Branding? But we’re a church. Do we need a brand?
Every church is distinctive by God’s design. Understanding a church’s “DNA” and intentionally aligning and communicating its core components is the basis for successful ministry branding.
A clear church brand maximizes the engagement of every individual so that the local expression of the “body of Christ” fulfills God’s highest purpose.
Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, Calif., is a congregation of 18,000 people who meet in the Forum (formerly the home of the LA Lakers). For years they had been known as the “Family of Faith.” During one of my early meetings with the church leadership, it became apparent that, while that phrase was certainly true, it was far too passive for this growing and vibrant congregation.
I will never forget the moment when it all came together. After several hours of exploring their distinctives through our “DNA” process, Bishop Kenneth Ulmer, Senior Pastor, said:
“We meet in the ‘Hall of Champions,’ which is located on the ‘Avenue of Champions’ in the ‘City of Champions’ – we’re building champions!”
As we began to explore the implications of this brand slogan, we quickly realized that if you are going to build champions, there has to be a reason. “Building champions for what?” I asked. “To be used by God,” was the quick reply. Out of that encounter, a new brand was birthed:
“Faithful Central Bible Church – Building Champions for Divine Deployment!”
Once an authentic church brand identity is established, the brand needs to be integrated into all levels of leadership. We accomplished Faithful Central’s leadership team brand integration through vision casting, documentation, training, and even testing. That’s right – the leadership was periodically quizzed on their knowledge and understanding of the new Faithful Central brand.
Every effort – every event – had to go through the screen of “How will this build champions?” By the time the “Building Champions” brand was launched, the leadership was not only aware of the new brand, but were enthusiastic endorsers of it.
A brand launch needs to bring everyone into the brand in a big way, so it was promoted community-wide by means of a postcard with a picture of the highly recognizable Forum on the front that simply said, “The Champions are back at the Forum!”
That Sunday morning, the air was charged with electricity. A marching band was playing in the parking lot. Everyone received clap-sticks and a program when they entered the door. The arena was set up half-court. The auditorium was divided into eight sections (one for each characteristic of a champion). They even had a “pregame” show describing how the champions at Faithful Central would overcome their adversaries.
The service was all about celebration from the first song. The choir, wearing Lakers jerseys, rocked the house. Then two basketball teams took to the court. The Champions from Faithful Central were taking a beating – until “Coach” Ulmer came to the game and turned the tide. After soundly defeating the adversaries, the teams retired to their benches and Bishop Ulmer began to challenge the congregation about what it meant to be a Champion for God.
The impact was immediate, powerful, and memorable. Now if you walk the halls of the church and ask, “What is Faithful Central Bible Church all about?” The response will be clear: “Faithful Central is building champions for divine deployment.”
What would people say in the halls of your church if you asked the same question?
Remember – branding happens! You can’t get around it. You can simply choose to let it happen and deal with the consequences of brand confusion – or you can make an intentional commitment to build a church brand that is authentic and consistent, fulfilling God’s special purpose for your congregation.