Accurate Church Branding

Accurate Church Branding

A lesson from Edinburgh!

I’ve been pleased to spend a couple of days in Edinburgh this week, as ‘the missus’ is at a conference in the city.

I’ve managed to combine the ‘working in cafés’ bit with hopping between various art galleries and monuments, taking lots of photos, and basically being a tourist.

Standard ChurchTrain question – what does all this have to do with church communications?

Standard response – I’ll tell ya!


Standing Out

Walking around Scotland’s capital, it’s hard to not be struck by the architeture. There is so much stone; there are ornate decoarations and details everywhere you look.

Honestly , every building looks like it could be on the front of a postcard. Well, every other building at least!

Herein lies the relevance – it’s very hard to tell what you’re looking at on first glance.

Back home, in Bournemouth, if you’re looking at a building like this it’s likely that you’re looking at something a bit more… special. Even if it’s just a town hall or something. They stand out. In Edinburgh, they blend in.

So there’s one lesson here – make sure you’re making an effort to stand out.

But what I really want to link this to, is branding.



You see, looking across at an attractive stone building, you’re fooled, even just for a second, in to thinking you’re looking at something special. What sort of establishment could this possibly be?!

Oh, it’s a Greggs bakery.

What about that beautiful building on the corner?! A McDonalds.

The building says one thing, but the brand that lives there is at a complete mismatch.

I think many churches are like this, too.

This happens in one of two ways – churches either undersell themselves, or they do the oppostite.


The Oversell

We can all think of churches like this. If you look at their logo, or read the text on their website, we can be fooled in to thinking they’re a pretty trendy group, with lots of young families and youth work.

But when we go along on a Sunday, we can’t help but feel a bit disappointed. The church branding has written cheques that it can’t cash.

So like the gorgeous historic building with a bland tourist shop inside, we fell as if we’ve been sold a dud.

On the flip side, sometimes churches overdeliver on our expectations.


The Undersell

I think this is the more common of the two instances. You experience a church with fantastic preaching/worship/ministries/youth work/people. You come away thinking, ‘Wow! I never knew that church was so great.’ But you’d never have been able to tell that without experiencing it first hand.

For whatever reason, these churches have undersold themselves. Like the ‘oversold’ lot, their communications haven’t given an accurate picture. But in this case, they’re doing themselves a disservice.

To put it another way, The ‘outside’ doesn’t match the ‘inside’. And those who don’t attend your church have no idea what’s inside. All they see is what you and others say about you – your brand.

This is the only context they have. 

And this is something which both frustrates and upsets me; there are great churches out there, that no-one knows about. Churches that are in decline, when they should be growing.


There are great churches, that no-one knows about. Churches that are in decline, when they should be growing.

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And the most frustrating thing is that all they need is some critical thought in to how they market themselves. Some strategy around how to communicate what’s going on inside their four walls – to those outside of them.

They’re already getting the difficult bit right! They just need to sell it.


The Reality

This isn’t one of those ‘and here is how you do it’ blog posts. I guess that’s because the ‘how you do it’ is the overall aim of this blog.

My whole message with ChurchTrain is this: doing just a little can make a big difference to communicating about your church and the gospel message. The hard part is finding which little to focus on!

So… do it.

Consider whether you would place yourself in this category of churches. If you’re not sure, it’s possible you need to survey opinions from others in your locality. Find out what they think of you – how else can you know whether the image you’re putting out is under- or over- selling!

And then go out and learn.

Learn what works for you; what’s important and what isn’t. Don’t try to do everything, but experiment and iterate.

Try something new like print, or social media, or a new website or branding.

And if it works, build on it to make it work even better.

2 Responses

  1. Thanks Joe. Our church building is very heavily used during the week. A team of us have recently embarked on a program of “seeing again” everything that people see as they walk in – from the noticeboard and poster outside that hasn’t been changed in 2 years, to the plethora of leaflets and information about all kinds of niche activities and meetings inside, none of which say “WELCOME … we’re glad you;re here”. Someone said to me our noticeboard has become almost invisible. Trouble is it may indeed be invisible to us but it is very visible to the newcomer or occasional visitor. Yes – these things matter, please continue!

    • Joe

      This is really interesting, Chris. It’s such a key area, but so easily overlooked, and I think you’re right – it’s complacency caused by familiarity.

      Notice boards in particular can be such a waste of space if they’re not used properly! In our previous church building, we changed 80% of the notice board in to a huge canvas with a picture of the local area, and a massive ‘Welcome‘ across the top. It brought new life to the room, made the space more welcoming… and all of the previous notices still managed to fit in to this smaller area!

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