Saturday, March 26, 2005

Branding a Church?

I just sent the following out to some of the leaders at Cedarbrook. I thought you might be interested. I offered my thoughts on five points on "branding" printed in Fast Company magazine - a business mag. Branding has to do with creating a corporate identity that connects with your customer base. I thought it had some application to Cedarbrook Church too.

Andy Spade on Branding
The visionary designer offers lessons from the world of fashion on how to brand your products -- and how to sell your brands.

1. The bigger you get, the smaller you should act.
Never, ever start thinking like a big company. Otherwise you become corporate, and there's no interest in that.

(To me, this means I need to see more people one on one, not less. I can't remove myself from the daily lives of our people. One of the things that has fanned our flames in the early days is the fresh stories of life-change and the passion of volunteers. When we reduce everything to a policy or a doctrine we've become corporate and lost what attracted people in the first place.)

2. Never believe anything you've done is successful.
Challenge it every second, every day.

(We are able to pull off events like we just did at the Mabel Tainter Theater because we have been willing to scrutinize every ministry for what works and doesn't work. We haven't been afraid to ask, "How can we do this even better?" Every time we do that we create the potential to reach more people more effectively.)

3. Brand consistency is overrated.
The brand doesn't have to look the same, but it has to feel the same. An element of newness and surprise is important for any brand.

(This is where core values come in. We want to offer new things in different ways. Someone stopped on the way out of the service last Sunday and said, "I've learned that I can never assume what's going to happen here on Sundays" -That was a good thing to her! But even though things are new, they still need to come from a common place, a core system of beliefs with the same message being offered-just in a different package. )

4. Brands should have some mystery.
Customers should never understand the whole picture of a brand.

(If we reduce God down to something too manageable and understandable, then we aren't being true to God. I personally am offended by simplistic - sound bite - faith. We have to maintain a mystery about God and church life.)

5. Your people are your product.
They are the vehicle through which everything happens, and they define what you put out.

(From the very beginning, others have been the driving force behind CB. As we grow, my biggest fear is that WE will become the driving force....what is best for us. Not just the insiders, but the leaders. We have to fight this tendency with everything we've got. The unchurched person who doesn't know Christ and the marginally churched person in our seats...THEY are why we do what we do. THEY are the ones we need to be in touch with and design our services and programs for...not us.)

Thursday, March 24, 2005

There's a Crack in Everything

I like to read through TIME magazine to stay current with world news. I can't say I read it for inspiration. But the closing essay this week was excellent- written by a follower of Jesus commenting on Ashley Smith and Brian Nichol's, the gunman in the recent Atlanta massacre. He offers an interesting view of grace. The quote at the end is worth the read itself. Go to,8816,1039693-1,00.html

Happy Easter.

Risking Failure

I wrote below about Cedarbrook being in a time of transition. As new ministries are added the web of communication and responsibility gets more and more complex. I've worked hard at delegating authority so the success of any one ministry doesn't rely on me. The "I have to touch everything in the church" mentality that many pastors have is what condemns their church to stay small.

But letting go also means risking failure, at least in the short run. We've had very few meltdowns in our existence. Most, if not every big event we've offered has gone off incredibly well. But that's not reality. There will be meltdowns. There will be failures along the way. And, as much as that is disappointing at the time, it's really a necessary step in the process of transferring responsibility from the few to the many. Every failure exposes the weaknesses in the system that we can't see on paper. We can get mad at the mistakes (and maybe revert back to consolidating decision-making to a few) or we can be proactive and address the issues to make sure they don't happen again.

I believe that God has called Cedarbrook to reach hundreds of people, but that will only happen if leadership and decision-making is released to an ever-increasing circle of individuals. My input and the input of the LEAD Team will always be there to guide our direction, but we can't micro-manage if we want to develop our full potential. And we have to be willing to embrace failure as part of the growth process.

Why do I tell you all this? Because the same is true in life. We can stay "small" spiritually/emotionally by not risking failure - playing it safe - maintaining high control. Or we can "get big" by being willing to embrace failure and learn from it rather than running from it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Growing Pains & Dealing with Loss

I've noticed that whenever I find myself frustrated/angry that it's often during a time of transition. Things in my environment have shifted and I need to make changes. The problem is that I don't always recognize the changes. I just feel the frustration and want a quick fix.

For example, there have been a variety of communication breakdowns among ministry leaders over the last month at Cedarbrook. At first I was tempted to just see it as mistakes that people were making. But it's more than that. I think Cedarbrook hit the tipping point in communication. The system that got us this far has finally revealed its weakness. It's insufficient. In other words, it's not the individuals who are at fault as much as the system that we have in place.

My frustration has become a red flag to me if I am alert enough to see it. I have to step back and ask, "Is there a change/transition in process that's causing me to feel this way?" Any change implies a loss. What was is no longer. A simple email or touching base with someone on Sunday doesn't get the same response that it did in the early days of the church. That's a loss. Life is more complex requiring more attention on my part. That too is a loss. I have a choice (as we all do in these moments of transition), I can remain angry/frustrated and hope that current problems merely blow over and get better on their own, or I can address the systemic problems to alleviate future breakdowns. It takes time and effort, but in the long run it's what enables us to grow and reach more people for Christ.