Can you have a good ministry without a clear brand story? Well, yes. Or can you? The local church down the road is likely a great church, but do you know what makes them unique? What would compel you to attend services regularly, get involved in events, support financially or even volunteer there? How about establishments in your community? Your local dry cleaners, the bank down the street, that new pizza place, the tire repair shop – why do we frequent them? We visit these places because we want something from them, not because we align with their passion and want to join their mission or help them grow. Is your ministry that way? Do people associate your service as something to gain rather than something to support? If you feel like all you do is pour out but very little gets poured back in to your ministry it probably has to do with the story you are telling.
With a lot of the ministries I encounter these patterns surface repeatedly. The culprit is often the lack of a clear brand story. These teams are doing inspired, passionate service but struggle to get others to come along and help realize the vision. Whether it is volunteers, donations, or even attendees to an event, a good story is hard to pass up. As Christians, we have the most compelling story around. Our stories show the ongoing transformational power of Jesus Christ inside our own ministries, in our church buildings, in our kitchens and ultimately in our lives.
When we leverage the true purpose of why we serve, how we serve and what you need to do to get involved, we create irresistible opportunities for others to help us grow our ministries.
Your brand story starts with a process
During a breakout session at the GACHP Conference I shared ideas and tools you can use to begin telling a better story. These tools and ideas will not solve all your problems, but hopefully help you avoid making mistakes.
As the cliché goes, you learn from your mistakes. At least, you should be learning from your mistakes. For example, when you apologize to someone, the most important thing they need to hear from you is that you understand what went wrong. In ministry, you don’t get many chances so sometimes getting it right is more important than apologizing.
I like the saying, “Without processes, you have no idea why something went wrong”. This gets more profound every time I hear it.
The best way we audit in ministry is by following a process. We evaluate the stages of the process we’re on so if and when something goes wrong, we know exactly what happened, how to fix it, and how to grow from it. I have found that when you can clearly identify mistakes and humanize them, people don’t run away but rather offer grace.
Your volunteers need a process
Processes are extremely crucial when dealing with volunteers. Most ministries heavily rely on volunteer labor to pull off events. If you’ve ever had to coordinate volunteers you know first hand this is a struggle. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, the process is less efficient than you would like and you constantly have a shortage of dependable volunteers. Maybe a creative approach can help. Let me explain what I mean with a story.
Let’s say I volunteer to help with an event because I know the organizer and they really need help. Two weeks before the event, I email the organizer requesting more information on times, logistics, where to park, where to pick up badges, etc. I get no response. I know this person is busy so the email probably got buried. One week before the event, I email the organizer still requesting more information so I can be prepared, on time and ready to contribute effectively. And still no response. At this point, I don’t know where I’m going, what time I should be there, what should I wear, and I am also wondering if they even still need me since I’ve had no instruction. At 8pm the night before the event, an email reply appears with 4 large paragraphs of information and things I need to bring that I was not aware of until then – the night before.
My experience as a volunteer at this point is already poor and stressful. The brand story tells me its poorly organized, there will be last minute changes and difficult to help again. This is often the farthest from the truth. But for people with planner-type personalities who are the personality most attracted to volunteering this is an aggressive deal breaker. It’s not a bad event; it’s simply a lack of process that tells a bad story.
There are many things to coordinate before a large event, which often include multiple unrelated daily duties for the organizer. But if having an adequate number of volunteers is a crucial lifeline for you event, they have to be a priority.
One of the most effective strategies I deploy to avoid situations like this is an auto-reply message with links to information. In the story above, a simple auto-reply email that said, “I am so glad you decided to join us. Check out the main information link: http://yourlink.com, Here you will find all the information related to this event like maps, where to park, what to wear, or who to contact if you have other questions. I look forward to meeting you the day of the event!” The link can be to the church website event page, a Google Document, or a Volunteer packet on Dropbox.
Simple. Direct. Automatic. Consistent.
Better tools = Better process
Maybe the solution you need is a little more involved. Here are some tools you can use to create a more detailed process.
1. Process.st (List Format) – This software facilitates structured procedure documents that can be shared with your team. It can also be used to onboard new employees, volunteers, or event staff. Everyone follows the same process creating consistency. I use this to create a process of forms/disclaimers that need to be filled for a project, checklists of things that are needed, or in the case of an event, maps, layouts of the property, what doors to come in to the event. etc. This provides crucial information to teams and volunteers without relying on disparate emails and difficult document sharing.
2. Piktochart.com (Visual Format) – This is all you need to make information beautiful. This tool lets you create info graphics that really spell out your process. I use this to create a visual map of the steps that need to be taken to achieve success. This can also be use to diagram a layout of a facility and explain where all the equipment or food supplies are stored. It can also be used to diagram the operating procedures for an event, from prep to cleanup. This can be invaluable if you create info graphics that can be printed and handed out before an event to get everyone on the same page of the process. No confusion, consistent results.
I often see that when people are part of a well-told plan (story), they see the onramp to participation clearly. They know exactly what to do. They volunteer often, they are more consistent with their financial support or attend certain events with more regularity. In order for people to respond to your “why”, they have to understand it first. A visual or list driven process will help you paint that picture easily.
In summary, the best steps to consider when beginning the process of telling a better brand story are:
– Find the simplest, most compelling idea that drives you
– Put it into a process
– Paint a clear picture of what coming along side and helping looks like
– Provide information clearly so it eliminates having to figure it out
– Use emotion to engage and make your story stick
Maybe, one of the reasons you are probably overworked, understaffed, stretched-too-thin, or feel alone could be that you are busy working “in” your ministry and haven’t spent time working “on” your ministry. I get it, this is difficult stuff and it takes time and people.
Realistically, you can only do so much before you need real help. Please let me encourage you. You should keep in mind that there are many people out there with your same passion who are willing and able to help. They are just waiting for a better story and a clear plan they can follow. Improve your story and I promise it will change your ministry.
Andre Echevarria helps brands define their story, create strategy, and deploy campaigns through web platforms. As an accomplished Creative Director, he’s worked on projects for Disney, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, ABC, ESPN, NCAA, NASCAR, NBA, NFL, Rockstar Energy Drinks, Warner Bros, Walden Media and Cru. Today, Andre feeds his passion by helping teams achieve traction in their digital strategy.