I know what you’re thinking. “What does ministry have to do with a ‘brand?’ (Images of cattle and hot-irons come to mind, but we don’t really want to do that to lost sheep, do we? No, we don’t.)
When it comes to ministry, “brand” is one of those words that some (possibly from an older generation) might shy away from: “It’s from the world of advertising, right? Well, we’re not a commercial business, you know!”
Again, I know – but please hear me out. While the word “brand” is commonly used in connection with an organization’s trademark name (Pepsi, Samsung, etc.), we know instinctively that there’s more connected to a name that that. For example, If you hear the word “Ferrari,” you probably also think of words like “fast, expensive, sleek, etc.” Or, think of your favorite ice cream (“sweet, smooth, and creamy;” maybe even a certain flavor comes to mind, like Mint Chocolate Chip). Marketers know these things, and they try to capitalize on them in their ads.
What Your Name Says
The idea here is to get at what someone thinks about when they hear a name. In that way, it’s similar to a person or thing’s reputation – it can immediately conjure good associations, or bad. So the question is, what are people thinking when they hear your church or ministry’s name? (Don’t automatically assume you know; instead, maybe try asking someone in your community to get a fresh read on this).
Just as in life, your brand name will be tied to what people see, hear, or experience. It may be that your brand is carrying a negative perception, caused by gossip, or a very real history of fallen pastors, or scandals. If so, it’s high time to remedy that bad reputation (see 1 Tim. 3:7, and Proverbs 22:1 “A good name is more desirable than great wealth. Respect is better than silver or gold”). Such undesirable associations call for much prayer, as well as demonstrable repentance – including restitution where needed. Maybe even a ministry or church name change is in order. There’s always hope because of the gospel.
Love Speaks Loudly
Even if you find your local community largely opposed to the gospel (the good news of Christ sacrificially living, dying, and rising for us), know that they’ll be drawn to you more – and have positive associations with your name – if they see you loving and serving them as Christ.
This should not be a foreign idea, especially when you realize the gracious nature of Christ’s enduring love to us – stubborn and resistant as we often are. Out of his great blessing, we can find power to move toward and love our neighbor – and even our enemy – because that’s what Christ first did for us.
So what then are the main take-aways about your brand? Let’s summarize:
- A strong brand is not about catchy slogans. It’s about the positive associations that come with your church or organization’s name (See 1 Pet. 2:12; Matt. 5:16).
- A strong brand is not mainly your presence on the web, or lots of signage in your community. It’s earned or “built” by loving your community well.
- A strong brand makes the Gospel more appealing and attractive to those considering its claims – because they’ve seen a visible demonstration of the difference it’s making in you.
Like your name, your brand reveals your essential character. Those who belong to Christ have the privilege to reflect him to a broken world – and they will do so, for good or for ill. Let’s pray that increasingly, his gracious character will shine through our love – as well as through our cracks, as we respond in humility – so that our very name will be to all a sweet aroma of Christ (2 Cor. 2:15).