Recently a church communication elder asked me about the effectiveness of electronic church signs. She sent this link in reference to the sign their church was considering: http://curbappealled.com/. She added that a church member had donated the money for it and asked for my comments on it. I'm always happy to respond to requests from church communicators and though I can't guarantee how quickly I will respond, please send questions or suggestions for content on this site to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
First, I'd like to offer some comments on a sign like this and then on signs overall. If you have any more comments on signs, examples of effective signage, or sources for good ones, please add them to the comments below.
As to my answer whether or not to get a professionally designed electronic sign—the answer to this is easy—go for it! Particularly, if the other businesses in your area have similar signs, you want people to be able to clearly find you as a church. Having said that a sign like this can be very good for your church, following are a few other comments that might be helpful.
Tips for an effective permanent church sign:
- Take advantage of the professional design skills of the company creating the sign; don't have a church member design it as church members are often too close to emotionally to make decisions on what will communicate best to the community outside the church.
- Ask the company advice to make certain the permanent part of the sign is large and clear enough so the church name can be seen clearly by a car zooming by. Don't add too much in the way of logos or church symbols.
- Consider having your website on the base of the permanent part of the sign. The website is where people go to find out additional information about companies, churches, people. It is also where they find the links to other social media. Be sure your website is ready to welcome visitors to it, that it provides clear, visitor-friendly explanations of the church, and that it has up-to-date links for all the ministries.
- On the changing parts of the sign, don't try to be cute or catchy or funny. More often than not, amateur attempts at wit or humor don't work and end up being little more than another example on the web of a bad church sign.
- Always strive for clarity and completeness. List your times, special events, programs ("Mom's Morning Out" "Kids Club" "Men's Breakfast this week", etc.) Welcome and invite your community to these events.
- People aren't attracted to a church because they write catchy slogans; people are attracted to a church if it looks like the church can meet their needs—remember that above all when you create the content for your sign.
Comments on church signage overall
Good signage or the lack of it can determine the involvement of visitors and members in the activities of your church. Especially for visitors and people who have attended the church for only a short time, the signage can make the difference between them getting involved in the church or not; coming back or not. Here are some things to consider:
What is the first sign people see when they come into your church grounds?
Is it something like:
Welcome! We are so glad you're here!
Or something like this:
No smoking! No skateboards! No dogs not on a leash! (All of these are real church examples)
Be sure that the first message people see is not what they shouldn't be doing.
Or is there nothing at all, but a confusing mixture of buildings and pathways? Particularly in more contemporary church campuses, it is difficult to tell what is the worship building. If a visitor has to wander around and opens a door or two leading into a classroom or empty space, and has no idea where to go to find out more, they may turn around and leave.
Be sure the location of items listed in the bulletin are clearly marked.
It is obvious to all the members where the adult education classes are held and the location of the "Fireside Room."
These locations aren't obvious, but a source of confusion and frustration to visitors and new attenders.
A map in the bulletin is good, but signage directing people to a location helps also. Even better are people with big "ASK ME" buttons who keep an eye open for visitors.
Use signs to let people know they've arrived where they want to be
Again, especially with the location of classes or specialized ministries, if something meets in the "Fireside Room" or Building Three or the Youth Room, be sure you have a sign outside the door or building letting people know they've arrived at the correct place.
If it's a weekly or infrequent event, be sure you have something like "Ladies Bible Study INSIDE" outside the door.
If you don't have these signs and a door is closed, a new or infrequent attendee might walk past the correct room and miss it.
Have a stranger help you with your signage
One of the best things you can do to make yourself aware of the need for signage is to hire a person who is completely unfamiliar with your church, give them the church bulletin, and ask them to find ministries listed in it.
If your church is large, have them start in the parking lot and ask them to find:
- The worship building
- Children's ministries
- Youth ministry
- The bathrooms
- Then ask them to find the programs listed in the bulletin
Record the time it takes them to carry out the tasks listed above and if possible, video their progress. It will make for interesting viewing at your next staff meeting.
Good signs are a sign of caring
Good signage isn't just about PR or marketing—it is a very tangible way of caring for people who come to your church with hungry hearts and who need Jesus.
Creating good signage is a difficult, challenging, and often expensive, but it is a tangible way to show love to both visitors and members as it helps them find the resources and people who will help them both find Jesus and grow as his disciples.
Bonus tip: to see effective signage in action, go to your local hospital and take note of how from the parking lot you know immediately where emergency is, the location of patient information, out-patient care, etc. Follow the signs and note how at every fork in the hallway, you are told which way to go and it is clearly labeled "Lab" or "X-Ray" when you get there. They use a LOT of signs, but they know that signage can mean life or death to patients. We need to follow their lead because the reality of spiritual life or death may depend on the success of the signage in our churches.