ReBranding the Faith.. for a President

Mitt Romney as Mormon trying to convince Voters

Graphic from faithmouse.blogspot.com

I was born in the last days of a Nixon administration, remember nothing of a the Ford presidency, have some recollection of Carter administration and was totally into a Regan presidency (though I had no clue why except that my parents liked him). Wasn’t old enough to vote for George H. Bush, but since then I have payed attention and voted in every election since then.

Somewhere along the road of all this religion became important… almost, too important.. the only thing important

History tells me it was a big deal when Kennedy was elected president because he was Catholic. Growing up around catholics in NJ I was confused why that was a big deal. Catholics were generally good folks. They did their mass, drank a lot of beer at the carnival beer garden and their kids played on my soccer team with me. I call them my friends.

We are now seeing the mormon church starting to ‘re-brand’ itself in a light so that they are seen as regular folks with possible, underlying, hopes that Mitt Romney (or now Jon Huntsman). This shouldn’t come as a surprise, the news was out there back last fall with their ‘regular person’ ad campaign.

My thought is, why does a church need to do this?

I don’t really know any folks who are mormons as close friends. Have met many along my years, had some nice chats with the young men doing their missionary work. Even read some of the Book of Mormon. Thinking of buying the musical recordings (though I’m told that isn’t really from the mormon church). Mormon’s seem to be regular people. Just as nice as the catholics I grew up with. They probably wouldn’t be guzzling beer in the beer garden at the carnival but a few might.

They have some odd customs and beliefs.. John Smith found some golden books in his back yard that no one saw in Pennsylvannia which became a new testament. They can retro-actively re/baptize the dead so that they may go to heaven, even the person was Jewish upon dying. I suppose I could go on about this list. My catholic friends always had the same conversations, “So this Pope is like next best thing to God?” “Why do you have to pray to a saint to talk to God?” “You really believe you are drinking Christ’s blood? That’s gross.”

With all this weirdness I could say that these folks were still nice, normal people. Any many times I would call them my friends.

But somewhere along the way this religion stuff got too important…

Being a church worker and involved in church for the greater portion of my conscious life I would never say church isn’t important. But there is a point where the doctrine of our religion has become a mountain of judgment for those seeking to serve our greater good.

My observations come along as such.

  1. The church gave up its social influence by giving over the mandates of caring for the poor, vulnerable, and needy of our society to the government. Whether it is a medicine program, a social service, a education program, or relief effort. We, as a church, can safely say that we outsourced this mission of our church to the government. To which, we probably do not have the imagination to get it back. Though some are imagining it and implementing it.
  2. Thus, the government became the place where social issues of taking care of humanity were now hashed out. No longer were our houses of faith, where we would come together in worship & as a family of believers, the place to sort what God wanted for our community and our church to be about. Our brand became less about what we did and more about a history of our titles and names. The politics of our culture were not a place where we extended grace and love (as ideally done in the church) but more a place where we put together way to ‘win’ something.
  3. Our prevailing economy of consumption feeds into our mindset that IT IS, all about me. My thoughts and needs are primary (more than just Mazlows base of hierarchy of needs) and who gives what is really needed and what is really achievable. We speak and act in an economy of consumption, why else would you have a “marketing campaign” to tell you that a group of people is ‘just like you.’ They want you, they need you, to digest and accept that message. We should just know that mormons, in most cases there are always crazies in every faith expression, are just like you and me.

So, fueled with an economy, and generation, of ‘me first’ and having given over the mission of the church to the government in more ways than we care to admit. We make a wrong assumption that someones religious expression has a huge effect on the running of the government.

Or…

Those of us who know the mormon church know that they actual have held onto their mission as a church and not outsourced it to the government (at least not as much as the rest of our faith community). They have their own health care system to take care of its members. They do their own disaster relief programs. They have their own parenting and child education systems within their faith traditions. They expect a certain amount of sacrifice of time and energy towards these entities (their youth ministry programs are intensive and led by parents and other leaders, not outsourced to church staff). Sacrifice, that isn’t convenient isn’t part of our vocabulary in my protestant world. Giving into a greater good, or sharing the resources with a community gets called “socialism” but yet it is a part of the start of the church in Acts 2.

3 Ways for Churches to Improve their Brand

The other week I heard a speaker say that the church needs to be a “go-to people” place versus a “come-to us” place. It has me thinking of  1) our overall ethos as an American church & 2) what can we do about it?

Our overall ethos as a church in America is probably different depending on the people who are in the church versus the people outside the church, so for purposes of this conversation we’ll let you answer that question for yourself. I’m thinking of answering question #2.

To change the “brand” of a church, which I wrap around as the market place identity of an institution or person, and that identity if what others communicate to each other what/who you are. So let’s take ahold of three principles to help drive our churches to change their brands. Note: this is more of a get out and do list, not a bible proof texting list, but if you want that there is plenty of scripture that doesn’t referencing ‘stay in your temple’ (God actually destroyed one because he didn’t like the idea of being contained to a place) or ‘just tend to your own people.’

1) Sharing of Resources: This may seem strange, but sharing and giving of resources is the new goodwill and positive energy generator. People love to lift you up when they feel you are freely giving. Ideas on making this happen: freely giving use of your building to weddings, community events, after school programs, meetings, etc. that do not fall within the ‘ministries’ of the church. People know when you have open, versus locked, doors. Share resources you have from your teaching education set ups, projectors/screens, chairs, etc. Maybe all you have people, that works even better, have your people on an email list that are willing to commit to showing up and helping set up/clean up or just be present to community events. One might say, well how to do recoup an item if it was broken or not returned?.. My retort is, how has a generation of scarcity model treated our church identity?..

2) Participate in Everything: Community events, fundraisers, golf tournaments, high school musicals, whatever it is have your people there and let them be the folks that represent you going out. Make it part of your membership training “We keep a community calendar and we expect you to participate in things that beyond your personal interests. That is a sacrifice and that is serving.” I have gotten used to saying yes to every yearbook and high school sports program that came across my desk. It was/is important to participate and show support to the things that were important to the people of the community I was called to. Being you are reading this digitally, that goes for all the digital mediums. Participate in the community Facebook accounts (not one? create it). Be active in those areas.

3) Recommend Others is Your PR: Be about others and what their interests are. Share what others are doing. This gives them a reason to think of you as someone who cares (which isn’t always an identity churches have, they should, but don’t). Think of this rule of saying/sharing 12 things about someone else before you promote or talk about your own church. That could be digital or in public forum. It is also the new way of networking. In the past the value was to be the hub of a network where everyone had to come through you to get to valuable information. No more, a valuable networker shares their networks freely, connecting folks who compliment other, resources, information, etc.

So there are the talking points and they really do not sound like much, but trust me, they are culture changing and will take intentionality to mobilize if your folks have grown up tending to within the walls of the building.

branding your YOUth ministry

I wrote up this posting for YouthWorker Movement & encapsulates some of my ‘short session’ from Perkins School of Youth Ministry last month.

Last month I did a session at Perkins School of Youth Ministry on “branding” ones youth ministry (the image above is my whiteboard, minus that “revitalize church” not sure what that’s from).

Brand, is a very ambiguous term. In many ways its best to understand what some brands are. Mac/Apple, has the bitten apple logo. McDonald’s has the big yellow ‘M.’ Nike has it swoosh. Beyond just a logo though, Coca-Cola has a very distinct and branded glass bottle, so much so that it was designed to be recognized even when broken (true story). ‘Your’ brand is more than just a logo. So how does one identify and move forward developing a brand in the church environment?

Well, this is how I see it happening.

Acts 2: “..because each one heard their own language being spoken..”

I have this idea of Pentecost being about the enabling of effective communicating to the masses through the power of the Holy Spirit. Read the story, that scene was a mess before the Holy Spirit came to inspire & enable the leaders. Today it is a present reality that we speak and understand in brands, that combination of who we are along with our sensory identifiers. My opinion is that we need the Holy Spirit in finding out who we are and what we are about to us and others to be able to accurately and adequately communicate to others about our ministries.

Matthew 16: “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

I love this scripture, in part because I feel this is all about identity and many of us, our teens especially, struggle with identity. Christ outlines those cores questions we need to answer for ourselves & our ministries. Ourselves? Yes, as I’ve highlighted in Christ’s responses, he renames Simon to Peter, which translated is “rock” and so “on this ‘rock’ I will build my church” telling me that we are integral to the identity and ‘brand’ of our ministries. Are our ministries all about us, heck no! but they are very much a part of us and many times take over traits and gifts unique to us. That isn’t a bad thing. God gifts us & enables us for ministry. We bring that to whatever ministry we enter and lead.

So, how do we go about answering the questions?

I have a process of discernment that I feel has value to help us open to the Holy Spirit and find the answers. Only after this can we move forward in doing the ‘things’ of branding our ministries.

Discernment

Prayer - Emptying Prayer, get rid of all the junk in you head about what could be, what the Baptists are doing, or what the big mega church in your area is doing. Certainly get rid of those advertising ideas from some national chain that you think are cool. (Do this first as individual, then as a group)

Prayer – Return to prayer after you are rid of all that junk and ask God to give you clarity as to “who you are?” and “what do others say you are?”  (Do this first as individual, then as a group)

Reading - Because God doesn’t give answers immediately (that’s my experience, maybe it isn’t yours). Spend time in reading, read scripture (Searching the Scriptures), art books, local newspapers and magazines, read poetry and creative writing, etc.  Stay away from church growth books are my suggestion, they don’t translate often and confuse, plus you need to go back to that emptying prayer exercise.

Conversations - Begin conversations with a myriad of people. Those involved in your ministry and those outside your ministry. Ask those people the two questions, be okay with whatever responses you get.

Visualize – At some point around here you will see some themes emerging. Start to jot them down and then organize the themes of your ministries identity. What do you want to change? What do you want to emphasize? What do you want to be about? Vizual how you might want to get there.

This becomes then a planning process where you want to go back to many of those people you had conversations with. As you present you leadings from the Spirit you will find that others will understand as well and jump in to help making this new branding a reality.

At this point you might have some specific planning options to help along the way.

  • What is your name? I can’t example that one for you
  • What is our visual identifier, ie. logo? How to create it?
  • What is our language?
  • What do we do? Mission, Discipleship, Worship?.. I’m a fan of identifying three key words, forget mission statements, they are useless and communicate nothing to teenagers. imho
  • What do we do best? Discipleship?..
  • How are we going to do this? Detailed plan for reshaping or building your culture
  • What do we want others to know us by? How to share that; email, outreach projects, community events, etc?
  • How to keep doing that? I call it the, rinse and repeat

In our workshop session on of the participants brought up how Gatorade was re-branding itself. Which brought up for me an important example of jumping this process and mis-branding your ministry. Note: I have this information on good knowledge because my brother-in-law is a national sales member to the Gatorade team. A few years back Gatorade heard that Tiger Woods was entertaining a new brand of Powerade line with his name on it. Someone in Gatorade felt, and enough others agreed, that they couldn’t allow this to happen so they rushed to jump over Powerade and sign Tiger to a huge endorsement and created a whole line of favorite Tiger flavors of Gatorade. Well, the whole line was a super flop (financially speaking) and when Tiger got into trouble it was a fortunate circumstance to break from that failed venture. Gatorade got away from “who they are” and more into who they wanted to beat. It failed for them & will fail for any of us who go that route in ministry as well.

Do you have any questions about branding a ministry?

Branding like the church makes Sense

This posting originally written for Sticky Sheep

I’ve been reading one of my latest impulse book buys. “Brand Sense: Sensory Secrets Behind the Stuff We Buy” by Martin Lindstrom. It’s basically a book talking about the importance of integrating the many senses into a branding of a company/product etc. This interested me because I know that for many people the church has the potential for a rich environment. In setting up and leading many contemplative worship experiences over the past decade I have had many responses of “this reminds me so much of…” where a participant has those subconscious triggers, nostalgia kicks in, and the overall experience is elevated. They then ask a next question “how can we do this again?”

So it wasn’t so much a surprise, but a great affirmation to read up some of Martin’s thoughts on branding sense & the church.

“Without taking comparisons to religion to far, we can see the relevance of spirituality for certain aspects of sensory branding. The most memorable, savored brands of the future will be those that not only anchor themselves in tradition, but also adopt religious characteristics as they simultaneously make full, integrated use of sensory branding-period. Each fully integrated brand will boast its own identity, one that’s expressed in its every message, shape, symbol, ritual, and tradition-just as sports teams and religion do.”

Lindstrom goes on from there & weaves through the book the idea of religious integration. I don’t think he’s actually attuned to life in the church and the traditions to know what are the things that make ‘sense’ (or he is totally avoiding the religion comparisons to stay away from a potential hot button topic).

I visited with one of the new pastors in town a month or so back. He showed me the sanctuary at his brand new built church (renovated movie theater) and he called it the “main experience room.” I thought to myself, “experience?” What experience do you have here? Sure as a church you hope to have an experience where people engage God in some manner. However, what is special about the environments of the church that help people ‘sense’ God and fully engage their experience? How can the church go about emphasizing some of these branded sensory experiences? Certainly Len Sweet has been preaching his E.P.I.C. model for years which can flow into this, but for those who haven’t been listening to Len my short list.

  • Smell? Incense, candles, hymnals, wood floors, etc.
  • Visuals? Banners, cross, projections, cleanliness, used, robes, candles, architecture, etc.
  • Touch? hugs, passing peace, fellowship, prayer book, hymnals, pews, etc.
  • Taste? Communion/Eucharist etc.
  • Hear? Music, sermon, screaming baby, sneezing, etc.

As the workplace goes, what is the end result you wish for consumers to experience? What are the sensory items ingrained already in the tradition of your work? How can you expand those? What are new ways to take the sensory route to branding your end experience?

You, Your Brand, Your Product

Today at All American Pest Control Erin hosted an Accelerent seminar led by John Boyans on building sales, referrals, relationships, and overall Accelerent partnership. I’ve started making a few of these but today was a bit different since it was our home turf & it was in our brand new addition’s training room. My primary responsibility was tech emergencies.

John had a few quotables & thoughts that stuck out to me, but the one that stuck the most was.

“People will buy You first, your Brand second, and your Product third.”

I am very inclined to tell folks that they are their brand, and their brand is their communication.. Which pushes on his thoughts a bit.. Then I pieced together the difference. It is the sale, the commitment that make because of the relationship with you. That relationship is real, ie. they actually know you, or perceived, ie. your brand is strong enough that they feel they know you.

What does this mean?…

It means that your mom knows you and loves you and will buy your product no matter what. Even if you tell your mom that the book you were writing has no real value to her what so ever [personal experience confession]. It is why whenever you start something new, you plug the ‘low hanging fruit’ of people who “know you” not necessarily your brand.

It can build on itself as well.

I have no physical product to sell… at least right now.. But I am trying to bring about change. For me this means that my personable relationships are king right now in bringing change. My brand is directly affected and plays a role in these relationships (many times as the introduction to a personal relationship) and how I keep these relationships builds my brand. It is a wonderful cycle

So understand this, whether you are a CEO, Pastor, Writer, Intern..

  1. You, as a person, have a brand that people can relate to
  2. You may belong to a corporate brand that people cannot relate to, only its people. You
  3. When these stars line up you are building some kickass leverage in making change