All I have to say is “Coke” and you know what I am referring to. “Coke” means “refreshing,” “goes well with popcorn,” “delivered in shiny red trucks.” That’s because the Coca-Cola people have cultivated the brand and protect it vigorously. If local distributors fail to properly maintain the delivery trucks, they will soon hear about it from Coke headquarters. The brand does not tolerate dirty trucks because it sends a confusing message to customers. People expect clean and shiny, not dirty and drab.
What is your church’s brand? What do people in your community think about when they hear your church’s name mentioned? Not too long ago, our entire denomination and every individual congregation were known as the “Dutch church.” We have made great strides in shaking that image. But to no longer be known as something hardly qualifies as a strong brand.
Sometimes it helps to think about your brand as a message you might put on a church sign. Imagine one that says, “We have the answer to your problems. Please hush so we can tell you what you need to hear.” Now compare that with another sign that says, “Please hold my hand as together we wait with hope for God to heal us.”
If you weren’t already attending your church, which of these two signs might inspire you to check out what this church is all about? Why?
Even if your church does not have a sign out front, it is still sending messages into your community. People might learn about your church from talking with a current member or from reading a newspaper announcement about a new program. Or they might learn about it from your website, your Facebook page, or some other public presence. Even your church’s physical appearance sends a message.
Perhaps your church is ready to form a branding task force, a group of people from diverse backgrounds who take a closer look at how and, more importantly, what your church communicates to its neighbors, both purposeful, explicit messages and what people might read between the lines.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking your brand should be like Coke, all shiny and clean. I know of a church in Arizona where they tell people right up front: “We are broken people; we get many things wrong; our pastors are not perfect. If you think you are, you may be disappointed, but join us anyway. We know how to love people like us, but God is teaching us to also love people like you.”
By the way, this church is growing.