and honest when that trust is established. See what’s best for the individuals and the organization – both want to glorify Jesus.
  • Recognize tensions. // Recognize the tensions that sometimes arise between the organization and the creative. How can a creative person be unleashed in order to do the things they do best in a way that serves the organization? They should feel like they have a voice and a say in their part of the process and be given the space to find their way.
  • Daily personal creativity. // During a struggle with depression while working as a graphic designer in ministry, Mike followed God’s leading back toward personal creativity. For Mike, personal creativity looked like cultivating a daily habit of sketching, even if just for 10 or 15 minutes. Now he’s been doing a drawing or painting every day for the last seven years, and it’s served to fuel his creativity and grow his skills. Styles or techniques he would experiment with in his personal art would sometimes find their way into work for the church as Mike would have more ideas to bring to the table. Having the freedom to experiment on your own frees you to make mistakes in your art and learn what works.
  • Your Artist Journey. // Mike has launched an online course called Your Artist Journey to help other artists who may be frustrated in their own journey or feeling stuck. For those who are creative in their job, but feel like a part of their creativity isn’t being tapped into, the course offers principles and helps devise a system that can put practical steps in place for daily personal creating.

You can read the article Mike wrote “Confession of a Church Creative” at You can learn about the online course at  You can also find Mike on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.