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The Power of Your Sign
By: Gary F. Dinsdale

A new sign can literally change the way everyone feels about the church. Of course, we are talking about the church building specifically, but it goes beyond that. Sometimes, a church needs a win, and getting a new sign and having it work will start things moving ahead. It can be just the ticket to a fresh beginning.

When the unchurched go past your church, what do they see? This is the area many members, both new and old alike, have some difficulty understanding. The first impression for most is the church sign.

Some churches have had the same sign for decades. Some of these are in disrepair. When the typical family drives by, they see many things, and one thing they see is how the church takes care of God's property. Make no mistakea lot of first-time visitors are drawn in by the sign.

The next item that is very important is what the sign says to your drive-by congregation. This is the church's opportunity to reach the unchurched. Love them into the kingdom. Try to stay positive and uplifting.

Remember, if we can stay calm and secure, even though bad things may be happening, then they will feel confident in allowing us to bring them into our churches.

Use the sign as a message board that inspires them. Makes them laugh. Makes them think. Let it be a porthole to the heart of the church.

When you ask church members to describe their church, they always tell you about the inside of the facility or the heart of the people, which is very good, but we need to get visitors inside before they can feel what you feel.

It is okay to use the sign to reach folks that are between churches, but you should limit this. Try to think of the person driving by the sign as a completely inexperienced churchgoer.

Gear your messages to this audience. In 20 years of being in the sign business, I've learned that less is more. Keep your messages short and sweet. Keep them fresh.

I had a call from a young pastor and his staff, and they wanted to know how to get the maximum benefit from their new sign. I explained that they should make an agreement between them to change the sign three times a week, and the final change would be the sermon title and time.

This sounds easy, but on a manual changeable copy sign, that is a lot of work. However, they did just that and saw amazing growth. It is not unreasonable for a church sign program to increase attendance by at least 20% to as much as 100% a year. 

You should expect these results, and if you're not, then look into it and figure out why not. In order to get good results, you do need to have good visibility, good drive-by traffic, and a good location.

As you can imagine, once this type of numbers start happening, the church needs to have a secure back door and well-thought-out ways to handle all those new members. Expect some changes; it's okay. God is still in control.

Sermon titles need to stay short and hard-hitting. Remember that you are reaching out to the unchurched. You don't want a message that is could drive people away from walking into the church.

Digital signs have made it a lot easier to change the messages. The person sitting at their desk can change their message without getting rained or snowed upon.

Using a digital church sign is similar in concept, except you can change the messages more often and highlight some special events with pictures and videos. You can even display your sermon live, and a person can drive by and hear it on their radio.

I called a music minister who had installed a digital sign and asked how his Christmas Cantata went. He explained that the year before the sign they put on the exact same event as this year. He said no one showed up that year.

This year, by promoting it on the digital sign, the sanctuary was full, with folks standing in the back. Since the new digital sign was installed, they have seen substantial growth.

Remember to try to get your new sign to be a lighthouse in the community. A place where love, hope, understanding, trust, truth, and confidence shines out of. A life ring for the unchurched to get some spiritual help.

Make your new sign a landmark in your community. What do I mean by landmark? When someone starts giving directions, they should use your sign as a landmark. "Go about two miles and you will see First Baptist's church sign. Turn left at the next light."

Have someone you know, someone who does not go to your church, drive by your church and write down what they feel when they see the sign. Share this with your leaders. In over 20 years helping churches, there is one thing I know: high quality church signs work!

You will need a permit, and these are some of the questions you will need answers to when securing a new sign:

* How tall of a sign can we have?  (in feet)
* How large of a sign can we have? (in square feet)
* What is the set back and datum point? (in feet)
* Can I have a digital sign?

If you feel a new large digital sign is what you need to help, don't be shy. Go after it. We have seen many churches prevail in securing a permit when they have been determined to do so. You will be asking these questions of the zoning department.

It may take a little effort, but it is well worth it in the long run. Expect some road blocks, and don't think the enemy is going to let you just have this major tool without a fight.

Remember that everyone you come in contact with during this process you're going to invite to your church. Put a great big smile on your face and go about the task at hand it will pay big dividends eternally.

There is something you can do today to quickly start visitors walking into your church. Get a new high-quality sign!

Gary F. Dinsdale is chairman and chief executive officer of Robson Corporation, www.robsonchurchsigns.com.

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