Telling our Story
Branding Can Help You Tell Your Story Better
In January of 2019, my husband and I were commissioned to begin a new community of faith for the Diocese of West Texas. The area we chose is considered the “Front Porch of the Hill Country”, and is on the northern-most edge of San Antonio in the nation’s fastest growing county, Comal County. The nearest Episcopal churches are 16, 20 and 21 miles away. Our new community would offer an inclusive sacramental option that embraces both the beauty of our tradition and new methods for ministry. It is for those who love God as well as those who have been hurt by the church and are in need of healing and love. We knew our community needed to be traditional yet modern, inclusive and creative, a place for all ages, filled with joy and the love of God. We also knew that we had no idea how to present those goals in language or visually! What could we do to set ourselves on the right path?
Fortunately, we had a community of creative thinkers who encouraged us to hire a professional to help with our logo and branding, developing a visual representation of our church and her vision and values. We knew that creating a logo and establishing a branded identity were important. What we didn’t know was how much these efforts would help us form our community, communicate our vision and values and enable us to stay connected through the immense changes and challenges we faced this spring.
A leap and a fresh perspective
We chose to hire a small firm to help us. Given that one of our objectives was to reach out to people who are unchurched or who had been hurt by the church, we decided to take the risky leap of working with someone who had never before worked with churches. We wanted a fresh perspective from a company with a focus on helping new, small businesses grow and thrive.
Looking back, it was a fun translating the business-centered documents into those that would work in the church. The work broadened our perspective, taking us from the comfortable, churchy language we knew to the unknown and less familiar language of business. As we worked through questionnaires for branding, we became acutely aware of how much we, as a church, use insider language. We were challenged to communicate theological concepts and ideas in more down-to-earth language that relates to people on the outside. What an incredible challenge to reach people where they are without giving up Jesus. Jesus is, after all, all about reaching us and wanting to be in deep relationship with us, and we realized our branding efforts needed to do the same.
We needed to be traditional yet contemporary. We needed to appeal to tried and true churchgoers, but also to reach out to the un- and de-churched. And we wanted to appeal to people of all ages. No small tasks.
Designing a symbol for our values
Creating our logo and brand identity required defining who we are, what we value and who we are trying to reach. Once we had a name for our community, St. Nicholas Hill Country, we began designing our logo. To remind us of the story of St. Nicholas and point to the Texas Hill Country, it was going to be round, with an abstract depiction of the agarita plant, a native Hill Country plant that is evergreen, persistent and drought tolerant. The design was to hint at Christmas, with colors that evoke the feeling of joy and are reminiscent of the Texas Hill Country.
As we began to share our logo, we realized we were achieving the brand identity we had hoped for. It reminded those that were already churched of communion and stained glass and the gold coins from the St. Nicholas stories. Our unchurched friends and neighbors saw wholeness and health and wellness in it. They found our logo warm and inviting and inclusive – an open cross, surrounded by joy.
The logo and branding also helped us instruct our team members on our values and vision. The logo became a symbol of inclusion, joy and creativity. And we were in awe that somehow, through this little symbol, our values were being communicated.
Consistent and focused communication
We worked with an incredible artist who set us up with a thoughtful, creative website and social media templates. That allowed us, right from the beginning, to be consistent in our messaging and our focus on our target community. We encouraged our entire team to keep our key words and messaging consistent in all posts. As a new and growing community of faith, we relied on our team members to share our vision and communicate our message to the broader community. That shared language of faith and branding has helped us communicate the St. Nicholas brand broadly. Postings on our website and multiple social media platforms reinforce our vision of being a joy-filled, creative and inclusive community.
Our branding commitments have helped us discern what and when to post. They have kept us from posting unneeded material for the sake of content, forcing us to be more purposeful in our communications. We also found that people have appreciated the differences in language and logo in our messages and those from the Episcopal Church and our diocese. They feel connected through our thoughtful communication and messaging while also sensing a bigger picture of the body of Christ.
Creating connection in a time of pandemic
When the coronavirus hit the United States this spring, we had been worshiping at St. Nicholas in the Hill Country for only three months. As a new faith community in a season of firsts, with no previous traditions and a good portion of our community new to church or coming back to it, we felt especially challenged to keep our people connected to one another and to St. Nicholas. Our logo has helped us remind people that we belong together. We are St. Nicholas, a group of faithful Christians called to share the joyous love of Jesus Christ, even during physical distancing. Our online worship and prayer offerings include our logo. Our care packages bring logo-bearing gifts to help keep us connected. Our first care package included branded coffee mugs, and every time one shows up in our Zoom meetings, it’s a recognizable shout-out for St. Nicholas. It makes me wonder how often the mugs show up in business video conferences too.
It is amazing to me how something so small can do so much. But then again, we are a people who love our symbols. And I love that our people will remember the great and everlasting love of Jesus Christ every time they see our logo. They will remember it as a symbol of wholeness in Jesus Christ, a symbol of joy, perseverance and generosity. And the beauty of this crazy little logo and symbol is the way it not only helps us embrace who we are, but continues to lead us into who God is calling us to be.
The Reverend Beth Wyndham is the founding pastor at St. Nicholas Hill Country Episcopal Church in Spring Branch, Texas. Prior to this she was the Associate Rector at St. Thomas in San Antonio. She is married to Jeremy Wyndham and has a great love for silly looking pets, writing, reading, painting and creating children’s books.
- Brand: Burn, Baby, Burn, by Richelle Thompson, ECF Vital Practices blog, June 25, 2012
- Marketing the "E" in Episcopal Schools (Lessons for Churches...), ECF Vital Practices blog, May 6, 2016
- What Godzilla can teach the church by David Davidson-Methot, MDiv, PhD, ECF Vital Practices Tool
- Chocolate and Discernment by Steve Ayers, ECF Vital Practices blog, November 30, 2012