Positioning is becoming a hot issue with growing churches. While most of the private sector has always struggled with positioning their business in the minds of consumers, churches have not given it much thought until recently. With the proliferation of interdenominational, community, or fellowship-type of churches, positioning a church clearly in their mind of the community has become a very complicated task for church leaders.
Just the other day I overhead the following conversation:
“Where are you going to church these days?”
“Hope Community Church.”
“Oh, isn’t that a Baptist church that has dropped ‘Baptist’ from its name?”
“I don’t think so-people raise their hands during worship.”
“It’s a charismatic church, then!”
“No, I don’t think so, either. I think we’re somewhere between a Baptist and Pentecostal church.”
Well, Hope Community Church is suffering from poor positioning. I’m sure the leadership of the church purposely chose a name that would be positive and inviting, free of potential negative denominational baggage. However, it also chose a name that does not clearly communicate its core values or foundational beliefs. Some might not visit Hope Community because they fear a charismatic encounter, while others might go away disappointed. While the name Hope Community is a strong name, this church would be well served by stronger brand positioning.
For a long time, denominational tags were a great way to set up expectations. Most of the time you can walk into an Episcopal church with confidence knowing what to expect. There are some exceptions, obviously. I once had the privilege of worshipping with a charismatic Episcopal church -what a treat! I had never seen people speak in tongues during a “processional.” But for the most part, the Episcopal name carries with it an expectation of liturgical services.
These days, though, denominational tags can work against you if your church is not typical. A friend recently visited a St. Louis area church, and pronounced it “the most lively Lutheran church I’ve ever been to.” In that church’s case, they have a positioning issue: the sign says “Lutheran,” but you wouldn’t have known it by attending a service. So to avoid confusion, some sense of positioning would help to continue to define that church.
Hope Community Church is neither Baptist nor Pentecostal, but it has a dynamic worship style and attracts both seekers and Christians who are looking for an authentic community of faith. If you find yourself in the same predicament – misunderstood, therefore mispositioned by the very people you are trying to attract – here are a few options to consider:
Use a brand statement that helps define your church. Find words that are descriptive of your local church culture. Use a brand statement that delivers on your promises. I’ve worked with a congregation that uses “Connecting Faith and Life” They are passionate about preaching that communicates with those who are outside the faith and are trying to make sense of Christianity. Their brand promise focus on helping people in a practical way.
Be up front. If your name or brand statement doesn’t position you well, then be more descriptive in your advertising. For example, you might say something like, “Hope Community uses contemporary, dynamic music in our worship.”
Use visuals that reinforce the message. Your logo, images and illustrations that accompany the written message are just as important, if not more important, than the message. Visuals will communicate volumes about the culture of your church, therefore helping to position your church in the mind of a future member. Your brand statement might say “everyday people,” but if your pictures reflect a microcosm-perfect families and perfect smiles-that says just the opposite. A potential visitor might say, “This is not at all like my family!” and regretfully decide, “I guess I don’t belong.”
Positioning your church is no longer a luxury reserved for “trendy” or mega churches these days. Whether your church has a denominational tag that poorly describes who you are, or your church gets lumped into the great chasm of the faceless interdenominational churches, it’s your job to help position your ministry in the minds of the people you are trying to reach. One of the greatest mistakes you can make is to assume that your church sign or newspaper ad is doing the job of clearly communicating your true identity. It takes consistent thinking and a communications strategy to help position your church so you can maximize your ministry potential.
How well positioned is your church?