[Sorry for the delay in posting the continuation of this series – I should have known better than to start a series with Easter weekend coming up!]
We’re continuing Spring cleaning at church today looking at your style. No, not how you’re dressed at church (we don’t have to cover that, do we?) but your church’s style.
Large churches often have communication departments with staff who oversee all the publications and promotions (confession time: I often find myself jealous of those churches). But for the rest of us in churches who can barely afford copy paper, let alone a communications staff, it’s no reason for your publications to look like they were assembled by a scrap-booking grandma. Not that there’s anything wrong with scrap-booking. Or Grandmothers. Unless that’s your core demographic, then go for it!
Have Some Style
First, know your audience. If your audience is post-college 20-somethings, your style is going to be much different than if it’s 40-something couples with families. Chances are good, though that your church is made up of several groups each with their own demographic who could all be considered the dominate group in your church or the core demographic. In that case, I would recommend against the urge to style every ministry differently or have different sets of styles for different groups. That only reinforces the mind-set that we’re not a unified church. Decide on the style your church is going to have and stick with it. You don’t have to be ultra-hip to attract or connect with teens/college kids any more than you have to look stodgy and old-fashioned to connect with seniors.
If you don’t have a church style guide:
If your church doesn’t have a style guide yet, put one together STAT! A style guide is an internal document that outlines the principles of communication for those who produce print and electronic materials on behalf of your church. It doesn’t need to be a giant document. The point is to standardize the look and feel of the publications your church produces (this is referred to in marketing terms as your “branding.”) People should be able to pick up any brochure, flier or poster and at a glance tell that it’s from your church. It doesn’t mean that all your publications should look identical, but there should be standards for your publications.
If you do have a church style guide:
Pull out your current style guide and give it a good read-through. Make sure that the information in it is up-to-date. Then, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are our standard fonts still working? As little as 5 years ago, churches everywhere had fallen in love with two fonts: Papyrus and Comic Sans. [pause for graphic designers to groan and/or wretch.] Timeless fonts like Helvetica, Arial, Times New Roman, etc. will likely always be appropriate for the body of your content. If you’re using trendy or hip fonts for your titles/headings, make sure they’re still trendy or hip. Hint: If you’re still using Papyrus or Comic Sans for anything, please stop. Make sure whatever font you use for your main content is readable at various sizes and standard across your materials. I attended a church Christmas concert where the entire program was done in a beautiful script/calligraphy font. It might have looked great on the computer screen or if it were blown up to poster size, but the scrolls of the letters made it almost unreadable in a standard 12pt font size. Remember, content is King and readability is key!
- Is our color palette still current? Most churches probably don’t have a defined color palette, and that’s probably OK. Not every church needs one. However, if you have a logo that’s more than just text or one that appears in a specific set of colors, you might find it good to find an appropriate color palette. Otherwise, people will come up with their own. If you haven’t come up with a color palette, give it a shot. Come up with a set of colors to use across your promotions and stick to it. Commit to using it for a year and see what happens. You might find that your materials, both print and electronic, are more unified and cohesive. Not sure how to put one together? Check out Kuler by Adobe.
- Are there new or emerging trends that we need to address? If your church is really into Twitter, you might want to specify what the rules are for posting on the church Twitter account or what style you’re going to use there. The same goes for Facebook.
Refresh Your Style
Take some time to consider refreshing your bulletin and other print materials. One question I’ve asked and been asked over the years is how often you should update your bulletin’s look and feel. The answer depends on your church. As a general rule, I wouldn’t change it more often than every six months but I wouldn’t keep it the same for over 18 months. In regards to the weekly bulletin, the “change” here is more about the content than the cover. If your church uses seasonal, professionally printed bulletin covers or brands the covers with the message series, changing them often is a good thing.
Think about the information you generally include in your bulletin and how it’s laid out. Is it time to breathe some new life into it by cleaning it up, rearranging it or redesigning it? Spring and summer are great times to experiment with new styles. Make sure you give it a few weeks and then get some feedback from some appropriate sources, such as key leaders and specific people from within the congregation (not just the ones who complain about everything).
Up next: Digital Cleaning.