Protecting Innovative Works Created through Ministry Activities

Date Posted: 2/8/2011

What do patents, copyrights and trademarks have to do with ministry? The short answer is that patents, copyrights and trademarks protect creativity. A major source of creativity is ministry activities in the local church and other religious organizations.


Saturday, February 19 at 9:30 a.m., Trinity UMC Houston will present a workshop whose focus is protecting works and ideas created through ministry activities. Creativity in ministry produces kingdom work. Five primary ministry areas that produce these works are: 1) praise and worship, 2) education, 3) events, 4) mass media and 5) consumer products and services.


The area of praise and worship obviously includes music; although dance, dramatic interpretation, readings, short skits and plays all involve levels of creativity as well. Copyright protection is the primary form of protection for artistic works which include praise and worship activities.


The area of education includes materials that ministries develop for proclaiming the gospel and for helping persons mature in their spiritual walk. Sunday school classes, weekly Bible studies, and subject matter classes on topics such as prayer, money, and relationships require a certain amount of creativity, skill and experience to produce materials that will educate, empower and equip people with information and resources to help them better live their lives. For educational products, copyrights are also the primary form of protection.


Events including conferences and retreats are similar in purpose to education because these activities also provide information and inspiration to individuals that enable them to grow and better serve in God’s Kingdom. In addition, the effective promotion of these events requires substantial creativity. Works created for promotional purposes can involve both copyright and trademark protections. With regards to the area of Mass Media, radio, television and the Internet provide substantial opportunities for ministry exposure and impact. Creativity can be a critical part of branding a ministry and distinguishing that ministry from other ministries. Trademarks are a form of branding.


Some ministry activities grow to the point that they will become viable businesses and/or provide products to consumers. For some churches, a table in the fellowship hall where Bibles were once sold after service has grown into a full-functioning book store selling books and a variety of other products. Commercial products can incorporate patent, copyright and trademark protections. Trademarks are tools that protect creativity. In his upcoming book, God’s Property – Using Patents, Copyrights and Trademarks to Protect Kingdom Works, minister and attorney Darcell Walker, who assists churches in this area, suggests several reasons why ministries should consider intellectual property protection.


One main reason to seek formal protection for creative works is to ensure one’s own ability to use the created work without interference from others. Another reason for pursuing protection is to control all uses of a creative work by others to ensure proper use of the work and prevent misuse or unauthorized use.


A third reason is that many creative works can generate revenue. Protection of a creative work helps a ministry maximize the revenue-generating potential of that work. With regards to music in particular, most churches and religious organizations understand the need to protect these types of works. However, many ministries do not practice this same degree of prudence with other types of creative works.


The cost for the workshop is $10.00. For additional information, email Minister Walker at or call 713-772-1255. For more information about the book “Godly Ideas – Perceiving and Pursuing God-Given Ideas” please visit