Category Archives: Church

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Since arriving at the church, I’ve consistently been told that Christmas is a pretty big undertaking. (People usually say this with either a wicked smile or a look of pity.)

And it’s truth. Our Creative Arts team kicks into high gear when the holidays arrive, picking out special music, lining up soloists, and bringing on seasonal tech people. We decorate the stage. We decorate the foyer. We throw parties and brunches. We even do a super drumline edition of Little Drummer Boy in our Christmas Eve service.

We also go all out on the holiday messaging. And boy was I excited when my supervisor told me,

“Christmas… is all yours.”


My first job was to sit down with our pastor, Steve Bradley, and pick his brain on what our Christmas theme was going to be. Steve and I are both concept-oriented guys, so I brought in a notepad to catch all of the ideas that we were throwing about.

The big idea behind this year’s Christmas messaging is the ripple effect caused by Jesus’s birth. Like, isn’t it crazy to think that something as big as the Kingdom of God began with such a small birth… and in such an unassuming, backwater town as Bethlehem?

But the only way we knew how to communicate that was by calling it “Christmas Shockwave.” I did a couple of passes with that notion in mind:

We got the colors down on the bottom image (the blues, purples, and whites of a December evening). But “Christmas Shockwave” still sounded too… intense.

That’s when we decided to focus more on the ripple idea. My next pitch to Steve, after consulting with him and our video wizard, Vince, was this:

Closer to the mark! We had started to nail some more things we liked– a magical, storybook feel, old papery textures, and even the title was sounding good.

But looking at it, our music minister had a bright idea:

“I’m kind of thinking that instead of something shining ON Bethlehem, maybe we should have a glow coming OUT of it.”

Well, we could do that:

And approval was passed. After hunting for the right fonts and revamping the background, we arrived at our logo:

Now our official logo for the holiday season, we printed and manipulated this image in all kinds of ways… including making this into our giant billboard at the church entrance on FM 1488. Seeing your stuff in all of its enormous 10¬† X 20 glory or whatnot is a new kind of thrill.

But we still had more work to do. After all, the season was only just getting started….

Next: We Venture Into Animation

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Filed under Church, Graphic Design

Adventures in Branding

We’ve just wrapped up our month-long capital campaign at work, and it’s been a major lesson in communication and identity-generation. When you’re asking people to donate extra money to a non-profit that they already support (in this case, a church), you have to implement a lot of moving pieces to cast the vision… multiple videos (like this one), websites, print pieces, banners, posters… even small ephemera like nametags and rubber wrist bracelets.

But it all centers around a brand… something symbolic that quickly communicates the vision and feel of the project. For our Ask God project, the primary message was that we as a church needed to ask God how we should grow for the future. So there was a major emphasis on requests– both toward the congregation (to give) and to God (for wisdom). And our secondary message was that growing meant building new facilities– a children’s building and a food pantry specifically, along with some renovations to existing buildings.

My supervisor, David, and I both contributed ideas for the campaign logo. Here are some of my efforts:

The Hebraic aspect on this one was probably a little distracting from the project goal.

This was a more illustrative pass. In retrospect, we've got more of a photo-oriented aesthetic around here.

Ultimately, however, David’s vision and experience carried the day (and rightly so). What David successfully did was integrate both elements into his design. You’ll see the request element as well as a subtle hint at the upcoming construction projects. He combined it all with a rugged aesthetic that suggested that we were getting involved in a very hands-on effort. Check it out:

After the logo was approved, we went to work on a lot of those moving pieces. I got to be responsible for projects like the project website, the slide show, and posters that showed the renovation plans. Here’s one of my favorites, using the architectural plans for our property:

Ultimately, we were able to raise enough to get started, enabling us to expand in ways that have been long overdue. It was a good, busy season.

And as soon as it was done, it was time to get started on the equally-busy Christmas season.

Next: Getting Ready for the Holidays.

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Filed under Church, General Musings

Watercolored Worship

I mentioned practicing with watercolors for an outdoor worship event we were gonna’ put on. That happened on Thursday night. And despite some unseasonable cold weather (for Houston, I mean… it never dips below 75 here), it was a great experience.

The concert was divided up into four thematic sections of 2-3 songs apiece, each based on a line from an old hymn called “Spirit Of The Living God.” They were:

Break Me

Mold Me

Fill Me

and Use Me.

As the worship leaders sang, I and my colleague, Judith Dollar, took turns quickly sketching out concepts and images from each song on matboard, then quickly dashing watercolors on before the set ended. It was a challenge, and you can see the speediness in each of the drawings I’m about to post here… but there’s also a fluidity to it that nicely captures the feel of worshiping together, huddled in blankets on a beautiful November evening.

First, my stuff:

This is from the Break Me set, with songs including “Come Thou Fount,” “Word of God Speak,” and “Restless.” I tried to put in our Creative Arts pastor and our mandolin player, along with some outright ventrical symbolism. I muffed a Hebrew symbol though. Anyone find it?

Judith was up next. Here’s her work from Mold Me. The first depicted “Like A Child” (by Jars of Clay) and “Beautiful Things (by Gungor)…

…and this depicted “Waiting Here For You” (by Christy Nockels… I think.)

You can see that Judith’s got this watercolor thing down. She used these special crayons to fill in space quickly, then went back over them with a giant wet brush to spread out the tones. I tried to emulate that on the The Fill Me set.

Songs here included “Captivate Us”… and I forget the other. I DID try to weave in elements from Jon Foreman’s “Baptize My Mind,” though.

Finally, Judith stepped back in with a bold piece for the Use Me set.

This exclusively concerned “Take My Life (And Let It Be)” which Chris Tomlin made popular a few years back. Note the strong color surrounding the guy on the right, with the heart exposed prominently in the middle. Almost like an aura’s coming off of him. Very cool.

Using watercolors is a fun, messy process, and if you keep at it, you can get some beautiful results (there’s a metaphor in there somewhere). If this stuff piques your interest, Judith also participates in a group that does live drawing/watercoloring on a regular basis. They’re called Urban Sketchers and they’re very cool. They also have a Texas-only branch, which you can check out here.

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Filed under Church, Sketchbook