Why Brand Your Parish?

Posted on April 11, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

If You Don’t Tell Your Community Who You Are, How Will They Ever Know?

Branding Header

Branding within a local Catholic church community is an effective ministry tool that is all too often underutilized and misunderstood. Today’s church has embraced using a myriad of different tools to communicate with current members and to welcome visitors. Websites, Facebook pages, Twitter, email platforms, and apps have been added to the parish arsenal of brochures, bulletins, newsletters, welcome packets, annual reports, and ministry directories.

The problem is, if we are not intentional about creating our parish brand, we risk ending up with a bunch of completely different looking communications that don’t say anything about us. If we could stop for a minute to reassess what we want people to think about us and determine the best way to tell that story, the sky is the limit for the impact we can have in our communities for Christ

The Power of a Great Brand

Top 5 Reasons to Brand Your ParishImagine a world where every piece of communication —verbal, print, online—was branded consistently across all of our ministries both inside the parish and out in our local community. What if the message was something that resonated with people who heard and saw it? What would happen?

We would see increased engagement in our ministries not only from our existing parish members but also a growing number of fans throughout our entire community. Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion surrounding what branding is and how to go about getting it done.

Add to that a mental barrier that exists in the church that associates the mere mention of “branding” with the evils of Corporate America and consumerism, and it is outright rejected as something worthy of pursuit.

Who Do People Say You Are?

While there is a lot of confusion out there, at its core branding is actually fairly straightforward. Simply put, it is an intentional decision to align what you want people to think of your parish (and therefore Jesus) with what people actually do think.

Even if you are sending the message you want them to hear, it won’t connect with anyone if that’s not the message actually received. Communication is a two-way process, right? So perception always ends up being reality. This means it’s what they hear you say you are that matters more than what you said you are. How your parish is perceived in your community will affect your ability to successfully fulfill your mission of spreading the good news of the church.

You need a good, well-thought-out brand focused on what makes your parish unique. There is no other church just like yours anywhere.

Branding your parish will help you prove your clarity of purpose, build reassurance and trust, establish consistency and reliability, and ultimately create a place where people feel they belong. The reason to use branding as a ministry tool is it will help you seize every opportunity to express why people should choose to come to Mass, serve the poor, get more involved in a ministry, and offer up everything they are and have to God, our Father, the Creator of the universe.

Does Your Parish Have a Brand?

Did you know that whether you have intentionally set out to create a parish brand message or not, you already have one? That’s right, if you don’t brand yourself someone else will do it for you. What does that mean?

It means if you don’t give people a place to understand in their own minds who your parish is, they will do it for you. If you don’t tell people who you are how will they ever know?

They won’t, but they will decide for themselves anyway.

Think about it this way, let’s say we meet someone who is quieter than most others. Every time we see this person, he or she says almost nothing. Without any more communication to convince us otherwise, we might decide the person is standoffish, rude, an elitist, or even arrogant. The truth could be that the person is desperately shy and awkward in a group setting. However, we have already decided what we think (our perception), in light of the fact there was no other information available.

This is why it is important that a parish be proactive in establishing its own brand.

Does Everyone Know You’re a Catholic Church?

Your Brand MessagingIt is common for many Catholic parishes to identify themselves in communications as simply a “Catholic church.” The only messaging they use consistently throughout their communications is their parish name, for example: “St. Mary’s,” followed by the words “Catholic Church.” The words are typed in a basic font and often the same image of their parish building is prominently featured on the front cover of everything they publish.

If this is your parish, you are not alone. However, it’s important to point out here that it is highly likely that everyone in the community around you already knows you are “Catholic” just by your church name. So what else can you tell them to engage them?

These same people more than likely knew you were a church the first time they drove by your building. So what other information do they need from you to care about who you are? What do you want them to know about your parish besides the fact that you are a Catholic church?

There has to be something more you can tell them to help them understand why they should consider coming to learn more about you. If you want to attract more visitors, like the unchurched, or lapsed and disenfranchised Catholics, and engage more regular Mass attenders in the mission of your church, then you need to tell people why they should care.

What Do People Think of When They Think of Your Church?

To create a brand message for your parish you will need to start by asking yourself these simple questions.

What do people think of when they think of your church? Who do you say you are? Who needs to know this? How will they find out? Why should they care?

I believe this last question is one of the most important because if you don’t give them a reason to care they won’t hear you and you won’t ever get to share with them the greatest story ever told. Yes, of course, that’s the message all Catholic churches are called to share with their communities but first you have to get their attention. Branding a church is different than branding a company. Most companies use the power of branding to differentiate their products or services from those of their competitors. It might surprise you that while a local Catholic church never seeks to differentiate itself from the other Catholic churches in the area, every parish does have competition.

What kind of competition does the Church have? Think about it like this: What are all the things that keep people out of the church? What are the things that compete with people’s time? It’s the world.

We live a world that is filled with things that distract us from being in a daily relationship with God, loving and serving others, and finding our God-given purpose. These distractions, like television, electronics, busy children’s schedules, and the demands of work, keep us so busy that many people don’t think they have time for church.

This is even true for many people who attend Mass on Sundays but are so overwhelmed by their hectic lives, they can’t imagine giving another hour of their time and talent to the church. Branding done well and consistently can help you reach people with the message that there is something more, something they are missing. It should communicate why replacing an hour of Facebook time with an hour serving on a committee, attending a ministry event, or even coming back to Mass on Sunday could help them find more purpose and a sense of belonging.

What Is Your Brand Message?

Your parish brand messaging consists of two important elements that need to work together: Your Brand Messaging = Your Brand Identity + Your Brand Story.

Your Brand Identity helps you create visual recognition of your parish. Brand Identity is something you can see that appeals to the senses. It has the ability to take a bunch of different kinds of communication and unify them as one.

Your brand identity is the visual representation of your parish expressed through things like the colors you use, your logo, the fonts you choose, email signatures, publications, websites, social media, directories, and ministry materials. Some parishes already have a strong brand identity. However, the real power of building great brand messaging starts with creating a unique parish story and then updating your brand identity to reflect your story.

How Do You Tell Your Brand Story?

Jesus knew the power of a brandThere is no other parish just like yours. You are one of a kind and that’s the Brand Story you need to tell at every touchpoint you have with your staff, ministry leaders, parishioners, and your community at-large.

There are undoubtedly many things that make your church unique but try to pick one that you and your staff can agree on. I recently had the privilege of visiting a large, vibrant parish in Texas. I went to experience an annual event called Heart of Worship.

While I was there I spent some time with Sharon, the Director of Communications, and Tony, the Business Manager. Because I am so passionate about the power of using branding as a ministry tool, over lunch I had the opportunity to ask them questions about what makes them unique. They both agreed that the one word that defines their pastor, Father Drew Wood, best is “love.” It’s clear he is filled with love and compassion for others. Then Sharon said, “Father Drew longs for St. Laurence to be a ‘Safe Harbor’ for everyone in the community.”

Now that’s the beginning of a great Brand Story if I’ve ever heard one.

Time With God Shouldn’t Be a Chore

Posted on March 31, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

ChoreWhen I first came to faith in Jesus Christ, I struggled to focus during my prayer, worship, or devotional time. I knew I was supposed to spend time with God, but it became more of a “punch the clock” situation rather than a vibrant, connected relationship with my Creator.

As I read more of the Bible, I encountered prophets, priests, and kings who spoke of delighting in the Lord with all their heart. That’s what I wanted. And as I encountered more and more of Jesus in the Gospels, I saw that he did anything but punch the clock with the Father — he lived out his faith in every circumstance and brought God into every situation.

LakeSo I began to seek out ways to do that, to meet God in unexpected avenues and to invite him into areas of my life where I had been unintentionally leaving him out. I still prayed. I still went to church every week. But I widened my perception of what a relationship with God could be and delighted in the ways God would show himself everywhere if I opened my eyes and my heart to receive him.

Last week, I ran across an article from Relevant Magazine that spoke exactly to this issue – how we can get to know God in unexpected avenues and transform our regular time with the Lord so that our soul is set alive.

If this is something you struggle with or know someone who does, please feel free to read and share.

Easter Sunday is Concluded…Now What?

Posted on March 29, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

EasterIt is now the quiet time… The Triduum services are completed. The Easter Vigil (the “mother” of all vigils) has been concluded for another year — to varying degrees of liturgical success in each individual parish, I am sure.

The crowds that seem to magically appear and arrive for Easter Sunday Mass have come and gone. Candidates and catechumens have been received into the Church. Easter egg hunts are wrapped up as well as family Easter gatherings. Now what?

Click here to read the full post from Word on Fire

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March 27 – Easter Sunday

Posted on March 27, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

easterSundayToday’s Acclamation

“Christ, my hope, has risen: he goes before you into Galilee,” (Easter Sunday Sequence),

Daily Lent Reflection

This medieval liturgical hymn (‘Praises to the Paschal Victim’ or ‘Easter Sequence’) may be sung before the Gospels throughout the entire Easter Octave. It is a meditation on the Alleluia verse and it contains a powerful proclamation of Christ’s resurrection, even from Mary’s viewpoint. But why Galilee when the empty tomb and all the disciples are in Jerusalem?

Galilee is where it all began: the annunciation, origins, birth, growth, hidden life, hard labour, first proclamation, first ministry, first miracles, first following, effervescent zeal. We are invited to complete the circle and start again: at home, at work, called and captivated afresh by the One who leads the Way.

Daily Lent Challenge

Today I ask where is my Galilee, the place of my first encounter with Christ? How will my Alleluia be heard today?

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark

March 26 – Holy Saturday

Posted on March 26, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

holySaturdayToday’s Scripture

“Then the LORD said to Moses: …Tell the Israelites to set out.” (Exodus 14:15 ).

Daily Lent Reflection

It is night. Persecutors are pressing behind the Israelites and the sea is swelling in front of them…and yet God is saying march on. When we find ourselves in such dead ends, it is hard to believe that the original destination, glimpsed in more peaceful moments, is more than an illusion. It is a scary place to be.

It is even easy to blame God for getting us into such troubles on the first place, dismissing the voice that urges us on… And yet persistence is a hallmark of any liberating exodus. The dawn sees both problems miraculously resolved: the crossing accomplished dry-shod and the enemies drowned. But just imagine the morning scene had the Israelites decided, instead, to give up their confidence in God over that one night…

Daily Lent Challenge

Today I ask where am I heading? What helps me not to give up?

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark

March 25 – Good Friday

Posted on March 25, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

goodFridayToday’s Gospel

“’I thirst,’” (John 19:28 ).

Daily Lent Reflection

As with the Samaritan woman, the Son of God is once again asking for a drink, but now from the cross. And he is offered the drink of the poor people! In those days you would not quench your thirst with water infested with bacteria or parasites, but with fermented or boiled liquids. And if you happened to be poor, you could not afford nice wine, only the sour one comparable to vinegar.

Similarly, we may feel our efforts to quench the thirst of this world for justice, love and peace are just cheap vinegar, yet Jesus does not reject it. And his work is not completed until he has tasted what we have to offer.

Daily Lent Challenge

Today I ask where do I hold back because I do not consider my contribution worthy? Where do I offer the “drink of the poor” when I could offer more?

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark

I’ll Miss Joe Garagiola

Posted on March 24, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Joe GaragiolaMany tributes have gone out today for Joe Garagiola, baseball’s famed catcher and announcer, and recipient of the Baseball Hall of Fame Buck O’Neil Award for his achievements off the field.

What isn’t being mentioned much is that Joe was a practicing Catholic and his contributions to those he came into contact with. He likely didn’t realize the impressions he made on people through his celebration of faith.

As a young boy growing up in Cooperstown, my brothers and I were altar servers at St. Mary’s Church. Being a Catholic – and a Polish/Irish Catholic – in Cooperstown in the 1960’s was not what you’d call “cool” by any stretch of the imagination. It was pretty routine, though, every summer to wander down to the Otesaga Hotel with our friends and scout the lobby for baseball heroes to see if they’d sign a baseball. 

These guys were superstars, and we didn’t often see famous people in our daily lives.

Joe CardOne of my earliest recollections as an altar boy was seeing Joe at Mass one Sunday morning during the summer. Here was one of our heroes, praying on his knees, in our little church. And when he received Holy Communion, I got to hold the paten under his chin. 

I was amazed to see a guy like this – who had everything – still coming to church.  What could he possibly need to pray for?

I came to realize much later in life that Joe was simply living his humble life, in the limelight, giving grace to God for his gifts, his family, and likely all of us who needed his prayers.

Today’s role models could take a cue from Joe and impress a generation. 

Thanks, Joe – you’ll be missed.

Tim Potrikus, LPi Vice President Custom Services

March 24 – Holy Thursday

Posted on March 24, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

holyThursdayToday’s Scripture

“Do this in remembrance of me,” (1Cor 11:24 ).

Daily Lent Reflection

The surprising sequence of taking, blessing, breaking and sharing of Jesus’ life was underlined by a momentous act of service: the washing of disciples’ feet! Interestingly, the only memorial worthy of Jesus is us mirroring this – taking, blessing, breaking and sharing life as it comes to us, whilst making an effort to ‘wash’ each other’s ‘feet’ – even if such acts are incomprehensible at the moment.

Daily Lent Challenge

Today I ask what will help me give thanks for everything my life includes? What parts of my life do I need to break open so I can share more generously? How am I called to ‘wash’ other people’s ‘feet’?

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark

March 23 – Wednesday of Holy Week

Posted on March 23, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

godListensToday’s Scripture

“For the Lord listens to the needy and does not spurn his servants in their chains,” (Psa 69:33 ).

Daily Lent Reflection

We are all limited and needy and yet we all pretend that we are not. This learned attitude often leaks into our prayer as well. And so it is often only in times of hardship or suffering that we hit the truth of our own reality which is precisely where God is waiting to meet us! It takes courage to face our own inadequacy when we feel vulnerable – but it is the only way to establish a life-giving connection with the truth.

Daily Lent Challenge

Today I ask myself what my limitations are. What do I really need? Is this different from what I want? Where is God in all of that?

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark