It is strange to think the idea of Christian brands is a relatively new concept. Although the Apostle Paul may have made tents and Lydia may have sold purple dye, they didn’t have a specific Christian brand. We didn’t see “Cross Tentmakers” floating around at that time.
Although it’s hard to pinpoint when Christian brands started, we can certainly say they hit their stride in the past century and now. Some of the most famous Christian organizations were founded in the twentieth century. Many of us can probably think now of several Christian brands that have played an important role in our lives.
In today’s article, we’ll touch on what Christian brands do, how they can be useful, and how they can embrace Christian character.
What Is the Goal of Christian Brands?
Before we can touch on any mission statements of Christian brands, we must first understand how to define a Christian brand. In the simplest of definitions possible, here is how we’re defining the term in our article today.
Christian brands: Companies or influencers who use faith-based marketing to sell a product or service.
This can look very different based on this broader definition. This could be an influencer on TikTok selling t-shirts she has made with Christian artwork featured. Or this could be a company that has been established since the early 1900s who provide Christian Living resources for homeschool families.
In essence, Christian brands are entities run by Christians, based on Christian values, that are not shy in sharing their Christian faith in their mission statement.
Now that we’ve established what a Christian brand is, why would someone create one? Why not be Christians running a business that is not explicitly Christian? Under what appeal can someone have a company that is clearly Christian in its products, its company goals, and even in its hiring processes?
We can think of several reasons.
First, someone may want a Christian brand to minister to other Christians. Maybe someone has created a publishing house that prints devotionals for Christian moms. Or maybe someone has made resources for youth pastors. Christians may have Christian brands to help other believers.
Second, someone may use it as an evangelism tool. The Gideon Bibles are a good example, with the group’s mission statement included inside the cover. If a company makes its values clear, we can have no doubts about its mission—to fulfill the Great Commission in Matthew 28.
Third, someone may want to combine the above two points. Sometimes a Christian brand can do both. They may want to both care for the flock while reaching a broader audience for Christ. All three of these missions are worthy. With this in mind, let’s dive into the usefulness of Christian brands.
When Are Christian Brands Useful?
Branding is inevitable. Almost any business (online or in the public square) will take part in it—and if it isn’t, people will assume a brand based on what they see. Any Christian brand must be advertised one way or another. Despite how some may feel about this, reminding people of the brand can be useful during specific times of the year or emergencies.
The brand is useful in several ways.
First, it can help others to see intentions:
In this day and age, branding is everywhere, from clients to organizations. One of the criticisms that can come against brands is a lack of authenticity in campaigns, advertisements, and more. If handled responsibly, advertising Christian brands allows both Christians and non-Christians to be aware of the work the church is doing nationwide or globally. During specific times of the year (i.e., Christmas), there is typically a significant spike in Christian brand campaigns and ads online or in one’s local church. To proclaim Christ in our work, Christ must show in brand representation and our lives.
Second, it can reach new people in new ways:
Let’s take Christian rock, for example. When this exploded in the late 90s/early 2000s, not only did faith-based rock bands emerge, it allowed them to reach people of a category that some Christians would avoid (i.e., goth-like people). The same can be said for brands. Whether studying other brand strategies or seeing an untapped market, Christian brands can find new ways to reach people with their work and message. A Christian must not only recognize its main stakeholders’ needs. A Christian must also see the potential in reaching a new group of people for the better of the brand and messages.
Third, it allows for diversity in the workplace
If handled with good intent, especially in its foundations, a Christian brand can thrive off of diversity: age, race/ethnicity, sex, ability/disability, etc. Hiring qualified people of diverse backgrounds can allow the company to see things no one else can. It can lead to
- the avoidance of brand crises or public mishaps
- allow for fresh eyes to see upcoming problems or possibilities
- a quality workplace environment where ideas are shared, heard, and even implemented.
When Are Christian Brands a Problem?
As previously stated, this must be a responsibility that is handled with care. One step in the wrong direction, and the brand becomes more about the company or individual than the work for Christ. It can look almost no different from many secular brands we see today. So, what problems can arise in this?
1. Project over people:
The classic Christian show Adventures in Odyssey gives a great perspective on this in their episode “The Last Days of Eugene Meltsner.” The characters working at the local soda shop Wit’s End argue about an upcoming deadline. Wit’s End owner Mr. Whittaker, intervenes and says, “Since when did projects become more important than people around here? How we treat those around us matters more than any accomplishment. That’s why Whit’s End has always been about people…. [we cannot] lose sight of our original purpose: to serve the children of Odyssey.”
In Christian branding, we must look out for those negatively affected by the brand. Ignoring or doubling down can lead to a public relations nightmare and a brand identity crisis. If a professor is sexually harassing a student, should the Christian school take action? Should the congregation be informed if a pastor plagiarizes his sermon? When we start to be more concerned about the reputation of the brand over the legitimate and crucial criticism of the brand, we have a deeper sinful problem to deal with: pride.
2. Overworking or mistreating staff:
Sometimes the people hurt by a Christian brand are those who work under it. Time and time again, we have heard of worship teams, employees, and even volunteers being overworked while being paid below the minimum wage. If a Christian brand is seen as a humble organization yet secretly takes advantage of its workers, how Christ-centered is that brand? People who work under Christian brands deserve respect, credit, and pay for their labor. To do otherwise not only leads to selfishness. It also creates a downhill spiral if misdeeds are brought to light.
3. Ignoring the significance of diversity in the workplace:
Before you tune out on this topic, hear me out. While there are secular companies out there that take implement diversity as a core value, many use it as nothing more than a PR tool to meet a quota or seek a good mention in the news. Where the world is faltering in this, Christians should be striving in.
Staff needs are critical, from pay to benefits and more. As the church, we claim to be mothers’ and families’ advocates. Do the benefits of maternity/paternity leave match up to that claim? As the church, we claim all races and ethnicities are created in God’s image. Are workplace conversations about race and ethnicity sought in the workplace? Or are they swept under the rug for a squeaky-clean brand image? We claim Paul’s words to Timothy, “do not let anyone look down upon you because you are young” (2 Tim. 4:12) to young adult Christians. Are we paying them their fair share for their work as interns or entry-level employees? Or are we underpaying them because they have “work for it” or because they’re a “lazy generation”?
How Can Christians Combine Christian Brands with Christian Character?
This brings us to the question, “how can Christian brands embrace Christian character?”
Unfortunately, as the world holds us to a higher standard, if a Christian brand stumbles—it will make headline news. We must temper our steps and make sure that we emulate Christ in everything we do, especially if we label ourselves as a Christian brand. Although this list is not comprehensive, Christian brands can thrive better if they implement the following:
1. Caring for the workers
It can seem somewhat hypocritical if a Christian brand cares for its customers but not the very people who work within its walls. Caring for workers can look different depending on the business model. This might look like paying fair wages (1 Timothy 5:18) or limiting the number of volunteer roles. This might look like giving fair amounts of vacation time to prevent ministerial burnout. Whatever the application, it never hurts to treat an employee well. Therefore, they will speak highly of the Chrisitan brand.
2. Doing everything in love
We remember the fruit of the Spirit when we operate under a Christian brand. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). We channel all our business practices through that. We must remember who we represent and ensure we represent Him well.
3. Working for God, not for men
Christian brands should never cut corners (Colossians 3:23). This means implementing business practices with the highest integrity, going the extra mile, and putting out a wonderful product.
If we expect to care for Christians well or to evangelize using our brand, let’s remember that we need to do excellent work. The better we can reflect Christ in our work, the greater chance we can bring others to Him.
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Aramyan
Hope Bolinger is an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, and the author 21+ books. More than 1400 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at hopebolinger.com for clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids.
Trey Soto holds a B.A. in Communication Studies from Biola University and an M.A. in Communication Management from the University of Denver. He is a photographer, a writer, and a podcast host at T.V. Trey Podcast. You can see more of his work on his Wix portfolio.
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