The LORD said to Aaron, “You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them; I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites.” (Numbers 18: 20)
A church secretary recently shared with me that she had spent great effort redoing her church bulletin, which she showed me. It looked fantastic. It was much easier to read; her choices in typography and layout were clear and professional-looking. But, she said, almost nobody noticed or commented on the changes.
Though it didn’t seem like it, her experience was actually a great compliment. As the experts in design and typography continuously affirm, the best graphic design and typography should be invisible. The best designed bulletin, newsletter, website, or church communication in any form, should never cause our audience to say at first: “What a beautiful design!” Or “What an unusual typeface.” The first response should be a clear understanding of the message and a proper response to it.
It is often an over-designed piece that gets noticed. Sometimes a piece might be beautiful to look at but if the text was printed over complex graphics, the actual message can be very hard to read. If something is hard to read, people might comment on how good it looks but put it aside and never read the message. A website might have an unusual interface that is entertaining to look at, but if you want to know what time the church picnic is and where the beach baptism service is taking place, a simple, standard interface may serve better.
It isn’t that we shouldn’t work hard to make our communications artistically pleasing and the very best in design and beauty, but those considerations must always be secondary to choosing type, layout, and graphics that work best to communicate the message and that make it easy for the reader to access the message.
Simple and functional doesn’t always get a lot of complements, yet simple and functional are often the best ways to communicate a message. When your church communications in print and online are functioning best, no one will notice and no one will thank you—but your church will grow and lives will be changed.
At those times, like the priests in the Old Testament, the Lord himself and his favor is often our only reward. Like the old hymn says, we are “channels only.” In our work, not only will our audience often not notice work well done, but even if they do, they won’t even know who did the work, because much of what we produce will be unsigned.
But our Lord knows. And like the priests of old, he is our inheritance. And it is in his approval we find “the path of life” and “fullness of joy.”