The Impact of Re-branding

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“Who do people say that I am?”

Few of us have the courage to ask this question as Jesus did. Do we really want to know how people perceive us? For Mayfair Church, it became essential for us to ask this question, to examine the perception of our church in the neighborhood, and to intentionally correct misperceptions.

Through our involvement in the Church Renewal Lab and conversations with people outside the church, we discovered that people outside our denomination didn’t feel welcome to attend our worship services. Our stately, traditional church building and dated signage gave the impression that the people inside were old, boring, and stoic. Our communication materials lacked a consistent image and failed to communicate anything about our identity and our mission.

We determined to remove the perceived barriers by defining our identity through words, images, and colors. Our purpose was to appeal to people outside our faith tradition, as well as people far from God. Immediately we knew we needed help. We contracted the Bultema Group to do the work and formed a small group of Mayfair members to inform the process. Here are a few of the things we learned:

  • A professional in communications is invaluable when attempting to quantify an identity through images and colors.
  • An outside perspective challenged us to plainly articulate our identity and mission. Conversations clarified our values and led to simplifying our name by removing our “middle name” (Christian Reformed).
  • To be effective, images needed to be consistent and visible throughout all printed materials, internal and external signage, and on all social media platforms.

Our new image is fresh, modern, welcoming, and rooted in our identity. Instead of building barriers, it builds bridges to the people around us. We’re starting to hear people both inside and outside Mayfair talk about us in a new way – one that’s more reflective of who we are.

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Community Builder

Thanks for your excellent post, Elaine.  As Director of Communications and Marketing for the CRCNA, I'm curious about why discussions about a church's identity led to a decision to get rid of the denominational identification?  This question isn't a judgment.  I think a lot of churches have reached the same conclusion. They feel that getting rid of the "Christian Reformed" part of their name somehow makes them more appealing. I'm just curious what the term "Christian Reformed" seems to communicate to the public that makes us want to avoid it?  Why has it become so appealing to appear non-denominational? 

Thank you for your question Kristen. The brevity of the article doesn't adequately communicate the complexity of our decision. I'll attempt to fill in and clarify a few things. Although it's difficult to convey the tone of the healthy conversations that took place in Council and with the congregation through out this process.

First, it's worth mentioning that we didn't approach this decision with a desire to "get rid of our denominational identity", to be "more appealing", nor "to appear non-denominational".  The decision was part of a larger conversation to clearly communicate our commitment to and life in Jesus Christ. We chose to humble ourselves by removing our middle name to be inclusive and accessible to those who didn't grow up in our tradition. The motive for minimizing of our middle name was not an attempt to achieve something better. We lowered ourselves so others could experience the richness of reformed faith.

We are still Christian Reformed; we just don't lead with it. We lead with being followers of Jesus Christ.

Talbot Street Church changed their name from the First Christian Reformed Church in London 4 to 5 years ago.  I voted for the change for several reasons.  There is no "Second CRC" by that name in London.  Our public do not have any association with the words Christian Reformed.  Ones that I have asked focus on"reformed" and think we have an association with reforming prisons or people in jail.  Some stumble on the idea of a church being "Reformed".  They cannot relate to it in any way. Finally, Talbot Street Church tells a "story". This is where we are located and our mission is to serve the downtown area by Talbot Street Church.

 

Hope that explains it from my perspective....Herb Bax

 

PS We were relatively new to London and had  no history to the church which perhaps made it easier.

Community Builder

Thanks Elaine and Herb for your helpful responses.  As I said, I've seen a lot of CRC churches go the same route.  Some have gotten rid of their "Christian Reformed" middle name altogether (many replacing it with a new middle name of "community").  Some have decreased the size and prominence of "Christian Reformed" but continue to add it as a tagline ("a Christian Reformed ministry"). Others exclude it from the name and signage but do nod to their CRC heritage in the "about us" or "what we believe" sections of their website.  

Your explanations about the reasons behind this make a lot of sense. Churches should want to be more inclusive and accessible. If our names are a hurdle that block people from walking through our doors, then we should humble ourselves and change them. 

The flip side, however, is that when more and more churches remove their denominational name, it becomes harder and harder for people to understand what we're all about.  Herb mentioned that people don't understand the term "Christian Reformed" and think that it might be related to prison ministry.  How can we help the term have meaning when we use it less and less?

I'd love for the term "Christian Reformed" to become synonymous in our broad culture with a people called by God to live a life dedicated to faith formation, servant leadership, gospel proclamation, worship, mercy, justice and mission. I wonder how we can better build up that understanding when we downplay the words. 

Then again, maybe we need to humble ourselves and not worry about how well our denominational name is known or understood, but just focus on how well Christ is known and understood. 

 

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