The gurus of church marketing tell me that I should be doing more to promote my personal brand. I think I know what that means but I’m not ready to follow their directions.
Looking the Part
There is a distinct kind of Church in our country that leverages the charisma, beauty, and white-teeth of the lead pastor as a marketing tool. Before social media allowed one to shape their public identity one tweet at a time, billboards, TV commercials, and direct mail were utilized to disseminate the personality of the pastor in various ways, but mostly through glossy portraits that captured the better side and widest smile the pastor had to offer. It was expensive, but with enough money, an accurately placed billboard or targeted mailing could reach enough people willing to try the next new thing.
They didn't say it outright, but the tailored suit, confident posture, and profusion of good hair made the crisp visual speak something like: "Trust me enough to come to my church, doesn't it look like I've got it together."
You - the Clay and the Potter
Likability can now be airbrushed 140 characters at a time, for free. I know because the temptation to massage my online persona through various mediums like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram is a constant bother.
For example, my kids are cute, photogenic, and persistently doing things that would make me appear to be a gregarious father with kids that never cry. The only thing that's stopping me from sharing the cuddly stuff that would undoubtedly enhance my personal brand as a pastor is my inability to locate a social media platform that can handle the rest of life.
Is there a Twitter for sinners? A place to trumpet the family meal I miss because church once again is deemed more important? Or how about an Instagram-like app that showcases artsy portraits of people that you manipulate, use, or ignore in real life even while your online presence promotes an aura of effortless effervescence.
The photo that only spoke 500 words
One time, I posted a picture on Facebook of my son sitting on my shoulders. The spontaneous photograph was captured by a professional with a long lens and an eye for cute kids. When I received the photo via email, my temptation to share it with the rest of the world made me forget how much my shoulders hurt and my knees ache after his requests to "sit up top." Every few seconds, I'd snap at him to sit still and stop choking my neck. Eventually, I pulled him off my shoulders before he was ready, the tree was tired and gasping for air. The picture, though, made me look like a dutiful father with strong shoulders and enough stamina to lead a church.
The caption should have said, "Abraham, cutting off circulation to my head by squeezing his man-thighs around my neck and mimicking Chinese water torture by tapping on my head repeatedly."
Instead the photo was shared without a caption. I couldn't tell a lie, so I just told half of the truth and said nothing.