Evangelization 101 for Anglicans

Church Branding: Not the frightening sort

 

 

Free Labor Will Win

 

First in a series…

A pal of mine, Ann Ross, and I have been tasked with providing some direction on evangelism on behalf of our little beleaguered corner of Christendom.  By way of an introduction, and as I ponder what might benefit us best, I want to share my evolving thoughts as potential discussion points.  After reading a story in the Nashville Tennessean back in January on church branding, I got to thinking about an Anglican variety of church branding (and positioning) that might be worth thinking a little bit about.  Now I’m not suggesting that we do radio spots or print advertising; I’m talking about the image we project when we are talking to others about our faith and our Church.  In keeping with the ancient practices of Christians, we tell people about our church via word-of-mouth.  This is “viral” marketing in the best sense of the term, it can have a big impact (people like to have people tell them things fact-to-face) and it’s cheap (as in “talk is cheap”, literally).

 

I want us to grow… both spiritually and in numbers, and regardless of external pressures we all feel, we still have an obligation to preach the Gospel.  Our parish conveys our message (the Gospel as delivered by us in our unique way, i.e., with our branding) to the world around us via our members and from the pulpit.  Aside from delivering the Gospel, what we say about our parish, how we behave, who we are as Christians, and with whom we affiliate defines our brand.  As we think about the message we want to portray, we can benefit here from a little more formal definition.

 

Branding is an essential element to businesses, especially the retail variety, but all businesses, not-for-profits, branches of the military, other organizations of various sorts (The US Department of Commerce), churches, The DAR, and the like all have a “brand”.  On the off chance that someone does not know its origin, the word “brand” comes from  the brand placed on cattle so that people would know who owned them.  When a Texas cowpoke out on the open range saw a steer with, say, the “Running W” brand (see photo below or attached—this image may have been reminiscent of the way a diamondback crawls—http://www.king-ranch.com/runningw.html) of the famous King Ranch, Kingsville, Texas, he would know that the particular cow sporting that brand belonged to King Ranch and to keep his paws off or he might get bit.

 

Photo of snake 

 

 

 

Now, this King Ranch brand would mean nothing except for the fact that if that cowpoke decided to abscond with a King Ranch cow, he knew he had a pretty good chance of finding himself chased down and made to pay.  That is, the King Ranch brand was backed up by the action of the brand’s owners and the force of law if need be.  Suffice it to say, everyone picked up pretty quick what the Running ‘W’ brand stood for.

 

 

On a related note, you may have heard the term “positioning” as it relates to companies and products.  “Positioning” might best be described as where the King Ranch brand stands in the minds of people when compared with other ranches.  For example, think about American Airlines for a second.  AA is fancy but bankrupt most of the time.  When you compare it to Southwest Airlines, which is cheap but always profitable, specific images and feeling may arise in your mind.  That is positioning.  Going back to King Ranch for a moment, look to the top of the brand pyramid and perhaps the only cattle ranch that anyone knows about is King Ranch.  Even if you don’t know it’s a cattle ranch you may know that Ford Motors sells a special edition King Ranch F-150 pickup truck.  It’s a lot fancier and more expensive than the typical Ford F-150.  Consequently, King Ranch maintains THE top-of-mind awareness position regarding ranch brands in world of today.  Can anyone name another?  Pretty cool if you’re a marketing geek.

 

Anyway, back to the task at hand, I think branding for St Andrews rightly begins with our mission statement…

 

“Our mission is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ, in an Anglo-Catholic parish with a rich tradition of community within the full sacramental life of the Church.”

 

And this mission statement is a great start, and indicates that we are engaged in a very noble cause, to boot.  A few other things that could be said about our parish that might help us define who we are or our brand and positioning (these types of statements are shared with focus groups in order to spark discussion, which is exactly my intent)…

 

  • We worship a lot like the Medieval Church did.
  • We are small-c catholics.
  • We are “high-church” Anglicans (smells & bells and we love to chant).
  • We are somewhat contemplative in our approach to faith and practice (we are not charismatic’s).
  • Our music program, while humble, is very, very good.  Our choir director is a Blair Professor of keyboard and organ.  (Pretty fancy!)
  • We have lots of very brainy people in the parish: professors, doctors, lawyers, teachers, heads of companies, Nashotah House priests (along with that dope, Ken, but someone has to be nice to him).
  • We are not a bunch of doctrinal pansies.  We view ourselves as tough-minded defenders of the faith.  We hold to the ‘ancient’ faith as delivered…
  • We are largely pro-life.  (This is highly charged, politically, but this is part of who we are.)
  • We support the poor.
  • We support missions.
  • We are orthodox in our beliefs.
  • We believe that priests or bishops ought to be male.
  • We believe that priests or bishops ought to be celibate or married to a woman.
  • We are ‘traditional’ Anglicans.
  • We believe in what the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds say.
  • We believe in the sacraments.
  • We think marriage is between a man and a woman.
  • We believe God really created the universe.
  • We think Jesus was the son of God, really did die on a cross, and then arose from the dead.
  • We believe in the Holy Ghost and that he lives in us.
  • Etcetera.

All of these statements are about positioning and can help us define our St. Andrews brand.  They help us set expectations.  These are not meant to be doctrinal or fancy ecclesiastical definitions but rather how outsiders might view us once they get to know us.  When we are talking to others and telling them about our faith and our parish, these are some of the messages we may be sending or should be sending.   But do keep in mind that we must first and foremost preach Christ crucified and risen from the dead.  That is the driving force behind all of our efforts and also should inform all of our discussions.   All of this branding and positioning stuff is secondary to that mission but can give us some common language we can use to encourage others to come worship with us.

One Response to “Evangelization 101 for Anglicans”

  1. Black Orpheus Says:

    Comment from Father Ray Kaish via email:

    Christanity Today has been running articles on liturgy eg http://www.ctlibrary.com/ct/2008/may/36.38.html
    I think many today are waking up to the power of liturgy and so St. Andrew’s can unashamedly represent what people are truly looking for even if they don’t know it yet. That’s my 2 cents

    Fr. Ray

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