Branding & Marketing: What does “Campus Ministry” mean for us and others?
What do we mean when we talk about Episcopal “campus ministry”? What does it mean for the students we are trying to serve?
- How should Episcopal ministry be identified and recognized on a university campus?
- A church or the Church? (Traditional parish worship or pop-up gathering?)
- A fellowship? (Yes, but different from a student fraternity or club, right?)
- A Christian fellowship but with a very unique liturgical tradition. (How do we honor that unique tradition in a campus environment?)
A few years ago, I attended an Episcopal college chaplain retreat. One of the topics chosen for round table discussion was “Branding & Marketing.” I somewhat naively assumed that might cover innovative ideas for advertising your weekly service in the school newspaper. The focus of the conversation actually went much deeper than that and was consequently much more helpful.
We define branding as: “The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol, or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.”
So, what brands Episcopal campus ministry, identifies it, and differentiates it from the many other religious and spiritual life groups on campus? A few points to ponder:
- Does the ministry need to be specifically identified as “Episcopal” and, if so, how?
- Is using the Episcopal shield or a name like “Canterbury House” meaningful for students with an Episcopal background? Is it confusing for students with no former Episcopal (or church) experience?
- Should campus ministry serve as the total church experience for students or should it be supplemental to tradition parish life?
- How do members of the ministry group identify themselves? What is it that marks their experience as a community? (“When we are together, we always…….”)
- The Episcopal Church welcomes you, right? How do we make that happen? Of course, this is a question that tradition parishes grapple with as well but it can become rather pointed in a small community. There is, after all, a fine line between “close knit” and “clique-ish.”
- Perhaps it goes without saying that identity should be what you are and what you stand for, rather than what you are not and what you stand against. We can talk about how great it is to be in the Episcopal Church (“where you don’t have to check your mind at the door!”), but if we get too judgmental in asserting how nonjudgmental our denomination is, well, we end up sounding a little snarky……
The bottom line is, before you plan for advertising, signs, and pretty websites, it is critical that you decide what it is that you are trying to accomplish. Who are you and what are you trying to do as a campus ministry?