Why is branding important for churches?
Wednesday, April 05, 2017
You've probably heard a lot about the importance of church branding, and maybe you've also seen the pushback on it. If you're one of those people who don't think it's important — or if you don't really know what it is — I hope you'll keep reading.
What is branding?
Many people think branding is just a logo or a way to visually identify a church. Branding is much more than that. It is who your church is: the values it embraces, the message it shares, a representation of its identity.
Why branding is important
There are some who think congregations shouldn't have a brand because it makes the church too commercial or too business-like. But make no mistake, your church has one. It may not be a thought-out brand that's been adopted, but the community has branded your church based on what they've seen, personally experienced or have heard about from others.
If your congregation doesn't have a brand, wouldn't it be better for your church to craft one that accurately reflects its values, message and testimony?
As mentioned earlier, a logo is just part of branding. Just as you have multiple senses, a church brand touches many areas of ministry — greetings, music, website, visuals, preaching, community interaction with staff and congregation. All of these areas come together to form the impression your community has of your church
What defines your congregation?
If your church doesn't have a brand or it needs updated, there are some things to keep in mind.
Authenticity — The church shouldn't try to be something it isn't. It should be true to who and what it is, to its identity. What is important to your church? To start, write out several sentences that define it. If you have a clear view of what your church vision is, you should be able to do this in five sentences or less.
Unity — This goes along with being authentic. Now that you've written out several sentences that define your church, have someone who knows the ministry read the statement and give you feedback. Also, have several people in your congregation from various age groups and interests read them. Do they agree with what's been written? If not, ask questions and revise.
Branding doesn't make your church authentic or unified. That comes from within. If the church branding lacks authenticity and unity, then the brand isn't true and will fail. Branding is not a fix for internal church issues.
Here's what I mean. Many years ago we moved to another state and were looking for a new church home. Based on some church-branded materials, we visited a specific church.
It didn't take long for us to realize that the branded materials represented what about half the congregation wanted the church to be, while the other half was happy with the way the church had been. We're talking more than whether to have a traditional or contemporary service (or both).
Within the congregation there was a big disconnect about what the church's message, outreach and testimony was. In the last 10 years, this church of around 700 had started to shrink. Those moving out of the area no longer attended, and those moving in didn't join.
Some in the congregation were OK with the decline and inward focus. Others felt that for the church to be healthy, they needed to change their outlook and ministry values to reflect the needs of the changing community around them.
The two groups never agreed and the church never unified. It continued to shrink, and eventually another ministry bought their site for a satellite church.
Relevance — Part of the issue this church had was that the surrounding community had undergone big changes and had needs that many in the church weren't interested in addressing. Being relevant doesn't mean compromising your beliefs; you should never do that. It does mean being aware of the needs of your community and how you can impact lives.
Once you have a true vision of your church brand, staff can then adopt brand standards to create consistent messaging that supports the church mission and values. Be authentic, unified and relevant.
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