The church is the expression of God’s intentions on this planet.
In it’s most healthy state, it is a place that merges the full character of God with the full depravity of our messes. It becomes a movement, not a destination. It is characterized by passion, action, and vision. It’s a place where suffering is alleviated, not hidden. It’s a place where doubt is given voice and direction, not a place where it’s silenced and condemned. It’s a space where there is hope. A space of healing. Of unbridled joy. Of conversation. A space where things are as they should be.
In this state, the church (or, the movement) becomes a catalytic force of change … dramatically engaging and affecting what is not of God with the full character of God. It becomes a place defined by it’s social causes and actions … rather than it’s political dispositions. It becomes a place defined by it’s rapport with those left behind by our religious institutions … rather than it’s self-defined righteous indignation. It becomes a place where evangelism is more than a buzz word on pamphlets … but is an organic, influential, personal, and community lifestyle where grace is the guide and hope is the message.
A place that embodies those realities would have a story worth telling.
And, it’s important for us to tell those stories. When you introduce the words “marketing” and “branding” into a church-centered logistic conversation, there is usually resistance. There’s a mindset that we shouldn’t present slick, marketing pieces to the masses. There’s a hesitancy to leverage branding strategies (which in the business world produce buy-in, gain fanship, and generate loyalty to the company or product) due to an out-dated notion that we shouldn’t have to adopt business strategies into church leadership and spiritual development. Anyway…that’s a tangent. The point of this post and series is to provide insights which help us to develop and manage our brand more consistently.
Here are a few recommendations and insights for branding and churches:
- If your church is dying, branding won’t save it. Dying churches don’t need band-aids, or blind appeals to the masses about the necessity of attending their services. These churches need vision, leadership, and commitment to the cause … without those key pieces, branding becomes a misleading message presented to the masses in order to bolster their attendance numbers and keep their status quo afloat. That’s not a very important story. If your church is dying internally and declining…odds are that your influence in your community is already dead. New marketing pieces and template letters won’t fix that. Have the courage, integrity, and honesty to re-evaluate who you are, and what you’re about.
- Branding includes more than logos and letterheads. The greatest church marketing campaign will die the second an usher treats a visitor callously. Your story will seem less important if it’s obvious that you don’t take care of your buildings and interiors. All of this may seem trite, but the reality is: If you really care about your story, you’ll take the time and energy to craft that story orally, visually, and contextually at every opportunity possible. If Jesus is about the least of these, and about grace and beauty … how is everything that you’re doing and saying pointing toward or displaying that story?
- The frequency and intensity of your conversion stories reveals the heart of your brand (story). Your greatest and most influential branding elements are the stories of those who chose to follow you. Tell those stories consistently. Anthem the victory contained within them. And always, always, always…point the stories back to the vision and your story. If your story is important, we need to see how it is affecting other people. If your story is supposed to make a difference, we need to actually see it making a difference.
- Develop your brand by constantly asking, “What’s most important to us?” – and – “Where are we going?”. Before you tell your story, you must know your story. This is often the most underdeveloped area of our churches … clear, articulated, and shared vision about what’s most important and where we’re heading. Your vision is essential to your brand … and, it’s indispensable toward those you are seeking to lead into a more clear understanding and devotion to the Jesus cause. Give it the attention and devotion it deserves.
- Consistently evaluate between your “marketed” brand and you “perceived” brand. Do they line up? Are there discrepancies? While the most underdeveloped area of our churches is clearly articulated vision, the most often neglected area of our church leadership is consistent evaluation of our strategies, values, and vision. Specifically in the arena of branding…we must always evaluate what we are saying about ourselves versus what outsiders are saying about us. If there is a massive discrepancy, this is a vision problem and not a branding issue. Always ask outsiders their opinions and insights toward your church. And never respond defensively, but graciously.