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.

 

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I am Tiffany Kelly

What I do:tiffanyKellySQ (1)

Since 2011, I have been working in the Emerging Generations Department (Middle School, High School and Young Adult) of a quickly growing, multi-site church in Central Florida. I primarily oversee the production and branding side of the ministry. Most weeks, that translates to a lot of gathering production, training volunteers (for media, lighting, and audio), video production with some graphic design, web design, and atmosphere. As a part-time staff member with a lot on my plate, I’ve had to develop strategies for working efficiently and only doing high-impact projects.  I’ve also had to learn a lot about delegating tasks and training volunteer teams. My hope for this blog is to share some lessons I’ve learned about effectively managing production and creative areas of ministry.

Where I started:

I actually began my career path with hopes and dreams of becoming an architect.  I’ve always been artistic as well as having a natural aptitude for math and physics. So, since Middle School, I’ve thought I would love a career that involved designing buildings… some engineering, some creativity – perfect!  I worked hard to get a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Architecture from Miami University (of Ohio) and Masters of Fine Arts in Architecture from Rhode Island School of Design (traveling to my favorite cities and interning at small architecture firms along the way).  But shortly after I graduated, God began to change my heart about my career path.  The catalyst  was a short-term mission trip I went on to Guatemala.  On that trip, for the first time since becoming a Christian at 13 years old, I realized that God wanted to use my gifts and talents to glorify him.  I always knew that I could glorify God in small ways as an architect, but a career of ministry had never been on my radar.  Quite honestly though, I had never asked. I had insecurities about what kinds of things I excelled at, and I wrongly assumed that God wouldn’t want me for vocational ministry.  To me, ministry meant that I would have to be a good speaker, highly relational, charismatic, and extroverted.  I was none of these things.  So, when I returned from that mission trip and felt God calling me to ministry (specifically youth ministry), I was confused and anxious. But my passion and vision for youth ministry continued to grow, so one night, I made a deal with God (which I wouldn’t necessarily suggest).  I told Him I would follow any plan He had for my life, as long as He was with me and He would help me figure out the details… Within the next year, He opened doors for ministry opportunities that were perfect for my specific skill set.

More about me:

12241618_10102655385727588_6281486109622046620_nI enjoy painting/drawing, doing home improvement projects, travelling, reading, swimming, volleyball, discovering new music, cooking, listening to podcasts, and finding a good bargain.  I recently married my best friend and the funniest man I know, Andy.  We met through serving together in our young adult ministry, a passion we share.  We also share a love of really good coffee! We have 2 dogs and 9 nieces and nephews.  We spend a lot of time with our family and friends.  We’re outdoorsy… (when we feel like it), which means a camping trip, a beach trip, a theme park day, or an outdoor festival every now and then.  We like to share and explore culture together by going to concerts, visiting galleries and museums, learning to cook exotic foods, travelling, and trying new restaurants.

Hopes and Dreams for the Future:

We hope to start a family soon and are praying about adopting.

We are dreaming about and working towards getting out of debt.

13100800_10102948385363968_8142991610224108229_nWe are designing a tiny home on wheels that we will build ourselves within the next 5 or 10 years. We plan to transport it to some land in the Tennessee mountains and vacation in it with our family.

The church we’re a part of is growing quickly so we’re excited about being a part of some transitional steps that are forthcoming.  As a couple, we see ourselves continuing to be a part of young adult ministry, worship/production, and missional community leadership (our version of small groups).

In my current role on staff, I would love to see our Student Ministry as well as our church taking new strides towards networking with other churches to share resources and strategies.  I also have a goal for our Student Ministry to have a more intentional and effective social media strategy.  And, I would love to help develop an even more relevant, energetic, contextualized environment for students.  And finally, I am continually focused on building these dreams on the shoulders of a team, not just myself.  Each day, I have to approach my job with the goal of equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry.

Creativity: For Glory and for Beauty

In Exodus 28:2, God tells Moses “And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.”

Genesis

The epic story of the gospel contains poetry, songs, architectural design, ark plans, textile design, and stories about people who made their own idols to worship. Scripture tells us a lot about what kind of creator God is and what kind of creators we should be.

Genesis 1:27 tells us that God created us “in His own image”. But, that doesn’t mean we’re exactly like Him. Some of His characteristics He passes on to us (intelligent and relational), some are unique to Him (omnipresent and omniscient), and still others are imparted to us through our restoration and sanctification (righteous and patient). One aspect of God’s character that I think about a lot is His awe-inspiring creativity. This is a character trait that we have the amazing privilege of receiving from Him.

Throughout scripture, we see that God creates, He designs things for man to create, and He allows man to honor him by creating. In Genesis 1-3, God creates out of nothing (the Hebrew words “ex nihilo”) as well as forming pre-existing things into something functional or beautiful. We can only forming pre-existing things.  As artists, designers, craftsmen and musicians, we often have the feeling that everything has been done. Nothing is new. Solomon, in his great God-given wisdom said  “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecc 1:9) Humility is good and part of our nature as created beings, but we can reflect God’s character to the world by forming existing things into something beautiful that glorifies God.

What the Bible has to say about honoring God through creativity:

1. God cares deeply about design and expression.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a German-American Modernist architect said “God is in the details.” When I read the detailed plans God gives Moses for constructing a temple fit for God’s presence to dwell, I realize that God is a very detailed and intentional designer. In Exodus 24 & 25, God invites Moses up to Mt. Sinai, where the glory of God dwells and he tells Moses to let the Israelites “make me a sanctuary that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and all of its furniture, so you shall make it.” (Exodus 25:8-9). God goes on to tell Moses to assign certain projects to “all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill.”(Exodus 28:3). During this conversation between God and Moses in Exodus, we see that God cares deeply about the dimensions, materials, colors and craftsmen of this project.

Elsewhere, in 1 Chronicles 28, we see God again, specifying who should be part of building His dwelling. King David tells his people,

“I had it in my heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord and for the footstool of our God, and I made preparations for building. But God said to me, ‘You may not build a house for my name, for you are a man of war and have shed blood.” (v. 2-3)

”It is Solomon your son who shall build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. I will establish his kingdom forever if he continues strong in keeping my commandments and my rules, as he is today.” (v. 6-7)

Sometimes I wonder why God would go to such lengths of specifying exactly who would work on certain projects or to describe in such detail the materials, colors and dimensions of the Tabernacle and its furniture in Exodus 25-30. But, then I realize… as a designer, I would care. I have a Master’s Degree in Architecture, so I have spent years studying buildings, thinking about buildings and engaging with buildings. I know that proportion, spatial layout, materials, colors, light, sounds, smells can all drastically shape a person’s experience of a built space. I’ve read books, written papers, sat in seminars, built models, drawn meticulously detailed plans, watched documentaries and traveled around the world to learn about architecture and how it can move people. I consider some of the best architects to be geniuses, who deeply connect with the human experience. I’ve heard several of my architecture professors suggest that psychology is a field strongly tied to architecture.

So, as talented and experienced as the best architects are, how much more does God understand how people will interact with something He’s designing? It makes perfect sense why He would be so concerned with each minute detail. He gets how humans operate. He knows we have senses and we experience so many thoughts and emotions that are informed by our surroundings. And since we are talking about the meticulous detail of the design of God’s own dwelling place, I wonder if some of His design decisions were also for His own experience? So, as we express creativity, we should always have a humble reverence to the one who inspires and allows all creativity, our Maker, the only one who totally understands how everything in the universe operates and connects.  

But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” -Isaiah 64:8 (ESV)


2. Our creativity is for His glory.

Everything we create communicates something about what we believe. Creating is an opportunity to display to the world that we serve a glorious God. As image-bearers of God, we are given the opportunity to create things that are worthy of a great God. But we are also simply God’s creation, who should regularly humble ourselves and give credit to our Maker for anything we create.

In 2 Chronicles 2:4-7, Solomon says,  

Behold, I am about to build a house for the name of the Lord my God and dedicate it to him for the burning of incense of sweet spices before him, and for the regular arrangement of the showbread, and for burnt offerings morning and evening, on the Sabbaths and the new moons and the appointed feasts of the Lord our God, as ordained forever for Israel. The house that I am to build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods. But who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him? Who am I to build a house for him, except as a place to make offerings before him? So now send me a man skilled to work in gold, silver, bronze, and iron, and in purple, crimson, and blue fabrics, trained also in engraving, to be with the skilled workers who are with me in Judah and Jerusalem, whom David my father provided.”

What Solomon knew is that we have the opportunity to glorify God by dedicating our work to Him, by striving for greatness, by humbling ourselves, and by collaborating with skilled partners.


3. Work is something God intended for us even before the fall and He is honored when we do it diligently and excellently. 

“‘Let us rise up and build’. So they strengthened their hands for the good work.” -Nehemiah 2:18

In the book of Nehemiah, we read about a man whose passion to demonstrate God’s glory causes Him to take on a giant task. Jerusalem had been torn apart by war and the walls of the city were destroyed. Nehemiah was so heart broken about this because God had chosen these people and this city through which to display His character to the rest of the world. A city in ruins was a disgrace to God and the destroyed wall left God’s people unsafe, scattered and belittled. The book of Nehemiah describes the people’s willingness to work diligently to restore God’s honorable reputation.

“For the people had a mind to work.” -Nehemiah 4:6

“Each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other.” -Nehemiah 4:17

Throughout this wall reconstruction in Nehemiah we see lots of hard work. But, we also see many moments of God’s provision and protection as the people pray and rely on Him. A lot of times we see prayer and faith as an opposite strategy to hard work and drive. We either rely on God’s provision or our own diligence, right? I think the book of Nehemiah suggests a different way. We read that God is most glorified when we work hard and have faith in God’s provision.

When I read Nehemiah 3 where the whole chapter is dedicated to a detailed, section-by-section description of the work and names of each worker, It makes me wonder why so much detail is necessary.  I think it is because God sees this effort as worshipful work on His behalf. There is an inseparable connection between what we put our hands to and to whom our hearts are devoted.

The Shakers (a sect of Quaker Christians in colonial America) had a motto, “Put your hands to work, and your hearts to God.” This meant that as they worked hard in the fields or mills, they were to devote their hearts to God as if the work of their hands was worship. Consequently, the Shakers were known for some of the most excellent craftsmanship, architecture, crops, and textiles. They were also known for working long hours but having a very peaceful, spiritual countenance. As Christ-followers, if we all put our hands to such skillful work and put our hearts to such passionate worship, what a beautiful picture of God we would display to the world!  Let’s strive to be more and more like that in our work everyday.


4. God takes it very seriously when we dishonor Him with the things we make.

“What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols!” – Habakkuk 2:18 (ESV)

Some of the most harsh reprimands in scripture are to men who decided to craft their own idols to worship. Something deep within God is enraged and hurt when we betray Him in this way. Just sit down, take a deep breath, and read Isaiah 44:9-20 sometime. Wow! When I read words like that from God, I remember that we should treat Him with the absolute highest of respect, awe, and fear.

True, most of us in modern western society aren’t regularly tempted to form an idol with our hands and bow down to worship it. But, we still should be just as careful to keep more subtle versions of idolatry far from our hearts.  So often, we skate through life, flippantly rearranging priorities to fit our comforts, forgetting that nothing should ever take God’s place or fill a role He should have in our lives.  

Throughout the New Testament, we see the vastness of God’s power playing out in the Israelites’ story. As God is teaching them what it means to be His people, He uses strict rules to preserve their relationship and His glory. Some of the most serious laws are concerning the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant. God required holiness and reverence from anyone who would come near to His dwelling place. So when Israel began taking the Ark of the covenant into battle with them to ensure victory, wrath was imminent. They had lost their sense of awe of the presence of the Lord. Eventually, the Ark was captured by the Philistines, who consequently experienced seven months of plagues everywhere it went until they returned it to the Israelites.

Likewise, it is healthy to have a dose of reverence while imaging God through creativity. In scripture, we read about men like Solomon, Ezra and Paul realizing that God deserves the credit for anything we put our hands to (whether ministry or tasks; whether grand or modest). During Paul’s ministry and during the temple constructions of Solomon and Ezra, we see humble men who realize that success is only through the provision of God, and that as created beings we owe everything to our Maker!


5. Created and built things are not just for this world.

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.” – Revelation 11:19 (ESV)

The fact that Revelation describes what seem to be tangible, real built objects and structures is so fascinating to me. Sometimes I wrongly think of design and artistic expression as something we superficial humans vainly place too much importance on.  But the fact that there are designed objects and buildings in Heaven makes me think that the way humans sensuously experience our environment is more of a soul thing than a body thing.

“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” – John 14:2-3 (ESV)

So, as we seek to honor God through creativity, let’s recognizing His absolute magnificence as a designer on Earth and in Heaven.  As creative people who image Him, lets endeavor to make things worthy of a great God – things that display to the world that we serve a God of beauty and restoration. And let’s humble our hearts as we worshipfully work on His behalf, always giving credit to Him.

About Design Worship

Have you ever gotten to the end of your work week and realized that several things on your to-do list have fallen through the cracks? Ever felt like there is always more ministry to do and never enough time?  Where do the production, design, video, and social media tasks fall on your priority list?

For many pastors of small churches, youth pastors, or over-taxed support staff or volunteers, branding your ministry is the last thing on your mind and your to-do list.  But in this blog, I will share with you why it should be the first (while still allowing time to accomplishing everything else on your plate).  That may sound impossible, but I’ll also share with you what years of experience on staff for a student ministry of a growing multi-site church has taught me about how to make the biggest impact with limited time and resources. Although my context is student ministry, many of these strategies will translate for pastors of small churches, leaders who are wearing a lot of hats, or anyone who is overseeing media and production of a church/ministry.

So, why should you care about media, design, and production? The reality for most people who walk through your doors, is that they are inundated with media from the time they wake up to the time they go to sleep. Aren’t we all?  The way we process information has forever been shaped by the constant visual and audio stimulation we are accustomed to experiencing.  So when we decide how we want to share the gospel, create community, and set the atmosphere for people to worship and experience God, we would be missing the mark if we didn’t care deeply about how all of that is packaged and delivered to a overstimulated generation.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not at all suggestion that we should put on a performance each week. But, I am suggestion that we can use the creativity that our creative God has generously shared with us to make the experience of coming to church more engaging, authentically bring life to the words of scripture and help people feel included in their community in a way that displays the value and worth God has placed on them.