I Blame Senior Pastors for Bad Church Signs

Sam Rainer

March 21, 2013

We’ve all seen them—bulletin bloopers and bad church signs. Both provide good fodder for blog consumption. My father is an expert on corny humor, and he has posted on his blog numerous examples of this vital genre of church literature.

  • When parking on the north side of the church, please remember to park on an angel.
  • Men’s prayer breakfast. No charge, but your damnation will be gratefully accepted.
  • The class on prophecy has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.
  • A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.

For the most part, these slips are forgivable offenses. They provoke nothing more than a few chuckles from the observant. But I believe they are indicators of a greater problem within churches: poor oversight of communication.

I blame senior church leaders for bad church signs and bulletin bloopers. Here’s why.

Anything the entire community sees (signs, websites, social media, and printed materials) should have the approval and oversight of a senior leader within the church. If you’re a senior pastor, and you can’t remember the last time you checked out your church website or read the bulletin, then you are neglecting the broadest piece of your church’s communication strategy. All top church leaders should read church tweets, the worship guide, and website updates every week. If you’re not, then you will not have a clear understanding of what information the average churchgoer is digesting each week. Senior pastors should have a thorough understanding of the contents of whatever method a church uses to communicate with a broad audience, church signs included.

The communication strategy of a church is the responsibility of senior leadership. If that’s you, and you’re just as surprised as everyone else by what is on the church sign or in the worship guide on Sunday morning, then you are not leading a communication strategy. Should you write every word in the worship guide? No. But it would help if you read every word before your entire church does. It’s quite surprising to me how church leaders let one person control broad communications to the world. As a senior leader, you should know who is tweeting what. You should know why certain announcements make the bulletin and others do not. It does not mean you’re out there changing the letters on the church sign, but it does mean you should know and approve ahead of time what message is broadcast to many who drive by your church on a daily basis.

The below diagram might get you thinking about a communication strategy. It’s simple. But given the abundance of bad church signs posted in the blogosphere, I hope it is a helpful visual for church leaders.


Blog 311_Communication Diagram


I’ll call this visual the “big circle/little circle” decision for a communication strategy. A big circle of people requires the knowledge and approval of a senior church leaders. If more will see or hear the communication, then top leaders should approve and edit the message. Websites, Sunday morning announcements, bulletins, and church signs fall into the big circle. A little circle does not require the knowledge or approval of senior church leaders. Examples of little circles are small group handouts and the student ministry brochure.

Senior church leaders who want to oversee and approve small circle communication are micromanagers. Senior leaders who care little about big circle communication are negligent or apathetic. Like everything else in leadership, balance is necessary. In short, if a lot of people will see it, you should approve it. When few people will encounter the message, let others run with it. And if you’re reading this wondering what’s on your church sign, then go check it.

6 comments on “I Blame Senior Pastors for Bad Church Signs”

  1. Phil Kloster says:

    How’s this for a great communications strategy? Only put scripture on your church sign. After all, we “say” it is more powerful than a two-edged sword. Ah, but our cute slogans are more clever! I am not sure the “community” is impressed with us. Wondering what God thinks.

    1. The idea is a good one, but I believe that balance is the key; man lives not by bread alone must also be applied with the understanding that a healthy communal life requires balance. ‘And Judas went out and hanged himself’ is scripture, but to the hopeless, the melancholic, the depressed and others, scriptura sola may be more harmful than helpful. A sword in a well-intentioned crusaders hand is no less baneful than that of an indiscriminate user.

      As Christians, we stand upon the Word, we live by the Word; and so a “word fitly spoken”, I believe, remains our best messaging.

  2. Jeffrey Staton says:

    Sam S. Rainer touches on an enormous problem with most churches in America today. The church has been entrusted with the single most important message in history. Conveying ideas and information is the very essence of communication, and yet many churches tend to be less effective at this than other organizations or movements. So sadly, the church is losing ground because other voices are reaching the culture more effectively.

    There are far too many “witty” church signs that come across as trite, condescending, or confusing to the person who knows little or nothing about church. Whether clever, deep or humorous, the message is lost if it is irrelevant to the very people the church hopes to reach–the general public driving by. Worse, some have even been offensive. You’ve seen them on the nightly news and probably cringed at the thought of another black eye for the cause of Christ.

    Rev. Rainer blames senior pastors for bad signs and bulletin bloopers. So would I, but not because they need to be overseeing it all. Instead churches need a senior staffer–other than the senior pastor–to coordinate an effective communication strategy. While the senior pastor should be the final say on the vision and direction of the church, few senior pastors are equipped, experienced, or have the time or aptitude to formulate and oversee it all.

    As great a leader as Moses was, even he admitted that he was not the best verbal communicator. So God suggested an official spokesperson: Aaron. This only added to Moses’s effectiveness, it took nothing away from his leadership or authority. God gave Moses the instructions, Aaron articulated them on behalf of Moses to the people.

    The culture is changing and shifting more dramtically and faster than ever. And while the central message of the unchanging gospel is eternally relevant, the way we attempt to reach people with it is often out-dated and hopelessly ineffective. The church needs to relate better on many levels or else become further removed from public consciousness. And the message we are commissioned to share is too critically important to be forgotten or lost.

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