The first thing passersby see in front of a church is the sign or marquee. Many churches think their pithy sayings are witty and attractive. In reality, however, the messages may be lame, insulting and embarrassing. Here is a list of the top 10 church sign blunders, as well as some ideas for messages that are inviting, welcoming or inspiring.
1. Letting the author appear superior to the reader
Do not shame people into coming to your church. It doesn’t work and makes you look like a person who uses “50 cent” words. Example: "It's a new year. How about you do something new, like … go to church?" This isn't a very warm welcome.
2. Using poor theology
Best check yourself before you wreck yourself. Example: "Faith in yourself has won many a race: never quit trying."
3. Being cheesy
Some people think the church is out of touch with our culture’s realities. Don’t give them any more ammunition. Example: "Seven days without prayer makes one weak."
4. Using homophones
This goes for rhymes, homonyms, alliteration and assonance too. This isn't a fixed rule, but many times these dandy devices are not very funny, clever or profound. For example, "No time to pray makes easy prey." “God always answers knee-mail” is another offender.
5. Trying to sound deep, but forgetting how people might interpret it
The fortune cookie business may be a better path for you if you post signs like, "He who rows the boat doesn’t have time to rock it." Another example: “The most powerful position is on your knees.” No comment here. Yet another, “Love is like bread; it should be made daily.”
6. Making light of suffering
Today's culture doesn't take the idea of hell seriously. Churches that try to be clever about it on their sign only make it worse. Example: “Stop, drop and roll doesn’t work in hell!”
7. Using poor grammar and/or spelling
Many people in the secular world consider themselves smarter than they consider Christians. Do you really want to post free advertising for these folks? Example: "Will the road your on get to my place? -God"
8. Quoting God
The Bible does a great job quoting God. Do you really want to try to top it? See the above poor grammar example.
9. Posing rhetorical questions
A common misconception is that a question on a church sign will persuade someone to come to church in order to find the answer. Most people just turn the question into a rhetorical one, and ignore it. Example: "Whose child are you?"
10. Using outdated pop-culture
If you wonder if a pop-culture reference is outdated, simply ask your youth group. Example: "Wal-Mart is not the only savings place."
What should a good church sign do?
1. Invite non-believers or those who currently do not attend to the church.
2. Improve the church's image in the community.
3. Be an outlet for the church to glorify Christ and make him known.
4. Encourage current members to attend.
The examples above fail to do these things, so why use slogans and sayings like them?
- Bible verses that make sense on their own and do not require a theology degree and three chapters of context to understand.
- Cool secular references that align with Christianity. Example “Let it be known, there is a fountain that was not made by the hands of men.” – Robert Hunter
- Worship service days and times (be sure to change seasonally, if appropriate.)
- Announcements of how the church is working in the community. Example: Habitat build day May 21. Come help!; Pray for flood survivors and workers.
- General church news (new pastors, exciting growth and new programs). Example: Meet our new pastor July 11; Welcome Rev. Sanchez.; Couple-to couple groups forming. Include a telephone number and or website.
- Upcoming sermon titles, provided they do not breach any of the above categories.
And now for something completely different
The piece of business below, went viral in 2008 as it was passed along the web and email circuit. It was created by a wonderful tool called the church sign generator. Be careful, it can be addicting.
Although this scenario isn't real, it's fun to imagine two neighboring churches in a "sign duel" over dogs. No matter what your beliefs are on this age old debate, you will surely find it amusing. The specific church names are blurred out because they are irrelevant.
For fun, make your own church signs.
Adapted from an article in churchmarketingstinks.com.