Why your Church Banners and Signs are Crucial for Communicating to your Visitors
Visiting a church for the first time can be a terrifying experience.
- Are they going to make me confess my sins?
- What do I do when they all start singing?
- What should I wear? Is there a dress code?
If you’re a pastor or member at your church, you don’t feel this fear anymore, because you know the answers to those questions. More importantly, you already know you belong. But your visitors don’t know that.
From the moment they step on your church property, they’re desperately searching for a way to fit in, or at least blend in. That’s why visitors see things that you don’t. You’ve lost your “first eye”. You don’t really look at your church property, lobby, hallways, or auditorium. You’re so comfortable in those spaces that you feel at home right away. You overlook things that used to catch your attention.
This is not true for your visitors. They’re seeing everything for the first time. Everything. They see how you take care of the property. They see how the people in your church interact. They notice the decorations in your lobby. They actually read your church bulletin (even the parts that everyone else skips over).
Now, if you’re a pastor or church leader, that probably sounds daunting. But here’s the good news. Your guests probably don’t want perfection. They do want to feel welcome. And that’s a goal that’s within reach for every church.
There are dozens of things you can do to make your church a welcoming church. This includes everything from clean facilities to friendly greeters. But let’s talk about one area that is often overlooked. Let’s talk about your church banners and signs.
Think for a moment about the first-impressions that you give to visitors. Often, we think about their initial interactions with greeters or their thoughts about the music or the preaching. But in reality, the first-impressions at your church start long before the service ever starts and even before visitors talk to anyone from your church.
The first impressions for your guests start when they drive up to your building and get out of their car. From that point on, they’re looking for signs that you’ve planned for their visit. They’re looking for signs that they are welcome at your church.
Is this a members-only church or is this a church where outsiders are welcome? Well, one way to answer this question is to look at your church signage. That might sound crazy, but it’s true.
Here’s a little experiment for you to perform on your church property. Gather up a group of church staff, ministry leaders, and volunteers. It might even be a good idea to invite some people who have never been to your church. Now, walk out to the parking lot and imagine that you’re first-time guests arriving for a service on a Sunday morning.
Ask yourselves the obvious questions that a first-time guest would ask. You know, the questions that you stopped asking years ago. Here are three that you’ll definitely want to start with.
Your main church sign is one of the first things people notice about your church. And it doesn’t just give your church name. It tells them something about your church. The look and feel of your main church sign gives a snapshot of who you are as a church.
Don’t try to tell them everything about who you are. Your main church sign is not a good place for your doctrinal statement or the names of all your deacons. Just stick to the basics - who you are and when you meet. A quality church sign is especially important if you don’t meet in a traditional church building.
Your sign sends a message to your community. Don’t miss the opportunity there. It’s true that word-of-mouth is by far the best way to get more visitors to your church. But some people will visit simply because they drove by and saw your church sign.
This question is actually more complicated than it sounds. For example, take a look at the outside of your church building. You probably have multiple entrances. Now, you know where all those doors go, but your visitors do not.
- Is there an entrance that takes families straight to the area where they can drop of their kids?
- Are their entrances that are more awkward to use after the service has started?
- Are your greeters stationed at specific entrances?
These are questions you need to answer if you want to think like a visitor. The truth is that you probably already have an entrance that you’d like your visitors to use. Why not make that clear to them? Don’t make first-time guests walk aimlessly through a maze of walkways and hallways. Give them clear direction.
This same question can be asked from all of the major areas in your church buildings. Try it. Walk into your lobby and imagine being a first-time guest. Then ask, “Where do I go next?” Imagine dropping your kids off at the nursery. Now, ask the question again, “Where do I go next?” The answer to that question can certainly come from a friendly church member or greeter. But your church banners and signs can also be a huge help here.
Where should parents drop off their kids? Where can they find the bathrooms? Is there a place to get information about upcoming events?
In your mind, the answers to these questions are obvious. But if you don’t have clear signage, that’s probably not true for your guests.
This question really gets at the heart of what it feels like to be a first-time guest at a church.
Do I belong here? Do these people care about me? Do they want me here?
You may be surprised to hear that church visitors ask those questions, but they do. What kind of answer is your church giving to them?
Let’s take a practical example of how you might answer this question. Do you have a place that is specifically setup for first-time guests? If not, why not create one? You probably have some basic steps in place for first-time guests. You probably have a connection card or visitor card for them to fill out. Maybe they have a visitor gift for first-time guests.
Why not create a space that’s specifically designed for those things? Put out coffee and pastries. Recruit some friendly volunteers to welcome your guests, answer their questions, help them fill out a visitor card, and give them a thank-you gift.
Do I belong here?
Before your visitors ever walk into the service, you should seek to answer this question with a resounding “Yes!"
As you can see, it’s not that hard to answer these questions.
Put simple, you just need to:
-Tell them who you are.
-Tell them where to go.
-And tell them that they’re welcome.
Now, how do you use your church signage to answer those questions.
Once you put yourselves in the shoes of your visitors and ask the right questions, you’ll find it much easier to make decisions about what kind of signage you need around your church property.
Here are 4 basic types of church banners and signs and how to use them to make guests feel welcome your church.
We’ve already talked about the importance of your primary church sign. It’s probably the first thing people see as they drive by your church, so it’s a huge part of how your community views your church. But many churches use other signs to communicate their values and identity.
If your parking lot has light poles, you can also hang pole flags to make this same point. This type of signage perfect for parking lots and main entrances. They also work well if you have a main road that runs along your church property.
From the moment visitors arrive at your church, you want them to know that they’re welcome. Many churches recruit volunteers to hold welcome signs outside the church. You want this message to be clear to your guests. Don’t assume they’ll figure it out.
Make sure you have people ready to answer questions. Put out signs on the parking lot or sidewalks that tell visitors where to find the main entrance or where to find the coffee. Nothing says, “Welcome!” like a good cup of coffee.
One of the easiest ways to make guests feel welcome is to create a place specifically designed for them. Some churches put up welcome tents out near the parking lot, so they can meet visitors as they’re arriving. Other churches have a guest table setup inside the lobby. Wherever it is, make sure someone is there to walk your guests through their first visit at your church.
From the moment they arrive, you want to send the message loud and clear: “We’re glad you’re here!”
Do you have any big days on your church calendar? Why not put out an event banner with the details of your event? You’re already going through all the work to plan the event. Let your community know about it.
Make sure your banner includes all the necessary information: date, time, and what to expect. And don’t forget to include an actual invitation on your sign. Something like “Join us!” or “Everyone is welcome!”
On the day of the event, you may even want to put up an event tent to remind people that the big day has arrived. All of this is just a way to let your community know that they are welcome at your church.
And if you’re going to use a table for kids check-in or event sign-up, make sure it’s easy to identify. Have people assigned to those places. Train them on how to greet guests and walk them through the steps you have in place. Don’t leave visitors to wander through a maze of hallways, trying to find the nursery or the looking for a way into the service.
Maybe it’s time to do an assessment of your church property. Are you clearly communicating a welcoming message to first-time guests? Do you have church banners and signs that help people find their place in your church?
The changes may not seem significant to you. But that’s because you’re not a visitor. You don’t feel the fear that a first-time guest feels. Do it for them. Help people feel at home in your church. Serve them with something as simple as your signage.
Show your visitors that you’ve thought about their visit and that you’ve glad they’ve come.