In a city of Goliaths, this church chose to be a David. - St Martin’s Rebrand
St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church sits on a rural edge of Dallas, Texas. An established parish with a rich history and a strong community, St. Martin’s was putting along nicely, hosting community barbeques, serving the poor in the area, and beginning to outgrow its old space. The church’s pastor, Fr. James Yamauchi , knew that this church could steadily continue forward in the same way, but he also knew that there was unexplored potential. Faced with many decisions about the direction of the parish on the horizon, he took an unexpected approach.
The stories are the direction.
The dawning decisions mattered, and it would have been easy to just begin checking them off as they arose. However, Fr. James and the church staff recognized that, without guiding principles, they might not tap into the strengths of the parish—or, worse, lose them in the midst of the changes. He decided to uncover the values of St. Martin’s as a guidepost, and to create a formalized language to orient the church’s decisions.
We at Sherwood Fellows believe the stories of the members determine a tribe’s beliefs and values, so we worked with Fr. James as he began to interview everyone from multi-generation parishioners to new families to church staff. He asked questions like: “When was a time St. Martin’s was most alive? When was a time you were personally moved by St. Martin’s ministry? How could St. Martin’s help you live a fuller life?” We knew the stories they told would give us a foundational understanding of what mattered to the St. Martin’s community.
Uncovering their deepest purpose.
When the shape of St. Martin’s identity started to emerge, we retreated with Fr. James to a local monastery tucked away from the noise and bustle of daily life. Over the course of a two day Sprint in this quiet refuge we were able to find the common threads among the stories we heard from staff and parishioners, as well as those from Fr. James and his leadership.
Together with Sherwood Fellows, Fr. James discovered that the real power of St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church was that it could be the antidote to cultural malaise. In a city where someone’s faith life—and life in general—could be comfortable, meaningless, or relativistic, the St. Martin’s community stood for intentionality, tradition, and prayerfulness.
The Sprint also gave Fr. James a chance to reflect on his own personal story of Catholicism, which reminded him that he’d fallen in love with God through the Sacraments and through a radical call to holiness. He realized how important it was that each individual who came to St. Martin’s heard that same call in the Sacraments—because the challenge of sainthood was worth the gift of relationship with God.
Everything that we and Fr. James discovered at the Sprint helped us see that St. Martin’s needed to combat the lumbering, slothful “Goliath” culture by making it the best “David” it could be: a small but powerful parish, not obsessed with activity, but fiercely purposeful about the Sacraments and its Catholic identity.
The nuts and bolts.
This recognition fueled the work we’d develop in the final day of the Sprint and the weeks to follow.
First, we wrote a parish “Why”—St. Martin’s central mission statement: “We unveil the Eucharistic Christ so that the faithful know their identity and live their purpose.” St. Martin’s wanted to be specific about who their ministry was for. They decided, because they valued intentionality and their Catholic identity, to make their ministry for “the faithful,” the Catholics who really sought to take their faith deeper. While they obviously welcome anyone, they knew the value of emphasizing a specific group and doing everything to meet that group’s needs. Using the words “Eucharistic Christ” in their Why statement supported a Sacramental emphasis. “Identity” and “purpose” stand against a culture that is often vapid and directionless.
Their beliefs and values further explained this meaningful Why. They included ideals like “pursuing holiness” and “valuing families,” which opposed the more generic approach of other institutions that don’t challenge their members.
Their Why, beliefs, and values are more than brand language; these are guiding words that would serve as anchors for all of the decisions that would need to be made in the coming season. St. Martin of Tours parish could use their beliefs and values in homilies, as discussion points in meetings, on t-shirts and posters, and even as personal growth challenges.
We then used these principles to help Fr. James and the parish staff create an all-new brand guide, including a logo and wordmark. Their logo distilled their values into a single image: an image of the Sacrament of Communion, with four candles that represent reaching the four corners of the earth, all held together with a Catholic Celtic knot. It literally “unveiled the Eucharistic Christ,” as their Why statement said they would. If anyone needed one image to know what St. Martin’s was about, here it was, ready to appear on both bulletins and buildings.
The brand guide pulled from the beliefs and values to dictate the visual components of St. Martin’s brand. We carefully curated everything from font to photographs to color schemes—making sure we aligned it all with the stories parishioners and staff had told Fr. James weeks before. Their visual branding didn’t shy away from what they stood for. They used traditional, Sacramental imagery to draw in those “faithful” from their Why statement.
Like gasoline on a fire.
St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church still had plenty of decisions to make, and very few of them directly involved a new mission statement or an updated brand guide. Why, then, did Fr. James choose to begin there?
Because their decisions will now come from a shared purpose. By defining what guides St. Martin’s and what matters to them, the parish staff now has clarity about the direction they should move as they grow and adapt. They can look at every decision in light of their central ideals, asking, “Does this create memorable moments? Are we putting prayer first here?” This makes decisions more accountable and unified.
Because the discovery process creates deep awareness. Fr. James got the chance to hear from the people who’d be affected by the parish’s decisions. He and his staff didn’t just start checking things off their list; they took the opportunity to really listen.
Because the tribe-building process cultivates authentic experiences. After starting to share the beliefs and values with his parish, Fr. James realized something strange happening. Congregants were using belief language we’d developed at the Sprint. People wore hats with the new logo. Staffers started encouraging each other to live in line with the St. Martin’s values. An already smoldering community had reignited. By intentionally uncovering their guiding principles, this parish started to defeat a lumbering Goliath—because it became the intentional, grounded, courageous David it was always meant to be.