Kent Shaffer at Church Relevance shares some good stuff. I appreciate the fact that they do what they do to serve the Church. And he has learned the "big official list" gets lots of attention in the church leader space. When it comes to his blog ranking lists and conference lists I am usually one of the first to read and share.

With that as background, I have to say that I’m a little confused by Kent’s recent post that shows, in his opinion, the “Top 77 Church Logos of 2011” and I thought I'd respond with a few thoughts.

Let’s start with this—the statement I like most in Kent’s post is this one: “...a good logo communicates the unique qualities of its brand.” The way we say this at Auxano Design is that your logo should communicate vision visually. Of course, it can’t communicate everything about your church, but it can serve as a visual front door that matches what people will experience once they step through that door.

Now, I’ll move on to my questions.

1. 77 top logos? Really?

I’m not sure that a list of 77 anything is all that helpful, other than as a gallery that we can all peruse and say, “Those are nice.” Especially within the context of communicating vision visually, certainly there are some among that 77 (or beyond that 77) that are more effective at communicating vision and deserve to be examined more closely. I’ll single out a few from Kent’s list below for this reason.

2. Where are the stories?

When the list has this many entries and there is very little context of how these 77 were chosen, I want to hear the stories of these churches. Why did that church choose this specific logo? What about their vision or unique calling is communicated through this specific design? There are some great looking logos on this list that could possibly be communicating things that aren’t connected to vision and mission, but there’s no way to know that without the background story.

3. Why do unused concepts make the top 77?

If the true essence of a great logo is that it communicates vision visually or, in Kent’s words, that it “communicates the unique qualities” of a brand, how can we include unused logo concepts in the list? That serves as a signal to me that the list is more about what looks nice rather than what communicates the uniqueness of a specific congregation. Therefore we have reinforced the classic problem of church design: slapping together pretty pictures without meaning. (Read Picasso's Missing Subject, my contribution to the Outspoken book on church communications.)

Those are probably my initial three questions about Kent’s list. From his list, however, I’ll pull out a few to examine more closely...because I think they are more effective.

Christ Church (Fort Lauderdale, FL)

From a brief look at their website, Christ Church seems to have done a good job of choosing a logo that connects with their unique way of communicating their vision. They talk about being a “gathering of people coming together to leave a personal and eternal ‘fingerprint’ on the world around us.” This type of language can form the foundation of a unique way of interacting with the world, inviting people into this kind of life. I love it. And their logo, which is a cross made of fingerprints, communicates the personal nature of this invitation and how each person can make a contribution to it. Great stuff.

Harvest Church (Mobile, AL)

Here’s a great example of communicating vision visually. While I don’t necessarily think that this is the most beautiful logo on the list, it communicates well. Their tagline, which is almost directly pulled from their mission statement, is “discover your destiny.” Their logo communicates that this is a journey (with the roadway image) and the sun-like shape at the top (illustrating the destiny piece). Not only that, but the roadway has a subtle “H” in it, in case you missed it. Again, not my favorite from a pure aesthetic point of view, but it connects directly to their mission and communicates it well without a ton of effort to explain it, which makes it stand out to me.

The Foundry (Houston, TX)

Of course I’m going to mention one of the logos we designed at Auxano, right? I won’t repeat it here, but I already shared a short case study on this church and their logo here.

New City Church (Phoenix, AZ)

I love the way this logo connects with the way New City talks about their mission. Listen to this, pulled from their website:

“Cities are the intersection of art, politics, and business. New City exists to engage culture where it’s created, weaving the story of God into the story of Phoenix. The desire of the church is not simply to gather on Sundays, but to meet you where you live, work, study and play. The green section in the New City logo represents an oasis among urban streets. Likewise, New City believes that following God breathes new life into our culture. We believe we can actively change our world by shifting the priority set from money, success, and fame to worship, community and mission.”

I couldn’t have articulated it that clearly, but their logo certainly communicates intersection and city, and the colored section makes you want to ask, “What’s different about that block?” The answer they offer: it’s an oasis among urban streets. That’s a great logo and a great mission.

What about you?

The real question that I want to raise is this: what does your logo communicate? Does it say something unique about your church, inviting people to find out more? Then, whether it made Kent’s list of 77 or not, it’s a top logo.

Thanks, Kent, for your time in searching out great logos and keeping the conversation going about how we can, as the Church, use design to effectively communicate vision visually to our congregations and to the world.