A funny cartoon from a few years ago showed two guys watching a grumpy pastor change the letters on the church sign. The caption underneath said, "I can always tell when Rev. Jones needs a vacation..." The pastor was putting up the message: "This Sunday's Sermon: Just come and find out, meathead!"
The silly thing is, there are a lot of church signs out there that don't really come across much better than that on a week to week basis. I have no ax to grind but I do have a few suggestions for better church signs.
These are not exhaustive and they do not provide all of the answers, but if you have a church sign, please consider the following before pulling out the little black letters and posting that next witty and pithy homily...
- Update your church sign regularly.
- Keep your church sign clean.
- Keep your church sign maintained - change the bulbs when they go out on the day they go out, trim the weeds, etc.
- If your sign is faded and weathered looking (Unless that's part of the design) it's time to replace parts or it's time for a new sign.
- Determine who your sign is for and write for them. (Hint - If it's for your church only, send them a newsletter instead.)
- Think of your sign as a 24/7 personal billboard for your church, because that is exactly what it is. It is a "front door" to the community that tells them what's "inside."
- Be sure it's part of your PR/Comumication Strategy so it's not simply relegated to the maintenance person to come up with "clever" sayings.
- Think through how you will be received/perceived/heard by the people driving by. Ask, "What do we want to communicate about our church? Will it attract? Will it help create interest in what's happening at your church?
- Do not use the internet to come up with clever sayings to put on your sign.
- Do not use a "church sign book" to come up with clever sayings to put on your sign.
- Come to think of it, do not use clever sayings at all...It's like the person who tries to tell a joke that's already been told a million times and wasn't really funny the first time. They are usually tired, worn out and corny. And really, do you want to be known as the "clever sayings" church, anyway?
- Do not "slam the evil doers" on your church sign. You'll just reinforce the negative, judgmental stereotype impression that most people have about churches, anyway.
- Assume that everyone who sees your church sign has never been to church before. You don't have to "dumb down" to do this, just leave out the words and phrases that only church people would understand.
- Plan ahead so you're not tempted to just "throw something up there."
- It's ok to be funny, but you'd better really be funny. Get lots of feedback on something you think is funny before you put it on your sign. Ask people who don't go to your church. Generally, humor that smashes stereotypes about church are better than things like, "CH_ _ CH - What's Missing? U. R."
- When in doubt, promote upcoming events and programs that appeal to the community. If you're still drawing a blank, communicate the values and vision of your church.
- Bottom Line: If you wouldn't print it in a letter to the community, put it on the front page of the newspaper or say it in a televised interview, don't put it on your sign.
But if you have a church sign, you have a great opportunity to communicate with your community every single week. So what do you really want to communicate?
I love churches. We're good people. We have the best message in the world. Let's just not allow that message to be dismissed and never given a hearing because of a goofy line on our church sign...
Once again, a church sign can be a powerful thing. Please use your powers for good. :-)