How do I brand my ministry well?

 

1. Promote an identity, not a product

The best brands in the world do this; brands like Coca-cola, Apple and Nike.  Nike’s motto isn’t “use incredible athletic gear”, it’s “just do it”.  They’re promoting a lifestyle, an attitude, an identity, what it says about you if you buy into their brand.  

A photo by Liz Weston. unsplash.com/photos/PJzc7LOt2IgSo, practically, how do you do this?  Branding is simply communicating about your identity and inviting people to participate. Your identity is what makes you unique, your DNA, who you are, your story. Try getting in a room with some of your key leaders and making a list of words that define you.  Use this time to describe your current identity, not to try to brainstorm about who you want to be.  Unless you have the help of branding experts, branding is usually done best when the goal is to reinforce your identity, not to try to reinvent it.  

One reason you might want your branding to be shaped by your identity, instead of your product, is to avoid promoting a consumerist church culture, where people attend because of what they can get, not because of who they are.  One way you can do this is by communicating more about who you are and less about what you have coming up.  If your website, emails, social media, lobby signage and announcements are inundated with communication about events, classes, and upcoming series, but don’t include core beliefs, mission statements, or defining characteristics, consider changing that. Announcements are important, but don’t allow that to be all you communicate.  

In my student ministry, I made a rule a long img_6095time ago that I was going to take less
photos of special events and on-stage elements, and more photos of our students.  I want the photos we post to communicate more about who we are as a community, and less about what cool things we have to offer. Using genuine photos of people in real interactions communicates identity, not product.

2. Be consistent

Reinforce your branding by coming up with a look and feel, and sticking with it… for several years! Choose a font or two, a color scheme, a style, and a few key phrases, then build all of your communication out of that framework. Slapping your logo on something does not mean you have “branded” it. Building your logo and all of your communication from the same design scheme, a scheme that is informed by your identity, does mean you have branded it.  If you work hard at getting it right in the beginning, this will actually save you lots of time and creative energy in the long run.

A new series or upcoming event can be a challenging exercise in consistency.

 Sometimes we want those things to be fresh and totally different, but think of them as branches of the same tree.  A new series or event should have some consistency with your current branding, but can break a couple fullsizerender-8of the rules as well.  Our brains are wired to make associations. So being consistent allows people to begin recognizing your brand, and making associations to other times they’ve encountered it.
For a great example of this, follow @shereadstruth on instagram. Every time an image of theirs pops up in my feed, I know it’s from them, even before I look at the profile name.  

 

3. Stay Current

Is this something I really need to prioritize?  The gospel doesn’t go out of style, right?  We know that God doesn’t become outdated or irrelevant.  But even Jesus contextualized His message.  He understood the culture and He referenced it frequently to relate with people.

Especially if you are working in student or college ministry, trends are important, and here’s why.  We want students to feel like our ministry is a place where they belong, where they can be accepted, where we get them.  I’ve seen it a bunch of times in our student ministry.  When a new leader walks in who dresses trendy, knows current song lyrics, and uses some of the slang their students use, they win automatic relational points. Students often open up quicker, and are able to be more vulnerable with these leaders because they feel understood.  For older leaders, staying up to date might be a little harder, but let others help you.  Use social media, pinterest, blogs, and your younger friends to influence you. Here’s a list of resources I use for inspiration.   Be yourself! Don’t be the leader who’s trying too hard! But, as genuinely as possible, try to keep an open mind as you allow the pulse of culture to inform your approach.

4. Be inclusive

We want students to know that being a img_6089Christian means they are a child of God,
adopted into His family and given the opportunity to participate in the redemptive work He is doing on earth. They should feel like they’re part of a family, they belong, they aren’t going to be overlooked. Social media has the ability to make them feel very included or very excluded, depending on how it’s used.  Use photos of students, photos of leaders, and photos of the prep you are doing throughout the week to make them feel like they’re part of it all.  Invite them to participate, to be heard, to contribute. Be personal in your wording. Use the words, “I” and “you”.  

The goal is for students to go from using phrases like “I go to Mosaic Students” to “I am a Mosaic Student”, from “I go to church” to “I am a son or daughter of God”.

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Why Branding Matters in Ministry

Branding is simply telling a story about who you are and inviting people to participate.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetSometimes we assume that branding is a bad thing in ministry, because we aren’t trying to promote a product or turn a profit.  We aren’t concerned with the bottom line, we’re concerned with the kingdom of God and people’s participation in it.  But if we understand the purpose of branding and we search scripture, I think we’ll find that God cares a lot about branding.  

Many stories in scripture include design, architecture, textiles and construction. I’ve written an entire article about this, but one passage that stands out to me is Exodus 28:2, when God tells Moses “And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.” This conversation takes place in the context of God’s directions to the Israelites about His design for the tabernacle.  God tells Moses that Aaron’s priestly clothing should have a 2-fold purpose. It is for glory and for beauty.  Often, we assume that beauty conflicts with the glory of God, that to make or buy something for the purpose of beauty would be superficial and wrong in God’s eyes.  b7db78df8a31b1e7f28c75ce82cbc7d6But that’s not what we see here.  This passage suggests that, since Aaron will be representing the very presence of God, as a servant and leader in the tabernacle, he should dress in a way that is representative and worthy of the greatness of God.  

In our churches, we have the opportunity to present our message in a way that is worthy of an excellent God. The way we present our message tells people how important it is to us. Think about it this way. When you go to a restaurant and everything you experience before the waiter brings your dinner is excellent, it shapes your opinion of the food, right?  If the building is charming, and the booths are plush, and the menu is beautiful, and the waiter is top-notch, it says something about what kind of food you’re about to experience.  The restaurant owner takes pride in what he or she is about to serve you.  The food is the star, but the atmosphere helps inform you
about how to think about the food.  A photo by Thomas Vimare. unsplash.com/photos/ibqNFI6nC7gIn our context, the gospel is the star, but
everything surrounding the experience a person has with us, helps inform them about how to think about the gospel.  If we believe God should be absolutely everything in our lives, shouldn’t the visuals supporting our message be excellent?

So, let’s strive for excellence, not for the purpose of showing off, but for the purpose of glorifying God.

 

DIY Blinder Tutorial

Here’s a step by step tutorial on building blinder lights. The total dimension of each of these is 1’ x 8’ with six 8.5” lights on each. But, you could easily adapt this to use 5.5” lights or a different number of rows and columns (i.e. 4×4 grid instead of 1×6 row).

 

View More: http://mosaicchurch.pass.us/camp-2016

SHOPPING LIST:

  • Plywood (19/32 Pine Sanded Plywood, 4’ x 8’) – cut to 1’ x 8’
  • Black matte indoor latex paint
  • Hole saw drill bit
  • (6) Bayco Clamp Light with Aluminum Reflector (make sure reflector isn’t dented)
  • View More: http://mosaicchurch.pass.us/camp-2016

    Lights at 100%

    (6) Warm Incandescent Light Bulbs – 60W (If you’re not planning on having dimming control, 25W would be better. I have these blinders hooked up to a DMX controller, so I used 60W because I wanted 100% to be very blinding, just for crash out moments and effects in high energy songs.

    View More: http://mosaicchurch.pass.us/camp-2016

    Lights at 40%

    Typically, I keep the intensity at about 30-50%)

  • 6 outlet power strip
  • Assorted zip ties

DETACHABLE FOOT:

  • Plywood (19/32 Pine Sanded Plywood, 4’ x 8’) – cut to 1’x 2’
  • 2×2 Furring Strip, 8’ long
  • Wood screws

TOOLS USED:

  • Drill
  • Sander
  • Paint roller or paint brush
  • Staple gun (not essential)
  • Miter saw (for support foot only)

STEP BY STEP TUTORIAL:

img_38601. Cut plywood into a 1’ x 8’ board. Many hardware stores will do this for you, although their equipment doesn’t allow for super-precise measurements.  If you need an exact size, cut it yourself, but a rough cut worked perfectly for me.

2. Mark center for holes at 1’ apart. Top hole should be 6” down from top edge of board, and centered left to right on board. Each of the following holes are 1’ away from each other. (This left me with an extra 2’ at the bottom end of the plywood. I needed this extra length img_3857but you might consider starting with a 1’ x 6’ piece of plywood if you want the lights to be equally dispersed on the board without extra length at the bottom.)

 

3. Drill holes.

 

 

4. Sand down surface of plywood, being img_3855careful not to take away too much of the material around where the holes were cut. I sanded around the holes too much on some of them and it ended up causing my lights not to screw together tightly.

5. Paint plywood black on all sides.

6. Unattach clamps from lights and unscrew the aluminum reflectors. Put light socket through the back of the hole and screw the reflector onto the front until tightened.

img_41367. Once all 6 lights are in place, attach the power strip to the back by stapling 3 or 4 long zip ties to the back of the board and tightening the zip ties around the power strip to hold it tightly against the board. Plug all of the lights into the power strip then use the same zip tie and staple method to organize and clean up the cord to each light so that cords aren’t hanging, visible from the front, or prone to snagging on things.

8. Screw in light bulbs.

(After this step, I wrapped each reflector in bubble wrap because I was planning to transport them in a trailer to an event and I didn’t want the reflectors to get dented or the bulbs to break).

The next step is building the feet to stand the blinders up in.  You may not need to do this, if you are planning on hanging these, or attaching them to a truss.

img_39239. Cut the 2x2s in two 1’ sections. Then, cut two more 1’ sections with a 45 degree miter on both ends.  Measure the center of the 1’ x 2’ plywood and attach the 2×2 verticals in the center of the board (leaving a little more than enough space to slide the plywood from the blinder in between).  Screw in the diagonals (keeping a spacer in between the verticals). Paint the foot black. I kept the foot unattached from the blinder so that everything could be broken down and transported easily, but if this is a permanent piece, you may want to screw the blinder into the foot.)

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Instagram Photo Trends

Intentional photography is a great way to highlight the people, the events, and the identity of your group. Here are some creative types of photos that have been popular on social media in many churches and student ministries.

 

1. THE SIGN HOLDER

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2. BEHIND THE SCENES

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3. PHOTOS OF PROMOS

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4. LETTER BALLOONS

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5. PHOTOS OF PHOTOS

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Summer Camp: How we planned a great, weeklong off-site event

1. Be intentional with atmosphere

First impressions are a big deal.  Putting some effort and creativity into the atmosphere at your event can have a huge impact. Even a couple of well-designed banners or some string lights draped from the ceiling can tell your audience, “We care about the experiences you will have here”.

View More: http://mosaicchurch.pass.us/camp-2016

 

2. Think about the experience you want people to have

Start with a goal for what kind of experience you want to design for your audience (i.e. fun, contemplative, challenging, rejuvenating). We wanted our camp to be high-energy and impactful. We made several decisions that were specifically intended to set them up for that kind of experience.  We hired a super energetic, young, worship band from a local Christian university.  We made a no-cell-phones rule, but, in an effort to make that a positive thing, we made sure we jam packed the camp with fun things to do and captured great photos for them all week long.  We made sure even the sometimes ‘boring’ aspects of camp, like the speaking and the devotional book, were supported with creative elements, engaging stories and fun design. We took the expected, free t-shirt to the next level by offering a full store with 5 different items in a variety of colors and styles. We made sure to give students lots of time in small groups to process what God was doing in their hearts that week. All of these decisions contributed to a fun and impactful summer camp.

3. Don’t let your creative and production elements be an afterthought

Everything I just mentioned that we did to plan an incredible week for our students didn’t happen overnight. I personally tackled one camp task every two weeks for 6 months prior to camp and our team met regularly. Planning a big event like this takes foresight, budgeting, creativity, collaboration and lots of time! 

Planning things like merch, videos, and atmosphere from the very beginning can help you design a more cohesive and impactful event.

4. Help students make memories and bring the camp experience home

Making lasting memories was a high priority for our team.
We used photography, video, and a devotional article to help them take the camp experience home with them. 
We set up a trendy photo spot, brought in quality photographers, made daily recap videos (using animoto.com), and distributed all of our camp photos to students and parents (using pass.us).  These intentional decisions helped our students focus more on engaging with others and God. They also helped our students take the camp experience beyond just that week.

5. Don’t be afraid of hiring and renting

Hiring a worship band or renting lighting equipment can seem really intimidating! But, being willing to expand your resource pool beyond your own church can give you so many options.

EVERS @weareevers

We hired SEU Worship band from South Eastern University, Slap Happy Comedy (an
improv duo we once saw at a conference), a guest speaker, Scott Frazier, (from a church we have a great relationship with) and an up and coming local band (Evers) for a concert.
We also rented audio equipment, lighting, a Penske Truck, and a TV.  It might seem like a lot of money and logistics (which it is), but with good planning, making some strategic hires and rentals can really help you elevate the camp experience for your students. Doing these things made our camp feel very special and set apart, compared to a typical Wednesday night.

6. Think about reusing resources

You can be a lot more efficient View More: http://mosaicchurch.pass.us/camp-2016with a tight budget if you consider reusing things for multiple events.  For this event, we reused banners, blinder lights, string lights, Ikea lamps, a photo booth frame, some tubs for merch display, and lots of cables. We would have spend hundreds of dollars more if we were always buying things for one-time use only.  What bad stewardship that would have been!

I love giving our students the best experience for their money.  Even if you have a giant budget, stretching that budget to include as much as possible can really glorify God.

Go-To Online Design & Production Resources

Collaboration is the lifeblood of creative disciplines.  Some of the most practical information we can share with each other is where we go for helpful tools, resources, and inspiration. Here are several websites, apps, podcasts, and social media influencers I use frequently.  Without these tools, my effectiveness and skill level would be drastically lower than it is today.


WEBSITES:

Animoto is a website with templates for quick, easy, and beautiful videos or slideshows. 

Fiverr provides a ton of graphic design and marketing services, but we’ve utilized them for their $5 or $10 custom intros & animated logos.

Monoprice is an online store that sells a ton of electronic and tech equipment.  It is frequently the first place our production team members go when we need to buy anything from a speaker, to a cable, to an ipad stand. 

Vimeo Video School is a place to go for some quick, engaging, and very helpful training videos on just about anything you can think of related to video production.

Planning Center Online helps us plan and execute our gatherings.  It’s a super-powerful church management tool that has capabilities to facilitate check-in, event registrations, volunteer management, worship team scheduling and more.

Collaborate Worship is a website and facebook community page that creates and shares useful articles for people in production and worship ministry. 

Church Stage Design Ideas is a website and facebook community page that shares stage design example, ideas, materials, and tutorials.

Visual Church Media is a facebook group of more than 10,000 members, willing to share their ministry and production experience with you.

Unsplash and Creative Commons are my go-to websites for finding great images that I can legally use, share, and modify.


APPS:

Ripl App

Created with Ripl App

Over helps you add beautiful text or graphics to your images.

Tangent incorporates geometric image filters to your photos.  

Ripl
 uses short animations to bring your images to life and help them stand out on social media.


PODCASTS:

Finely Crafted is a podcast hosted by two guys from Proof Branding in Nashville.

Under the Influence is a branding podcast with Terry O’Reilly produced by BBC.

The Student Ministry Podcast is produced by a good friend, Kenneth Ortiz, who’s experience in Student Ministry, I highly respect.  It’s full of helpful resources, wisdom and tips.


INFLUENCERS TO FOLLOW ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

@shereadstruth
@gracecityfl
@gcyc_fl
@hillsongunited
@hillsongyoungandfree
@hillsongnycyouth
@zeketucker
@gopro
@proofbranding
@vouschurch
@theaustinstone
@austinstoneworship
@rivervalleyyth
@rivervalleyworship

Glorifying God through task-oriented roles in the Church

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Working behind the scenes in your church can be incredibly gospel-centered. But, for anyone who has a lot of behind-the-scenes responsibilities, you know that this is much easier said than done.  When I first started vocational ministry, I had this romantic idea that everyday, I would approach my tasks as worship.  I assumed that even when my plate was way too full, I would somehow, get more done than I had time for, through divine inspiration.  Sometimes that happens, but there are also times when support tasks are draining and frustrating.  Here are a few ways to avoid the pitfall of burnout amidst task-oriented roles in the Church.


1. Start with a solid vision.  Spend some time thinking about and praying about why your work matters to the kingdom.  Sometimes it can feel like the  “up front” roles are most important, but they only thrive when support roles also exist. At my church, we often say that as good as the gathering is, if a person doesn’t have a “gospel experience” in the parking lot, the bathroom, and on their way to find their seat, then the gathering might be less impactful for them.  Read more about vision for creative roles in my article, Creativity: For Glory and for Beauty.


2. Build a team. Ephesians 4:12 instructs us, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ”. Sometimes investing in a team is more about giving people an opportunity to be ministry participants, than it is about helping you get more done.  But, if you’re smart and intentional, building a team can accomplish both goals. Don’t forget to remind them regularly why what they are doing matters to the kingdom of God.  Read more about building a team in my article, 6 Production Team Building Essentials.


3. Be an influencer. Whether it’s through a blog, a podcast, or social media, sharing your work with others is a great way to give a broader purpose to your tasks. It glorifies God when the Church collaborates and shares resources.  Think of who could benefit from your unique experience and then engage them with the wisdom you have to offer.  Building a network of people who have similar roles in churches can help inspire you as well as giving you an opportunity to inspire others.


4. Have lots of conversations with people in roles not like your own.  This is a big one.  Nothing has helped me be more flexible, positive, and genuinely gracious to my team more than taking time to understand what it’s like to do the work my teammates do.  


5. Do things you love.  Sometimes, we get so caught up in producing work, that we forget to experience life and fun. Refreshing yourself with the things you love in life is one of the best ways to fuel your passion and productivity.


6. Surround yourself with people who inspire you.  Notice that I didn’t say “Surround yourself with creative and hard-working people”. How someone does their work, is much more contagious than what they produce. Not all people who are producing great work are going to drive you to do the same. You know yourself best, so evaluate what types of people inspire you to glorifies God and then invite them to give you advice and direction.

 


7. Set manageable goals.  One of the most stress-relieving changes I have made in my job, has been looking  to the future and setting manageable goals.  For probably the first two years at my job, it seemed like I was just spinning my wheels to get a bunch of unimportant, urgent things done.  But when I started anticipating the important, non-urgent tasks, I began making big strides in my effectiveness.  So, a couple of times a year, set some goals for the future.  Be realistic by choosing only one or two areas at a time to focus on for major growth or change.


8. Strive for excellence, but plan for mistakes. I think God is glorified when we bring our A game – when we start out a task planning to absolutely kill it!  But I also think God is glorified when we are flexible and gracious if something derails our excellence.  Whether it’s a mistake you or your team member makes or a technical difficulty, be ready to move on and keep working towards the best outcome.  


9. Practice submission. Production roles are often executed the best when we have a passion for making someone else look good, or taking their vision and making it a reality.  That takes a lot of trust and humility. I don’t know about you, but trust, humility and submission are not traits that I naturally demonstrate without the Holy Spirit.  So, submit regularly to God through intimacy with Him, obeying His word, and engaging with His community.  And as you submit to God, allow that to spill over to other headships God has placed in your life.

Getting your youth ministry branding right

Teenagers today care a lot about their style, their identity. They’re not afraid of standing out from the crowd, and they are willing to represent a cause, make a statement. With access to so many different experiences and environments, today’s teenagers celebrate more diversity than perhaps any other generation. So, developing a brand that students connect with is more difficult than ever, but it matters!

Wouldn’t it be a win if your students really felt like they identified with the DNA of your group?  If they felt like you get them, and like your gathering is a space specifically for them. That was one of our top priorities when we recently went through an intentional rebrand. It was one of the most personal, in depth, difficult and rewarding projects I’ve been a part of in my 4+ years at this job. I discovered that throughout the process of relaunching a brand, logo, or name, there are 4 questions that are super-important to ask along the way. 

1. Why are we updating?

In my opinion, logo design is one of the most challenging areas of graphic design. The end result might seem so simple, but a logo has to say a lot with just one glance. Getting colors, shapes, themes, typefaces, proportions and spacing just perfect can be quite a daunting task. So, before you pour countless hours designing, decide what your logo should achieve. Ask yourself what you like and don’t like about your current logo, how big of a change you want to make, and what your goals are. And realize that if you aren’t ready to put the work into making a big improvement, sticking with your current logo might be better for consistency sake.

During my last 4 and a half years at my current job, our student ministry branding has changed twice.  When I first started this job, we had 2 different names. Middle School was called Pipeline and High School was called Axis. Some leadership changes meant that no one was super passionate or clear about their meanings. The first change we made was calling the whole ministry Mosaic Students. Mosaic is our church’s name, which has a great reputation within the community. So, switching our name to Mosaic Students said two things. 1.) We identify with who Mosaic is. 2.) We are part of a bigger whole. To reinforce those two goals, when we first switched our name, we pretty much didn’t have a separate logo.  We just used the same branding as our church.

Now, a couple of years later, we still want to be associated with the bigger church.
IMG_2164But the goal for this new logo, is to help reinforce the idea that Mosaic Students is
a place specifically for teenagers. A place where you can belong, where people get you, where your relationship with Christ can be experienced on a personal level.

2. Who are we?

When marketing firms have meetings with new clients, they usually start out with an in-depth conversation about who the company is at its core. A podcast I listen to, Finely Crafted, calls this an “understand your brand workshop”. This exercise is as much about challenging how the client thinks about their identity as it is about trying to get to know the client. Something I’ve learned from Finely Crafted is to let your story define your brand.  They give an example on Season 2, Episode 3 of a company called Monday Night Brewery, who got started by a group of guys who after work, looorigsen their ties,
hang out in their garage, make good beer, and they’ve carried that story over
into everything they do.  Their logo and physical space incorporate the idea of a loosened necktie. They do a great job of letting their purpose drive their marketing.

One very tangible way of discovering your identity, recommended on Finely Crafted, is to think about what words define you (i.e. inspirational, fun, warm). Come up with these words as a team, so  you have an opportunity to see where the conflicts or overlaps occur.  It’s okay to actually let you own personality inform your brand. Who you are will inevitably seep out.

So take some time and do some self discovery before you start designing. From there, all branding should follow the same story line about who you are and why you exist. As your branding begins to tell a more consistent story, people will be able to more easily connect.

3. What is the end goal?

Ok, so once you have an awesome logo, one that is true to who you are and why you exist… what are you going to do with it?  So many ministries (especially the small ones that are busy already), IMG_2165redesign their logo and then no one ever sees it.
Make a list of everywhere your logo currently exists, and everywhere it should exist (website, social media, signage, gathering media, merchandise…) Then, make a plan for how each of those things will get updated or produced. A new logo is exciting and fresh. So, work hard to update it as well as creating some new pieces, like banners or t-shirts.

4. When is it okay to spend lots of money on getting it right?

Sometimes during this process, you’ll realize that paying extra for some professional design help, or a great font, or a specialized printing method, could really help you accomplish your goals. When I’m about to spend an uncomfortable amount of money or time on something, I always try to think of the pay off. Is this worth it? For example, when I was re-designing our logo, I was looking for just the right hand-drawn, brush stroke font. Hand drawn fonts have been popular for a little while so certain styles are beginning to feel overdone. Some are too hard to read, and some aren’t bold enough to have a substantial presence on something like a t-shirt or a very small application. After lots of searching, I finally found a font I loved called Star Dust, that was perfect, IMG_2468but it cost $28!  I know, $28 isn’t a ton of money, but for a FONT – it seemed like a lot to me (who has never paid a dime for a font).  But then I asked myself how much and where we would end up using it if I did buy it for our logo. I realized that because it was so readable, yet stylized, this would probably become the primary font we would default to for everything we did.  So, once I realized how impactful this font would be and how much we would be able to use it, $28 seemed like a bargain and I hit “BUY”.

Another place where we spent extra time, effort, and money was on t-shirts.  Our logo on a t-shirt was going to be the most intimate and personal experience our students would have with it.  When students buy one of our t-shirts, they will take it home and hang it next to other clothes they have chosen to buy. This t-shirt will be in their laundry baskets, their bedrooms, and their gym bags. They will even decide to wear it for an entire day at a time. Clothing is important! It’s personal. It’s intimate. It has the ability to represent a personality or a style. That’s why we really wanted to get this right! So we worked hard on the graphics, spent extra money on the style and cut of the blanks, and researched a printing method that would be best for our design. Now we have a shirt that students don’t just wear because they’re part of Mosaic Students. We have a shirt that they would probably buy even if they saw it at their favorite store next to a hundred other great options.

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6 Production Team Building Essentials

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1. Start with vision.

Your volunteers will be passionate about your vision if you consistently share the why behind the what.

If you’re willing to train volunteers on the exact expectations of their job, you should also be willing to share the reason for those expectations. For our church production team, a high priority is to minimize distraction so that people can freely engage in worship or focus during the message. Because of that vision, we train our volunteers to make transitions smoothly and during times in the gathering that feel most natural. Let’s remind our team that what we do matters because of why we do it.

And even beyond what we do in gatherings, we can remind our volunteers that anything they put their hands to can glorify God. Scripture teaches us that God regularly uses man to display His wonder through craft and creativity. See my article Creativity: For Glory and for Beauty. What a great privilege it is to partner with Christ in reflecting His beauty to the world!


2. Clarify the win.

Ask yourself, “If one of my team members had to describe A+ level service on my team, would they know what to say?”  Do your team members have clarity on what the WIN looks like?  Feel free to set the bar high (at A+ level). Then, remind your team that perfection isn’t necessary, but doing their absolute best is a way to serve Christ’s bride.  


If it’s helpful, write down some expectations together as a team and then display them for everyone to use in self-evaluating. We have about 10-15 Middle and High School students (as well as 2 interns) who serve on my production team for weekly Student Ministry gatherings. Recently, an intern and I developed a “Rate Yo-Self” form for team members to fill out after each gathering. The form is complete with a list of expectations, an emoji scale, and a reminder of the purpose of the form. The next time they serve, they get to see their form and remember in what areas they can improve. This is just one example of a way to remind your team exactly what the win looks like.

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3. Never stop recruiting.

Has this ever happened to you?  You feel like you’ve built up your volunteer team well and you can relax for awhile on recruiting. So, you let your guard down for a little while and all of the sudden, you have no volunteers! We’ve all been there. During a busy season or a transition in leadership, you stop recruiting for a second and the ship sinks!  This has happened to me and other co-workers enough that I now realize recruiting can never be put on the back burner.  People move, they go through craziness at work or home, they start serving on other teams, or your church’s production needs increase. We can’t afford to take a break on recruiting, while people’s real lives keep going.

In Andy Stanley’s book, Next Generation Leader, he teaches young leaders to “Only do what only you can do.”  If you’re leading a team of any kind, recruiting and training is probably something that only you can do well.

Carve out more time than you need for recruiting, training and maintaining. Then, become unwilling to let any other responsibility take its place.

One last point I’ll make before I get off my recruiting soapbox. Don’t just recruit for new team members, but also recruit for higher skilled team members. On my volunteer team, I have 3  different tiers of responsibility. To staff my gatherings appropriately, I have to always be looking out for the people who show potential to move up. If someone is doing an excellent job or they have passion for learning something more advanced, I take note. Then, I share some encouragement, goals, and incentives with them. Anything from learning a new skill, to getting to serve in more gatherings, to… CANDY can be effective incentives. Volunteers at higher skill levels can be the most difficult to replace, so always be training up your current team to move forward.


4. Decide what you expect from your team and then be consistent in protecting them.

To me, this also falls into the “only do what only you can do” category. If you are a production team leader, you are in the best position to understand the skill level of your volunteers and the needs of your church. You are also in the best position to help the leaders above you understand the capacity and limitations of your team. You can and should act as a liaison between the team you lead and the leaders above you. Make sure your team and your church are set up to win each week.  

Scenarios where I feel I need to protect my team often occur around the games we plan for our weekly Student Ministry gatherings. Sometimes a great idea for a game requires that the person running media cues a sound effect in a split second or reveals an answer to a trivia question on the spot. In moments like these, any delay can cause awkwardness and distraction in the gathering.  When possible, I try to work towards a solution that allows either our staff communicator or the game participants to be controlling any split-second reveals.

It doesn’t help anyone if you pridefully say “yes” to big production requests, just to turn around and fail at the execution because your team wasn’t adequately trained. It also doesn’t help to shoot an automatic “no” out to any production request.  I try to answer any request from my leaders kind of like this: “Yes, I love that idea. I want to talk through how we can make that happen in the most effective way. Here are my team’s limitations, so what if we tweaked your idea a bit to be sure this runs smoothly?”

Your leaders will respect you for positively moving towards a solution, and your volunteers will appreciate you for not asking them to take on responsibilities they aren’t trained for.


5. Don’t forget that you are partnering with God.

When you get in the thick of your pre-gathering prep or the busiest season of your year, it can be tempting to just put your head down and get stuff done. But, stopping to ask The Creator to give you the inspiration, direction, and energy to lead your team well is absolutely essential! I went to college for architecture and one time I had a project I was working on that just totally stumped me. It was a design studio project and I felt like I just had creativity block.  Everything I tried seemed forced. One late night in the studio before a big presentation, I was super frustrated. Then I thought, “I feel like I’ve tried everything, but have I even tried asking God to help me be creative?”  So I prayed (almost jokingly – not expecting it to work) and within 10 minutes I had overhauled the design, and come up with a great idea that would drive the entire project. I don’t think that praying will manipulate God to give us anything we ask for. God is not our butler! But, I do think sometimes we just need our Creator to breath life and inspiration into our work!

I wholeheartedly believe that an intimate relationship with God makes me a better creator and leader.

I don’t know how many times I’ve had my volunteers cancel last minute, or a piece of equipment fail shortly before a gathering, and I’ve had to cry out to God on behalf of the students about to walk through our doors. Our best work is done when we partner with God, realizing that even our best efforts will pale in comparison to a joint effort with Him. He desires for us to participate with Him in the redeeming work He is doing in the world (not the other way around).


6. Have fun.

It’s such a privilege to get the opportunity to do creative work on behalf of our Father. And, honestly, I can’t think of any area in the church I would enjoy serving in more than production! For those of us who enjoy technology and creativity, this work is FUN! Let’s remember to celebrate that regularly with our teams.  

As a leader, your demeanor can have a huge influence on the mood of your team. So make it an absolute priority to discuss life with your team, play games with them, acknowledge them on social media, joke with them, and celebrate with them after a job well done. If you’re anything like me, forgetting to intentionally prioritize the FUN will cause you to let it fall through the cracks for months at a time.

Sometimes the weight of our responsibilities or the urgency of our tasks can take our focus, but bringing back the fun can re-energize you and your volunteers.

Branding in Ministry: 6 ways to BRAND BETTER

branding

 

In church, sometimes we think branding is a bad thing because we’re not selling anything to a consumer, we’re sharing the truth of the gospel.  But what most people don’t know is that the brand story of any company is essentially just their answer to this question.

Why do you do what you do?

What an important question to ask ourselves in ministry! Just like any company, we are sharing a message and displaying a reality.  We don’t have a product, but we are presenting the hope of the rescue, redemption and restoration that knowing Christ offers. What’s also crazy – once someone buys into following Christ, their identity is effected.  The best brands strive for that outcome.  Being redeemed by God means you are an adopted son or daughter of the Creator of the universe.  It means you are new, valuable, righteous, and eternally secure. THIS is a story worth presenting well!

Your brand story is also something worth communicating to your teams with consistency and clarity. If your leaders and volunteers have clarity on why they think the ministry work you do is essential and effective, you will be more unified as you point to Christ together. If you have clarity on ‘the why’, it will help inform and shape ‘the what’ (i.e. the series you speak on, the music you play, the things you hang on the wall, the special events you plan, the way you train your leaders, your name and visual presence). Whether you know it or not, you already do branding in your ministry.  To ignore it as a priority probably just means you are doing it poorly.


 

In ministry, here are 6 things to remember in order to brand better:

 

1. Do what the best brands do.

The best brands actually aren’t promoting their product, they’re promoting their identity.  Companies like Nike and Apple market what it says about you if you identify with their name.  That’s why Nike’s motto is “Just do it”.  It’s not just about the equipment needed to perform athletically, it’s about a way of life, an attitude, an identity.

In 1983, when Steve Jobs wanted to bring marketing genius and Pepsi CEO, John Sculley onto the Apple team so that Jobs could focus on product development, he delivered what’s known as the best elevator pitch in history.  First he tried to get Sculley on board with his persistence, stock options and a huge salary increase.  But when that didn’t work, he asked him the questions that would gnaw at him, keep him up at night, and ultimately cause him to leave Pepsi and join Apple.  “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?” Steve Jobs turned Sculley’s focus away from the product of Pepsi to the identity of being a world-changer.

Likewise, we want to steer people away from experiencing church as a product, and steer them towards identifying with their new life and family in Christ. Once their identity has changed, church isn’t just about Wednesday or Sunday, it’s about every area of life. Branding in ministry isn’t about attracting people to a product they like, it’s about inviting people to be apart of a new life in Christ.


2. When someone leaves a service or gathering, they will leave with only one primary takeaway.

With a little bit of planning and foresight, could your gatherings have a more cohesive directive?  Think about it.  Every time you meet, there is the potential for people to encounter several conflicting messages. They experience lobby signage, a welcome, possibly a video or two, a call to worship from the worship leader, several worship songs, a message, and announcements. And each of these elements are most likely calling your people to some kind of response.  What if there was a common thread through all of these elements, so that as people go home and process that content throughout the week, they have clarity on what to focus on.  Let’s not assume that people will focus on the thing we spent the most time preparing.  The reality is that people will focus on content that 1.) reoccurs throughout the gathering  2.) gets the most airtime 3.) has the strongest visual presence 4.) is simple and catchy 5.) happens last.


3. Our brains are wired to recall things when associations can be made. This means that if what we see, hear, sing, and feel are all associated, the impact will be stronger.

I have a friend who is phenomenal at remembering names. And, because of his job, he meets hundreds of people a year.  One time I asked him about it, assuming that he just has an impeccable memory.  I’ve always been poor at remembering the names of people I just met and always blamed it on my bad memory.  He told me that he actually has a terrible memory too and even struggled in school because of it.  But he has a trick to help him remember names.  Whenever he meets someone new, he makes it a point to find out as much about them as possible within the first minute of talking with them.  He repeats each new fact back to the person as his bank of info increases. “So, Mallory, you’re 20 and you grew up in Florida?  That’s really interesting that the rest of your family lives in Ohio and you’re going to nursing school.” He told me that once he has done that, anytime he sees that person in the future, if even one aspect of that conversation come to mind, he can usually make associations to the rest of the conversation (including their name).

I help plan my church’s Middle School and High School gathering each week.  Most messages we preach are part of a series of messages with the same theme.  Each series includes a catchy name, a series intro video to kick off the night, a pre-message bumper video, a slide/graphic, small group questions and even recommendations for music and social media posts.  If all of these elements have a common theme, then anytime one element comes to mind, we are more likely to remember other elements of that series.  For example, three months after a series, a small group leader might ask her students if they remember the illustration our pastor used during the Propel series.  Saying the word Propel is most likely going to bring to mind the graphics and videos from that series, which might help them recall the illustrations, bottom lines and scriptures. If visual elements and message illustrations don’t exist or they are incongruent, people will be less likely to make those connections and remember the core content. Instead of creating isolated experiences for people, let’s aim to give them clear directives with a common thread.


4. Realize that people are only experiencing this gathering for a short amount of time once a week.  

I will admit that for years, I was definitely guilty of assuming that if we’ve played a worship song two weeks in a row, it’s played out, or if we’ve announced an event 3 times, people are tired of it.  For those of us who spend countless hours planning and discussing our gatherings, it can feel like people need completely fresh content every time we gather.  But the reality is, your people just went a whole week without hearing about any of the stuff you are talking about all week long.  Strive to over-communicate your message, making it easily accessible through multiple avenues.  And don’t be afraid to clarify, repeat, and repeat again saying it differently.  People have a ton on their minds!  Do them a favor by over-communicating the most important content.


5. Tangible experiences are more impactful than simply hearing a message or reading information.

Throughout Scripture, we see God tying tangible actions or visual reminders to teaching. Often when Jesus taught, he used metaphors with everyday items like seeds, trees, sheep, a lamp, a door. He tied spiritual lessons to everyday experiences to more actively engage people. Communion is a great example of this.  Jesus taught His disciples to use the acts of drinking wine and eating bread to remind them of Him.  Wine represents Christ’s blood and bread represents His body.  What a beautiful way to tie an action, a taste, and a symbol to the memory of Christ’s sacrifice.  These little directives can remind us of big truths. In ministry, we can offer people visual illustrations or tangible challenges to more strongly drive home our message in a relatable, memorable way.


6. We are part of a culture where fresh trends come along faster than new superhero films.

As devoted followers of Christ, we probably know that the gospel never goes out of style.  The message of Christ, the personality of God and the relationship we get to have with him never gets stale.  But, if we’re not careful, we can present the gospel to others in a way that seems outdated, irrelevant or lame.  And I’ve often wondered if that does justice to the message Christ brought to the world. Throughout scripture we see Jesus and His disciples contextualizing their message to the culture, not in a way that diminishes it’s truth, but in a way that increases its relatability.

So, practically, what does this mean? It means, do your research before you implement a stage design, print a t-shirt, redesign your website, prepare a message for a different campus that you’re not used to, or name your youth ministry (or not name your youth ministry, since we’re not in the 90’s anymore).  Find out what other churches are doing, what’s been overdone, and what’s ‘in’.  Or better yet, hire creative, passionate Millennials who are in touch with pop-culture and think innovatively about how to do church. Then run things by them regularly.

Collaboration is your best friend when it comes to trends, styles, and staying relevant!