Transitioning to 21st Century Church Signage
By: Stephen Cook
It's been a good sentry. A beacon. Standing solitude alongside the roadway, it has shone brightly with diligence, cutting through the clutter and din of the swath of landscape that isyour community. If you think about the hundreds of thousands of automobiles it has positively impacted these many years, it doesn't owe your church a dime. Your sign is an old friend who has considered it an honor acting as your church's welcome mat to the community.
Nevertheless, your membership has a hankering for something new out by the road. Something bold. The time feels right to make a statement about your church. There's no disrespect intended toward the good sentry already hard at work 365 days a year, outreaching to the ones with steering wheels in their hands. That old sign is fine, but the church has changed since you made the investment. And, the community has changed so much that it's barely recognizable from what it was just a mere decade or so ago.
Across town, there is a church with an electronic message center-style sign. Instead of changeable letters held in place on tracking, it instead uses new technology: light emitting diodes, or LEDs. A member of the church does not physically go out to the sign and change messages; rather, the drive-by congregation gets news about the church via easy-to-use message programming software on a computer inside the church. The LED sign is continually updated simply because it iseasy to update.
But, such a sign is surely out of your price range. Technology does not come cheap, right? All those bells. All those whistles. Your church would not be able to use all of that technology.
Or would it?
Considering the amount of potential growth even a small church could experience over the next 10 years, the additional cost of an electronic message sign today can more than pay for itself tomorrow.
Consider, too, the audience you are trying reach. If the hundreds of automobiles passing your church each and every day are driven by people born after 1985, you might want to consider a sign with a "look" that appeals to them. A vibrant electronic message center sign in front of your church shouts loudly that your membership is anything but unplugged. Your brick-and-mortar structure tells motorists that you are a church. They know that already. But, what does your church have that tells them about the wonderful happenings going on within your four walls? Your printed newsletter? The church Web site? Such things reach only the people you'll see next Sunday morning.
What if there could be something out by the road capturing the attention of motorists with continually changing text, graphics, and animations? What if you could put the highlights of your newsletter out by the road electronically? People passing by would then be able to learn something new about your church every time they drove past.
Churches all over the country are discovering how creating excitement out by the road translates into increased membership, a more connected community, and an appeal to the youth of your town.
Since light will be your messenger boy spreading The Word to those who travel your street, a little bit of technical jargon is in order. After all, except for the evening hours, an LED sign has to compete with the sun.
When a motorist approaches an LED message sign from a quarter mile away, they see the sum of the whole, which means many single points of lights forming a large display. In the sign industry, the perceived brightness (luminance value) of an entire display is measured in "nits" and is referred to as the "nit rating." The industry standard nit rating is 6,000.
Why would a church even care about such a rating? Short answer: the sun. A dim sign is of no use to anyone between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. when cars are approaching from the east. Messages get washed out. It's the same story after 5 p.m. when the sun is beating on the sign from the west. Purchase a dim LED sign, and it can become a very expensive nightlight and not much else.
Such a scenario is completely avoidable by making sure the LED sign company you buy from manufacturers its LED signs at a minimum of 10,000 nits.
There is one more technical term the sign industry uses that a church may want to study up on before it makes the leap to an electronic message sign, and that is the "MCD rating." MCD stands for millicandelas, and it is the measurement of the brightness, not of the entire sign, but of just one tiny individual light emitting diode, or LED. Think of it like watts for a light bulb. A 300-watt light bulb at your local store understandably costs more than a 150-watt bulb.
Why the need to pay more for brightness? Again, remember that an electronic sign has to compete with the sun. To accomplish such a daunting feat, each tiny light emitting diode must be rated at 1,500 MCDs. It is for that reason the industry standard for individual light emitting diodes is 2,200 MCDs. The smart money would be to make sure your sign manufacturer uses light emitting diodes double the industry standard. Why? Put simply, regardless of where you buy your sign, all light emitting diodes will dim down 20% after about two years of average use. It is the nature of the technology.
So, do the math. A poorly designed electronic church sign with a bare-bones MCD rating of 2,220 will just sneak over the 1,500 MCD industry standard for competing with the sun after only 24 short months of use. On the other hand, it is conceivable that light emitting diodes rated at 4,500 MCDs on day one can still be competing with the sun 10 to 15 years from now.
Finally, let's not forget that outdoor signs are sometimes victims of vandalism. It's tragic that churches are not immune from those in your community who have gone astray. A sign manufacturer that engineers its electronic message sign with a protective lens covering the thousands of light emitting diodes is a manufacturer that has your investment at heart. Spray-paint artists and rock throwers will be forced to play defense if your sign was designed to withstand such harsh facts of life.
A church's sign is the only extension of its membership that has to stand alone by the road 24 hours a day. Your new church sign will be picking up where the retiring roadside sentry left off. That's a lot of responsibility. A long future of expected faithful service awaits. Is the sign you have in mind up to the task?
Stephen Cook is convention coordinator for Stewart Church Signs, www.stewartsigns.com.
If you're like most pastors, you've probably tried a lot of different methods to reach your community and bring in new visitors. You may have bought advertising space in your local newspaper. You may have sent out postcards or letters to the community. You may have even tried radio or TV commercials. So, which one of these is the most effective? The answer might surprise you.
That's because the most cost-effective means to advertise your church is by using a variable message display in front of your church. That's right! A sign can be the best dollar-for-dollar form of advertising you can use.
In addition to great cost savings over the life of your sign, there are a number of other advertising advantages to a well-designed sign:
* You actually own this form of advertising.
Additionally, a sign is the most effective way to communicate with your community. Relationships have always been the most powerful way to build any business or charitable organization – especially churches.
One study suggests that 85% of the people in church come because of a friend or relative. The more people get to know you and trust you, the more likely they are to attend. And, good relationships begin with good communication. The more you communicate with the people around you, the more they get to know you. A sign "talks" with everyone who drives by 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Your sign introduces your church to each individual driver (and passenger) who travels past your church.
Also, a great sign helps make your church a landmark in the community. Before long, everyone in town will know who you are and what separates your church from every other church in the area. And, they will trust you more because they're familiar with your message.
A sign also can help draw large numbers of people into your church. Statistics show that churches experience significant growth during tough economic times. People are looking for hope. A sign can tell them where to find that hope – at your church.
Finally, right now may be the absolute best time to buy a sign for your church, as many sign companies are offering significant discounts on their signs.
If you're looking for the absolute best way to use your advertising dollars, look no further than the sign sitting in front of your church. If you don't have a sign – or if you need one that's more effective – now is the time to buy the best advertising form available.
Kim Clark is the director of marketing and advertising for Signs Plus – New Ideas, New Technology, www.signsplussigns.com.