After doing youth ministry for over 15 years, Adam Walker Cleaveland, MDiv/MA ’08, found a different and novel way to have an impact on the church. Using his skills as an entrepreneur and artist, he founded Illustrated Ministry in 2015, a company that produces creative, progressive, illustrated faith resources for the church and home. Though the company began by focusing on resources for children’s ministries and families of young children, they soon realized their customers used the products to enable intergenerational community within their churches.
“We’ve created a solid reputation for resources that are theologically rich but also easy for volunteers and parents to use with their kids, regardless of theological training or familiarity with biblical knowledge,” Walker Cleaveland says.
While a pastor at Winnetka Presbyterian Church in Winnetka, Illinois, Walker Cleaveland used a self-care grant from Chicago Presbytery to take online art classes and buy art supplies, and began to reclaim his childhood love of art. That led to finding ways to use art in his ministry, such as illustrating Bible stories for texts that were hard for children to understand. When Walker Cleaveland saw that his illustrations helped children connect with the stories, he decided to give it a try commercially and the business took off.
Today, Illustrated Ministry’s resources range from children’s worship bulletins and family devotionals for Advent and Lent, to coloring posters for churchwide events, backpack tag designs, greeting cards, and Nativity sticker sheets.
“Knowing that churches from more than 60 denominations worldwide use our resources on a weekly basis, and having people at church conferences come to our booth to thank us for the work we’re doing and making their job easier, that’s the most rewarding part,” Walker Cleaveland says.
Walker Cleaveland graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity and a Master of Arts in Youth Ministry. He credits the “solid theological education” he received at Princeton Seminary for helping him switch to his current, more visual role in ministry. “I found the experience of illustrating was much like preaching. The process of thinking creatively about ministry at Princeton Seminary has translated to creatively using my ordained pastor background in a fun, exciting way outside the traditional parish.”
Future plans include growing his business and branching into new areas of ministry. For current Princeton Seminary students, Walker Cleaveland emphasizes the importance of having a hobby outside of ministry. “Create time or space for finding a side gig,” he says. “Be open to and think creatively about that because it can potentially open lots of doors.”