Erik Ticen on Church Branding

August 24, 2005 by

A few months ago I clipped an article from NRB Magazine, the self-proclaimed “premiere magazine of the Christian communications industry.” (Is it just me or does that statement sound like an oxymoron?) Erik Ticen was a guest columnist for the April 2005 issue of NRB Magazine and is currently the director of communications for The Tabernacle in Orchard Park, N.Y.

It is unfortunate that I cannot link to this half-page column titled “Survival of the Different: The Church Brand.” I tried digging through the archives and current issues from “the premiere magazine of the Christian communications industry,” but couldn’t find it. Not only did the article have a few good points, it had a lot of bad ones as well.


Study your pastor. The most effective churches have a personality reflective of their leader. My pastor is a missionary at heart, therefore world consciousness and personal outreach is emphasized. This doesn’t mean we neglect other aspects of church life, but it does communicate to the community our congregation the DNA of who we are.”

Sorry Erik, the last thing you want to do is build a church brand around the personality of the pastor. I blogged about this before. I’ve also been reading Good to Great by Jim Collins, and he has a lot to say on this very subject, especially when you read his thoughts on “Level 5 Leaders” and his principle of “First Who… Then What.” Collins says it’s not about the celebrity or vision of the leader. It is about getting the right people on the bus and then figuring out where to go.

I can only imagine what happens when churches are not limited to one leader but instead driven by a collective conglomerate of creative partnership determined to reach more people for Christ.

Oh wait, that is happening all around the country! From church plants to mega-churches, the budding brands are because the right people are on the bus. Why haven’t you heard of these success stories? Because the very nature of these churches are about the longevity of the journey and not the popularity of the person in the pulpit.

To be fair to Erik, he did have a good point about the fact that it takes time to build brands. Endurance is such a key part of any branding strategy.

As far as NRB (National Religious Broadcasters) goes… don’t get me started.

Post By:

Brad Abare

Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it.
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8 Responses to “Erik Ticen on Church Branding”

  • Betsy
    August 24, 2005

    Ha. I work in the Christian television industry, and we attend the NRB conference every year. It’s quite an interesting assortment of people, most of whom appeal to a very narrow sector of the society.
    There are some good people there, I’m sure, but from where I sit, it’s all big hair, flashy white teeth and self-promotion. Not much relevance.

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  • Jason Hamrock
    August 24, 2005

    I agree with your coment on following the leader. If you put all of your effort into reflecting your pastor, you’re wasting your time. A great pastor leading a mega church will always be at least a leader. Almost all of them are strong leaders. And leaders lead by taking their church to where God wants them to go, which can change from time to time. Besides that, the pastor himself may leave and now what? A new pastor comes in and turns the world upside down? One needs to brand the persoanlity of the church and follow its mission and vision. And from my experience most pastors want to lift up God, not themselves.

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  • Vince
    September 4, 2005

    um, Brad… it’s unfortunate that you seem to hold so much bitterness.. but enough about you… it seems to me that you have it all figured out, the perfect formula for a church… let us all know when God does that, because I dont’ believe He ever will.. I struggled for along time about how this church should do that and this one should be more like my church, or my idea of what a church should be.. until i realized that i am not God. God showed me that He has made different churches for different reasons, for different people. A young person may not be drawn to the Lord through a certain type of church, but another type of person may. No church will ever be perfect Brad, because they are made up of men and women. But that’s the beauty of our God, He uses us despite our flesh, despite our sin…
    And as far as your point about “sorry Erik, the last thing you want to do is build a church brand around the personality of a pastor” is your opinion… just like it’s your opinion that there needs to be the “right people on the bus” for the church to go anywhere. Brad, what if God told you today to go start a church, and gave you a vision for that church to reach out to the inner city. Would you ignore His voice and wait for the “right people to get on the bus” before making a collective decision to find a vision that seemed practically right to the group? If David Wilkerson had not listened to the voice of God telling him to go to NYC, none of the ways God has used him in the city would have ever happened. God works in different ways, you said it yourself.. Dont’ worry about picking other people apart… Listen to God’s voice, hear his Word for you, and live it.
    and guess what, i agree, church marketing does suck… the good thing is.. we dont’ need to “market” our King, do we…

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  • Brad Abare
    September 5, 2005

    Vince – thanks for your comments. I’m assuming you haven’t read much of anything else on this site, no? If you have, then I am certain you would not have said the things you did. By no means do I have everything (or anything for that matter) figured out. Church is not a formula. Church marketing is not a strategy for success, it’s a means of communicating the message. As for your comment about me holding “so much bitterness…” please don’t confuse frustration with bitterness.

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  • Mario
    September 26, 2005

    Wow great subject.
    “Having a great idea or being chasrismatic visionary leader is “time telling”; building a company that can prosper far beyond the presence of any single leader…is “clock building”. (Built to Last pg 23).

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  • Erik Ticen
    October 4, 2005

    Well, since a friend discovered that Google links my name and your article at the top of its list, it seems fair to respond. I’m glad that there are websites that seriously dialogue about the sensitive subject of church marketing (good or bad).
    I would first like to point out that NRB has a very new church media committee that is NOT connected to the broadcasting world and is made up of some very relevant, non-“big hair” members, that even you would like to hang out with.
    For the most part, you are right about the celebrity-pastor problem in America. That kind of leadership is never a positive thing in the Kingdom of God. Furthermore, church growth studies almost always conclude that congregation-empowering churches fair much better than a top-down, authoritarian model.
    But don’t confuse “personality” with celebrity. This website has a personality that I’m sure reflects its founder. And a quick look at the fastest 100 growing churches in America will demonstrate that the character of the church is almost always in sync with that of its leadership. If the pastor is creative and relevant, their church WILL reflect that (or the pastor is very unhappy!). My point in the article is to say, observe what strengths are already there…and it will help by looking at the strengths and personality of the pastor.
    A good media team will then brand the church around these characteristics (and not the pastor’s name) such as ‘Family Friendly’, ‘contemporary’, or ‘Bible teaching’, for example.
    Perhaps there are some who dream of a day where all churches look and feel the same, devoid of originality or personality. But I believe the church is built out of many unique parts, that can compliment each other beautifully. Part of our success lie in identifying those strengths. If a pastor’s God-given personality, goals, and vision are in opposition from the church he leads, then I advise him to look somewhere else.
    By the way, I respect the non-religious theory that you can create vision only after the people are there. But when that theory is tested in reality, I think you will find it hard to get the right “people on the bus” if your pastor is a visionless, cardboard suit. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to ride in any bus that doesn’t know who it is or where it is going.
    Keep up the discussion. Far too often, church marketing does suck. But if we can keep the hype and manipulation out if it, we will discover that we are all marketers, charged with a mission to promote a way and truth.

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  • Brad Abare
    October 8, 2005

    Erik, thanks for your comments and for taking my original post in good spirit.
    I am a member of NRB and I realize they are trying hard to get better at who they are, and where they are going. Your leadership and involvement in that is welcomed, I am sure.
    About the rest of your comments – while I am sure we both desire the same end result (more people coming into relationship with Jesus and being better disciples of him), we definitely have our differences in how we get there.
    The beauty of this site…!
    Thanks for your heart to help churches.

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  • Dirk
    October 4, 2008

    Far too many churches do seem to only reflect the passions of their pastor. Perhaps this is more prevalent in a ministry that is lacking a strong team concept of leadership. Many modern churches, even some mega-churches, are built on the “CEO model” of leadership where this one man has more power and influence on decisions than even a group of others.
    It seems to me that this type of church will always be more vertical in its branding than it is horizontal. It becomes “niche marketing” on steroids.
    However, Jesus seems more all-encompassing to me. “Go into ALL the world…” Not just the 20 – 40 yr old, white, upwardly mobile, somewhat cynical, culturally hip, tech-savvie crowd we’ve learned to love so much.
    Wow, that sounds way more harsh than I meant it. Sorry, dudes. It’s late and I’m all amped up on energy drinks!

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