Liz Carver

Director of Communication & First Impressions at Eastbrook Church
How would you describe where you are in life right now and how does that affect what you create?

I finished my Master of Theology last December with an emphasis in Art at Fuller Theological Seminary. While I have worked as a church artist to some degree for the last 7 years, it is only in the last 3 years that my work has grown theologically. I started seminary because I felt the call to do so, but also because I felt the immense responsibility to carry the visual weight of the word of God. I mean, art has been at the heart of two of the major church splits since the beginning and is so profoundly impactful and personal. I wanted to make sure I was being faithful, accurate, inspiring, and informative with my work.

Describe your typical schedule, what do you do in a typical day/week?

Every day is different, which is part of why I love my job. I am literally NEVER bored. I wear many hats throughout each week! I run our creative team meetings where I meet with ministry clients about communication and design-related matters. Then, I either do the design work myself or outsource it to one of our freelancers or an intern. Also, I post content to our social media accounts and website, send emails, have conceptual meetings, read scripture, sketch, take photos, produce video shoots, find stories to tell, put together print materials and more!

Describe how you inspire your team:

I think we are in a unique position at Eastbrook because our church is a multi-ethnic, international church located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin—which is one of the most segregated cities in the country. What this means creatively is that we are not only open to a diversity of creative expression but also that every person around the table represents a unique culture and expression of faith. I never have to seek inspiration, it always finds me—often I have more inspiration than I know what to do with! I believe this is because of the clash of cultures that our church represents. And then it’s our team’s job to try to listen well and pursue fresh expressions of creativity. 

Describe one thing you wish everyone knew about working in the creative ministry field and why it is important:

All creative work at some level is about service: serving the client, serving the idea, etc. But creative ministry takes it to a new level. This is humbling work because what we are serving is ultimately the story of God. Whether it’s a youth ministry t-shirt or a sermon series design or women’s ministry journal, or even a social media post, we are always telling God’s story and this is the most important story to tell. 

If you could build a creative team atmosphere, what would you include:

I am always looking to build trust, which requires that all team members are good listeners, curious learners, and are humble with their ideas. If a creative team doesn’t have a safe space to throw out crazy ideas, then they will never truly be creative.

What has been one of the most frustrating parts of creative arts/creative ministry for you or your team? How did you overcome it?

The most frustrating part of creative ministry is that we often have a big project with few resources! But this has forced me to be creative with the money and resources I do have, to network more and to work more efficiently!

What keeps you going in creative ministry?

What keeps me going is the knowledge that this is what I was created to do. When I was a child, I would tell my mom I wanted to make the world more beautiful. 

Describe your work/life balance:

I try to keep the boundaries as clear as possible. I do my work for Eastbrook in my office and I rarely, if ever, check my email when I’m not at work. I don’t confuse email accounts, and try not to text my coworkers when they’re not “on the clock.” I am lucky to work for a senior pastor who models these same boundaries, which has created a culture in which it’s encouraged for people to find rhythms of sabbath and to take care of our souls, as we are always asking to be poured out. While I was in seminary, I even kept “seminary hours” while I worked on my studies. Above all, I try to always choose my family and friends and fun over work. As a creative, I could work every day, all day, and never be satisfied. But I learned the wrong way that that isn’t a healthy way to live! So now I keep my priorities straight and my boundaries help me do that.

Describe your work environment:

Our church inhabits what was formerly a Catholic campus, which means that our office building was the former convent. All of our offices are former rooms for nuns – I just love it! We have stained glass everywhere throughout the campus, plus fun little architectural nooks and crannies that are very inspiring. My particular office has chalkboard walls and art everywhere. But what helps me thrive the most are the visits from coworkers and team members. I love the people I work with—they bring a lot of joy to my life! 

Describe your work environment:

Although I work on a large staff, I am currently the only full-time creative. While many projects start through conversation, most of the creative projects at Eastbrook don’t officially start until one of our ministry clients fills out a form online that contains all of the project details. We will then set-up an initial meeting to discuss the project. I usually have a team meeting with a particular ministry or meet one-on-one with a project leader. At those meetings, we set up a timeline and talk through some initial concepts and then I get to work! One thing that I’m trying to change right now is a professional goal to make sure that I am not a bottleneck for our organization. This means that I’m hoping to resource and empower more of our administrative staff to take the visual pieces that I create and have them take ownership of building some of the collateral pieces. 

Describe your vision for the creative church and creative ministry:

My vision is to see more creatives working in the church and seeing this as a worthy calling—because it is! 

Secondly, I would love more creatives to think about the idea of embodied worship: that we worship not just with our ears as we hear the word of God through sermons, but also with our physical selves and with all our senses. I try to do at least one “large-scale collaborative art piece” as a part of our worship services each year. I believe that it’s important for the church to make art together just as we also make music together. 

Finally, I wish to see more church creatives taking the responsibility of their creative work seriously. Just because a design is cool doesn’t mean it is theologically accurate, and I believe that we as church artists have a weighty responsibility to teach with our art just as much (if not more!) than our pastors teach with their words. While this realization led me to seminary, I am in no way advocating for all church creatives to get seminary training. But I do think that we should be spending more time in prayer and in Scripture as we prepare our work than we do sketching and seeking visual inspiration. The Holy Spirit has been inspiring people through the Word of God for thousands of years and today is no exception! 

Liz Carver

Director of Communication & First Impressions at Eastbrook Church

LIZ CARVER is a designer, artist, and creative living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is passionate about integrating faith and art, currently working at Eastbrook Church and studying theology and art at Fuller Theological Seminary. She is the co-owner of Third Coast Paper, maintains the website hipsterscripture.com, and does freelance work as well.

“I work to keep our congregation informed, and I work hard to make sure that they have a consistent experience from the moment they find us online to the moment they sit down in a service. Because of my background in art and design, most of the way I communicate is visually. It just comes most naturally!”