Culture At Large

Changing the Church Sign

Chris Salzman has an article about branding and churches:

Frustrated that the Episcopal Church's battles over doctrine and sex were turning off newcomers, the former members of Holy Cross decided, in essence, to switch brands. No longer Episcopalians, they were now Anglicans, allied with more conservative believers in Uganda.

Once reserved for consumer products like Coca Cola or Doritos, branding has become increasingly important in the God business. Churches, old and new, are using branding to define their theology, attract newcomers and get their message out.

"It gives us a new identity," Richardson said. "The Anglican Church does not have the baggage that the Episcopal Church has at this time. It speaks of a deeper tradition and a more biblically grounded faith."

Closer to my heart is the word "Baptist." Say it to a hundred people and it might invoke a hundred different reactions. Without getting too Derrida on y'all: one can wave the dictionary around all one wants, but if a word has a connotation in the surrounding culture its meaning will often be misconstrued.

Take the word "awesome" for another example. In some circles this is a special word reserved for God and God alone. In others: ice cream, haircuts, and iPods can inspire ecstatic fits of awe. If your church has over two hundred people chances are that every word in its name, vision statement, and mission statement has been debated at some point. Heck, the color of your pews/chairs might have lost you a family or two.

All this is part of the branding process...

Maurilio Amorim, who runs a church-branding firm in Brentwood, says branding is a biblical activity. He points to the parable in Luke 14:16-23, about a man who threw a banquet. When none of the guests showed up, the man sent his servant to invite outsiders in.

So Amorim helps churches creates Web sites, direct mail and other forms of branding to attract newcomers. "Branding and marketing is evangelism," he said. "I don't know what the difference is. You are compelling people, you are giving people a reason to come visit you."

I recall murmurings of a name change at the church where I grew up. Never did happen, probably because of the necessary fight that would accompany such a change. And no one wanted that.

Has anyone been through a name change or rebranding with their church? Do you think that changing your church name because of perceived public opinion is okay? Is branding just a different form of evangelism?

(HT: TitusOneNine)

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church