I was looking for the storefront church on Sunday morning. My GPS said I was at the right address, but nothing jumped out and said, “Hey, you! Come join us for worship!” Eventually, I parked and walked down the sidewalk. I finally found the church right where it should be – but the stenciled church name was both small and obliterated by window displays advertising an upcoming church camping event. From the street no one was likely to recognize it as the congregation’s meeting space. I didn’t – and I was looking for it!
Any church building that’s been around for more than a year or two becomes a fixture that fewer and fewer people notice. You can’t increase your spontaneous visitor count if people can’t find you.
Whether you’re meeting in a storefront, a warehouse, or a downtown cathedral, it’s critical to let people know you exist, that you’re alive and well, and how to join in the festivities (i.e., where the main entrance is).
Let the Community Know You Exist
Regardless of where your church building is, getting noticed is key. I’ve had to make recommendations for churches to cut down 200-year-old trees and remove legacy shrubbery in order for passersby to even see the church building, let alone notice the church.
According to research, after your website, the most effective advertising for most churches is their message sign – if it’s used correctly. Pithy, clever sayings do not a crowd … or even a single visitor … make. (What To Do When No One Knows You Exist)
However, just because someone can see your church building and can read your sign, that doesn’t mean anyone has any idea you’re “alive and well.” To overcome that, engage in some significant “site advertising” on Sunday mornings. An hour or so before worship, deploy multiple feather banners at the edge of your property to draw attention to the church. If you’re a storefront church, or if there are thoroughfares or cross streets near you, plant temporary flags or sandwich board signs at each end of the block. (If there is a sign ordinance that restricts signage, get some creative church member to figure out a workaround – and there are always workarounds – think panel trucks strategically parked, etc.)
If you happen to be a storefront church, maximize the impact of your storefront windows by installing a large monitor to use as a video message board. In fact, by adding an exterior speaker you can broadcast your worship service to the street so that potential visitors can get a taste of what worship is like before setting foot in your door. In addition, consider tastefully using the window space to create an inviting marketing message based on the secular seasons of the year (rather than the liturgical seasons). For instance, to draw attention to your upcoming family Christmas Eve service, develop a Christmas display that dazzles parents and mesmerizes children – think Higbee’s Department Store’s Christmas display of A Christmas Story fame. At a minimum, this sort of decorating ensures community buzz, and virtually guarantees increased attendance … particularly if the monitor does an effective job of informing the lingering families of the high-tech family-friendly Christmas Eve service. Create similar displays for April Fool’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, back-to-school season, Halloween, and Thanksgiving.
Help Visitors Find Your Front Doors
A first-time guest arriving at many church campuses discover that there’s a disparity between the front door and the “real” front door (the main entrance). In particular, many large church buildings suffer from this malady with large, majestic doors that face the street, that almost always seem to have a large flight of steps, that nobody actually uses, and that are often locked from the outside, even just before and during worship. Instead, they have a side door somewhere that is the “real” front door.
The real issue, however, is not the number of doors that a building may have, but the complete lack of signage to point a guest towards the worship center. Without a sign, a guest could wander into a fellowship hall (no, wait … that door was locked on Sunday morning during worship) or into an empty hallway or into the kitchen.
To relieve this issue, every doorway to the church, even if it’s a maintenance door, should have a sign on it … even if it’s to say “No Entrance“. In addition, all main doors should have sidewalk or driveway signs that clearly point the way to the worship center.
Once again, feather flags, banners, and sandwich board signs could (and perhaps should) be used to mark entrances. But the best marker of an active door is a smiling, friendly greeter who is standing outside the real doors of the church – preferably within the line of sight of every possible parking spot. (Hospitality: Use Your Greeters, Ushers, and Hosts)
If you want your church to get noticed, you’ve got to be seen – and you’ve got to let the world know you’re alive and well. But equally important – if a visitor shows up, they need to be able to find their way inside. Give ’em a chance by using signs (and greeters) effectively.
Question: What have you done with your church’s facilities to draw attention to your congregation? Share your ideas in the Comments section below.