The Value of a Church Style Guide
About a year ago, I had a conversation with a good friend of mine who asked why my church's spent so much time on brand design -our style guide - as if the church could be marketed like a new Apple product or sports car. The question she was really getting at is this: Does the Gospel need font selection and color pallets and careful logo usage to be effective? My answer to her question was simple: No, it does not.
But these tools will certainly help your church refine the message presented to people both inside and outside of your church. I believe that almost every church should develop their own church style guide - even if it's only a page long. Here's why.
Wisdom and Communication
Whether we're talking about the early Christian use of the Codex (modern book design, source), the use of Koine Greek as the written language of the New Testament (Source), the invention of early Gothic fonts, or the Gutenberg press and movable-type (Source), Christianity has a long history of the wise and strategic use of new communication technology.
Today, we have billions of data points, centuries of research, freedom of speech and the press (in many nations, anyway), and all the tools modern advertising and communication have to offer
Why wouldn't a church want to utilize all these tools to magnify their impact?
What Is Your Church Saying?
Your church already has a "brand", whether or not you've intentionally designed it - so what is your church saying? When people think of your church, how do they feel? What do they think? Giving attention to your "brand" is giving thought to how you want to be perceived by others, and working towards that goal.
This is what a style guide (or communication guide) is for.
Every Church should have a style guide to ensure clarity and a message that is consistent with the church beliefs. For my church, we want to intentionally present the gospel in our conduct, our relationships, and our attitudes. So everything we create should, by those standards, direct the hearer to the story and character of Jesus.
It's not about a "product"; it's about the message of Jesus.
There is ministerial value in brand consistency and quality. It unifies your church body, becomes recognizable to the community, and can communicate qualities such as friendship, compassion, hope, freedom, hospitality, and so much more - not just to your congregation, but to those outside of your church walls.
A style guide is ensuring that anyone who promotes your church is presenting the same, high quality and Biblical message.
What Goes Into a Church Style Guide?
A style guide is simply a document that you distribute to the people at your church who create experiences and content. Such a guide will often include:
- Church brand overview. This usually relates to (or just is) your church mission statement and a few beliefs that should shape the things you do and create
- Logo Usage
- Fonts and their appropriate usage
- Communication Process and Principles
- Color Palettes and usage
- Ministry brands (women's, men's, kids, students, etc.)
- Social Media and web standards
As little as a one-paged Word document will suffice for many churches. The important part is to create it intentionally, carefully, and collaboratively with your staff. Then, be sure everyone has access to it and knows how to use it. The rest is up to you.
What We Created
Our style guide is fairly comprehensive and elements of it change from year to year. As our church offices run on Mac and iOS, I built the 2014 style guide with iBooks Author so that it allows interaction with photos, widgets, text, search, and multitouch. It covers the church brand, our ministries, promotional styles, and generally philosophies. Of course, we do stray from this guide from time to time - but our goal is that if we do stray from the guide, it's on purpose.
Some Other Examples
Here are a few examples of style guides from other churches you may find useful. Some of these (especially Harvest) have really helped us as we developed our own guide.