Church signs are key to outreach

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Often the most effective way to promote your church's ministries is a church message sign.

Why? Your best prospects probably live close to the church. They very likely pass by it every day. They're on the way to and from work, going to the grocery store, or running other errands. Many of these folks probably go by your church more than once a day.

If you don't have a church message sign, you need to get one. If you do have one, you need to make sure the messages are very inviting and that they stay fresh. That is where many churches make a crucial mistake –- they don't devote enough time to their messages.

Each church needs someone -- or maybe even a few people -- who will take on the sign as their ministry for the congregation. If you have a publicity committee or communications committee in your church, your sign should be an integral part of their work. If not, pray about your need and seek a person who will want to make this his or her primary ministry for the church.

If you have a sign that requires the letters to be changed by hand, then you may want to have one person write the messages and another person make the physical sign changes. If you are fortunate enough to have an electronic sign, then you should be making message changes frequently so that there is always something new to catch the eye of prospects. The persons preparing your sign should be kept informed of special services and events happening at your church –- well ahead of time -– to write the messages and get them up on the sign well in advance of the event.

What about the content of the messages? Decide first on some key messages that should be posted frequently. These would include your worship times, your church website address, and most importantly, an invitation to join you in worship. In fact, a message as simple as the following can be much more effective than any humorous or clever saying:

JOIN US THIS SUNDAY

FOR WORSHIP

8:30 AM 11 AM 7 PM

People respond to invitations. We see it happen every Sunday at the close of the service. The Lord pulls at their hearts. The Lord can do the same with your church sign. Make your message an invitation as often as possible.

Other important messages to post are special worship services, such as Good Friday and Christmas Eve. We know that many people come to church just for special holidays, so remind them that your church has the holiday services they seek. Again, give the day and time. Such information is useful for those who visit infrequently.

I feel a little uncomfortable saying this, but be cautious in how you use Scripture on your sign. Some churches choose to use Scripture -- or messages related to certain Scriptures -- with the intention of frightening people into coming to church. While a 30-minute Sunday sermon may hit home with a person who needs to change his life, it is unlikely you will have the same results with just a few words on your sign. You run a greater risk of turning off people to your church with a "fire and brimstone" message on your sign. Use your sign to invite them to your church, and let God's message on Sunday change their hearts.

Think twice about humorous signs, too. Remember, once you've heard a joke, you don't want to hear it again. Unless you plan on changing your humorous messages every few days, you may lose the attention of your prospects. Also, what's funny to one person may offend another. The last thing you want to do is drive someone away from your church.

Another important point to remember is being brief with your sign wording. The goal is not to fill every inch of the sign with words. People can't read a long message in the second or two it takes to pass the church. Put too many words on your sign, and folks won't even take a look. The rule of thumb (and it also applies to billboards, should your church have them) is to say what you need to say in seven to 10 words -– even less if possible.

What about placing the pastor's name on the sign? That can be a touchy issue. Perhaps the better question is the following: Will placing the pastor's name on the sign draw more people to your church? If your pastor is well-known in the community, and you have a regular radio or television ministry as well, then the pastor's name on the sign is certainly beneficial. But if you have VBS starting next week, and you would have to cram the sign message to include the VBS dates and your pastor's name, then I would choose the VBS information alone –- ending with the phrasing: REGISTER YOUR CHILD TODAY. Again, invite prospects to take action from your message.

If your church is located on a main thoroughfare, then try to have the best sign you can budget. You will be amazed at how many people in your church's community can be reached.

It may sound like a line from the 70s, but people will ask, "What's your sign?" A sign should be a primary ministry touch-point that encourages people to visit your church.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).


Woody Murray is an independent church communications specialist who helps churches more effectively reach their communities. He has worked for 30 years in communications and marketing in advertising agencies and at a major Christian organization. Contact him at rwoodymurray@comcast.net or at 615-646-5725.

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