Branding Your Ministry – Part 1 (Creating an Identity)

bps_colorThis blog post is going to run a little long, so I’ve broken it down into a couple posts.

If I were to give you 60 seconds to write down as many Kidmin themes as you could, how many would you be able to list?  5?  10?  30?  Here’s another question.  If I told you to take 1 day and search online, how many could you list?  I just did a google search and the first link I clicked gave me 93 different potential names.

And therein lies the problem.  We have no shortage of names.  But a list of names doesn’t guarantee a good brand for you or me.  And although deciding on an brand or identity for your ministry is ultimately a decision between you, your church leadership and God, I’d like to help you out.  The church I serve went through a ministry rebranding about 4 years ago and it was a great learning experience.  We’re a fairly large church, so there were a lot of people with different ideas and opinions.  And although it was a lengthy process, we ultimately settled on a great identity, in part because we asked the right questions.  And what are those questions?  I’m glad you asked.

1.  Why do I want to brand my ministry?

I assume since you’re reading this, you are thinking about branding (or re-branding) your ministry.  The first question to ask is simply, “why?”  Maybe you’re bored with your current branding.  Maybe your ministry doesn’t have a brand at all.  Maybe you need something fun to get your kids excited.  Maybe you need an identity to help “sell” your ministry to the rest of the church.  Maybe you want a cool brand so you can theme your environments.  Or maybe the answer to ALL of these questions is yes.  That’s fine too, but as you move forward, keep your purpose in the front of your mind.  Let that drive your decisions as you answer the next questions.

2. What is my ministry about?

If I asked you to describe your ministry in 1 sentence, what would you say?  Think long and hard about this one.  What is your ministry about?  What do you value as a kidmin?  If you had 30 seconds to convince someone why they should try out your ministry, what’s your “sales pitch”?  This is where you need to start.  Before you even think about a theme, you have to figure out who you are.  Take my church for example.  If someone asked about the children’s ministry at Southland, here’s what I’d tell them.

The Big Picture Show (that’s our theme/brand) is a place where you learn that God is the STAR, the Bible is the SCRIPT and You get to play a BIG PART.

Basically we looked at our ministry and realized there are 3 major things we are about:

  • Everything starts and ends with God.  He’s the main Star of everything we do.
  • The Bible is our script for every lesson and life.
  • God has a plan for each of us.

3.  What do I want my brand to say?

Fast forward a couple years down the road to your new established ministry brand and to when you talk about your ministry to parents and kids.  What does the brand say?  To a brand like LifeKids (LifeChurch’s children’s ministry), it says that they are a kid’s version of the church.  On the other hand, a brand like Promiseland (Willowcreek’s children’s ministry), says they are there to teach kids about God’s promises.  Whether you intend your brand to say something or not, it does.  For example, I’ve seen a lot of churches use acronyms for their ministries (F.R.O.G., C.I.A., etc).  Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, make sure you put the intended meaning with the letters.  If not, people will decide what it means…correctly or incorrectly.

(Down the road when you decide on a brand, come back to this question and make sure you look at it from a visitor’s point of view.  Assume you know nothing about your church.  Is there anything your brand says (or alludes to) that you don’t intend?)

4.  Do I want the brand to be tied to a theme?

Once you have established why you want to brand your ministry, what your ministry is all about and what you want your brand to say, its time to start thinking about the brand itself.  At this point, there are two very different avenues to travel, and there are pros and cons for each.

  • Non-Themed Brand (Elevate, Promiseland, SE!Kids (Southeast Kids), etc.)
  • Themed Brand (All Star Kids, Big Picture Show, UpStreet, etc.)

Both avenues have their pros and cons.  The themed brands give you a snapshot of what their ministry is about.  Without knowing a thing about their church, I can tell you that UpStreet is probably themed like a city street and All Star Kids is probably baseball or sports themed.  Non themed brands don’t tell you as much.  Elevate only tells me that that’s the name of their children’s ministry.

But themed brands have their cons too.  A themed brand can pigeonhole you into a theme you may not want 5-10 years down the road.  We thought long and hard about our theme, “The Big Picture Show” because we knew just that.  We knew that we were setting ourselves up for decades of movie themed environments.  But we were ok with that because the theme is broad enough to allow us to go in several different directions.

5.  What’s my brand?

At this point it’s time to start figuring out your brand.  Grab some key leaders in your ministry.  Grab a couple kids.  Get ideas.  Then throw all of your ideas up against your answers to the above questions.  If a brand sticks and you like it, you may have just figured our your new ministry brand!!!

Next Blog…Bringing Your Brand to Life

Once you have a brand, it’s time to bring your idea to life with a logo and themed environments.  Next post we’ll take a look at what to look for in a logo and a theme.

 

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Awesome Kidmin in Not-So-Awesome Spaces

Let’s face it, we’d all love more space.  If you could create your dream kidmin space, most of us would have a 4 story building complete with indoor slides, ball pits, custom themed environments and an all you can drink fountain drink station (for the adults only of course).

Reality is much different.  A few are fortunate enough to have a designated space that only they use.  Most however, are using a space that was designed for a different purpose altogether.  And in many cases, this space is shared with one or more ministries in the church.

So what do you do?  Pretend that the creepy picture hanging on the wall isn’t a distraction?  Live with the knowledge that the stains on the carpet will one day be traded in for jewels on your crown?  The truth is, there is a lot you can do with what you have been given.  So before you give up on those fake potted trees, think through these questions.  (And before you ask, yes the picture at the top of this blog is the space for a children’s environment at my church.)

1.  Look at What you Have…Not What You Don’t.  We can all fall into the trap of complaining.  We see pictures of other ministries online or we talk to friends that have a much better space than we do.  But the truth is, if we are always looking at the negative, we’ll never be content.  Take inventory of the space you do have.  Is it a large open room?  It might be great for games.  Do you have a bunch of tiny little rooms?  Looks like a great setup for life group time.  Do you have a really cluttered space?  Looks like a perfect place for a treasure hunt.  (Ok, maybe not the last one.)  Your situation may not be ideal, but look for the positive parts of your space.  Once you figure out what you have to work with, you’ll be much farther ahead.

2.  Figure Out How You Need the Room Laid Out.  I once led a children’s ministry that met in a fellowship hall.  We had about 25 elementary kids in a room that held about 300.  As you can guess, it was not the most pleasant experience.  I walked into the room and used the room exactly as it was laid out.  I stood on the stage, had kids sit in the front of the room.  And then I spend the rest of the hour trying my best to be the most entertaining thing in the room.  (I’ll still never understand how an ice machine dropping ice was more interesting than me.)  The room swallowed up everything.  It was too big and my kids were over stimulated with everything going on around them.  Until I took a look at the room in a different light.  We had rolling room dividers in another area of the church.  And when I used a set of them to partition off a side area of the fellowship hall more conducive to our size, it was a night and day difference.  Look at your space.  Don’t just use it the way it was intended.  (Remember, it wasn’t designed for you anyway.)  Is there a corner that would work better for you than the center of the room?  What if you made the side wall the wall your kids face?  What if you brought in tables, or took out tables?  What if you laid tables on their side to create a half wall?  Mentally strip your room down and see how you can make it work for what you need.

3.  What Do You Need to Cover Up?  We all make the mistake of going to extremes in kidmin.  Some of us think that if we can’t have a completely themed area, there’s no point in doing anything.  Some of us go so far overboard with theming that the decorations become as much of a distraction as what we were trying to hide.  One church I was a kidmin at I spend hours creating a town theme.  I painted and built and airbrushed for hours.  At the end of the project I was incredibly proud of the space.  The only problem…no one ever saw the theming.  We met in a room where we kept the lights off and stage lights on.  And almost all of my theming was on the back wall BEHIND the kids.  I know…genius right?  Don’t spend all your time (and budget) trying to cover up everything.  Just cover up what needs to be hidden.  Where are your kids facing during the teaching part of the lesson?  Start there.  Are there pictures on the wall that distract?  Don’t theme the whole wall, just hang something cool on top of the picture.  Make the part of the room where you want kids to look at, the coolest part of the room.

4.  Take Notes from Portable Churches.  For those of you in a shared space, you might be reading this thinking…whatever.  I can’t theme our adult space.  It will be the last room I ever theme at church.  Portable churches have turned transforming spaces into an art form.  If you have the opportunity to go visit a portable church on a weekend, go take a look.  Look how they transform hotel conference rooms and school classrooms into elementary and preschool worship rooms.  Then think about how you might be able to use some of these principles for your space.  Can you pipe and drape the front wall with a funky color?  Can someone in your church build a set facade on wheels?  Will rugs work better than chairs for kids to sit on?  Do you need some dividers to make your room “smaller”?

As Rafiki from Lion King 1 1/2 says, “Look beyond what you see.”  Look at the potential of your room, then figure out what you need your room to become to make the most of your kidmin space.  You may never get that fountain drink dispenser and 4 story slide, but you just might create a room that helps you connect with kids to show them God’s love!!

If you want to look at some portable church ideas, check out some of the links below.

    Featured Environment Transformation – Design Studio

    One of the most dreaded phrases for a Kidmin is “shared space.”  (Maybe second only to “midweek event with childcare…”)  Sharing a space means you can’t make the space 100% your own.

    But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it engaging for your kids.  (But despite what you’ve been told, creating that engaging environment doesn’t have to cost tens of thousands of dollars.)

    Take a look at The Design Studio created by Southland Christian Church in Nicholasville, KY.  This environment is for their 2-3 year old kids.  The best part is that if needed, this entire set can be torn down (or set back up) in less than 10 minutes.

    If you’re interested in learning more about how to create your own custom designed Kidmin environment, check it out here.  And if you’re interested in the rows of “seats” on the floor, you can read about them in the following post from a few weeks ago:  Creative Idea for Seating

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    Giveaway!!!

    IMG_3848Whoever said there’s no such thing as a free lunch, needs to check his facts.  (Or maybe not, since this isn’t exactly a lunch.)  But it is free!!  This week’s blog post is a little different.  I don’t have any ideas for your kidmin environments…I have something even better.  I have something to give you for your kidmin environments!!!  And when I say give…I mean FREE!!

    I have a set of 8 crates that were constructed for a zoo themed nursery.  They stack on top of each other and have three completely faced sides (the back is plain).

    How do I get these crates you ask?  That’s very simple.

    1. You’ll have to come get them.  (They are being stored in Lexington, KY.)
    2. Comment with a question you have (or someone you know has) on theming or decorating your kidmin environments.  You can either comment directly on my blog or on the facebook post.

    I’ll randomly select one comment on Sunday night at 9:00 EST.  So even if you don’t need them yourself, make sure you share this post with any fellow kidmins you know.

    Looking forward to reading your comments!!

    Kidmin Lighting Effects (for Less than $100)

    Now before you stop reading, I know what you’re thinking.  I’d love to add lighting into my kidmin environments, but I also have a budget I’d like to not bust.  While it is true that you can spend every dime of your church’s budget on lighting, you don’t have to.  In fact, in many cases just a little bit of accent lighting will pay more dividends in the “wow” factor than you could imagine.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at three ways lighting can be used in your kidmin on a budget.


    DSC_0540Up Lighting
     – One of the easiest ways to use lighting is by simply lighting up something that’s already there.  In the image above I used LED bar lights.  I purchased these for $99!! The cool thing about these lights is that they can be hooked up to a light board and controlled or they can be used without one.  I used an LED bar so I could control the colors and brightness, but you can really use anything.  The trick is to find something fairly light in color that has a little dimension to it.  (You can light up something flat, but having dimensions creates more interesting shadows.)  Grab a lamp, throw a colored bulb in it and see what cool things you can light up yourself!!

    DSC_0532Backlighting – Backlighting is a great way to add depth to your room.  You can add light behind a picture on the wall or a TV that’s mounted.  In the case of this environment, I mounted lights to the back of a fence to give the illusion of twilight or dusk.  The great thing about the lights I used is that to mount them, you simply peel the paper off the back of the light and stick it on.  (Yes, it’s a light with a built in adhesive!!)  It’s called an LED strip light.  The one you see pictured to the right cost a whopping $26!!  You’ll need to buy a power supply and some way of controlling it, but for about $90, you can get 16′ of this stuff to stick anywhere you want.  (The best part is that you can cut it to length with a pair of scissors!!)

    Front Lights – Occasionally, you want to light up the props themselves.  You could buy a spotlight and shine it onto whatever you want to light up.  Or….you can mount the lights right on
    it!!  Maybe it’s as simple as adding Christmas lights to a building cutout.  Maybe you want toDSC_0536add real lights onto a fake streetlamp.  Or maybe you want to add tail lights to your ’57 chevy puppet stage.  I bought these lights for $5 each!! There’s not a whole lot you can buy for $5, but it adds a ton of dimension to the car that’s on stage.  For less than $50 (4 lights at $5 each, plus a $20 power supply) I have a puppet stage with real working tail lights!!

    These are just three ideas.  Use your imagination.  Look through your children’s area and see what you can come up with.  Then, send me some pictures.  I’d love to see how you use lighting in your ministry.

    Featured Environment Transformation – The Treehouse

    Every Kidmin wants to create a great first impression for families.  One of the easiest ways to consistently do this is to have an engaging environment for kids to go into.  We’ve all seen the incredible environments created by Real Fake, Worlds of WOW or Wacky World.  But despite what you’ve been told, creating an engaging environment doesn’t have to cost tens of thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of dollars.

    Take a look at The Treehouse created by CenterPoint Church in Lexington, KY.  This environment is for their preschool aged kids.  They created this using only volunteers and a plan (using only what money was needed for paint and lumber).

    If you’re interested in learning more about how to create your own custom designed Kidmin environment, check it out here.

    Large Group Environment

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    Main Hallway

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    Entrance

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    Creative Idea for Children’s Seating

    One of the problems I’ve run into over the years is centered around seating for Kidmin environments.  I’ve used adult size chairs (which were obviously too big for the younger kids).  I’ve used kid sized chairs (which didn’t fit the older kids).  I’ve spent a small fortune on benches.  I made benches.  I’ve done away with seating all together and had all the kids sit in one big pile on the floor.  All have their own pros and cons.

    A lot of churches have the same struggles we have.  We can’t leave seating up, and it doesn’t make sense to set it up and tear it down every week.  Enter velcro.

    photo 4 (3)

    Stop-Painting makes floor markings for industrial warehouses and factories.  One of the products on their website is PVC velcro strips.  Essentially, they are plastic strips (sold in either 2″ or 4″ widths) with velcro on the bottom.  We have used them to create “benches” on the floor.  We gain a ton of extra seating space (by having kids sit on the floor) and we are able to help the kids organized.

    SCUBA!!!

    No, I haven’t picked up a new hobby.

    Scuba is one of my newest finds!!  Scuba fabric is a neoprene material (similar to what wetsuits are made of, but much lighter) that comes in a variety of colors.  On the surface, it’s just a new type of material, but what makes it incredible is the potential of uses.

    My most recent discovery what when I used it for a portable church nursery.  One of the biggest headaches with portable churches is making environments look less like what they were made for (a school, theater, hotel, etc.) and more like a church environment.  Nursery can be a huge problem because there’s not a room anywhere that looks like a nursery.

    Enter SCUBA!!  When sewn together and hung from the ceiling, it looks incredible.  It hides whatever is behind the curtain.  (In this case, there are about 30 desks, a couple tables and tons of school stuff.)  But the best part…it doesn’t wrinkle.  It’s a fairly heavy, stretchy material which means as soon as it’s hung up, all the wrinkles stretch out.  That means in just a few minutes, you can take a room that no parent would want to leave their child in…to a really cool looking nursery.  Voila!!

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    Portable Church Environments

    Drive In Portable

    Portable church is a recently discovered blessing…or curse depending on your experience.  On the positive side, it provides an incredible opportunity for ministry in areas that may otherwise be impossible.  It’s an extremely low cost alternative to buying and renovating (or building) a church building.  And it creates a great opportunity to be flexible.

    On the other side, portable church means thrown together spaces, having children’s ministry in a classroom surrounded by bulletin boards and desks, and an otherwise inferior environment to a permanent building.

    …or does it?

    Portable children’s ministry and engaging environments CAN go together.  (In this case, they can go together in just about 15 minutes of setup time.)

    Building Animation Station: Push Pins – Part 2 (Installation)

    In my last post I walked through building giant oversized pushpins for our Animation Station theme.  In this walkthrough, I’ll discuss the installation of those pushpins.

    Supplies:

    • 1/2″ diameter Aluminum Tube (36″ long at Lowes)
    • 5/16″ Washers (2 per pushpin)
    • 5/16″ bolts (1 per pushpin) – Length of bolt will be determined by thickness of surface you are mounting to.

    Tools:

    • Hacksaw (to cut aluminum tubing)
    • Pliers to turn bolt
    • Drill and 5/16″ drill bit

    1.  The first step in mounting these push pins is to determine what they are being mounted to.  You must have access to the back of the mounting surface.  (We mounted the pushpins to a board, and then mounted the board to the wall.)

    photo 2-8

    Once you determine what you are mounting the pushpins to, use the thickness of the board to figure out the length of the screw needed.  Or use the chart below

    • 1/4 Thick – 5/16″ x 3″ bolt
    • 1/2″ Thick – 5/16″ x 3.5″ bolt
    • 3/4″ Thick – 5/16″ x 3.5″ bolt
    • 1″ Thick – 5/16″ x 4″ bolt
    • 1.5″ Thick – 5/16″ x 4.5″ bolt

    2.  Determine placement on the mounting surface and mark where the pushpins will be mounted.  Drill a 5/16″ hole in the mounting surface.

    3.  Using the hacksaw, cut the aluminum tubing into 2.5″ pieces.  Since it’s aluminum it cuts pretty easily.  Try to make these as straight as possible.

    photo 2-9   photo 4-3   photo 3-6

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    4.  Now it’s time to assemble the pushpin.  Put one washer on the bolt, then put the bolt through the backside of the hole on the mounting surface.  Put the aluminum tube over the bolt that is sticking out and then screw the pushpin on.  Because of the Tee Nut that you inserted on the inside of the pushpin, it should simply screw into the bolt.  (You may need to use a pair of pliers to hold the bolt in place while you turn the pushpin.)

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