I’ve often looked at church logo’s and had the internal dialogue of, “How on earth did they come up with that?” That can be a good “how on earth” but it’s often a negative reaction, like seeing somebody’s ugly dog and finding a way to compliment it.
So, whether you hate our logo or not, let me pull back the veil and reveal the magic behind the scenes, and make a few suggestions for how to design your own logo if you’re planting (or rebranding) a church.
Potentially unique to New England, but the sense of “church” and “what a church is” here has a distinctly high church feel. Whether old school Anglican, Puritan or Roman Catholic, the sense of what a church is pulls from our English roots. I describe our city as “burn-out, post Catholic.” Thus, in choosing a logo I wanted to pull from something that touched on that without being rule by history (and thereby dying a slow, painful death).
The Jerusalem Cross has a long historical tradition dating back to the 11th century. There are two meanings that are given to it’s origins: The central cross and it’s four accompanying crosses represent the Five Wounds of Christ, or the central cross is accompanied by four crosses representing the Gospel going to the four corners of the earth.
Either is fine with me – I like them both. The historicity of the logo serves to connect our mission as a local church with the broader work that God has already been doing. In a culture that has near-exclusive connotations with the Gospel and the Roman Catholic Church, bearing a logo that draws from the historic church may help us bridge the gap of people’s expectations of what a church should be and our own unique contribution to the advance of the Gospel.
This is another reason I wanted to use the Jerusalem Cross. I may not be the smartest guy, but if you have cross in your church name, you probably want to have a cross in your logo. Just a guess.
There are very few churches in our area explicitly cross centered. I’m not going to throw dust on them – they’re my friends and we’re in this together. But as a point of clarification, we want to be explicitly cross centered from top to bottom. If Paul, in a pagan culture where nobody cared about Jesus or the Gospel (hm, that sounds familiar…), made it his one aim “to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2), I do not think we’re undermining our appeal to unbelievers (of any stripe) to put the cross in our logo (and name). If pictures tell a story, I want people to know that they are being invited into the story of Christ crucified, and their live’s story in him will be one of a cross – dying to self and there finding the life of Christ. Even in our logo, I want to be clear that we’re about the Gospel in all of life and not some emotion or movement or aspect of the Gospel. We are about the complete Gospel, which is Christ crucified, risen and ascended. It’s about The King.
I’m a bit concerned at times about church logo’s that do not have a distinctly Christian image in them. This is obviously a preference thing – no commandment in Scripture related to this. I just wonder if it’s being completely honest with people if something other than a Gospel-referent icon is used to attract or centralize attention. Or, to flip the observation, what does it say about a church’s main emphasis when something that’s not God-centered (even in the broadest sense) is the icon? Again, this is a fluid observation since the Episcopal’s have some cool icons and (largely) no Gospel. Just a question to wrestle with.
The Jerusalem Cross was catchy, historical and cross-centered. Also, nobody else in our city was using it or a variant of it. (Pro-tip, don’t choose a logo that visually competes with another church in your city. That’s not loving, and it’s dumb.)
So, here’s a major principle of all of this for me: Pay somebody to do it. You’re a pastor, not a graphic artist. Yea, I know it looks easy, but that’s how people feel about how you spend your time. This is important and valuable to the church’s “branding” or “messaging” to the local community (and your fundraising!). You want somebody who’s been trained and thought long and hard about this. Moreover, as a personal rule, I want somebody’s paid time on something that’s central and important. If you get their volunteer hours, you’ll get pushed around according to their priorities. Money means our project takes front-burner preference.
Also, I’m disinclined to have a friend do the work. The logo is important. It’s the first thing somebody sees and experiences of the church. I don’t want my inability or hesitation to say “No” or “Wrong” to a friend to keep the church from getting the best. In a professional relationship, it’s easier to say “No” or “Different” without offending. That’s the way the relationship and collaboration work. Maybe it’d work for you, but I’ve seen it go poorly for many, and wanted to avoid it.
Even if it’s somebody in the church, I’d be inclined to pay them for it. It makes the relationship clear and it gets you their best work. Also, it honors their labor. Logo and design aren’t easy. As a web-developer (my bi-vocational job), I know what it’s like for people to take for granted the work I do. “It’s just a website, how long can it take?” Come really close, would you like a bite of this knuckle sandwich…
One more note: We wanted modern, not dusty. The Jerusalem Cross on it’s own could come across as dusty and too Roman Catholic. So we wanted modern with historicity and cross-centeredness.
What we did
So I threw a tweet into the void asking if anybody has designer recommendations. A friend of mine, Corey Sosebee (Twitter, website) responded saying he’d like to take a stab at it. So, I sent him the Jerusalem Cross and said “I like IKEA” and left him to it. We did a good bit of back and forth. He sent me like, 10 options. I said yes to two, we narrowed it down, talked color, weight, font size, etc. We came out with a logo, church name and slogan and a few other things with the logo. It was sweet. He’s an extremely competent and capable designer. He’s also a missionary. Bonus rewards in Heaven for supporting him! If you want to rebrand or brand your church, I’d highly recommend working with him. (Incidentally, and completely by God’s providence, his wife and I had a class together in college – War Eagle! – and her life and example have had a massive impact on my life. But we only realized that after we started talking.)
That’s how we came out with our logo. I like it. Our team likes it. We vetted it together, and this is how we come out. It works well on t-shirts and works in grabbing attention for our fundraising. It accomplished a lot, but it wasn’t easy to produce. At the end of the day, what I love most about it is it’s Cross-Centeredness. It highlights our core identity, our one priority: Christ and him crucified. The King, who ascended to his thrown between heaven and earth, and in the shedding of his blood saved men and women from the wrath of God from all ends of the earth. This King, in the power of his Gospel, will advance his glory to the ends of the earth, and King’s Cross Church, in Manchester, New Hampshire is one way that he is doing this glorious work.