Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bad Church Signs

I have a particular fascination with church signs.  By "church signs" I mean those changeable backlit signs that can be manipulated to emblazon anything from service times to catch phrases.  I like to see what a church puts on their sign, no doubt because our church has one of these signs, and also because in my early twenties, as the janitor at Riverview, it was my job to change the lettering on our sign.

It has become commonplace for churches to use these signs nowadays as a way of plastering what they think is some kind of memorable or cute phrase that is usually a play on words.  Most of the time, however, these phrases are over-the-top cornball, and probably serve to turn more people off to the church than bring in prospective attenders.

It wasn't until the past 10 years or so that churches used these signs for cutesy catch phrases.  Before that, most church signs were simply used to broadcast service times or special announcements.  When I was in the ecclesial janitorial business, church signs were a booming business.  Our church was constantly getting solicited by church sign companies, wanting to come and redo our church sign (it's kinda old).  I've watched several marketing videos (VHS tapes, that is) on the effectiveness of having a church sign in my days.

There is a church in Mendota Heights that was probably the first church in the area to put something on their sign that was somewhat cutesy or thought-provoking.  Except most of what they put on their sign wasn't cutesy or cornball - it was actually pretty good.  This church was located across the highway from my high school, and once in a while, my fellow students would comment on what was plastered on that church's sign.  And not in a mocking way, but in contemplation.

The trend these days, however, is to plaster some cutesy phrase that a preschooler wouldn't find amusing on your church's sign, presumably with the hopes of bringing people who enjoy the phrase into the church so they'll meet Jesus.  (Hey!  Maybe we can fulfill the Great Commission with our church sign and not have to talk to people!  Wouldn't that be great?)

I've posted about some of these goofy signs before, both from local churches in my area.  You can read about those signs here.  But today I drove by two other churches, and they likewise had goofy signs, one of which is just stupid, and the other this seminary-trained pastor doesn't even understand.  Judge for yourself:

Sign at Church A: "Google can't satisfy all your searches."

Sign at Church B: "Is the Son in your eyes?"

The sign at "Church A" is very similar to an internet meme seen at left (actually, Church A has posted the meme at left on their sign before, believe it or not).  The sign at "Church B" is something I don't even understand.  I realize that they're playing on words here, but what am I supposed to get out of "Is the Son in your eyes?"  Are they asking me if I'm a Christian?  Are they asking me if I've "seen the light?"  What the heck is going on there?  And better question: how is that supposed to make me want to go to your church?

I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all churches who have such a sign to please, stop it with the cutesy phrases.  Nobody likes it.  It's not cute.  It's not catchy.  And I would be willing to bet that most people who see these signs drive past them thinking less of the church the sign belonged to than more of it.  In essence, I think the cutesy phrases on church signs are having the opposite effect of what is intended.

Then why do churches continue to put goofy stuff on their signs?  I figure they come at it from one of two ways: 1) they actually believe that the cutesy phrases are cute and creative, and that people like them;  2) they realize that the phrases are actually stupid, and that people don't like them, but they figure that any advertising is good advertising.  That is, even though people don't like the phrases, they will remember them, and therefore remember the church, which - perhaps according to the church - is a good thing.

As I mentioned earlier, Riverview has such a sign with removable lettering.  I'm not even sure what's on it right now, but we usually just use the lettering to post the times of our services and Wednesday Night activities.  That's good enough for me.  Nothing cutesy there.  Just the facts, Ma'am.  Otherwise, I know we've used the sign in the past to say "God's word is truth."  I like that too.  It's not trying to be cutesy or catchy.  It's presenting your with a truth claim that you need to weigh in your mind.  If you want to do that corporately, you can come and join us ever Sunday morning at 9:00 and 10:30.  That'll do.

No comments: