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A Well-Defined Charism Can Lead to More Effective Messaging

In her recent blog post “Finding your Community’s Charism,” Katie Pesha advocates for Catholic parishes and other ministries to “celebrate… and build our individual brand identities, our public personas, around the normative story of our charism.”

“[L]ean into the bright spots of your ministry with confidence and clarity,” she encourages.

It is sound advice.

When KP Consulting works with a Catholic parish, school or other ministry to help develop the ministry’s unique brand identity and key messaging, we take ministry representatives through three interactive exercises. These exercises help bring the group to consensus around the ministry’s most unique and special aspects – the spirit of its particular community, its charism.

First, we lead participants through a “key differentiators” assignment – perhaps better described as a “drivers/nonfactors” exercise. Each attendee is given a stack of blank sticky notes and is asked to jot down over the course of a couple of minutes a few things that make his or her ministry special. Attendees, then, are asked to place the sticky notes on a chart that is divided into four quadrants – with the upper-right quadrant representing things that are most important to their members/supporters and also most different/distinctive from others in their same ministry space (schools, parishes, etc.). Items that land in this upper-right quadrant usually are among the ministry’s most critical differentiators that help define its distinctive charism. And a well-defined charism leads to the development of consistent messaging that resonates with internal and external audiences. Simply put, a well-defined charism attracts, in part, because it is genuine.

Our next two charism-related exercises are assigned as homework to our participants.

Session participants are asked to consider how their given ministry will be the same, and how it will be different, three to five years into the future. Here, we are looking for continuity across participants’ responses. Just as importantly, we are identifying ministry strengths that should be articulated in messaging, and we’re also identifying a unified sense of aspirational goals that can be supported with refined messaging.

Finally, we ask participants to review websites of ministries like theirs around the country and report back the sites that appealed to them – sites that “feel like” what they aspire to for their own ministry. Much more than a website development exercise, the purpose here is to encourage participants to consider new ways to articulate their ministry’s own distinct identity, its “brand persona,” its charism. In one case, for example, school leaders saw the benefit of changing their wordy, multi-paragraph description of their own organizational beliefs and vision into a more reader-friendly series of short statements each beginning with the word “We…” and a verb. The new structure makes it easier for readers to understand – and to join and appreciate – the ministry’s journey.

Consider contacting KP Consulting if you would like to better define your ministry’s unique charism and share it more broadly with the audiences you are trying to reach.

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