Uniting a ministry from the inside out - St. Ann's Rebrand

Even people who aren’t from the area know about St. Ann Catholic Church in Coppell, Texas. It’s a place that has always been on the cusp of new ideas, fueled by well-formed tradition and truly hospitable parishioners. Multiple generations of families have called this parish home, and in recent years, more and more new members began to attend their Masses and community events. As their staff expanded accordingly to accommodate their increasing numbers, St. Ann’s experienced the growing pains typical in these times. Their traditions and culture became diluted. The changing staff structure jostled even long-time employees. Innovative new ideas seemed to backfire—instead of inviting people, they further scattered the parish into siloed ministries. How does a parish that has always moved forward preserve what made it special in the first place?

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When in doubt, ask for stories

We at Sherwood Fellows know that, especially for an established group, brands aren’t created; they’re discovered. St. Ann’s parish realized it needed to refocus on their deepest values. And so, during their two-day Sprint, we helped their pastor and eight members of their leadership team discover those values by telling their own personal stories.

It may seem unconventional: instead of trying a new strategy or structure, St. Ann’s staff got personal and shared their own stories with each other, some for the first time. In those two days, their tensions began to peel away when they began to see their shared foundations surface again and again. The innovative strategies, the new ideas for evangelization—those seemed to matter much less in light of their memories about the family they had found at St. Ann parish. They found renewed unity as they recounted moments that they saw St. Ann’s at its best. In reflecting on why they belonged at St. Ann’s, they discovered what the parish stood for.

These conversations created the basis of St. Ann’s values. Many of them shared stories about being welcomed to the parish with authenticity; they all had, in one way or another, experienced missionary zeal and personal empowerment. We helped them draft values that felt both familiar and challenging, a deep anchor amidst a sea of changing strategies and ideas. They felt these values could hold them accountable as they worked for greater unity.

But they knew creating a couple of powerful belief statements wasn’t enough. There was still a 60 person staff who needed to interact with and voice their ideas on those values—and an entire parish yearning for unity.

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Experiencing the brand

While we love creating brand guides and rolling out new websites, we also love doing the work that makes those resources authentic for organizations. Great tribes bond over shared experiences and not products. We and the St. Ann’s leadership team set out to help them live the values they’d begun to draft, beginning with experiences for the rest of their staff, long before those values became part of their brand.

The Sprint revealed the team’s deep desire to see know “story beneath the surface,” which they proclaimed in the value Authentic Vulnerability. Instead of coming in with finalized ideas (or affirming some staffers’ fears of being harshly told what to do), each person on the leadership team had one-on-one conversations with their direct reports. We designed questions that would get to the heart of each staff member’s hopes, fears, and connections to St. Ann’s. Staff members came away knowing they’d been heard, knowing that their “story beneath the surface” mattered,

Not only that; these conversations also allowed the leadership team to affirm their staff. For the first time in a while, they didn’t talk strategy or vision; they talked about that person’s gifts and talents. This action tied directly to St. Ann’s belief in Holy Boldness, which declares, “We don’t simply recruit volunteers; we raise up leaders who transform the world.” A parish that recruits volunteers would simply grateful there were warm bodies to help. St. Ann’s boldly broke the status quo. They empowered their staff to shape the culture, not just agree to it, and the staff took up this charge.

In the weeks to follow, we took those experiences deeper. We helped design group offsite retreats that combined prayer with conversation. The leadership team asked their staff the same questions we’d proposed at the leadership Sprint: “When have you seen St. Ann’s come alive? Why are you still here? How could St. Ann’s help you live a fuller life?” These offsites were a chance to practice Boundless Mission, another St. Ann’s value by leaving the Parish grounds. Everything we created with the leadership team was meant to be lavish—an expression of abundant hospitality and extraordinary care for each person. By inviting the staff to discuss, pray, express fears, laugh, celebrate, and feel loved, they knew they were part of the mission. They experienced belonging.

Discoveries from the depths

We edited and drafted and revised their brand guide throughout this time of staff conversations. The leadership team would report back to us what they’d learned in a conversation or at an offsite, and we’d look again at the logo and language, asking, “Does this still capture St. Ann’s?” This dynamic creative process ensured that the evolving, growing parish would have an evergreen brand identity.

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The time came to launch the finalized brand, which included their parish Why, belief statements, and a logo that was a simple image that spoke volumes; it was a banner under which the staff and parishioners could rally. It tied together everything the staff had experienced in a visual way. The Jerusalem Cross at the center reminded them of the tradition that St. Ann’s was built upon to take the gospel to the four corners of the world. The wave shapes told of the depths of love they’d known in God, the one baptism that unites God’s family, and the story that each person has beneath the surface. The shield was a testament to the safety and belonging they are inviting the community into in everything they do. All of this affirmed for the parish what the staff had deeply experienced: St. Ann’s was a place to be loved, formed, and sent on mission.

Of course, there were still strategy decisions that needed to be made. There were ministries that needed speakers, an Adoration chapel that required adorers, youth worship nights to be planned. But the conversations that used to cause tension suddenly found common ground. The staff knew they were there for the same reason—their unified Why. Because they experienced and recommitted to St. Ann’s values, they could begin to give that same experience to their parishioners. St. Ann’s staff let us dig deep with them. And it’s cultivated growth once again.