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Creating Brand Trust in the Church

“Trust creation is a fundamental goal of brand design” – Marty Neumeier

Branding is central to the responsibilities of any communication manager in an organization. And in a non-profit environment, where you are truly a ‘voluntary organization’, the brand is everything.  Marty Neumeier starts his book, The Brand Gap, by articulating that the brand of any organization is defined in minds of the patrons or clients of the organization, not in the efforts of the management.

He goes on to say that central to the branding task is the creation of trust—trust between the customer and the company, between the volunteer and the organization, between the donor and the fundraising entity. The question when engaging in brand development, then, in any non-profit is ‘What do we expect others to trust us for?”

I work for a large church and we like like to say that we want people to give of their time, talents, treasure, and touch in the life of the church. That means we are expecting our congregants to trust us as stewards of all of these things. We expect that their time with us will not be wasted, their contributions will be appreciated, their money will be wisely invested, and that we will make a difference together by engaging in the mission we set before them.

That sounds good, but if I asked the average attendee of our church what they trust the church for, what would their answer be? I know the answer would be different for every individual, but I think the following list would likely surface in such discussions.

1. I trust my church to present truth. Many seasoned Christians and seekers alike are looking for accurate answers to vexing questions in their lives. They trust the Biblical guidance and counsel they receive from the Church will be true and tested.

2. I trust my church to provide support in difficult times. Many come to their spiritual leaders in times of crisis and expect to be able to find comfort, encouragement, anonymity, and even material support in times of need.

3. I trust my church to represent me well in the community. Many find great pride in association with a church that is active in serving the community even if their contributions are limited personally. The color of those contributions is different from church to church whether the emphasis be evangelism, service, entertainment, or political action.

4. I trust my church to manage money well. Buildings cost money, staff require appropriate compensation, and oversight over every dollar spent cannot be accomplished in a large church from the vantage point of an average church member. That requires a certain level of trust in structure, accountability and transparency with budgets and financial management practices.

5. I trust my church to reflect and/or champion my interests and passions. This is a tricky part of the ‘preferences’ that come into play as the average church attendee chooses a place of worship. Those preferences are not all bad as they provide a place of identity and unity amongst a given congregation, but when these expectations are not met or misleading impressions are given, trust is lost.

Ultimately the things we are trying to communicate in the context of our branding and vision casting may be falling far short of the expectations of trust development that exist in the minds of our congregants. Does your vision statement result in inspired trust and the creation of brand champions or does it actually raise more questions than it answers.? How do we answer the needs of our congregants when it comes to developing trust in a leadership, programs, and fellow members in the areas mentioned above.

More importantly, what do you trust your church to do or provide? What could your church do to inspire your confidence and commitment?