- Praise God
- Please be praying...
- What Every Church Needs to Know about Marketing: Final Thoughts: If you don't pass the people test, nothing else matters
- What Every Church Needs to Know about Marketing: Part 3: Marketing is about People
- What Every Church Needs To Know about Marketing: Part 2: Marketing is Everything
- Getting Your Current Members to Invite Friends
- Through the eyes of a visitor
- Encouraging progress
- Please be praying
- Bootstrap Faith
- Know Our Hearts?
- Seldom Read But Always Evaluated
- Creating an Experience
- The Bond Between Music and Design
- The Church Exposed
- The Value Principle
- The Nike Effect: Part II
- The Nike Effect: Part I
- Starting New This New Year
- Christmas Revelation from Charlie Brown
- The Video: Speaking Starbucksian
- And The Winners Are...
- The Video: A Treasure Hunt
- The Video: We're Not Like That Church Down The Street
- The Video: Signs of Neediness
- The Video: Death to Papyrus and Comic Sans!
- The Video: Inconsistent Artwork
- A Thanksgiving Thought
- The Video: The Culture Crime
- The Video: Reserved for Barista
- The Video: Real Men Love Java
- The Video: Marketing is more than you realize
- The Video: The purpose of the video.
- What If Starbucks Marketed Like the Church? A Parable.
- re-Branding on Momentum
Brand name overload
Its funny how churches who start to get the power of naming easily get carried away with it. What I am challenging here is not so much that you named your church "The Journey" and that your style is somewhat laid back and cool. That's potentially ok. Its what happens when every department in the church wants to do the same thing and asks the church to plaster their logo and brand name everywhere and no one is willing to tell them "no".
So we walk in your church and you have gone above and beyond and given me great signage that tells me where everything is. Good right? This is how it reads...
Go ahead... Read it fully like a visitor...
The church-savvy ones of you have deciphered the secret code language into the following...
Which of these signs helps a visitor the most?
This is all about context. When you are in the main church context, what matters to the guest is the category of things you offer, not the kitschy brand name that has no meaning to us.
When are you in the main church's context? On it's website, on its stage, inside the foyer, on it's signage and it's printed materials to start. Someone from the church has to stand up and stop the confusion--or at least categorize it. We're all fine with: "Our Youth Ministry: The Tribe". You just can't use it in the main church context without telling us what it is. Calling it "The Tribe" without categorizing it makes newbies feel like outsiders--like someone did not include them in your secret name game.
If you are a youth group, we're fine with you calling it "The Tribe". Just know that it is your job to build the Tribe brand through your students and through your own website. It gives the kids ownership. It helps them tell their friends. That's all good. Please just don't ask the church to promote "The Tribe". They should simply promote the youth ministry or youth group. Visitors just need to know you have something for their teens. The fact that you call it "The Tribe", does not add to the sell for me as a parent.
Same thing goes for the coffee shop and the book store. Have a name if you want, but please don't let your brand name get in the way. Just guide us to the coffee shop. Do you really think your bookstore's name will increase my desire to check it out? "Ooo. Wow. Their bookstore is called 'Living Stones'--I can't wait to check it out!" "Look honey, their coffee shop is called "Holy Grounds", we have to experience that!" If you are unaware, I am being a bit sarcastic.
This is what it can unknowingly come across like to a visitor...
Welcome to Journey... on your bulletin you will find a list of 32 code names to guess what ministry they belong to. We are so introverted and proud of our cool names we can hardly stand it. We doubt you will. : )
Here's the deal. A church is not graded by how many clever brand names can be traced back to it. I think there needs to be a communications police that gives a citation to churches with signs like Exhibit A. Know anyone who needs to get a citizen's arrest?
Thinking its about us
If we are firmly following Christ, it is not about us anymore. It is not about what we like. It is not about our style and our preferences. As church leaders it is not about having our pretty face on a billboard or a website. It is not about us. The colors we like do not matter. It is not about us. It is about the object of our affection; and the way we do church reveals the object of our affection. God? Certainly. Others? Definitely. Us? Not so much.
I'm not the only one who has this crazy thought. Jesus asked a question that struck a cord... "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?" Most of us see that as a lovely plea to reach a lost sheep. But what about the 99 other sheep? Who were they? They were us. Jesus clearly advocated leaving the sheep (us church folk)--howbeit in a safe place--but His focus was not on them. His focus was on finding the lost one.
When we make decisions about sermons, design, style, decor, etc... who are we making them for? For ourselves as church leaders (based on our personal likes and dislikes)? For the flock (the loyal followers)? or for the lost ones. Which one do you think Jesus would be focused on? No doubt He always protects the flock--but He also always pursues the lost. Lord, help us as wise shepherds to tend to the flock, without losing focus on the object of your pursuit and affection. Help us to see through the eyes of lost sheep.
Brand-building without success
Church start-ups aside, one of the biggest challenges I run into on the road is a church that undergoes a re-branding in order to create momentum that does not already exist. The downfall of this effort is that to most churches, rebranding is a packaging concept. It never affects the core. If you repackage something that was not growing in a healthy way, the recipients of your message might be attracted at first, but the draw will not last. As well, your community can see through an attempt to modernize that is inconsistent with true change. If you want to re-brand, build real momentum first. Re-brand from the core out. The only way you can do that is learning how to organically connect with people and grow without an ounce of packaging. If you are not seeing success in organic growth, it means you have not mastered connecting with new people--an indication that your radar is off and you would not likely re-brand properly anyway.
Biblical thought: "...For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones." Matthew 23:27. Jesus shared this charge with religious leaders. As churches, we exist to give off His life. The number one way to increase your real attractiveness is to connect people to Christ in a life-changing way. When this becomes your core, your brand becomes a relevant bond between who you are and those you are called to reach.
For more on this topic, check out this post...
I often run into a church that is in transition, looking for decisiveness on tender topics... should we have multiple worship styles? How can we serve milk for newbies while the regulars want meat? How do we get rid of this horrific TBN-esque pulpit when so many people value it so much?
As a consultant, these are the issues I tend to love the most. The reason I love them, is because I like to dig into the heart of the issue. I love to go beyond the surface "love for old hymns" and ask, "why do 'these' people like 'these' songs?" I am convinced that the answer is almost always deeper than we expect. Older folks do not like older songs simply because the songs are older. To these people, to any people, the worship style they like the most tends to be the style in which they felt closest to God (I am partial to some late ‘80s Rich Mullins myself). Our love for our favorite genre of music is a heart's attempt to reach back to these special times.
We were working with a church recently that was struggling with this change. By listening, we picked up on some interesting undertones. It led us to propose that if someone wants the songs sung today like they were thirty years ago, this person is more than likely struggling with two things when someone tries to bring about change: 1) That their greatest moments with God were in their past (instead of looking to find fresh times with God in their future), and 2) that their inability to learn all the words to all the new songs that we do in our A.D.D. song rotations (and small "very cool" overhead text) just makes them want to give up.
With this in mind, we worked with the leadership to cast vision for fresh experiences with God and to teach them a short list of new songs over several months. When we arrived back at the church 7 months later, the over 70 crowd were as much or more engaged in Tomlin-esque, acoustic worship than the twenty-somethings were.
The lesson learned: it’s not safe to assume the thoughts of any crowd. We have to learn their hearts—what makes them tick on levels they can't even express. And a little warning as well... just because it worked for this church, let's not assume it is the cure for all music transition woes. Looking to what other churches do to make our decisions can be tricky. Let's be like Paul... "become as one to reach one"—spend time with them. We need to let others in on our thoughts and ask them to share theirs. Often, they simply wanted to be asked to be a part of the solution or direction. Let's give ourselves time to get to the heart of the issue and share the burden of change together. Understanding the interests of others is part of our labor of love (Phil 2:2-4).
A factor that is often overlooked by church staff, but one of the most important to a visitor at church, is the Children/Student Ministry. What visitors want to see from Children’s Ministry and the Nursery is twofold—security and genuine care. If their kids have fun, that is the cherry on top. When they drop their kids off, they’re seeking a strong sense that their child will be safe, warmly and sincerely accepted, and seen as an individual child. They want to hear you say their child’s name and see you help the child become part of the group. To them, their child is not just another kid. It’s their kid. They want them to feel special and it speaks volumes if you make them feel that way…but even louder if you don’t.
Not too long ago, I asked some friends who had been looking for a new church how the hunt was going. They responded with how much they loved the ministry of a particular church, but were completely disturbed by how their young children were treated. When they would drop their children off, it was extremely difficult to get the attention of the teacher, and when they finally did, the children were checked in without a smile and “mushed” into the herd. This happened for several weeks in a row, and the same routine happened each time at pickup—only the teacher was not the only one without a smile…the children were equally discontent.
While the pastor preached his heart out and ministry was catered for them, these visitors—who were sure to become workers in the church—could not let their children grow up in that environment. They moved on.
What do your Children Ministries say about you as a church? How are you ensuring that the standards you have in your pulpit clearly exist in other parts of your church?
A few years ago, I was sitting in my local Starbucks and happened to overhear a group training session for new employees. And it was awesome! The employees were being trained on the atmosphere and experience that they were hired to create. The mission statement was given clearly through examples, so everyone could grasp it. The meeting was visionary. I was just about ready to fill out an employment application!
The people holding the training had a picture of how the employees were to treat each other and the leadership, but the tone was not focused on what the workers wanted to get out of the job. Instead, the training was centered around the experience they were to provide for each other and in turn, the customers. They were taught to be relational with frequent guests and sensitive to those who might not even know what a latte is.
What if we, as the church, put this much effort into inspiring workers—volunteers and members alike—with a vision for how the church could be and the atmosphere we would create for our visitors? Without this alignment, is it any wonder why we often come across as so fragmented and ineffective to the people we are trying to reach? Is it a surprise that there are so many churches connecting with so few people?
What are you doing to allign your ministry team? Do you have an atmosphere that's deliberate and effective?
During my travels serving churches, I’ve noticed that very few churches have a balanced response to what is a core facet of a healthy church: exposure. Exposure is critical to understanding who you are as a church and finding your way. And while I know that there are some church "hermits" out there, there are just as many church "followers" to ensure that there are large crowds on each side of “the exposure ditch.”
Let's start with the underexposed church. These are churches that rarely expose themselves to the world outside their walls; or have limited knowledge as to what’s out there in their own community. Their pastors are so busy that they tend to only rely on their denomination or a few "model" churches to provide insight into how church is done. By not being exposed to other churches in your community and what they are doing, you probably don’t fully understand who you are in the context of your community and you won’t have a sense of how your community perceives you. In order to fully understand God’s will for your church, you have to be exposed to what He’s doing in other churches. This helps your church see the role it can more effectively play in the bigger picture of what God is doing in your community.
For this church, make a point to visit churches that do not match your flavor. Visit growing churches and struggling ones. Do not judge them. Ask yourself, "Why do these church-goers like this? Why is this church successful? Who is not attending this church and why?" In order to get away from your own church on a Sunday, some pastors might have to commit hard to taking a break. It is difficult to take a break if you and your church are not in the habit. Let me challenge you that every church leader needs an exposure break--an opportunity to see others fighting the same "good fight" they are fighting. I challenge you to trust God by stepping out of the pulpit and stepping into someone else's back row. It will enhance your perspective in so many ways.
The other side of the ditch is the church that is overexposed. These churches tend to chase whoever they feel is the most exciting at the moment. They spend so much time following trailblazing churches, they end up constantly changing what they do to match what they think the most innovative churches are doing. The end result is that these overexposed churches never really gain a sense of who "they" are and don’t fully understand who God’s called them to be. They read tons of blogs, get tons of direct mail, and listen to tons of podcasts. They are always looking for the "silver-bullet" that’s going to create success. They end up becoming puppets to church fads--and while they can spout out a who's who list of popular Christianity, they never take a hard, inward look at who they are and let God show them how to commit to who they are supposed to be for their community.
I want to challenge that it’s critical as church leaders that we get exposure to what God’s doing in other churches. But it’s also critical after seeing what God’s doing in other churches, that we come back and ask the question, “who are we and how can we learn from this exposure to execute better on who God has called us to be?” As a result we can use exposure to understand ourselves better, communicate our unique DNA more effectively and become more deliberate; instead of constantly reinventing ourselves.
What do you do to ensure you are properly exposed?
Back in high school, did you ever notice that when a guy didn’t have a girlfriend, no one wanted to date him, but the moment he had a girlfriend, all the other girls were suddenly interested? It’s the eighth wonder of the world. It’s amazing what happens though—it’s like this air of confidence takes over the guy and suddenly every girl in school has taken notice. Do you know what I’m talking about?
Well, the girlfriend effect is alive and well in churches today and it starts with the atmosphere you create.
But what does atmosphere have to do with church growth? Some of you might think the suggestion is an attempt to devalue the work of the Holy Spirit and the power of prayer, but it’s completely opposite. The fundamental component of any church’s atmosphere is the sense that God is among His people and is active in their lives.
Remember, the Bible says that Peter and John were clearly “perceived” as “uneducated and untrained men,” yet the onlookers “marveled” at their “boldness”—“And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
They had a powerful spiritual walk that was evident. It created an atmosphere around them. People must be able to recognize that a church’s leaders and members have been with Christ and that His Spirit is active in the church. If it is not recognizable, the church will have a hard time making an ounce of difference in people’s lives. It is the cornerstone of the atmosphere you create.
So my challenge for you today is to continue to press into what the Lord has for you. When the Lord is the cornerstone of your church and the Holy Spirit resides there, it is evident not only to believers, but to visitors as well. It makes them want what you have—even though they may not know what it is.
© Richard L. Reising
Everyone who knows me knows I’m a thinker. In fact, my close friends tease me all the time because they can tell when I’m having conversations in my head. And I always find it strangely odd how my wife is never ready for that trip that I’m convinced I told her about. I then realize that I only thought to tell her about it. That’s the difference between intention and communication. Very similar to the difference between someone’s heart and how others perceive them.
Here’s the thing—until you clearly and fully communicate that thought, it really only exists in your head. In this world, a continuous battle for mindshare causes the companies that over-communicate to be the ones that make an impact. If you didn’t catch it the first time around, you’ll hear it again.
A similar tale can be told of Radio DJs and popular music. About the time that a hit song is driving them crazy is when people start calling in to request it. The DJ's totally burned out but has to play it over and over for listeners who are most likely hearing it for the first time.
The same principle that applies to the DJ, works for the church. Something is said once or twice and leadership assumes everyone has heard it. It’s not like that. Just like radio, people are tuning in at different times. Just when you think you’ve said something enough, some are only hearing it for the first time. You’ve got to repeat if you want it to stick. When it comes to especially important areas, like spiritual steps, communication is essential. If you aren’t making it a routine to communicate these things, there are people who aren’t hearing it. If you aren’t tired of saying it, you’re probably not saying it enough. The same principle applies to signage at your church, as well as communicating the brand and vision to your staff.
By over-communicating, you’re showing value to the recipients and you’re creating a culture of trust.
© Richard L. Reising
As a marketing person, you would probably assume that I am pro-promotion, right? Meaning, that I think the answer for more growth is found in advertising. Well, the truth is that I am pro-promotion…when you’re in a place to promote yourself. There are a lot of people out there today that misconceive what marketing is all about. It’s about building a bond between you and those you’re trying to reach. And as a result, I challenge that for most churches, the best marketing is not to advertise at all—not until they’re ready. Most churches are not ready because they aren’t connecting or "bonding" with visitors well enough to get them to come back.
In the video, What if Starbucks Marketed Like the Church, one of our baristas made the comment that they plan to do a direct mailing "that will solve everything". The only problem is that the experience that this fictional Starbucks provided was actually keeping people from coming back. The other barista said himself that visitors rarely came back. I see it time and time again. A struggling church sees a thriving church do a mailing and decides, “we should be doing that too. That will solve our problem.” Think about it this way: That’s the same logic as the young couple that fights all the time and thinks marriage will solve all of their relationship problems.
Direct mail, like getting married, doesn’t solve problems; it brings them out and intensifies them. If you aren’t retaining visitors, when you send out a direct mailer, all you are doing is inviting people to come in and see why no one wants to come to your church. On the other hand, if you have a healthy church—one that is thriving on its own, direct mail can enhance your growth just like marriage enhances a strong relationship.
I recently was consulting at a church that had spent tens of thousands on advertising the year before we arrived. When we worked with them to diagnose their current situation, one of the things we saw was that about 4 out of 100 visitors were returning. Thank God for the 4, but that means that 96 people out of every 100 were casting a "no" vote about their church. With their increased advertising, they were increasing the rate that 96% of the community was turning them down. Give them a few more years of this and everyone in town will have visited and summed up that church as one that nobody wants to go to. Needless to say, my team and I helped them shut down the advertising and are working with them to build an atmosphere that fosters growth—in numbers and in spiritual depth—while keeping their core values in tact.
You won’t win them all. A healthy church will experience 20-30% visitor retention. Growth should be organic first and foremost. It should be the response of changed lives inspiring others to experience change. Word of mouth has been and always will be the best advertising that exists. If you’re not hitting these numbers, it’s time to look introspectively.
In the meantime, start asking yourself, what is it that’s making visitors not return? Take the energy and effort that you would put into a direct mailer, or promotional plan, and apply it to things that will cause organic growth. Focus on the relationship first—once you’ve got it solid, then you can start talking about the marriage.
If you’re interested in more resources about building an atmosphere that fosters growth, start by reading my book, ChurchMarketing 101. There are several chapters devoted to it.
© Richard L. Reising
Here's a test. How many different versions of the logo did you see in the video? I'll give you a hint... It's more than five. Do you ever wonder why most churches have logos and design styles that vary in everything they do? In most cases I would suggest that it mirrors a lack of commitment to who they are as a church. Most churches are not consistent because deep down, they don't know who they are, whom they are called to reach, or how to reach them. When a church does, consistency becomes the natural outflow of our successful communication with those people.
To be brutally honest, those of us who have been in church for a while know what all the different styles and logos really represent--they stand for all of the volunteer graphic designers that have been burnt out along the way. :)
Design is not something to skimp on. When my wife and I were dating, I spent a lot of money on my haircut. She thought I had great hair and I admit I worked that angle as much as I could to woo her. After we got married and the demands of life overcame us, I resorted to buying clippers and cutting it myself late at night--partly because when we first started serving churches, it was financially tight and also because I was too strung out to ever make it to an appointment. A few years ago God convicted me about it. He reminded me that my wife loved my hair and that by no longer investing in it, I was devaluing her. My investment into my haircut was an investment into my relationship. Needless to say, I pay for my haircut now.
In the same way, great design is part of the courting process. It says, "I know who you are and I know who I am and I want to appeal to you." When you cheaply slap it together, you are literally devaluing the object of your pursuit. Furthermore, show me a church that looks to other popular churches for their design direction and I will show you a church that is short-changing its unique, God-given purpose for a random shot at quick-fix, imitation success. It would be like me getting a haircut to match some movie star in spite of it fitting my face or hair type. If these churches continue on this route for too long, they will come across as "the always changing church"--a.k.a. "the poser." To the outsider, the use of a barrage of differing design styles and varying standards leaves an impression--whether subconsciously or quite obviously--that your church suffers from real identity and resource issues.
The great irony about communications inconsistency is that even though you spent more time and money re-inventing yourself on every project, you actually come off looking cheaper. On the flip-side, when you really know who you are and whom you are called to reach, it shows. Consistency reflects deliberateness. Deliberateness is a value of confidence that draws people.
What's most amazing about the constant re-invention approach is that the churches that do it never stop to think about how rarely they ever see a truly strong organization creating such brand chaos. I mean, Eddie Bauer is still Eddie Bauer and Apple is Apple. I have never seen an ad that would cause me to confuse the two. Brands that know who they are and their resonating factors with their target audience maintain consistent design molds. Adapt over time? Yes! Constantly reinvent? No!
I beg you, as a church, it is time to figure out who God has called you both to be and to reach. Once you have, you are able to build an arsenal of consistent communication that connects the two together over time. Stop measuring yourself by the newest mailer that hits your doorstep--measure yourself by your ability to stay true to who God has called you to be in the midst of the world around you. You do not need a "cool" brochure or website, you need a strategic brand that grows with you as you grow.
© Richard L. Reising
In the video, there were a few points made about culture. Not just the style of things, which I look forward to writing on soon, but the often unidentified aspects of culture that are less obvious—the way greeters greet, the way ministers minister, the way ushers "ush", and the way church-goers go—all of it is a reflection of a church's culture. Some churches have a very outgoing culture—others seem to be in a completely different world of their own.
I’m not just talking about our need to train greeters on how to greet as much as I’m suggesting that there is a way of "being" that each individual church has created—whether it’s realized or not. That culture can be completely magnetic to outsiders, or completely repellant. The irony is, whether good or bad, it’s usually consistent throughout—or at least is consistently inconsistent. Many times, when you see a greeter fail on his/her job, it has more to do with church culture than it does poor training.
For some of the church leaders out there, I’m about to paint a picture about a proactive culture that you might deem farfetched, but here goes...
Imagine being ahead of the game. Your volunteer team is trained and comes ready. The sermon and music was nailed long before Sunday. In addition, as a leader, you are thinking and praying for souls. You are thinking about people and how you‘re going to connect with them at every spiritual level [see my posts on the stadium]. You’re thinking about visitors—how you want to see them come to Christ. When you arrive before service, your pre-game routine is simply to pat the team members on the back and remind them of what the trophy looks like—touched lives. You encourage your team that people today will be coming and need to see their smiles as God prepares their hearts. You are thinking more about hitting home runs [see the stadium] and not so much about the details. As a result, you’ve spent what time you do have with your support team—encouraging them with enthusiasm. You are outward focused. You put your teammates at ease by allowing them to focus on their task—reminding them of the end result.
This culture is a proactive one. It’s proactively outward focused. It’s ahead of the game and it’s driven by a clear purpose. It exists consistently in about 5% of churches. The other 95% of churches are reactionary: struggling with the lack of resources, the missing team members, and the last-minute changes. In the reactionary world, it’s very unlikely that every one is thinking outside themselves and about others—specifically visitors. No church will ever be proactive all the time. Some weeks, things will happen and the reactive impulses will reign. But, the end result of weeks and weeks of reactivity is that after a while, we stop forgetting about the outside world all together. After a while, we are no longer building our efforts around the visitor experience and we lose the correlation between our actions and growth. If we go too far, we can even create a counter-culture, so fixated on ourselves that we've lost track of what non-"regulars" are going through or needing.
The culture crime of this video is not just the missed greeter opportunity—it’s the disconnection that kept every other "regular attendee" and worker in the video from thinking first and foremost of others—remembering the inside jokes and the punch lines, but forgetting the true treasure in their midst. Just this past week I experienced a rapidly growing church that was so outward focused, it was palpable. Every volunteer was attentive to me as a guest, and was adding to the experience of the well-executed service. I was amazed. I then felt the same attention given by those I sat next to. It was a pro-active culture—one where they were thinking about me long before I arrived. What "secret sauce" did this mystery church have? It wasn't their brochures. It was their culture. It starts today in your church. Go build it.
© Richard L. Reising
Have you ever tried really hard to make a point and when people say they get it, you are just not sure they do? Sometimes it takes us seeing our world through new eyes--something that it is hard to do as believers. Sometimes a little bit of juxtaposition does the trick.
We made this video because we sometimes struggle in helping churches to truly understand the disconnection between how we do things and the people we’re trying to reach. Our thought was to showcase the visitor experience in a completely different context and in doing so, we might help churches realize how they might actually comes across to the world we are called to reach.
Sometimes it takes seeing something in a different light to really get it. With this thought, my team and I made a little video called “What if Starbucks Marketed Like the Church? A Parable.”
We hope you like it and share it with others. Come back soon or subscribe to our feed to get more insiders notes on the video. We'll have fun breaking it down together.
What if Starbucks marketed like the church?
It seems like churches these days have seen the power of marketing and branding just enough to jump onto the band wagon. Churches everywhere are sliding onto the re-branding table and looking for a quick-fix for their "growing" concerns. A few recent conversations have illustrated the often missing link in a church's preparedness to go under the knife for a branding make-over.
Now, before I get into this, please note that true "branding" goes much deeper than skin deep. True branding is a plum-line from the core of who you are to the people God has called you to reach. It is a promise you deliver on in all that you do and is seen on the surface as your communication, design, image or brand. With that said...
I was teaching a session on branding last week at the National Youth Workers Convention. I normally speak to senior pastors, so I jumped at the chance to hang out with youth leaders for a few days. It was a blast. I was challenging on the need for churches to become successful without a branding effort and that the best brands are those that learn how to connect to people and grow organically first—and then build their brand around that. A youth leader visited me afterwards almost in tears. He had recently taken a position at a new church and, as what he (and much of the church world) thought was norm, decided to launch a new youth group brand. He built that brand around a new look, new logo, new name, new everything. He developed the image of this great brand before he had built trust in his youth and momentum through his ability to connect with them and see growth. He then attempted to launch the brand with a huge event and watched it all to fall flat. The results were a disappointment for him and now his youth group is struggling and shell-shocked. He was heartbroken.
What this represents is surface re-branding. It is an epidemic. It is the concept that if we are not attracting people, it is because we do not have the right name or image, and therefore, we need to change it and re-design our look. With all the love I can muster, if you are not growing what you have, it is not because of your logo. If you are not connecting with people that come through your doors in a way that causes them to come back and bring others, no amount of design can create a long term fix. If you do have momentum however, the right brand can be a catalyst to new levels of growth.
This stuff is not taught in schools. In February, I sat down with a doctoral student at Dallas Theological Seminary who interviewed me regarding his doctoral thesis on church brand development. His brilliantly written thesis had a fatal flaw—it omitted that re-branding should only take place after momentum has been generated. To simply re-brand a church when it has not found its traction is generally just an indication to your community that you’ve tried everything else without success and in your last attempt, you’re changing your style and/or name in order to reinvent yourself. Branding done right is not a "fix". It is a swagger. It is a well-communicated sense of self built on successfully connecting with others.
Here’s the deal: if you aren’t currently connecting with people right where they’re at, no amount of branding/design can solve your problem. Re-branding without momentum is kind of like dressing up for your prom and forgetting to court a date. Think about it.
Design cannot obtain what a disconnected ministry cannot reach.
© Richard L. Reising