August 24, 2008

Branding Faith

Phil Cooke has done ministry leaders a great favor by compiling helpful insights and exploring the relevance of branding from a church perspective. The subtitle of this book released early this year is “Why Some Churches an Nonprofits Impact Culture and Others Don’t.” The leading question of the book is “What do people think of when they think of your ministry?” Phil’s emphasis in the brand discussion is helpfully flavored by a ministry-friendly definition: “At its core, branding is simply the art of surrounding a product, organization or person with a powerful and compelling story.” There are not many books in this category as few books dare to fuse faith and marketing. One thing I particularly appreciated is that Phil brings some needed insights in favor of branding the church while acknowledging the downsides of “chasing relevance” to an extreme.

The strength of the book is twofold: first is Phil’s authentic passion for the kingdom forged with a solid track record of brand-building for ministries. Second, is Phil’s distillation of principles, practices and proverbs from the business world filtered through ministry values.

The limitation of the book, albeit minor, is double-barreled. The first thing is that Phil is not weaving a coherent argument through the book, but rather, provides a patchwork of observations and insights. The second limitation is that Phil’s experience with ministry dominated by strong personalities of charismatic flavor. This tends to skew insights on branding more toward the individual and not the organization. Nevertheless, these minor points do not eclipse this solid contribution and valuable resource for a rarely treated topic.

I highly recommend this book for any church leader, and it is a must-have resource for any church communications professional. The thousands of designers working every-day to keep our churches communication savvy will appreciate one of my favorite quotes from the book: Better design isn’t just decoration; its connection. See my selected quotes.

August 23, 2008

Branding Faith: Selected Quotes

In essence, we need to understand the power of branding and identity, and seriously reconsider how we express our faith to a skeptical and unbelieving world. p. 10

At its core, branding is simply the art of surrounding a product organization or person with a powerful and compelling story. p. 26

What do people think of when they think of you? p. 11

The media today is a digital cacophony of voices and images. To stand out in an ocean of choices takes more than excellent sermons, quality resources, professional programs and good intentions. p. 21

The world isn’t looking for a copy of a major religious leader; they’re looking for someone new, innovative and original. God gave you a unique DNA, so your job is to discover how your unique gifts and talents can differentiate your ministry from everyone else’s. p. 101

Its not so much about recreating or re-building a ministry; its more about cutting away the junk so the real ministry that’s inside can be released. p. 102

Better design isn’t just decoration; its connection. p. 156

The book quotes Patrick Hanlon on seven characteristics that branding and religion share (p. 72-80):

• The Creation Story
• The Creed
• The Icons
• The Rituals
• The Pagans of Non-believers
• The Scared Words
• The Leader

Since January of 2007, Facebook has experienced an average of 250,000 members each day…It is also the number one photo-sharing site on the web, with more than 14 million photos uploaded daily. p. 164

Friendships without relationship- it’s new territory for most of us. (with regard to Facebook) p. 166

Quoting Herbert Simon, “A wealth of information has created a poverty of attention.” p. 174

Branding isn’t an exact science. It’s organic, reflecting the changing culture, trends and ideas of each generation. p. 228

Remember the Unique Selling Proposition- what makes your product different from every other product in the marketplace. What makes your church different and unique today? Hopefully, its more than the snappy design of your church newsletter. p. 193

August 22, 2008

Simplify Your Story

Tom Suddes leads an organization called For Impact. He just sent this e-mail entitled: “SUMMARIZE YOUR LIFE IN 6 WORDS.” I am still in the Made to Stick Series on Simplicity and this connects well:

“I came across references to a really cool little book in a newspaper article in early July. I meant to write something but didn’t. This morning, I read something again in Ode magazine on the same book. I love the concept and wanted to share it with you.

NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING: 6-WORD MEMOIRS BY WRITERS FAMOUS AND OBSCURE by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser challenged people in a kind of unusual memoir project. Supposedly inspired by the legend that, when challenged, Ernest Hemingway wrote a half dozen word story:

“For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.” Short. Succinct. Six words. (Sad.)

On a much more positive note, challenging ourselves to write our own 6-WORD MEMOIR is really interesting.

Michael Sean Symonds who is a kind of meditation instructor in Canada actually posted a short piece on the ODE bulletin board asking, “If you had to write the story of your life as it was, is and as you hope it to be, in 6 WORDS OR LESS, what would you say?”

Symonds, Smith and Fershleiser give us a wonderful place to start around this idea of “6 WORDS…”

What are your “6 WORDS…” that would represent your LIFE STORY???
What are the “6 WORDS…” that would represent the STORY/MESSAGE for your FOR IMPACT ORGANIZATION???
Note: If you’re a For Impact follower, you’ll know that we always start with your MESSAGE ON A NAPKIN! A lot of that is visual but also includes a few words. This is just a different play on this same idea.

For what it’s worth, here are my 6 WORDS, which I’ve had for probably the last 15 years. They’re my 6 L alliteration.


Special Note: I can turn this very easily into my ‘EIA’ (Eulogy in Advance)


Take a moment and share with us your 6 WORDS on LIFE and/or your 6 WORDS on your MESSAGE. Click here.

P.S. Here are some interesting, funny ’6 Words’ from some people to help you get going.

“Well, I thought it was funny.” Stephen Colbert
“Despite disorders, jafroed yewboy gets girl.” Michael Eisner
“Revenge is living well without you.” Joyce Carol Oates
“Dropped out. Got out. Lucked out.” Ben Kweller
“Dad died, mom crazy, me, too.” Moby
What are your 6 words or your org’s 6 words?”

August 21, 2008

The Meaning of Auxano


The name of an organization is the first opportunity to vision cast. One of the most rewarding opportunities as a vision navigator is the opportunity to speak into the naming process. Year ago we chose the biblical term Auxano (to cause to grow) to represent our team, ministry, our vision, and what we hope becomes God’s movement. Luke uses this term to describe the early growth of the church and the spread of the word in Acts.

As will all elements of vision, the opportunity arises for the vision to keep giving back to those who birthed it. In the process of preparing for Sunday, Rich Kannwischer, one of our navigators stumbled into Auxano again. Here is what he wrote:

I noticed that in the seminar we taught, you referred to the Septuagint translation for “be fruitful and multiply” of Genesis. I thought that was a great reference for those who might misunderstand Auxano to be about the church growth movement. Another Biblical usage of auxano is in the first chapter of Colossians (verse 6) when it says, ” In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing (auxano) throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.”

In short, true growth (quantitative) must always be connected to the gospel bearing fruit (qualitative). The two commands must be held together or something is lost. These two commands are the twin engines of re-creation, God’s plan of redeeming the world he has made. According to Paul in this passage, this growth is always connected to the depth of understanding God’s grace. You only are able to bear fruit and grow to the extent that you receive and comprehend his grace.

August 17, 2008

Time with Alan Hirsch (part 2)


While at PGF, I co-lead with Alan, author of The Shaping of Things to Come and Forgotten Ways. Alan mentioned that Shaping was really written for church planters. They had no idea that it would become the foundational missional work that it has become. Following that work which was co-written with Michael Frost, Alan did the solo project entitled Forgotten Ways which focuses on the nature of missional movements. Here are a few quotes from his speaking:

–”If everything becomes missional than nothing is.”
–”We design our buildings and then our building design us.”
–”The best way to change is not revolution or evolution, but to tell an alternative story.”
–”You have to challenge the system for the sake of the gospel.”

If you want a little taste of Alan or you are new to the missional conversation, click here for an Out of Ur interview with Leadership Journal on the definition of “missional.”