Before I moved to my wife’s hometown, she had explained to me what her church had been like when she lived in the area and painted a picture of a body of believers that had been through some rough spots but had held on to its values. This created a preconceived notion for me of what the church looked like and its behavior. My first impression of its brand.
Months later, I moved to our new home and visited the church and it filled in some knowledge gaps both visually and relationally. I read their printed material, heard a message and worshipped alongside them. This honed my preconceived notion and gave me a better perspective of who they are and where they were wanting to go. My second impression of the church’s brand.
I began attending on a regular basis and things continued to fall into place and, if someone had asked me, I could probably have made a good dent in describing the church without making anyone angry or fumbling along. My third impression of the church’s brand.
But I didn’t have the whole picture.
The church was changing and shaping with people being hired and others being let go. There was a drastic need for people within the congregation to step forward and offer to lead to help facilitate a necessary change. This was all under the surface and, unless you were on staff or a heavily involved member, you would never know.
Here’s my point: If you are a part of a church staff or leadership team, it is important to understand that the way you perceive the church could not only be different from the way a visitor perceives it, but it could also be drastically different than the way a member perceives it.
Why is this important?
Your church or ministry has developed a brand whether intentionally or by accident. Just like I see a Taco Bell sign and associate it with a super-cheap but completely filling five layer beefy burrito; you may see the same sign and start slobbering for a gordita (I’m way too hungry to be writing).
The takeaway is that your church or ministry means different things to different people. You have to be truly intentional about branding your church or ministry strategically because, in the end, what your church or ministry says or believes about itself matters much less than what others say or believe about it.
So don’t assume that the newcomer that reads your bulletin now has the same outlook you do. For all you know, that person was just reminded of a church where they had a bad experience or any number of other things that influences their perception and definition of who you are and what you represent.
Branding matters because your message and your ministry matters. Have you asked your members or visitors recently if they know what matters to you? Does it also matter to them? If the body can’t define its parts, how will it know how to use them?