All church communities have a brand. Have you ever considered yours? And I don’t mean your visual design (at least not at first).
Let's think about branding like a relationship.
People are cautious of strangers (people they don't know). Can they trust you? Do they even like you? How do you reassure people who don't know you well? Be friendly and approachable. Let them see who you are. Be sincere and vulnerable about yourself, and be accepting of others. Share what’s good about you and how you can be of service to others. And admit to your imperfections.
Don't fake who you are even if some people won’t appreciate it. Be you and let the chips fall where they may. You might be wrong about some things, but people generally will forgive you if you are humble and sincere. Don't worry about people who won't like you no matter what. That's not who you are after anyway.
Allow people into your living room.
Some people will want to get to know you better. But they are still a little uncomfortable. Let them see you in action. Show them around. Guide them where to sit and what to expect. Let them know the "house rules" but allow them some freedom to ask questions.
Don't cover the furniture with plastic. In other words, don't make people feel like you suspect they will ruin your community. Allow people grace to make mistakes and get it wrong because you are resilient. Gentle guidance is what most people need at this point. And they need to know if you are secure.
When people feel comfortable around you
When people begin to feel comfortable they may want to talk to you more honestly and reveal a little of themselves.
Be a good listener and reflect what they tell you. Spend time relating to them because we are all in this together.
When you speak don't make everything about the pastor, or preferences as a church. Focus on the growth and development of your people, and the mission of your church. And newcomers will want to be involved. You are demonstrating that you care about them and about something bigger than yourselves.
This is attractive. Don't rush to judgment, because you aren't being vulnerable or humble when you do. Give people a benefit of a doubt until they prove otherwise.
When people want to be friends.
At some point some people will want to be friends (or join your community). Make it clear how to get involved. Offer a way to connect to others in smaller groups or with other individuals. It can be through small group Bible studies, classes, ministries, or services.
Don’t tolerate cliques, gossip, or excessive arguing because it will poison your community and your reputation. Respect everyone’s boundaries but let everyone know your boundaries too.
What does all this have to do with branding?
At each level of this relationship model of branding we are demonstrating who we are at each touchpoint. We do this in the words we use, the visuals we display, and the behaviors we choose. This is what we call branding. These things will give an impression of who you are. And they form the reputation others will have of you.
A good question to ask yourself is how do you present yourself at each stage from your website to the church secretary? Is it consistent at each point in the relationship? If not what needs to change and how will you address it?
I know you believe that what God thinks of you is more important than what others think of you. But doesn’t God also care about His reputation and how His people represent Him? Doesn’t God care how your attitude and character affect others? Of course He does.
Everyone has a brand even if they are unaware of it. The question is, will you form your brand intentionally or not?
Next, let's look at some tactics that work with your brand strategy.