By Ashley Birkeland
It’s been over a year since my family and I attempted to attend our first virtual service. With three very active children under eight years of age, I was cautiously optimistic that I could still have a similar experience while in the comfort of my own home. Pajamas – check! Perfectly warm coffee – check! I was ready to go! Our church had spent so much time and effort on new lighting and AV equipment, and they were ready to reach us at home.
However, five minutes into the first hymn, my four-year-old is ready for another snack despite having had breakfast 30 minutes earlier. The following hour was a frustrating combination of trying to pay attention in between scolding my kids to please stay in their playroom so I could listen to the sermon. Most Sundays following that Sunday had a very similar pattern and often resulted in us deciding to just forgo the service.
Church leaders and staff have done an absolutely unbelievable job engaging their congregation as best they can virtually, but I think we can all agree that it’s just not the same as being together. Part of being a member of a congregation is, by definition, gathering together.
Now, with vaccines becoming more readily available and COVID cases decreasing nationwide, many churches are working hard to spread the word that they’re open and ready to welcome their former and new members.
Recently we decided as a family to go back to church in person and couldn’t help but notice all the nonverbal cues, like signs, that had been put in place to keep us all comfortable and safe.
Say what you need to say without saying it.
One signage company based in Austin, Texas, has spent the past year working hard to create relevant sign templates to meet the needs of industry-specific businesses, one of which is religious organizations. They realize that now it’s more important than ever to be able to share your message while maintaining distance.
With more church doors opening each day, their goal is to make it easy for church staff to find and create signs that will attract new members and engage current members.
A few examples are signs for outdoor use like banners and feather flags. Those can be used to officially announce “We’re Open,” Vacation Bible School, or upcoming volunteer events.
They’ve also found a greater need for directional signs both indoors and outdoors. COVID has highlighted a need to manage large flows of traffic. Some outdoor signs that are helpful are sandwich boards and yard signs that can help direct traffic through the parking lot or even designated parking spots for new members.
With more people coming back in the building, it’s also important to direct traffic within the building like with floor decals, banners, sandwich boards, and posters. It’s important to grab their attention about a special series of sermons, a concert, or a Bible study group that is now meeting again in person. A great way to highlight those new events is through eye-catching retractable banners and posters that you can display throughout the building.
What a difference a year makes.
My family has been back to attending services in person for almost a month now and could not be happier. It’s so wonderful to see friends, enjoy live music and listen to an inspiring sermon without any distractions or interruptions. My daughters are back to their Sunday School classes, we’ve been able to partake in communion, and we’ve even recently witnessed a baptism. I will admit that I do miss my pajamas and perfectly warm coffee, but I would not trade it for being back together in the church building.
I look forward to the upcoming months with such hope and optimism. It’s refreshing to be ready to attend church picnics, small groups and upcoming mission trips.
As the pandemic becomes more or more distant and a thing of the past, I hope we can all remember that a congregation is a church’s body and the body is healthier when it is whole. I hope we remember that we made the best decisions we could to keep each other safe and healthy and carry that over to our post-pandemic lives and communities.
Ashley Birkeland is the director of culture and communications for BuildASign, a vertically integrated, mass customization company that uses proprietary web-based technology to provide custom printing services to customers who design and purchase signage, apparel and home decor items online, www.buildasign.com. In the face of the pandemic, BuildASign quickly pivoted the business to meet the demands of their customers by quickly creating more than 2,000 new COVID-related templates (e.g., hygiene-related, social distancing, curbside pickup, etc.).
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