GLENS FALLS -- You can call it "divine design" when Christ Church United Methodist on Bay Street teamed up with downtown Glens Falls design/marketing firm Trampoline Design recently.
Together they developed a marketing strategy to help the church overcome stereotypes that have plagued attendance at the church.
"We were looking for a message for the 21st century and resonates with people who are searching for a community," the Rev. Phil Richards said.
He said Trampoline Design was recommended to him as a local firm that could boost their public appearance.
The slogan they came up with: "Word Up. We're Open."
"It reinforces our mission statement that, yes, our doors are open, but we also welcome everybody," Richard said.
Since Richards was hired as pastor five years ago, Sunday morning service has changed a great deal at Christ Church. Richards blends traditional themes with contemporary ones. So, rather than hearing a traditional gospel hymn, you might here a Bob Marley song, performed by the Praise Band-its, led by musician Ray Agnew. In addition, Richards said Sunday service often includes a PowerPoint presentation and film clips.
"Yes, we're a historic building and we look like a very traditional church, but what goes on inside is far from traditional," Richards said.
He said there have been mixed reactions from the congregation.
"It's a struggle to balance the honoring the traditions with making the church relevant for the 21st century. It's a delicate balance," Richards said.
Amanda Magee of Trampoline Design said its design team had a consultation with Richards along with members of the church, including a retired pastor. All were seeking a new approach to save the church, "literally," Magee said.
"The folks over at Christ Church United Methodist came to us after realizing internally that the way it's always been done doesn't work for churches anymore," Magee said. "Membership is down, participation is flagging and a change is required."
Magee said Richards wanted to educate the public about their church, specifically that they have blended services, meaning contemporary and traditional.
"Essentially they wanted to communicate the spirit of, ‘This isn't your parents church' kind of thing. The second thing they wanted to do was acknowledge that they are open to non-traditional couples: gay and lesbian, that many assume churches don't accept."
Richards said it was a fun experience and he plans to incorporate the new slogan more universally and hang additional banners at the church.
"They (Trampoline Design) asked the questions the church members wouldn't ask. It was refreshing," Richards said.