A blog by Dennis Richards


As I write this, I’m getting ready to ask the staff of Bent Tree, “What is branding, anyway?” My guess is that most of the responses will be standard: logo design, naming, colors, the look of the Web site or bulletin, etc. These are all valid responses, and all are elements of what makes up a brand. Dictionary.com describes “brand” as a trademark or distinctive name identifying a product or a manufacturer.

I think branding for ministries is much like contemporary worship used to be 10 or 15 years ago. People are realizing that there is something different happening, and this thing called branding is not going away. People are starting to realize they need to pay attention to how things are changing around them in a world of communications, branding and messaging.

Branding is often seen as a mystical thing. I hear all the time, “If we could only have our brand strategy understood or clarified” – again, valid comments. But branding, ultimately, is simply letting people know who you are; it’s sharing your personality with the world. It’s the difference between choosing to pull on a pair of jeans, a comfortable T-shirt and sandals for work, rather than dressing up in a suit and tie each day. It’s part of my personality, and it’s my persona.

The same is true of a church. Some churches are more formal, while others are more edgy and reach a different audience. The trick is letting these distinctions shine through. Is it logo, color, Web site or identity package (brochures, letterhead, business cards)? The answer is “all of the above.”

What is the DNA of your church? Are you more the jeans-and-T-shirt place or the suit-and-tie spot? Once you figure out who you are and how you live out this thing called church, the hard part is over. The fun part of branding is coming up with the right messaging and design that allows your personality to be well-known for Christ.

Dennis Richards is the director of communications for Bent Tree Fellowship, where he successfully leads the church in the branding, marketing and communications. Prior to joining Bent Tree, Richards served as a professional marketer and brand manager to the interiors industry, working for several domestic and international brands. Those skills have proven an added resource in helping Bent Tree in its building-expansion program. In addition to his normal responsibilities, Richards also enjoys serving in the Worship and Arts Ministry as one of the guitar players.

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American ChurchOur Sunday Visitor and ParishSOFT Announce Strategic Partnership

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The parent company of AmericanChurch Inc., Our Sunday Visitor Inc. (Huntington, Ind.) recently announced a strategic partnership, effective Jan. 1, with ParishSOFT LLC (Ann Arbor, Mich.), according to statements issued by their management teams.

AmericanChurch and Our Sunday Visitor together are a large national producer of church offering envelopes, as well as one of the leading publishers of Catholic periodicals, books and religious education materials.

ParishSOFT is engaged in the development, sale and support of church management software and Web services for the religious market in the United States.

The ParishSOFT software offers AmericanChurch the means for church customers to update their membership lists online. It also offers an effective means to respond to a growing interest in electronic funds transfer at the church level, integrating electronic giving with traditional offering envelope giving.

ParishSOFT’s software and Web services provide innovative new means of distributing educational and training materials directly to church staff and members via e-mail and the church website.

Taken together, these benefits will integrate AmericanChurch more closely with its current and future church customers and strategically position AmericanChurch in an emerging market.

For more information, log on to www.parishsoft.com, www.osv.com or www.offeringenvelopes, and www.americanchurch.com.