As an expression of branding, design is essential. In fact, design is one of the ways the church is reaching people in the twenty-first century.
You may have heard that we live in a digital age. I actually think that’s a bit of an oversimplification. At the core of it, we live in a visual age. Our world is full of graphics, images, and videos. Whether they’re on a screen or in print, images are all around us. So, for churches who are trying to connect with people, design has to be a priority.
Too often churches feel out of touch with current trends, and they’re unsure how to connect with their communities. But we all want to reach people for the cause of Christ.
We've been called to go to Jerusalem (where you are), and our Judea (what is next to you), and to the furthest parts of the earth (everywhere else) to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you’re in full-time or part-time ministry, that’s something I’m sure you’re passionate about. How your church utilizes its design strategy can have an impact on how your congregation takes part in fulfilling the Great Commission.
So how can we impact culture? How can we represent Christ through design as He deserves to be represented?
Know your community
My dad is a church planter in Pasadena, California, which is just outside of Los Angeles. If you know the area at all, you know that it is incredibly diverse, a melting pot of different cultures. So, as I think about church branding in a place like L.A., I have to be mindful about whom I’m trying to reach.
Effective design can help bridge the gap between different groups of people, but before you can reach your community, you have to know it.
There's something unique about your tribe. When you discover what it is, it will revolutionize the way you think about outreach in your community.
That uniqueness might be what people do on the weekends, the way that they conduct themselves in public, or some consistent personality trait you’ve noticed. Just pay attention, and you’ll find it.
At my dad’s church in Pasadena, there are several colleges within a five-to-ten-mile radius. There’s Pasadena Community College, Caltech, Fuller Theological Seminary, Azusa Pacific University, and Occidental College, to name a few. So, I began thinking about college students and what makes them unique.
What are they looking for? A lot of students are in college aspiring to change the world one day. They want to find ways to impact their communities.
So, a few years back, when we made our invitation cards for our summer outreach, I thought about those college students. I put “Make a Difference” on everything. We saturated the community. It was in our Facebook and Google ads, on flyers, and in other printed materials. We put it everywhere we possibly could to reach people.
That message resonated with the community, and they responded in large numbers, wanting to make a difference—all because we thought carefully about who was in our community.
Find your church brand
A lot of people think that an organization or product’s branding is simply their logo, church photography, and maybe their typography and color palette, but it’s so much more than that. It’s beyond the material things. It’s about the experience.
Think about Starbucks. When you enter a Starbucks, whether you’re in Albuquerque or Anchorage, you walk in the door and see this beautiful, well-designed interior. You immediately smell the coffee; it greets you as you walk in the door. It's a warm environment—warm colors, warm, earthy tones all the way through.
And what do we do? We relate all these things back to that little Starbucks logo we’re all familiar with. That’s because our minds categorize experiences by associating images with those experiences. Can you see, then, why branding your church’s ministry experience is so important?
Now, think about how so many churches neglect their church branding. Just as your brand is associated with your church, it is by extension associated with Jesus. How are you representing Him through visuals in your community?
When thinking about your particular brand, consider the pain points in your community. Are there lots of young parents in your area? How can your brand relieve their pain points? Maybe it could be family-focused. Perhaps, it involves a family-themed Bible study, or maybe it's a sermon series on the family, or Wednesday night parenting classes.
Whatever the pain point is that you’re trying to solve, design can help you communicate these topics and ideas.
Leverage this branding process
As you’ve probably realized by now, design is more than just art. It involves creativity, of course, but good design is about the entire experience. Here are six tools you’ll need when creating a new design aesthetic for your church:
- Research: Think of research like a GPS. If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you get there?
- Strategy: Once you know your destination, you need to have a plan to get there. What steps do we need to take to get from point A to point B?
- Science: Design has an effect on how we think and feel. So in your research, dive into learning a bit about color theory. It’s fascinating, and it will help you avoid big mistakes that influence your community psychologically.
- Philosophy: This involves knowing what it is you want to communicate through your design choices.
- Marketing: Like it or hate it, design and marketing are difficult to separate. Be sure you’ve thought through the marketing aspects of your designs.
- Aesthetic: I’ve saved this one for last, because all of the above go into it. At the end of the day, it’s what makes your church’s design choices uniquely yours.
I hope you can see now why branding is so important. It can be easy to get caught up in the race to stay on trend or get something out the door, but that’s not the point. Design matters, because Jesus matters—and we want to reach as many people as possible with the good news of His gift of salvation.
Over to you
Thinking about your own church experience, what are your current church branding communicating to the community you’re trying to reach? If you think it’s time for a change, now is the time to get things right!