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., 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”.


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. 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.


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.












































































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”.

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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, and distributed all of our camp photos to students and parents (using  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: 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.


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.



Branding in Ministry: 6 ways to BRAND BETTER



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!


Resolve to Take More Pictures: How Photography Can Impact Your Ministry

If your work-week looks anything like mine, you usually spend one day planning, one day nailing down details, one day on the actual gathering, one day tying up loose ends, and one day devoted to a secondary ministry or supporting other areas of your church. If you’re lucky, you get an actual break for a couple of days until it starts all over again.  If you add to that a bunch of meetings, some crisis situations, and lots of relational investment, you often find yourself struggling just to do tasks that seem urgent and essential. Taking pictures during the busiest time of your week is probably never on your “essential tasks” list. But effectively utilizing photos of your ministry can save you a ton of time in the long-run as well as engage your students in an important way.



Imagine if all of your ministry’s website/social media posts got twice the traction.  Imagine if every slide you display during gatherings makes your students feel engaged, involved and like they belong.  Imagine if students and their friends come to expect a youthful, trendy environment that feels like their own. Imagine if creating media for your gathering is much quicker and easier.

That’s what you stand to gain with just a little work on the front end and some intention use of photography.


Ask a volunteer  (a student who’s learning photography, a leader who’s good with a camera or any creative iPhone user) to take photos of your ministry in action. Set your photographer up for success by giving them clear direction before they start shooting. It’s a good idea to give them a shot list, some boundaries on when and where to shoot (without being distracting), and vision on the importance of their task. Minimize distractions by having them capture band and speaker photos during sound check and by giving them a volunteer badge or lanyard (if your ministry uses them).


Trips, events and special gatherings, right? Wrong! We are naturally inclined to take photos during special nights but usually those photos get used only once and then they are outdated.  Instead, focus on capturing photos of typical gatherings and recurring events. Refresh your stock of photos at least every 6 months. Then, whenever you are promoting or communicating about your ministry you have lots of current, relevant photos to choose from.



You might also be tempted to take photos only of things happening on stage or up front.  But the most impactful, dynamic ministry moments are happening off stage.  Consider taking photos of the pre-gathering and post-gathering hangout times, small groups, prayer, games and your atmosphere (if there’s anything unique in the room that brands your ministry).


Consider using your photos for elements in your gathering that could be more contextualized to your specific group.  Instead of a generic countdown video, make a countdown video of photos from your ministry. Use it once or twice in a gathering and then remove the countdown clock and post it to your youtube channel or website as a promo video for a typical gathering.

If you’re not a video editing master, there are some inexpensive websites that create dynamic videos with your content. 


Students LOVE seeing themselves on screen, so make sure your photographer takes photos of a diverse mix of students – not just the popular ones, the band, or the pastor’s kid!

Now that you have a fresh stock of diverse images, use them for info walls, promo cards, social media/website posts, gathering slides, etc. This will make designing graphics that are impactful to your specific audience much quicker and easier.