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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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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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.