(Guest Post) The Most Powerful Thing Your Church Can Be Known For

I want to present another way of looking at the “be known for something” concept. So often, people define themselves by what they do. Their careers become their identity. Or their weekend Jeep drives. Or the fact that they pastor. Our identity is about doing. And churches are no different than that.

But I bet if you thought about some of your best friends and some of the best companies you’ve interacted with, you’ll probably remember something more profound than just what they do. You’ll remember how they make you feel.

My favorite restaurant in San Antonio is all about the feeling for me. It’s a tiny place off the Riverwalk called Gwendolyn. They don’t use any cooking techniques that were developed after 1850. That means no electricity. They cook everything old-school and their food is fantastic. The quality and gimmick alone would be enough to make me return. But that’s not what makes it my favorite.

The waitress, Jackie, knows my name. She remembers I always want water, so she doesn’t even ask my drink order. She knows I love their German Syphon coffee experience (it takes 15 minutes to brew, table-side), so she asks me early in the meal if I’ll want it so it can be ready when I’m done eating.

The chef comes out and asks me how everything tasted. He explains what was different about this month’s menu and sometimes even asks my opinion on what should be on the menu next month. He has even bought my meal a few times as a thank-you for always coming in.

I feel visible. Valued. Comfortable. In control. Surprised. Delighted. Expectant.

Those feelings are memorable. And when I share with my friends and family about Gwendolyn, that’s what I tell them about. Assuming the place is functioning properly, the feeling is what stands out above everything else.

I wrote a book about this with my friend, Jason Young, who focuses on this idea of feeling in his role at North Point Ministries. The Come Back Effect focuses on creating a unique, feeling-filled experience at your church that will compel your guests to return week after week. We primarily focus on the guest services aspect of this, but I believe the “feeling” idea can extend to church communications as well.

You see; people in your community are feeling over-taxed, under-valued, unheard, and shame-filled. Imagine if your church, through its communications, could be the thing that makes them feel peaceful, valued, understood, and free. I believe your church is uniquely positioned to make your community feel this in a way only you can.

Some churches will create events that will help people find peace. Other churches will create marketing pieces that seem to “get” the people in your community and offer hope for them. Still others will create an environment where, no matter what a person’s past, they feel accepted as soon as they walk through the doors.

People will remember the feeling they had when they experienced your church long after the worship, the message, or any other programmatic elements. When you make people feel something contrary to the negative feelings they came in with, you’ve done something memorable. That’s what you’ll be known for.

So next time you’re sitting down to plan a marketing schedule or other communication piece, think through what your audience will already be feeling before they see what you’ve done.

  • Confusion
  • Exhaustion
  • Shame
  • Overwhelmed by other marketing pieces
  • A sense of being stretched too thin

Then think about ways you can replace those negative emotions with positive vibes. I guarantee that will be far more memorable than the best designed graphic or most clever wordplay you can come up with. And if you do this, over and over, your church will get a reputation. You’ll be remembered for what you make people feel when they interact with you.


Jonathan Malm is a creative entrepreneur and author of Unwelcome, as well as the forthcoming The Come Back Effect. He lives in San Antonio, Texas where he runs SundaySocial and ChurchStageDesignIdeas.com, resources to help churches communicate more creatively.

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