You have a brand.
It can be good, or it can be bad, but like it or not, it’s there.
You have a brand, I have a brand, and – get ready for it – your church has a brand. But what does that mean, and why does it matter?
Simply, your brand is who you are to other people. It is their understanding of your identity and their interpretation of your purpose. It is the form you hold in their thoughts and feelings about you. It isn’t who you think you are; it’s who they think you are.
The practice of branding is the deliberate process of closing the gap between perception and reality. It is the intentional work of helping people to see who you really are, what you stand for, and why it matters. It is ensuring that your brand is a true representation of your identity.
A good brand identity (the collective expression of branding) doesn’t project something that isn’t true. It isn’t fake or flimsy. A good brand identity throws open big, wide windows for people to see the truth of what’s inside. It reveals with focus and clarity the heart, values, and vision of a thing, and invites people to belong.
Properly constructed, a good brand identity can strengthen bonds with those on the inside of your community by uniting them around a clear, common purpose, and build bridges to those on the outside by helping them to see who you really are, and drawing them in to hear what you have to say.
Brand, then, is a simple, sensible and significant idea, and branding a useful tool with clear value for ministry and mission.
Why brand matters for the people on the inside.
My mum works for a Christian book company. Part of her job involves packing and shipping books to customers around the country.
She recently told me that someone came to talk to the staff about the company’s brand. She wasn’t sure what brand had to do with putting books into boxes, but she listened nonetheless. This is how she described the experience:
‘He told us why we do what we do. He showed us that, together, we are part of something bigger than ourselves – that we are contributing to something significant. He helped us to see that we aren’t just a bookseller, but a missionary organisation working to get essential resources into the hands of church leaders, evangelists and everyday Christians across the country – that we’re part of this vital ministry helping to resource, equip and edify the church in the UK.
I realised that my own work as part of that mission meant something – that I’m not just putting books into boxes, but treasure into the hands of people who would use it to teach, speak, and live for Jesus: taking His gospel out into our nation.
The guy kept saying, ‘This is us! This is who we are!’, and it was so inspiring to really see my part in that. I wasn’t just working to get a bit of money to pay the bills. It wasn’t just a job anymore; it becomes part of who you are.’
When you explain your identity clearly, consistently, and persuasively, you bind your community together with a deep understanding of who you are, what you stand for, and why it matters.
When you cultivate a shared sense of ownership around your values and vision, you give people clarity and confidence in their part in your mission.
When you invite people to embrace your purpose for themselves, you can move as one toward its fulfilment.
Why brand matters for the people on the outside.
Imagine you were responsible for curating a gallery that displayed the most beautiful, transcendent, life-changing art in the world.
Would you keep the shutters closed? Would you settle for small, grimy windows, peeling paint and bad lighting? Would you leave the street-front bare and sit inside hoping people somehow found their way in?
Of course you wouldn’t!
You would fit big, wide windows. You would install lighting that beamed out brightly onto the pavement. You would make signage that was clear and compelling. You would design invitations that were intriguing and persuasive, and you would hand them out every day – welcoming people to come in and see for themselves.
You wouldn’t do a thing to change the art – you would protect and preserve its power and integrity at all costs – but you would build a platform suitable for its significance. You would do all you could to let it be seen, to let it shine, and to let it speak.
This is branding. It is taking seriously the responsibility of presenting something that is true, explaining to people why it matters, and inviting them to experience it for themselves. It is being intentional about the process of helping others to see who you really are and drawing them in to hear what you have to say.
If you are a Christian, you hold the most beautiful, transcendent, life-changing message in the world. You must do everything to protect and preserve its power and integrity, but you must also take seriously the responsibility of presentation, explanation, and invitation.
Open up the windows, turn on the lights, draw the people in, and let the truth speak.