Church branding is becoming a critical issue, not just for the health of individual churches but for the state of organized Christianity as a whole. Since the 1960s, both church membership and regular service attendance numbers have dropped precipitously for mainline religious affiliations like the United Methodist Church. However, that same data reveals a ray of hope: other less-mainline denominations have been on the rise, especially evangelical churches.
Without having access to studies, we can only speculate as to the causes—but, if we had to guess, the differentiating factor between these older churches and relatively new ones comes down to one thing: branding. Upstart churches almost inevitably have a powerful message that resonates clearly and succinctly among enthusiastic inductees. They have also begun to master aspects of branding first harnessed by companies like Proctor and Gamble in the 1960s.
New churches — whether they are evangelical or offshoots of more traditional organizations — can therefore increase their chances of success, growth and prominence as long as they follow the principles of good branding. Here is how they can get started:
1. Determine How to Represent Your Unique Message
More important than logos, color schemes and catchy taglines, your church’s actual message should be the grounding element that tethers all your lofty branding ideals to a simple, heartfelt notion pulled right from the scriptures.
As an example, perhaps Mark 6:34 inspires you more than anything: “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” This focus could mean that the name Compassion Church of Christ or a logo that evokes shepherd imagery such as a crook staff would fit within your branding.
Think of examples like the one above, where the heart of the message stems from your passion for certain scripture, and let your branding shine forth from the ideals you value most.
2. Seek Unification and Consistency
Once you have a core belief, message or ideal that you can distill into your branding, let the rest of your decisions flow from there. Every element should reinforce the brand characteristics that make your church unique compared to others.
On a simple level, this approach means not having a Gothic font next to a new-age logo, or vice-versa. On a deeper level, don’t try to reach for too many concepts at once between your name, logo, tagline and other promotional materials. Think of each element as combining to form a more powerful whole, much like the Trinity is somehow even greater than the sum of its parts.
3. Avoid Clichés
Many churches are tempted to emulate older branding strategies that have worked before, but this approach tends to hopelessly mire you in the past. It also limits your creativity to picking over-repeated church branding elements or overused branding elements in general.
For instance, does the world really need another logo with an ichthus, dove, olive branch or hugging people? Does it really even need another cross? Try to step away from these clichés. If you do decide to use them, opt for originality. For instance, this design from Immanuel Lutheran Church makes the cross symbol a subtle foundational element to the more visible tree design.
Get Help from Branding Pros!
Letter Jacket is far from a creative agency or graphic design studio, but we dabble heavily in both realms during our typical work day. If you want help deciding on a brand or modifying it to increase the chances of your church’s success, we would gladly be your branding experts!