In one of the greatest stories in our family lore is the tale of “Bob’s Beans.”
My wife’s mom, Gloria, has for years and years made a delicious baked bean, hamburger, and bacon concoction that redefines savory goodness. It’s like Bush’s Baked Beans on steroids. As far as I can tell, the family has been savoring said bean concoction for decades.
One year, as I understand the story, my Father-in-Law had made a batch of fresh salsa from tomatoes and peppers in his garden. The details are a bit fuzzy, but it seems that some of said salsa was added to said bean concoction, and… well, it was a flavor combination made in heaven. Apparently, these beans have ever since been lauded under the new moniker, “Bob’s Beans,” much to the chagrin of his wife. In fact, I have no idea if there is any salsa left in the modern day rendering of this baked bean recipe, but we still call them “Bob’s Beans.”
I tell you this story because it has happened a million times. A hundred million. One idea merges with another idea and another and what comes out the other end is something new, different, and sometimes better. For this reason if you flip through our recipe book in the Skogerboe kitchen, you will find index cards with labels that read “Joshua’s Buttermilk Pancakes,” “Joshua’s Chocolate Chip Cookies,” and my favorite, “Joshua’s Hot Fudge.” Truth be told, I may or may not have basically ripped off my mother and made minor alterations to her best recipes and then given myself credit. I’ll never tell.
GREAT ideas are often the result of bootlegging good ideas. To quote the great Pablo Picasso once again, “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.”
Post-It Notes were developed when one 3M employee created a low-tack adhesive that wasn’t able to capture anyone’s attention in the company. Then one of his co-workers thought, “Hmmm… I bet I could make myself a nice non-stick bookmark for my hymnal.” I know. Unbelievable that they didn’t go with “Plan A” and corner the cut-throat Hymnal bookmark market. Just think where 3M might be today.
But ideas evolve. Thanks to 3m’s “permitted bootlegging” policy, allowing their employees to spend 10% of their time on pet projects, the world is far more organized. Sticky note by sticky note at a time. Now several other major corporations (such as Google) have similar policies.
Ideas are canvas. They are seeds. Don’t be quick to throw them away if your “Plan A” fails. Write them down. Let them stew. Add some salsa.
I could give a million examples. A hundred million. But I am inspired this week by one song that I can’t get out of my head. See three very different and equally compelling renditions below. The first video is by the original artist. The next two are variations on the theme. These guys make me want to write. And maybe steal someone’s good ideas, and make them better, and label them with my name on a Post-It Note. Or maybe I’ll work on creating something altogether NEW that you will make brilliant one day. It’s all creativity, all part of the process. When we create, we reflect our Creator. Long live good ideas. And long live bootlegging those good ideas to make even better ones. Long live Bob’s Beans.
As a Worship Pastor, when I hear that, I feel two things simultaneously… a sudden urge to give someone a hug, and a sudden urge to throw up in my mouth a little bit.
I know… people are out to encourage the worship guy. And they probably did have a genuinely inspiring time connecting with God. I get it.As the encouragee, that’s the part of me that wants to embrace my encourager with an “I love you, man” back slap.
Truth is, I get a little bit uncomfortable rating worship on a scale of “horrible” to “awesome sauce.” Truth be told, if we are “rating” our worship experience, we don’t really understand worship, right? Now, I’m not an idiot. (Some of you may want to chime in here, but we’re moving on…) I do understand that this may be a matter of semantics to some degree.
But words matter.
Precise language matters. Sometimes you can accidentally communicate all kinds of things you never meant to say, simply with careless word choices. So, as a Worship Pastor, I’m careful about this stuff.
Worship doesn’t = music. You probably came to that conclusion years ago. But what is it again exactly? Worship is our response to God for who He is, for what He has said, for what He has done, and for what He is going to do. We love God because He loved us. Worship at it’s core is a response of love and gratitude expressed to God because of the gospel. Music works great to help that happen, when a whole group of people are in the same space for the purpose of worshipping God. That’s why churches use it. Music helps focus many individual hearts on some aspect of God, so that we might respond with love… or examine our hearts and humbly confess our need for God… our brokenness. Our sin. But the response – whatever God prompts – that response is the worship.
If we keep that in mind, how strange to rate our worship experience on a quality scale, right? But we do.
At Living Hope Church, I love it when people talk to me about the music AND their worship experience – as two separate thoughts. It shows me that they get it… The quality of their WORSHIP response to God has much more to do with their view of GOD then it does with the quality of the MUSIC we lead.
This stuff has been rattling around in my brain these last few days since a friend of mine posted a thought on Facebook about excellence in church production…
I don’t mean “effective” as in just “good enough for church.” I’ll even take “inspiring.” Good times. But my ministry PURPOSE must help clarify my methods. As a worship leader and service planner, my purpose is to help clearly communicate the hard truth that we are all depraved sinners, dead in our sin, needing rescue and resuscitation… and the AMAZING true love story that Jesus Christ died on a cross and rose from the dead for us, to restore us to life and meaning and joy again. Our purpose is to provide space and opportunity for people to respond to that truth week after week. That’s it. The heart of it.
Therefore, if our music and lighting and production becomes SO “excellent” that it begins to draw attention to itself… then it is no longer “excellent.” Because it is no longer effective. Because then the production is drawing attention AWAY from the Lord. In fact, that’s not just a little bit of a focus problem… that is the polar opposite of the ministry purpose.
So, can BAD musicianship / drama / art / lighting / production hinder worship? Absolutely. And can AMAZING musicianship / art / drama / lighting / production hinder worship. Absolutely. Non-distracting + inspiring + authentic + humble = thumbs up. Amazing showmanship with extra flash sauce = thumbs down.
So if you’re in the habit of giving your worship leader at church a high five after a particularly rippin’ guitar solo and telling him “The worship was AWESOME today!” you might want to take a step back… Ask yourself if you gave yourself to Jesus again today, fully surrendered, as a walking THANK YOU to God for who He is and what He’s done in your life. If so, worship WAS awesome today. Even if the Praise Team played with the sensitivity and musical agility of a pregnant yak. Doesn’t matter. What matters is what was going on in your heart, and how you responded to God’s love today.
If you’re a worship leader who is in the habit of rating your church’s worship experience based on the quality of the music you produce, you are giving yourself too much credit. Worship isn’t “better” if you sing like Tomlin, play like Brewster, and your light system looks like a Pink Floyd retrospective. Remember that the music, the art, the production is the TOOL.
Living Hope Church is about seven years old now, give or take, depending on how you do the math. Over the last sevenish years there has been a metamorphosis in our “look and feel” that has been easily tracked in our logo development. This shift in design has been in a constant effort to better communicate who we are and what we are all about.
After this earlier post on excellence in artistic output and design in our churches, I feel like this post needs the following disclaimer: There are MUCH BETTER designers out there than the Living Hope team. MUCH BETTER designers than me, for sure. MUCH BETTER logo designs, etc. Please don’t misread my passion for excellence in the church as a belief that our design work at Living Hope has set new standards of awesomeness. Not at all. I thought a look at our design process might be both interesting and informative, so I’m sharing it for whatever it’s worth. Cool?
Second Disclaimer: The earlier versions of our logo were developed by a dear friend and working graphic designer who does GREAT work. Her design work served us well for years, and we appreciate it much (you know who you are, friend!) This latest iteration of our logo design wad the first one she was NOT an integral part of, so we want to say a huge THANKS for helping shape and steer our look and feel at Living Hope during our critical early years.
Having properly set the stage, we begin…
our very first logo ever
When Living Hope took root, we began as a group of families with a desire to be a part of a new work of God in the NW metro area – a fast growing region, with over 200 families moving into the surrounding area every month. We had everything in common. Passion. Vision. Desperation. No money.
We shared a desire to model ourselves after the very first church recorded in the new testament, in Acts chapter 2. Our dream was to build a biblically functioning community of believers who helped people in our surrounding culture who were far from God grow into mature believers. At first, we stated it this way: “Living Hope. A New Testament Church for Our Generation.” Our first logo looked like this:
We soon learned that there was another church movement known as the “New Testament Church,” so we made our first adjustment. Our goal was the same, but we decided to state it this way: “Living Hope. An ACTS 2 Church for Our Generation.” Our next logo looked like this:
We used this logo for awhile (and it’s actually still on the side of the trailer we use weekly to haul our equipment and gear to the Middle School where we gather), but we realized it had some limitations. First of all, we realized that this logo was not easily scalable. The tag line text was too small in relation to the rest of the logo, AND the tag line text was an integral part of the logo. Take the tag text out, and the logo looks lopsided. It worked fine on top of church letterhead, but it couldn’t be shrunk down easily. And, we found out, it couldn’t be blown up very easily either…
This was a problem when we tried to develop it for use on a highway billboard near our church. In order for the tagline text to be readable by motorists zooming by, our logo would need to fill almost the entire billboard. This was not workable.
Also a problem, our tag line “Living Hope. An ACTS 2 Church for Our Generation” communicated something specific to other Christians who knew what we were referencing in Acts 2 – but it was meaningless to people who had no church background. We realized over time that it actually caused more confusion and raised more questions than it helped communicate our heart as a church. So it was time to change our tag line, as well.
Because of these hurdles we set out to develop a MUCH simpler look… an iconic logo that didn’t HAVE to be married to our church name or our tagline:
The oval logo retained our “new life heartbeat” line from the early days, and it was much more flexible than our early logos. Although, there was still some problems with scalability. The hearbeat line would often almost disappear as the logo was used in smaller applications. You can see this problem, even in large applications. The billboard we first used this logo on looked like this:
Much prayer and discussion went into changing our tagline – to better communicate what our church was all about. We wanted to reflect our Biblical mandate from Jesus to make disciples, and we wanted to communicate something about the methodology of our church – not only the WHAT of Living Hope, but the HOW, as well. We thought the best way to communicate the GOAL of our church (our measuring stick for effective ministry) in as few words as possible was to ask the question, “Is God changing lives?” In other words, is the Word of God reaching into hearts here and transforming people, or are our methods getting in the way of God’s work? This became our measuring stick in each area of ministry. Further, we realized that God had pulled together at Living Hope a very RELATIONAL group of people. We believed strongly that personal relationships were often the key environment God used to do His work in people. And of course, the most important and life-changing relationship of all is the one we have with Jesus Christ. So our new tag line was born. “Living Hope. Building Relationships that Change Lives.”
This latest iteration of our logo and new tag line were unveiled at our first ALL-LEADERSHIP RETREAT in January of 2008. For two days, 60 of our core leaders prayed together, played together, had meals together, and sought God for a clear path forward in ministry. We wanted to get beyond just “doing church” the best we knew how, and develop a clear plan to help structure environments where God could help actual growth – “life-change” – happen… to determine whether Living Hope was actually helping people grow into mature disciples of Jesus.
We started the process by examining scripture – trying to identify what a mature disciple of Jesus looks like in the Bible. After much prayer, study, and discussion, we began to write our bullet points out on a huge white board. A pattern began to develop. We realized that we could categorize our bullet points into four key growth areas. In other words, we believed that EVERY mature disciple of Jesus Christ ought to be CONTINUALLY GROWING in ALL FOUR of these areas:
(1) A growing love for people not connected to God. (A growing interest in building relationships with lost people and introducing them to Jesus.)
(2) A growing love for other believers. (Sharing resources, pray concerns, and meals together – “doing life together” with a groups of friends you can be honest with and grow in faith and love with.)
(3) A growing love for serving together.(Serving the needy in our community and our world, as Jesus taught us to, and doing that together with other believers, the way the Bible models over and over for us.)
(4) A growing love for God Himself. (The greatest commandment, and our greatest joy, is to love God in ever-increasing measure, as a response to who He is, what He has said, what He has done, and what He has promised to do.)
For each of these growth areas, we have developed one primary environment. Each environment is branded with a specific color and logo. While God deepens and grows the hearts of disciples at Living Hope in multiple areas in each environment, we believe it is important to invest time, energy, and resources wisely – to make sure we promote growth in each of these key biblical areas by assigning each one a primary environment – so that Living Hope can help to develop not just baby Christians, but deeply rooted, mature disciples. And because God does all the work, and He gets all the credit.
our latest logo design, just launched this fall, 2009
In the end, our newest logo, unveiled this fall, reflects our new tag line, and it also reflects our four key growth areas (and their corresponding environments, by color). It also reflects our understanding that JESUS CHRIST is in the CENTER of all that we do. Notice the four color blocks and the cross formed by the empty space between them in our new logo:
Watching the changes happen in our logo design reflects significant points in our church history. I remember the “Holy Spirit” moments, when an idea broke through, and God led with clarity. I remember each change along the way, and what drove them. And I learned a lot about design as we moved ahead. For my next post in the “Designing Ministry” series, I’ll lay out some key take-aways from our logo development process, and some guide points in developing your next ministry logo.
>> If you haven’t been with us from the beginning, check out “Designing Ministry” part ONE HERE, and part TWO HERE.
“RE-DEEM”: to restore the honor, worth, or reputation of…
As an artist, and as a Levite, I have clarified my mission at the intersection of church life and art. Our God is a Redeemer, and He uses His people – sometimes His artists – to bring about the work of redemption.
My mission: to REDEEM the phrase “good enough for church.”
I used to cringe every time I heard that phrase… “Well, I know she’s not that great a singer. But she loves Jesus, and she wants to sing. I mean, it’s good enough for church.” Ouch. “We’re not a publishing company. We have limited resources. Our newsletter can’t look like a magazine, or what does that say about our priorities? This is good enough for church.” Whack! “Bobby’s just learning the guitar and he wants to be on the Worship Team. He’ll make some mistakes, but he’ll learn as he goes. I’m sure he’s good enough for church…” *sigh*
Seems like the only time I heard that phrase, for many years, it was being used as an excuse for mediocrity. That somehow, because the local church is a family, full of grace with each other, half-baked (or downright bad) art is not only acceptable, in some cases it is seen as a more humble and, therefore, better offering than truly excellent art. The excellent offering of an artist who has invested heart and soul into creating something deeply beautiful has been written off as prideful indulgence. After all, art that is “too good” glorifies the artist. It smacks of pride. It is distracting. It is idolatrous. All we really need art to be is… right. “Good enough for church.”
This is a lie, and it has been bought and propagated by many well-meaning Christ followers. Art, after all, falls into the “whatever you do” category…
“Whatever you do, work at it WITH ALL YOUR HEART, as working for the Lord and not for men.” (Colossians 3:23)
God made artists. Kingdom artists reflect HIS creativity, and they point people God-ward. Let them make great art for Him. Let artists serve with excellence. And let them set the bar HIGH. I honestly believe that CHURCHES ought to be the pace-setters in the art world. If ever there was a place for deep expression, purpose-driven creation, and joyful play, the CHURCH ought to be a support community for art like no other. And the church should expect the BEST possible work from their artists.
The Old Testament affirms this value. Read Moses’ account of the building of the tabernacle in Exodus 26-40 with a highlighter in hand. Notice how many times the phrases “skilled craftsmen” or “skillfully made” or “finely woven” are used. Similar adulatory commendations are used throughout the book to command creation of the accoutrements of worship for the tabernacle – always with the highest regard for artistic excellence. It’s in there. God wrote it.
And who does God pick to lead the artistic design ministry for the tabernacle? See Chapter 35, starting in verse 30…
“See the Lord has chosen Bezalel… and He has filled Him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability, and knowledge in all kinds of crafts… in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship. And He has given both him and Oholiab… the ability to teach others. He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers… all of them master craftsmen and designers.”
And, by the way, this God-infused passion for excellence and beauty and “master-craftsmanship” doesn’t just apply to visual arts. Look at the account of the Levite musicians who were set apart by God for the “church music” of the day. Who was chosen to be the head of the tabernacle choir?
“Kenaniah the head Levite was in charge of the singing; that was His responsibility because he was skillful at it.” (I Chronicles 15:22)
I love that God wrote that little sidebar after the semicolon. Do you suppose He foresaw some of our churches filling the choir director slot with the pastor’s wife because, well, that’s how we’ve always done it… and she can play the piano a little bit… and it’ll be good enough for church.
God is worthy of excellent art. Nothing less. Can you see the obvious connection with design?
The DESIGN elements used in your church most often provide the “first impression” of the heart of your church to the surrounding community. They are a tool that can either further your goal or hinder your ministry. So we take design seriously at Living Hope Church.
And the REASON that we care how things look and feel is NOT that we prioritize style over content. On the contrary. The CONTENT of our vision and values DRIVES style, determines visual direction, and (we hope) reflects our belief that excellence honors God and inspires people. We have the greatest and most important message to share in all of recorded history. Shouldn’t that inspire our deepest creative efforts? The best possible art? Inspiring, excellent, high-quality design work?
Recalibrating your excellence meter is a long, slow process. It takes grace, patience, humility – but it also takes conviction and intentional direction setting. The next time you produce a bulletin or newspaper ad or banner for your ministry, think twice before tagging on that circa 1978 clip art cross or cartoon easter lily with a bow on it. And no doves, please. Take a look around at the stores, the advertising, the well-crafted marketing campaigns that vie for the attention of every soul that lives within driving distance of your church.
Then ask yourself, “what would it take to get MY attention – to make me look twice.” Work hard. Find a team of artists who love God and are skilled in their field. Design with the understanding that eternal souls are on the line – as working for the Lord and not for men. And then with fear and trembling, ask yourself again… “Is THIS good enough for church?”
How can your church take one step forward in making your design work reflect God-honoring, attention grabbing excellence?
>> Note: read “designing ministry, part one” HERE.
This is the first of several posts that will dissect issues of church design with a real-time example unfolding in front of us. I want to walk with you through our redesigned “look and feel” at Living Hope Church, first unveiled as of the launch of our new ministry year, beginning September 13, and continuing now in several areas of our ministry. Our prayer is that this “whole new season at Living Hope” is much more than a catch phrase and a new coat of paint. We are hoping and asking for a supernatural REVIVAL of passion for our mission >> “building relationships that change lives.”
The rebrand, from a design point of view, reflects a renewed commitment to fulfill that mission in our community. And design is the language of our culture. Design – both good and bad – speaks loudly to your neighborhood about who you are, who you are seeking to reach, and how much you care. Design matters. My aim in this DESIGNING MINISTRYseries will be two-fold:
(1) To communicate my limited understanding of why good design matters in ministry along with some fundamental design principles that will help your church design communicate in the visual language of our surrounding culture, and…
(2) To walk you through some of the design process we are going through as we try to better visually communicate our heart and vision as a church. Logos, fonts, colors, signage, web work. It’s all being overhauled. And I want you to get in on it with us.
Not a designer? Totally cool with me. In fact, I love “pulling back the curtain” a bit for people who don’t live in the design realm. Maybe you’ll learn a few things along the way, and you may find a new interest awakening in you. Are you a conservative evangelical by nature? Me too! But if words like “branding” and “marketing” make you uneasy when paired with “ministry” and “the gospel,” then maybe over the course of this series, you’ll see that it’s possible (and important!) to use the best design strategy that our culture has to offer when it comes to sharing the most important message of all time.
More theory/philosophy/strategy later. For now, let’s just get to the pretty pictures…
NEW LIVING HOPE BROCHURE
Target Market: People coming into contact with Living Hope for the first time.
Purpose: To provide a basic overview of our church’s strategy and vision.
front and back cover, folded vertically
first page, pastor's greeting and church vision overview
page two, weekend gatherings and taking the next step
page three, LifeGroups
page four, FUEL
page five, ONE gatherings and a recap of the living hope church vision
Here are TEN KEY TAKE-AWAYS from this design project:
(1) It takes time to produce quality design work. We began talking about the content of this brochure last winter. Most of July and August was spent refining the content, looking at drafts, continually gathering/changing/editing photos, revising, and reworking. If you want your church design work to look professional, don’t think you can crank it out in an afternoon. Leave margin. And invest the effort to get it right.
(2) Clarify the PURPOSE and the TARGET of your design work before you do ANYTHING else. We knew this would be a “first impression” piece for our church. Eternal souls are on the line, so we wanted it to be eye-catching and engaging. This is a Living Hope 101 piece, focussing on BASIC information, because our target is people who do not yet call Living Hope their own. That determined which information made the cut, and it challenged us to develop a visual “hook’ (the four colored squares) that consistently represent our four core goals as a church. If this was an information piece for our insiders, it would probably look and read very differently.
(3) Relationships = people = pictures. From the beginning, Senior Pastor Bob Halvorson said to our design team, “if our church is all about relationships, then our brochure MUST be full of pictures of people. More than logos and text, the pictures of our people in relationships with God and with each other… that’s the story and the mission of Living Hope.” So our primary criteria for choosing images was “does this picture evoke an emotional response because of the RELATIONAL connection of the subjects?” If yes, we considered it. If no, the image was shelved. And we looked at over a thousand pictures to find the ones we used. That’s part of the reason that…
(4) It takes time to produce quality design work. (see #1 above…)
(5) Less is more. I don’t think we hit a home run with this principle. I like open space. We usually wrote the text and then tried to say the same thing with half as many words. Carefully worded text carries more impact than a flood of information. In the end, we cut a lot, but I think we could have been even more sparing with our text and had an even more effective piece.
(6) Font matters. Probably the most difficult and nuanced part of good design is choosing your fonts wisely. Do you want to communicate strength? Playfulness? Solidity? Does it need to be easy to read, or is it more important that it reflects the artistic feel of the piece? I have two basic rules of thumb for fonts when designing: I try to limit myself to TWO fonts in any given design piece whenever possible, and I try to keep my use and size of those fonts consistent throughout the piece. That’s why our “highlight text” is all the same size, our regular copy text is all another size, and I used one font for everything except our main logo and the individual environments on each page. These rules of thumb will do MUCH to clean up your design’s look, because…
(7) Our eyes like symmetry. And this is not limited to our choice of font and use of text. If you look through our brochure, you’ll see that we tried to line up edges of pictures and text carefully. Draw a straight line from the bottom of one picture and it probably lines up with the top edge of another, or with a block of text. When text blocks ran on both pages of a given spread, we worked hard to keep the text on the same plane whenever we could. This is something you may not “see” initially, but as a viewer you can really “feel” it. Look at advertisements in a magazine. Notice the lines. Symmetry is a high value.
(8) It takes time to produce quality design work. (see #1 and #4 above…)
(9) Never design alone. EVERYBODY needs a second (and third, and fourth) opinion, because design work, like all art, can become very personal. If you design in an insulated bubble with no feedback, you end up overlooking glaring errors, and what seems like a great idea in your mind may not translate to the real world at all. So leave margin for drafts and revisions. Team effort produces more effective design. Period.
(10) And lastly, remember that it takes time to produce quality design work. (you get the drill…)
Watch for more in upcoming posts. If you have questions about design and ministry, shoot ’em my way and I’ll do my best to answer them! In the mean time, pull up a chair, and watch a work in progress at Living Hope with a front row seat.