This past weekend, our church (Providence Baptist Church) hosted DiscipleNow, the Youth Ministry's annual "retreat you don't leave town for", and the biggest event in their calendar. Each year, a bunch of teenagers get divvied up by gender and age and spend the weekend sleeping in host homes (typically, the homes of other church members), sharing in small group studies with college leaders, and then worshiping all together back in the church's youth building. There's a guest speaker, a guest worship band, member-provided meals — everything you'd expect from a youth retreat, minus the long drive in a cramped van that smells like teenagers.
Like last year, I was asked to help design event T-shirts. I met with Minister to Students Paul Batson over hamburgers to brainstorm ideas. The theme for the event was to be "Pause", covering how life can get so busy with all the activities that consume our days and nights that often we fail to notice and acknowledge God. Sometimes, we just need to pause a bit and focus on the Eternal rather than merely on the immediate.
Now, I'm big on the idea of making shirts that are conversation points. In my experience, you don't get much conversation by wearing a giant "I'm a Christian" banner across your back. Oh, people will be talking, all right, but just about you, not so much to you. Still, we wanted to include something in the shirt that illustrated not just the noise of life and need to pause, but also the "punchline" of the event's theme. Paul brought to the table the idea of using the universal pause symbol — two side-by-side vertical bars — with perhaps some words scattered around them to represent those distracting activities. And we had a stylized text "Pause" logo to work with, provided by the publishers of the study. But we were still trying to find a way to make the God connection in the design.
Then, inspiration hit. I was thinking about slowing down, pausing, relaxing, growing silent, blocking out noise … these things led me to picture turning off the lights and just enjoying the stillness of a perfect night. And in that stillness, that's where we see God. And that was the a-ha moment! See, I use Contagious Graphics for my screen printing, and every October they start pushing their glow-in-the-dark ink. I'd never used that ink for a shirt project before, but here was the perfect chance to do so. What if we could design a shirt that showed God — literally — when the lights were off?
The result was a design printed on cardinal red shirts, with a constant stream of "distraction words" broken up only so that the negative space could reveal the pause symbol:
But what you don't see in the light is that certain of the letters of those "distraction words" are printed with glow-in-the-dark ink, so that when the lights go out, God is revealed:
The final product turned out great! And better yet, Paul didn't tell the teenagers that the shirt had this feature until Sunday morning when many of them were standing at the front of the church serving as an adhoc choir. It was fun to watch the wave of surprise wash over them when this little detail was revealed!
Here are some photos (taken by Chuck Shoupe) of folks wearing the shirts on DiscipleNow 2011 Sunday:
NOTE: The stylized "PAUSE" text in the shirt design was modeled after the logo of the Orange XP3 "Pause" curriculum used for the event, with permission (obtained by Paul) from the publishers. Thanks, Orange!