Strategy & Marketing

The Branded Building: Does Your Building Tell A Story?

If your church is about telling a story to the community, then what story does your building tell?  Since your building is the most visible expression of your faith community in the local area, shouldn’t we make an effort to make sure the place of our worship is meaningful?  I believe more pastors should consider maximizing the concept of using architecture to impact their brand.  Greg Laurie’s Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California has created a public meeting place that looks like a cross between Barnes & Noble, Starbucks, and the city square.  You can have lunch, buy a book or CD, drink gourmet coffee, or sit in the California sun and relax.  The location has become so popular that people who would never darken the door of the church on Sunday gladly drop in during the week for lunch.  The contemporary design welcomes visitors, and the practicality makes them feel at home.

Mega-churches in recent years have taken a lot of flak for building a coffee bar in the lobby, or expanding restaurants and shops, but the truth is, these churches understand the importance of building community as part of the brand.  It’s making a particular impact among young people, who are trying to initiate  connections of their own, and looking for places to meet.

The right tools – including your building – are the gateway to expressing your brand identity to the world.  Whether you use church bulletins, highway billboards, websites, radio, television, podcasting, architecture, or more, using the wrong tools or using them ineffectively will blur your story, and contaminate your identity.  Create a clear vision for your audience, and express that vision from the highest quality launching pad possible.  

A great brand will always be hurt by poor communication, and without the right tools, you’ll never reach your largest potential audience.  Shouldn’t your building be one of those tools?

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  1. Phil I may be reaching for it here so I’m providing a disclaimer in advance.  This may not be a part of branding you wanted to cover.

    While I have seen many churches get all hip and trendy for years with alternative youth rooms, game areas, book stores and coffee houses, there’s another arena often neglected in terms of consistently drawing people of color in a mult-racial atmosphere.  Key question: What is the artwork on the wall look like?

    Do we have the classic Euro-centric blue eyed, blond Jesus?  That’s sadly more often than not the defacto standard – even though anthropologically, historically impossible.  What troubles me most is that no one questions the authenticity and impact of this imagery.  White Jesus says so much more than we want him to say – i.e. reinforcing privledge and superiority.

    This is the biggest brand challenge in the Body of Christ.  I would love to approach it like you do by changing the internals of the building brand to include everyone.

  2. I think this is great sounding but why don’t we just rent space in a mall or shopping center, I know of a lot of churches who have done what you say and owe millions on building because they built the “Pastors dream” one church in Seattle owes $50mill and has had to lay off half the staff.

    I think it depends on your goal, if you want to do the disgusting American thing then you are right, but if you want to do the Kingdom thing then you are wrong, my church in Johannesburg grew from 13 to over 40,000 because we were giving people what they could not get at Starbucks or Barns and Noble, the power that changed their lives, but then there is no money in that is there?

    I love your blog.


  3. Brilliant thought, Rick.  I guess “Jewish Jesus” trumps everyone…  🙂   No question the imagery issue is really critical.  He transcends race.  Thanks for the reminder.


  4. Thanks Phil.  If you want the most accurate depiction of Jesus I have ever seen – simply Google the question “What did Jesus really look like?”  The second resource that pops up is – that bastion of evangelical theory and practice – Popular Mechanics.  In the December 2002 issue there is an article called “Real Face of Jesus” chronicles excellent research based on forensic anthropology (same techniques used at crime scenes) to accurately depict a very ordinary looking Galilean Semite at this time and place.

    Easy to forget that Mary and Joseph were told to hide Jesus in Egypt, that Jesus blended into street scenes  when necessary and that Judas had to point Him out to Roman guards – all activity that is impossible for western Europeans like me.

    As we used to say in the newsrooms I worked in – GET IT RIGHT!!!!

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