Why You Are Responsible for What People Think about Your Church

In advertising and branding, there is something every Adventist member can do.

Shane Hochstetler, Gulf States Conference News
Why You Are Responsible for What People Think about Your Church
Utilizing a brand identity helps the potential impact of all Adventist entities. [Photo:]

When was the last time you took inventory of the brand equity of your local church? 

Posed another way, what do people in your church’s area of influence think about your church and its people? Do they believe you’re honest? Do they think you are kind, concerned, apathetic? 

When it comes to brands and entities that we interact with, like restaurants, car dealerships, and services, we can usually share our thoughts and opinions on them quickly. For example, in my opinion, Taco Bell is cheap, but so is the quality of the food. Of course, that doesn’t mean I never eat at Taco Bell, but those are my expectations if I go there. 

What about car dealerships? I think my local Subaru dealership is really nice. They seem to have been honest with me in their service department, my interactions with each employee have been positive, and they have even given me a bag of produce from the garden they keep behind the building. If someone asks me where to get a car or have a Subaru serviced, I’d recommend them without hesitation.

Adventists should be telling their own story in advertising, promoting their positive attributes. [Photo:]

What does this have to do with your church? If someone knows about your church, they probably have some opinion or perception about the church and what it’s about, just as I have an idea about Subaru. I know that Subaru values family, safety, longevity, and animals. How do I know this? Because that’s what they tell me through their promotions and advertising. What values do Seventh-day Adventists have? What are we promoting and advertising?

In their book The Viral Gospel, Jared Thurmon and Chris Matts say, “We’re not telling our story. Therefore, we’re not in control of our story. We’re just allowing people’s imaginations to run wild.” I think it’s time we start to promote our own story rather than let others determine who we are. To what end? So we can improve the potential impact we have with other people by clarifying our intent and purpose.

In 2009, my wife and I were Bible worker coordinators in Ritzville, Washington, United States. As we began going door to door, presenting religious community surveys in the small town, several people asked which church we represented. For many, when I told them we were working with the local Adventist church, they opened their door wider and invited us in. We learned that an Adventist doctor served the local hospital and positively impacted many people’s lives in the town. But unfortunately, when I sought him out to thank him for his ministry, I learned he had passed away almost 10 years earlier. Not only did he make a positive impression, but it was a lasting one.

What others think of your Adventist church and its people is determined by their interactions with you. In turn, it is also determined by their interactions with other Adventists. What should we do? How should we behave? Daily ask God for His guidance, for His will to be done, and regularly consider how the things you and your church do comes across to others.

When we present a visually united front, advertising at every level will reap greater rewards. [Photo:]

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel each time we think about our strategy to present ourselves to our community. In fact, if more of our churches adopted a standard, high-quality marketing method, then the good each church did in their community would benefit Adventist churches in other communities. This is only possible, however, if we stand in unity.

Particularly in appearance, when you travel from one Adventist church to another, you will see a big difference in the church sign design, use of the official logo, font choices, and more. By comparison, people are hardly ever confused as to whether or not they’re in a Chipotle restaurant. People should be able to know they’re at an Adventist church relatively quickly, based on their appearance.

Organizations achieve this kind of unity and brand equity by creating brand strategies, identity guidelines, and design standards. All of these things already exist for the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

We can utilize the best strategies available to make a positive difference for the work God has called us to do. By endeavoring to unite under one banner of brand consistency, the positive ministry impact of some will help many. With God’s help, we can make a good name for ourselves as Adventists. We can be “that kind neighbor who lives down the street” or “that friendly co-worker who brightens everyone’s day.”

The original version of this commentary was posted on the Gulf States Conference news site.

Shane Hochstetler, Gulf States Conference News