Set a house style for my church? Brand my church like it’s a soda or a pair of jeans? But we aren’t selling anything! We aren’t a corporation trying to make a profit. We’re just here to serve!
All true, but setting your church’s brand and style is not about selling your services. Instead, it’s about establishing a consistent sense of identity and creating quality materials. With a little planning, you can be sure that everyone on your team can easily produce materials that identifiably belong to your church, will be readable and attractive, and will be free from embarrassing inconsistencies and blunders.
Choose a Set of Typefaces
Specify fonts you want used alongside your logo. You’ll also want to pair up fonts that work well together for headlines, subheaders, body copy, and captions. Canva’s Design School has a good illustrated explanation of why and how some fonts pair up well together. Also take a look at 22 Exceptional Google Font Combinations, which will walk you through some specific font pairings and show you some tools to generate your own pairings. Another great article to read is one on fonts to avoid and why (hint: steer clear of Comic Sans!).
It’s also helpful to make recommendations for sizes and settings, such as specifying that the body of a newsletter should be 11- or 12-point letters, double spaced, etc. Remind those setting up PowerPoints that they should not go smaller than about a 30-point font on each slide. (See Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 Rule for quality PowerPoint presentations.)
Choose a Color Palette
Choose colors for fonts, for borders and lines, and for backgrounds. If you have a logo already in play, be sure to choose a set of colors that complement it rather than clash. Make note of things you specifically want to be sure no one does, like sending a newsletter using yellow as the color of the body text. Consider whether different ministries need different logos, fonts, and colors. Refer to 7 Easier Ways to Choose a Color Scheme for some tips on making the task of choosing colors less overwhelming, or resources like 100 Color Combinations for some great color palettes based on photographs of nature, objects, and places.
Be Specific with Logos
Do you want to be sure that your logo is in the top left corner of all newsletters and mailings? Do you have a different logo for a footer? Do you want your logo to always be larger than the name of your church or the ministry? By what percent? If you don’t have a logo, it can be well worth your time and money to design one. But before you talk to someone who can make it for you, you need to have some definite ideas about what you want (and don’t want). How to Design a Logo for your Church walks you through some important starting points as you consider what you want your logo to be.
Get Serious about Grammar and Usage
Set your “house style” for things such as words you want to have capitalized, and which you want to see as hyphenated or a solid compound. You can visit the main website of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod to download their official stylebook to see how detailed house style guides can be. Yours doesn’t have to be as complicated as that one, though. Instead, you can make a simple list of things to check. For example:
- Refer to Pastor Steve, but say “our pastor” with a lowercase p
- Never mind, not nevermind (or any other common usage mistakes)
- The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, LCMS, but not LC-MS
- Words that are similar but have different rules for capitalization: Bible and biblical, Scripture and scriptural, God and godly
- Apostrophes: DCEs is the plural (all DCEs are welcome to attend…), but “our DCE’s daughter” is possessive
- Banned words: if you prefer to avoid language that could be considered sexist or exclusionary, specify your preferred choices
If it’s your job to give final approval to materials other people have prepared, you can easily set up a checklist of special terms and common errors that you can use to guide you through a series of “find all” searches to start your editing process.
It can be helpful to direct people (or yourself) to a website that walks you through common grammatical and usage errors, such as Common Errors in English Usage or Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips, and specify a reliable online dictionary like Merriam-Webster. It’s also very common to read over your own work and miss your mistakes, so having someone else proofread before publishing is a good practice. If no one is available to proofread for you, reading your material out loud can often help you see where you’ve made mistakes or have crafted awkward sentences.
Make Your Guide Easy to Use and Find
Be sure that all of the people who work with you are able to easily find and understand all of the information they need to be up to date and on brand. Keep your file names clear and dated so people can be sure to use the latest versions. Have a few people who can provide honest and blunt feedback look at your style guide and make suggestions for how you can make it more user friendly. Remember, just as it’s easy to miss your own mistakes, it’s also hard to tell whether your wording could be confusing to another person.
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