Branding and marketing is a difficult practice for many local churches, Christian nonprofits and even individual ministries to really grasp. Some churches have a logo that shows they haven’t thought about their brand for about 45 years. On the other side of the coin, some youth pastors are so concerned about their youth ministry’s logo and corresponding t-shirts that they really need to close their free trial of Adobe Creative Suite and step away from the MacBook Pro.
But branding and marketing aren’t really about logos, websites, signage or even advertising. Branding is communicating who you really are (or perhaps more accurately, who you’re striving to be). Due to the dishonest nature of much of the marketing in our culture, some leaders bristle at the thought of deliberately branding and marketing their church or ministry. In reality, every church markets in that they communicate to people (both those who are part of their church and those who are not) something about themselves. The trick is to do this in a way that communicates what your church is “about” (or again, what you are striving to be “about”).
Since I’m no expert on branding and marketing, I’m grateful that Jesus actually addressed the issue of how leaders can successfully brand their local church (or youth ministry).
Surprised? I figured you might be. But he did.
Jesus actually let us know 2,000 years ago what brand his followers were to use that would let people know that his disciples were serious about following him. He may not have provided it to us in the form of a logo, but he was abundantly clear about it nonetheless:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
That’s our brand. That’s how we are supposed to proclaim to our communities why we are here and what we are about. It’s how people are supposed to know that your church is a church.
I’m not suggesting that you ditch your logo, your t-shirts, or your billboards and advertisements. That’s a part of our culture’s language, and so we’re wise to use that language well. But maybe we need to take more seriously the brand that Jesus gave us to use rather than trying to come up with something new that likely won’t wow people as much as we hope it will. After all, if we don’t love one another—and our communities—in a way that people will see at least a small glimpse of Jesus, then all the marketing in the world won’t help our local churches one bit.