Tagline branding

By Ronald E. Keener

What do those few words below your church’s name really signify? They may no longer have much meaning if the church’s tagline hasn’t been recently reviewed.

For nearly two years now Church Executive has operated under a new tagline. Oh, you hadn’t noticed? That’s the five words under the name of the magazine (called the banner or nameplate) on the cover of each issue.

A tagline is a branding slogan used typically in marketing products and companies — and even churches. Wikipedia calls it “a memorable phrase that will sum up the tone and premise of a brand or product, or to reinforce the audience’s memory of a project.” Some taglines are memorable and successful enough to become part of the popular culture, as in “The truth is out there” from The X-Files or “Where no man has gone before” from Star Trek.

The tagline for Church Executive is Helping Leaders Become Better Stewards. We’d like to think we are presenting (Helping) good articles to readers (Leaders) in their journey (Become) to improving (Better) their vocational skills for the betterment of their congregations (Stewards).

Consider these Texas churches and their taglines:

  • All Saints Lutheran Church, Arlington: Connecting people to God and to One another
  • Antioch Community Church, Waco: A passion for Jesus and His purposes on the earth
  • Bear Creek Church.tv, Katy: Imagine your life changed
  • Carpenter’s Way Church, Lufkin: Bringing all to maturity — and some into leadership
  • First Baptist Church, Orange: The journey matters
  • First Baptist Church, Coffeyville: Your place to thrive

Nancy Schwartz, a marketing and communications specialist, says that “A high-impact tagline is an essential tool for any nonprofit fighting to deliver its message in a crowded, competitive world.” She was involved late last year in identifying the 13 winners selected from 60 finalists drawn from 1,702 nonprofit taglines submitted to the Getting Attention Nonprofit Tagline Awards competition.

Yep, there was a category for religion and spiritual development among those 13 and the winner — ta da — was the United Methodist Church for that denomination’s tagline, “Open Hearts. Open minds. Open doors.” The judges opined, “The United Methodist Church delivers a tagline trinity [guess they couldn’t resist the pun] that supports its applied faith mission and is warm, enthusiastic and embracing.” Now how many of you knew that that was the tagline of the UMC? (Incidentally, the Methodists won out over the Lutherans, who had “God’s work. Our hands,” as well as the United Church of Christ and the Christian and Missionary Alliance.)

“It’s a huge missed opportunity for nonprofits [churches] that don’t implement a tagline,” Schwartz says. “Especially when you consider all the places a tagline appears throughout a nonprofit’s marketing and communications program, and how many people potentially digest an organization’s tagline in any given year.”

There are some “deadly sins” that copywriters of taglines want to avoid, we are told.

  • Don’t be generic. Be emotive and specific. Powerful, from a legal services group: Connecting Lawyers and Communities.
  • Don’t craft a tagline your organization can’t stand behind 100 percent. How many churches can stand behind their taglines that overpromise?
  • Don’t veer off focus.  Produced in Boston, Shared with the World draws attention to location, a detail not central to one group’s services or value.
  • Don’t use inept references. You’ll confuse your audience with Find Your Edge, a university, which is not what students are looking for.
  • Don’t plant uneasiness. Having Exactly What You Want introduces ambiguity, from a therapeutic development training institute.
  • Don’t use poor word choices. Potential Made Possible for an agency serving children with special needs. Better: Potential Brought to Life.
  • Don’t put two or more taglines to work. Some organizations have more than one and use them all depending on the organizational unit.

What about your church? Is it time to differentiate your church with a tagline, or even time to change what you now have? Says the contest people: “A tagline-only change can freshen your message, confirm your promise and/or rejuvenate your organization’s brand.” Jesus is your “brand.” How many ways can you say that in five to seven words?



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