Like many of the terms that come from the secular the mystical teachings of jesus arena, the term brand can leave a bad taste in the mouth of a ministry professional. And with good reason. In the secular world, after all, brand activity is often used as makeup, covering up real flaws in a product or company. However, like we’ve seen in previous articles, there are many times when crossovers from the secular marketing world have some application in ministry. This article outlines the concept of branding and what merit it may have within the context of a church-if any at all.
The goal of church marketing is never to shoehorn the church into worldly marketing practices, but to redeem biblical principles that have been used in the mainstream marketing world. Our fundamental goal is to increase the effectiveness of church communication. Before we head down this road of branding let’s start with a reminder as to how we define church marketing:
A brand is defined as “an identity that expresses the underlying values and personality of a particular organization, product or service.” Every local church is a unique expression of the Kingdom of God, and each has a personality that needs to be apparent to both our congregation and community. To put it another way, each church has a unique God print that attracts certain people through their doors. This is seen in the New Testament, for example, as John the Revelator writes to each of the seven churches. It is obvious that each church has its particular strengths and weaknesses, and God gives both encouragement and admonition related to each church’s personality.
Part of the vision of every church should be a clear articulation of why God has called you to a particular geographic location, economic region, or cultural area. To give two extreme examples, a church in a farming community is going to have a different personality than an inner city church.
The other aspect of your church brand points to the values of your church. The values refer to both the moral values of Christian discipleship, as well as what unique priorities that we value. For some churches youth is a priority, for others it is serving the less fortunate. We know that all of these aspects need to be considered by every church, but each church is going to give certain areas, at certain times, a closer focus. Your core values need to be integrated into every aspect of your communication, so that church members and newcomers alike know where they are and what you are called to accomplish for God’s Kingdom.
So if your church brand is really nothing more than communicating your vision, personality, and values then it stands to reason that this idea has merit. Yet there is a subtle distinction between the Church and the secular marketing world. In secular marketing, a very small group of people make branding decisions in an attempt to reach some target demographic. In a sense, secular marketers are outsiders trying to infiltrate some market for economic gain. A local church, on the other hand, that feels led to reach a target group-and succeeds-is soon filled with members of that very target group. So for a church, it’s less about brand per se, and more about culture. It’s about the DNA of the church.