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Nov 20

The Video: Reserved for Barista

Nov 20
Nov 20

I love signage. Signage means so much. When you have a birthday and your family hangs a sign they made up over the door—when the military returns home from war and they are met with poster-board signs of affection—every time you see it, signage conveys value. It says "you are important, and we thought of you in advance."

In our video there were two signage statements we were making—one blatant and another hidden. The "RESERVED FOR..." parking signs did the job that signs do: they expressed value. They said, "These people are important to us." In our video, the visitors were not valued, just the ones who ran the show: the barista, the manager and the manager's wife. Without realizing they were doing it, they were saying with signage that, "These are the preeminent people. This is who we value as an organization."

The hidden statement is that there were no signs for visitors whatsoever. Not parking signs, not welcome signs, not even signs telling them where to enter. In our original cut, we had the couple ask, "Where do we go in?" They were confused about where to enter and ended up just walking where the crowd was headed. Lack of signage simply told them they weren't important. Lack of signage in a church leaves the indefinable impression to a visitor that, "this church was not made for you. It was made for people who already know their way around."

Now, I understand that pastor might need a parking sign in order to make sure the service goes off without a hitch. I might suggest that it is near the back entrance, if possible. In our video, it was the only signage visible—saying that the barista (minister) was much more important than the visitor.

When we think about how valued we want the visitor to feel, we would all say it should be very high. The way you show that, is in the signage leading up to your entry, and then following that throughout your building. Notice at the end of the video, the wife says, "I couldn’t find the restroom anywhere?" Signage leads the way. Your Info Center does not resolve the timid visitor's need to know something we should have already told them.

Hey, I'm not the only one pounding the table about signage. How bout this guy... “Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets that everyone who passes may [be able to] read [it easily and quickly] as he hastens by.” Habakkuk 2:2 (Amplified)

Signage is a statement of value. Are your values consistent with your signage?

For more insight into signage, I wrote a few articles earlier this year about it in Church Executive and Religious Product News.

Stay tuned for more on the video...

© Richard L. Reising


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I totally agree with your thoughts about signage and placing value. Out in our church parking lot, we have "Guest Parking" signs on about 10 of the closest spots. Now I do think that it shows that we value guests, but on the other hand I don't think any guest would want to park there for fear of being labeled as a newcomer before even getting out of the car. Any thoughts?

Posted on Thu, Nov 20, 2008 @ 11:03 AM CST


I'm glad for you articulating this in a helpful way. I felt self-conscious at my church, so when I arrived, I allowed the "pastor's parking space" to fade away and become just another space.

Intentionality is a big word. Thanks for articulating it.

Posted on Thu, Nov 20, 2008 @ 11:16 AM CST

Jeffrey P. Moore

I have been to that church, or should I say coffee shop. I have also been others. Some were wonderful and some were not. Some made me want to come back others did not. Some were "mainline." Some were "evangelical." Some were "pentecostal."

I am not arguing against thinking through or being intentional, but I think that there are hundreds of different ways that churches exist and market themselves. And that reminds me, some churches find that the economic language of late market capitalism does not always make sense when it comes to the gospel. Maybe the point is that we are not about marketing in the first place but about hospitality and that we should hospitable to new folks and old folks and . . .

I think the video is funny. I may even use it at some church meetings, or send some people to the website. But after we laugh I hope we think deeply and seriously about how we do church.

Posted on Thu, Nov 20, 2008 @ 3:44 PM CST


Love the clip and the approach we need more clever ways to look in the mirror. As a marketer who was a pastor I can identify. The church has a PR issue and I think that as the fight for Justice comes into the church it will elp and show what it means to follow Jesus and identify with the poor and opressed.

Keep up the good work

Posted on Thu, Nov 20, 2008 @ 9:42 PM CST

Not The Rockefellers

This video really shines a light on the very things that I find "unwelcoming" about my church. The "greeter" and "patrons" in particular. The way that they barely acknowledge someone "new", someone unfamiliar, until it is pointed out to them in an embarrassingly public way. Do we really need to be led to do that? How can we be more welcoming without going over the top?

Thank you for putting together this informative site. It has been very helpful for someone like me who is just now lighting her candle.

Peace -Rene

Posted on Sat, Nov 22, 2008 @ 2:54 PM CST

Nick the Geek

I've just fond your blog and have been reading through a few of the posts and watched the video. This particular post intrigued me because I understand the problem but I'm a bit clueless to the solution.

Some parts of this are easy enough to address. Making the location of the bathrooms more obvious so people don't have to hunt for them. I picked that up from the video because I'm smart like that.

The problem I"m having here is the more important signs. Walk into any decent coffee shop (sticking with the video analogy) and it is clear were you go order your drink. This is based on two things. First there is a nice sign that says "order here" and another that says "pick up here." The other side to it is you typically only have one room to worry about and the equipment, counter, people in uniform, and general location will clue you in. Even if you have never been to a coffee shop in your life and are illiterate you will understand where you should be going pretty easily.

This cannot be said of a church, which means we need more people and better signs to get people moved around. I have been to many churches large and small. I have found that Sunday School is a major failure because I never know where to take my kids. Nursery might be well labeled but most churches don't help you out past that. You have to ask for older kids and definitely yourself. The sanctuary isn't a problem for a person, such as myself, that has the whole church thing down, but I can imagine someone that has never been in church doesn't have the basic anatomy of the church world down, largest room with the most seats is where you go.

The problem is, putting up signs that say "sanctuary this way" won't help those people either. This leads to trying to come up with other names for the sanctuary that will only compound the confusion, so how do you over come basic cultural shifts such as this?

Posted on Wed, Nov 26, 2008 @ 9:46 AM CST

Unchurched Friend

*tears at hair* The doors. The locked doors!! I don't know how many times I've had this experience -- walking up to an imposing 6-door entry and finding all but one of them locked, as if it was designed by Monty Hall. Is this really the first impression we want our newcomers to have -- that the 45 seconds we saved by not unlocking all the doors is more important than the self-doubt newcomers feel when they wonder if they are in the right place after all? Why not have a skill-testing question while we're at it? (Oh wait -- we have those too, in the form of code-language and implicit instructions).

In response to the commenter above who wondered if a truly shy visitor would be comfortable using "visitor" parking, I would submit this. Even if I didn't feel comfortable using visitor parking, I would be reassured to note that it exists. Its main function may not be to provide me with parking; its main function may be to inform me that the people inside are taking action to make visitors feel welcome, and *might* not make me feel like an idiot if I ask a question that reveals my inexperience.

Thanks for creating a message that helps make these "invisible" things easier to see. This message applies not only to churches but to community groups, non-profits, and any other organization that scratches its collective head trying to figure out "why don't THOSE people join OUR group." Time for less "outreach" and more "inreach."

Posted on Thu, Apr 25, 2013 @ 11:08 PM CST

Richard Reising

"Great thoughts! Thanks much for sharing!"

Posted on Tue, May 7, 2013 @ 2:20 PM CST

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