Taken from Religious Product News Magazine, May 2008
by Richard L. Reising
Take with me, if you will, a walk through your church using the eyes of a f irst-time visitor. Let’s make him (Steve, for example) a first-time visitor that was e specially courageous and made his way to church one Sunday morning completely by himself. He makes his way into the parking lot by his best-guessed method then stares for just a second at the myriad of entry points that face him. Steve, of course, does not stare long as he does not wish anyone to recognize him as “an outsider”. Of course, at “our” church, he does not need to worry about that, but unfortunately Steve does not know that.
Signage sets the foundation
Steve might be wealthy—he might be struggling—he might be getting along just fine, but a door in his heart has opened and he is willing to step within our doors to see if what we claim is true. What is his single greatest need in life at this moment? Direction. As Christians, we know that direction comes from God (through us) and leads to God (through Christ). But there is an even more practical direction that he needs. He needs to know where to enter—where to take his children—where to visit the restroom.
Sorry for being so direct, but as institutions that have been given a mandate for providing direction to a lost world, our churches lag dramatically behind when it comes to providing direction within our four walls.
Visitors are not supposed to feel like an imposition. They are our guests. They deserve our forethought, our care and direction. Greeters are important but can never replace a sign that gives direction to the restroom from someone exiting the service. Signage is a part of your fundamental infrastructure for acclimating people—helping them feel comfortable and at home.
Ask yourself this, “Is my church built to make visitors, like Steve, feel as if you thought of everything for them, or does it make them feel as if they are an afterthought—uninvited to the party?”
Signage can be so much more
When you walk in Starbucks and see their latest graphic on the iron stand, or when you see the light-post banners lining the entry at Disney World, two things are happening that you are likely to miss. One, your expectation level for what is being offered goes up, and two, subconsciously, you are ascribed value by them and you begin to feel all the more welcomed. Just like the “happy birthday” sign strung across your living room doorframe, or the “welcome home” signs at the airport for the soldiers returning from war. Signage tells people they are valuable. It is a deep thing that you rarely recognize, but once you notice it, is it any wonder you are polarized to be a part of it and want to make it a part of you? Great signage simply does that.
Steve also notices something we forgot about: style. The style and quality of your signage also gives him a window into the mind of your church. The decade it was designed in tells him a quick anecdote—the timeframe the church was at its high-water mark. Subconsciously, to the visitor it says, “This style reflects the year the church was most outwardly-focused and financially sound.” To harness this reality for our benefit, we need smart signage solutions that are able to adapt to changes in style. Furthermore, smart churches will use their signage to reinforce the growing spirit of their brands—the essence of who they are as a church. It ultimately becomes part of your intangible asset list that makes visitors respect you all the more and regulars inherently more proud to belong to your church.
Ask yourself this, “Does our signage attract and tell the story that we are a church for “today”—or does it indicate that we are the church from a time gone by?”
My friends, signage welcomes, it enhances a sense of belonging and it indicates the standards of your vision. It is an intangible with great effect. It is the starting point to providing Steve with the direction he needs. If done well, it might even lead him and your whole church towards your vision. “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)
Article by Richard L Reising
Richard Reising is the author of ChurchMarketing 101: Preparing Your Church for Greater Growth (Baker Books). Reising is a recognized authority on church marketing and branding and the founder and president of the Dallas-based Artistry Marketing, an organization that helps churches and ministries make wise use of marketing, design, and technology.
For more information on signage solutions offered by Richard Reising and his team, visit www.ArtistryMarketing.com or call 888.320.5278 x250.