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Top Five Tuesday — My Top Five Rules For A Good Football Helmet Design And What It Tells Us About Church

This past Saturday I watched a bit of the game between South Carolina and new-SEC-member Missouri.

Along with new conference membership, Missouri has a new helmet design.  And it is just plain awful.

My first thought was “what in the world is THAT on the helmet?”  It took me about ten minutes of close study of moving players before I realized, “Ah! It’s a tiger!”

Sadly, the tiger in question is ill-defined and imprecise, more evocative than declarative.  It’s also too big to make much sense on a helmet.  Contrast the new design with Missouri’s more classic look, one that is bold, clear and precise:

Anyway, my encounter with Missouri’s new logo got me thinking about what I believe distinguishes a good design from a poor one.

And that got me thinking about all the parallels between helmet design and church life.  It’s a stretch, I know, but it’s how my mind works these days.

So here are some personal thoughts for good helmet design . . . and church life.  Please note that these are not my five favorite helmets ever; I’ve already posted on that crucial topic here.

1.  Bold Is Better Than Subtle.  UCLA’s cursive script is sort of . . . feminine.  And feminine and football should never be in the same sentence.  Maybe the combination of cursive script and powder blue jerseys leads to perennial mediocrity.

Contrast that with the simple boldness of Nebraska’s “N”:

That classic design needs neither adornment nor explanation.  It’s strong and sure.

I’ve tried subtle in church life.  Perhaps other pastors can do it well and grow the kingdom, but I’ve found I’m much more effective with a continually bold, unadorned proclamation of the gospel.

4.  Single-Focused Is Better Than Multi-Focused.  Consider Oregon State:

Is it image-focused (a carniverous-looking rodent) or word-focused (Beavers)?  Both.  And so neither.

Contrast that with Texas’ iconic Longhorn:

Texas’ logo has never changed in my lifetime because it is one thing: an image.  Simple, powerful, and resolute.

In my experience, churches do better when they decide who they are — contemporary, traditional, emerging — and stick with it. There are exceptions to this, of course.  Yet I have been in many a Methodist sanctuary that tried to be two things at once — both modern and ancient — and as a result did neither very well.

3.  Clean Is Better Than Cluttered.  The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) hasn’t even played its first game, but it’s already committed its first penalty: a cluttered, confusing helmet.

Is that a scorpion?  A Marxist sickle?  A white snake slithering through?  Oh!  It’s a gold rusher’s spade!  Whatever it is, it’s too much for the eye to take in.

But how about Michigan?  If this was a new design, it might not be so great.  But it’s not. It has endured because the lines are clean, clear, and unmistakeable.

From the focus of our programming to the appearance of our lobby and hallways, we strive to maintain clean and avoid clutter.  People’s eyes and minds can only absord so much communication and information, so we’d rather convey a few things well than a multitude of items poorly.  There’s a reason most sermons have one point.

2.  Classic Is Better Than Trendy.  What helmet more recognizable than Notre Dame’s Golden Dome?

Yet did you know that this year the Fighting Irish will unveil a new design for selected high profile games?  One that is so gaudy it takes two photos to explain it?

So Notre Dame has become indistinguishable from Oregon, Boise State, and others who go gauche for the sake of a few marketing dollars.  Sad.

Again, I’ve gone trendy in church life before.  I wish I hadn’t.  It’s why these days you’re hearing more of the Apostle’s Creed, spending more time in congregational prayer, and receiving more opportunities to give Jesus your life in faith.  Trends come and go; truth remains.

1.  Precise Is Better Than Ill-Defined. As I thought about Missouri’s mess, I knew I’d see a logo like that before:  Iowa.  Check it out:

What is that?  Where does it begin and how does it end?  Animal, mineral, or vegetable? 

Turns out it is a Hawkeye.  Of course. 

Contrast that with Georgia Tech’s interlocking G & T, a design that suits a school where they train engineers:

You may not know this, but Georgia Tech’s overall uniform design — virtually unchanged since the early 60s — was the inspiration for the Dallas Cowboys’ home jersey & pants.

It’s so much better in church life to know where you are going than to simply wish you were going somewhere.  That’s why the entire process and focus of Inviting All People Into A Living Relationship With Jesus Christ has made us much stronger than before.

So how will Missouri do in its new home in the SEC?  I’m not sure.

I just know their best step forward, uniform-wise, would be a bold, focused, clear, and precise step backwards.

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