Tips for the Effective Use of Church Signs
Churches are declining. Pastors and church leaders are scurrying about trying to find the latest new and novel approaches to connect, reach and influence their community. They flock to conferences and workshops in search of the next great church growth fad.
Church growth “experts” love to prescribe new and novel approaches to reach the community. Honestly, I don’t understand most of these new approaches. When I hear someone talk about another “new method” to reach people, I ask myself, “What’s wrong with the old methods?”
Many of these new methods in fad today are use by people who are ashamed to boldly proclaim the message that we’ve been given. They present a sadly watered-down message.
I am on a quest to help churches go back to the old methods. The old methods are proven but sadly ignored today. We shouldn’t abandon the old methods. My motto is, “If it was good enough for Spurgeon, it’s still good enough for me!”
So what “old method” am I advocating? I am imploring pastors and church leaders to commit to the effective use of Church Signs. Yes, all churches have them and they are so underused. We have wood signs, lighted plexiglass signs and even digital signs available to use to connect to our community. We have to be faithful to use every opportunity that we have to share our message.
However, the use of church signs for outreach isn’t something to be taken lightly. We have seen many churches do it the wrong way. So I want to offer you some tips on how to effectively use church signs to reach your community.
HOW TO USE CHURCH SIGNS EFFECTIVELY
Tip #1 - Invite people to church
This one is obvious. Many churches simply place their service times on the sign. Why not add a simple message of invitation? First English Lutheran Church is a good example. They added a friendly message to their sign that says: “Welcome Semi-Annual Worshippers.” That is pretty friendly. If I was a semi-annual worshipper, that sign would speak to me.
River Falls Baptist Church adds a cute little invitation on their sign that says: “What is missing from C H - - C H? U R!” Wait til you get it. It’s hilariously cute.
Tip #2 - Give helpful advice
Another best practice that churches use is to give helpful life advice on their signs. First Pentecostal Church offers this helpful life tip: “Tired of being a loser? Turn to God.” If I was a total loser driving past that sign, I might just turn to God. That’s good life advice.
Another church uses their sign to warn about the dangers of texting and driving on their sign. They write: “Honk if you love Jesus - Text while driving if you want to meet Him.” This helpful sign has probably saved thousands of lives.
Villiant Church of God shares a tip about conversational prayer on their sign which reads: “If you would shut up, you could hear God’s voice.” Thank you, Valliant Church. We all need to shut up a bit more.
Wyldwood Baptist Church highlights the value of Bible Reading on their sign that reads: “Read the Bible - It will scare the Hell out of you.” That’s very helpful advice. I'm grabbing my Bible right now. Thank you.
Tip #3 - Know your audience
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make on a church sign is not know your audience. In order to be effective in reaching your community, you have to know who they are and connect with them.
If your community is full of sports fans, you can follow the example of Pittsburgh Church of Steel, Community Baptist Church in San Diego, or Abundant Life Church in Auburn, Alabama.
But if your church is not reaching sports fans, but SciFi nerds, you may want to follow the examples of Faith Assembly of Lacey that quotes Darth Vader on their sign.
But don’t forget the Star Trek fans. Westside Presbyterian Church promotes itself as a “welcoming and affirming” church that welcomes Vulcans, Ferengi and Klingons. I bet their whole choir dresses like Uhuru. Live long and prosper.
The point is that you have to know your community. For example, Rush Creek Christian Church apparently is trying to reach the Jewish community in Texas with their sign that says: “Shalom Y’all.” Remember, Jewish Texans need Jesus too.
But if you are inner-city of Detroit, you have to take a different approach. Even though in other places “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” at Bellegrove Missionary Baptist Church, “Jesus is the Rizzle for the Sizzle.” I love this sign. This is great contextualization. The point is, you have to know your community and speak their language.
Tip #4 - Promote your events
You don’t have to limit your sign to focus on your worship services. You can use your church signs to promote the special events that your church is hosting. For example, The Christian Church boldly invites their neighbors to the “Concealed Weapons Class” held on January 30th. That sounds like a fun class to take.
St. Francis Xavier Church invites their community to the upcoming “Midnight Mass and Toga Party.” The sign also instructs everyone to “BYOBJ - Bring your own Baby Jesus.” Wow, that sounds like such a fun church to be a part of.
Another church highlights all the many options available for the people in the community to participate in. There’s something you can do every day of the week. Monday - Alcoholics Anonymous, Tuesday - Abused Spouses, Wednesday - Eating Disorders, Thursdays - Say No to Drugs, Friday - Teen Suicide Watch, and Saturday - Soup Kitchen. Then on Sunday you can hear an uplifting sermon called “America’s Joyous Future.”
Tip #5 - Use fear skillfully
Don’t be afraid to use fear on your church signs. But make sure you use fear skillfully. The following are some great examples of the skillful use of fear.
One good example is the sign that says, “Go to Church, or the Devil will get you!”
Rosewood First Baptist warns, “This heat wave is temporary. Be certain you won’t face an eternal one!”
The Church of God warns, “If you think it’s hot here, imagine Hell.”
The United Methodist Church warns, “Stop, Drop and Roll does not work in Hell.”
Clay’s Mill Road Baptist Church recently had the air conditioning units stolen from their church building. They wrote a message to the thief that stole it with some helpful advice: “Whoever stole our AC units, keep one. It is hot where you’re going.”
Tip #6 - Teach on Tithing
Church signs can also be great tools for teaching on the important topic of tithing. Southern Heights Baptist Church exhorts it’s neighbors with this message: “Tithe if you love Jesus! Anyone can honk!”
More directly, Little Union Baptist Church encourages the community with this message: “If you really love God, show Him with your money.”
New Beginnings Fellowship teaches people how to get out of debt. It’s sign says that DEBT is “Doing Everything But Tithing.”
Tip #7 - Be honest and focus on your strengths
You never want to purposely deceive people on your sign. It is better to know what your strengths are and focus on them.
For example, Messiah United Methodist Church’s preacher is not very good, but they chose to focus on their strengths. Their sign reads: “Come hear our Pastor. He’s not very good, but he’s quick.”
Benton Heights Presbyterian focuses on their ministry to insomniacs. Their sign reads, “Have trouble sleeping? We have sermons. Come hear one.” For people that have trouble sleeping, this church is an answer to prayer.
It is important to know who you are and focus on your strengths. Here’s an example of a church that knows exactly who they are. They are an “Independent, Old Timey, Hell-Fire Brimstone King James Preaching” church. They know their target audience very well.
The best example of clarity and focus is Bluegrass Baptist (they pronounce it “Baab-Dist”) Church in Lexington, Kentucky. The beautiful hand-painted vintage sign declares that they are an “Independent, Fundamental, Pre-Millenial, Non-Charismatic, Soul Winning, God Fearing, Jesus Trusting, Sin Hating, Devil Fighting, Love Driven” church. However, I’m not sure they needed to add “love driven” because that already seemed obvious. They have an amazing tagline for the church that they are very proud of that declares: “What a good Baptist Church used to be - We Still Are.” This is a great example of knowing who you are and focusing on your strengths.
Tip #8 - Consult an editor
Church signs is not a one person job. You need to consult an editor. No matter how good you are, you need to get a second opinion.
Beulah Hill Baptist Church declares that “God does not make misteaks,” but apparently the church secretary makes a lot of them. Consult an editor.
Olympia Brown Unitarian sign says, “Get behind me, Satin.” Although I don’t like the feel of satin either, I don’t think this was the message they intended to give. Consult an editor.
The following examples are more reasons you need an editor.
Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church says, “Do you know what hell is? Come hear our preacher.” Perhaps their preacher is a bit long-winded but he’s probably not as bad as the flames of hell. I don’t think this is the message they wanted to send.
St. Paul United Church of Church wanted to promote a special event, but their sign is a bit disturbing. It reads, “Best Sausage Supper St. Louis. Come and eat Pastor Thomas Ressler.” Maybe they would eat the pastor after church in Irian Jaya, but probably not in St. Louis. Consult an editor.
Tarrant First Baptist Church fails badly on their sign that reads: “God holds each accountable for sin and will punish Pastor Larry Wilhite.” Although I believe in the doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement, I don’t think it refers to Pastor Larry. Please consult an editor.
The Church of the Cross tried to communicate a message of compassion but fails badly on their confusing sign that reads: “Don’t let worries kill you. Let the church help.” This is confusing. Let the church help do what? Help to kill me? See what I mean. Confusing. Please, please consult an editor.
Tip #9 - Put in some effort
Church Signs, as with most things, requires some effort to do well. Just try. Don’t mail it in like the following examples.
Lamotte Missionary Church’s sign person shows little effort and creativity with their sign that reads: “They asked me to church the sign, so I did.”
Pacific View Baptist Church has a dedicated sign person, but he’s the only one at that church that really cares about this ministry. This is evident on their sign that reads: “Sign Maker on vacation. Come inside for message.”
The First Reformed Church of Portage doesn’t put in the effort to change out their sign in a timely manner. Their sign says: “God’s love is deeper than this snow.” There is no snow in the picture because it’s Summer! This sign has been up for six months and they’re preparing for Summer Vacation Bible School.
Tip #10 - Don’t give up
This is my final tip. Don’t give up. This final example is a sad one that shows that this church is discouraged. Porter Heights Baptist Church is exasperated and wants to give up their sign ministry and it shows clearly on their sign that says: “What could this sign say to get you here Sunday?”
Using church signs for outreach will not grow your church overnight. But don’t give up. Don’t grow discouraged. Remember, don’t forget the old methods. If it worked for Spurgeon, it’ll work for you! Stay faithful my brothers!