signage-blog

7 Ways to Make Your Church Signage Guest Friendly

My husband was leading worship at a church I had never been to before. I planned to join him and attend the later service. When I arrived, I had no idea what door to enter and I ended up walking in a side door that opened right up into the sanctuary while the early service was still happening. That was pretty embarrassing and something I’ve never forgotten.


No one likes to feel lost. Churches often forget what it’s like to be new.

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No one likes to feel lost. Churches often forget what it’s like to be new and over time assume that everyone knows where to go. The truth is that’s often not the case at all.

“I saw no signs directing us to the service. If we had not encountered a gentleman going the same direction, I would have gone in circles and surely gotten lost.” – Faith Perceptions Mystery Guest

Whether you’re an established church, in the process of building, or adding on to your existing building, you need to look at your church layout and signage through the lens of a guest.

  1. On the Outside. Exterior signs should be welcoming and provide clarity around what and where. Your main sign should have pertinent information, such as the name of the church, service times, and web address and, if there is room, an invitation such as “Join Us for Worship”.
  1. Lose the Don’ts. Things like: “No skateboarding” or “Church parking for members only” doesn’t send a message of welcome to outsiders. One church we worked with sat in the backyard of a large college campus. They had a perfect opportunity to reach students except their parking lot had signs that said “No Student Parking.” Ironically, those lots sat mostly empty all week long and they had very few college students attending their church. If you must post signs like that, find a way to turn a negative message into a positive one.
  1. Parking Signs. For churches in larger cities, parking can be a challenge. If your church provides a free parking lot or will validate parking for a nearby garage, make sure that is communicated to guests on your website and in signage at the church. If you can’t have permanent signage, put up temporary signs that you can take down after the service.

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“Parking was difficult as there was no signage or directions or guidance, so I had to park on the street and pay the meter. Turns out, this particular church offered a free lot, but only people who were regular attendees knew about it.” – Faith Perceptions Mystery Guest

  1. Which Door? We read so often about the struggle a guest has trying to figure out which is the right door to go through to get to the main part of the church.

“I wasn’t sure which door was the main door since none of them were marked. I ended up coming in a door that led me all around the church before I found where the service was.“ – Faith Perceptions Mystery Guest

Things like that can be avoided by having signs that clearly mark your main entrance into the church. Weather permitting, open your doors, and have greeters stand outside to welcome people (more on greeters in our next blog).

  1. On the Inside. We’re all humans and admittedly, I’ve missed seeing a sign that was right in front of my face. Make sure that you have adequate signs inside the church at every entrance that will help a guest navigate to where they need to be. Interior signs should provide direction to all essential areas (sanctuary, restrooms, offices, nursery/child care area, etc.) of the church. All of your signs, whether interior or exterior, should be clear and readable from a distance and up close.
  1. Language Matters. Churches are known for naming ministries things a guest wouldn’t understand. While the names are certainly catchy, guests are often left clueless about what it is. If you want to increase participation in these ministries, then ensure that the content on your signs actually communicates to a guest what they mean.

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  1. Outreach. If nothing else, your signs can work as a form of indirect outreach. There’s a high probability that unchurched people in your community drive by your church and see your sign every single day. People respond to invitations. It wouldn’t be unheard of for someone to accept your sign’s invitation and come for a visit next Sunday.

Unchurched people in your community drive by your church and see your sign every single day.

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If you’ve been attending your church for a while, you may not feel that more signs are necessary, but the truth is those signs aren’t for you. They’re for the people you are trying to reach. Before we can address someone being lost in the spiritual sense, we should first get them to the right place in the physical sense.

 

About Faith Perceptions
Faith Perceptions is a market research firm that provides churches and faith-based organizations with research about their target market. We send mystery guests into churches across the country each week to report back to us on what their experiences are like. We use this information to help churches improve the way they welcome and connect with guests. Faith Perceptions has been evaluating the first-time guest experience since 2008.

 

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3 Ways ‘Mystery Guests’ Can Improve Your Church

This article first appeared in a guest blog for The Exchange at Christianity Today. You can go here or just stay put and keep on reading.

I get that some people reject faith in God and therefore will never darken the door of another church, but what I can’t accept is that some people don’t come back because they felt rejected by the church.

Question: How many people have visited your church in the past year?
Tougher question: How many never came back?

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Deep, soul searching question: Why?

Unchurched people are more skeptical than ever about attending church. Yet there are scores of people that visit churches every weekend, searching for something. So why aren’t they returning, and does it have anything to do with what they experience when they get there?

“I didn’t feel the church was at all very welcoming. In the 25 minutes I spent there outside of the actual service, nobody spoke with me. Although everyone seemed to be talking with each other, no one found the time to talk with me.” – Excerpt from a Mystery Guest Report.

Unfortunately, I read comments like that all the time in our research. And, the truth is, unless you’re new yourself, it’s hard to really know what a person encounters when they visit your church for the first time.  The only real way to know what guests are experiencing in your church is to get unbiased feedback by someone outside of your own system.  What you learn may be tough to hear, but not hearing it is even more difficult in the end.

Before we go any further, let’s unpack what “unbiased” is (and is not):

Unbiased means someone who is neutral or impartial. It doesn’t mean you go ask your Aunt Betty to visit your church and tell you what she thinks.  And no, you can’t use a member from your clergy friend’s church across town. Why? For the same reason I don’t ask my husband if the dress I’m wearing makes me look fat. I already know what his answer will be and he’s not about to stick his hand in a bear trap. People you know aren’t as willing to give you honest feedback because they’re afraid of hurting your feelings.

Since mystery guests attend the church anonymously and submit their thoughts to us – not you – they’re not afraid to tell the truth because they have no affiliation with your church (or any other church for that matter). These are the kind of people that represent who you are trying to reach, so their thoughts and opinions are going to be the most valuable in helping your church improve the way you welcome guests into your church.

Three things you’ll get by bringing mystery guests into your church:

  1. Gain perspective. You are about to see your church through a lens that you’ve never seen it through before: The guest lens. Prepare yourself. You’re going to see what it’s like to visit your own website and try and find worship times or information on children’s ministries. You’ll learn what it’s like to find a place to park, and walk through doors (assuming you can find the right door), and face a crowd of people you’ve never met before. You’ll know if people are friendly, what it’s like to maneuver your way to the restroom using only signs, or how comfortable parents feel checking their kids into your Sunday school or kid’s ministry. You’ll see how easy it is to follow along with the elements of the service, and you’ll know when someone fills out the information card if they were actually contacted.

“I let my kids go up for the children’s time with the pastor, and when it was over they left with the rest of the kids. I had no idea where they were going, who the leader was, or how I would get them back!” – Excerpt from a Mystery Guest Report.

  1. See your blind spots.

The problem with having blind spots is that you don’t know you have them therefore you don’t ever do anything about them.

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What if you knew that guests didn’t have a clue about your Sunday school or that you have a welcome center? What if you learned that a new family tried to visit last Sunday, but found themselves alone because service times had changed and nobody updated the website? (Write that one down – we see it a lot).  Imagine what you could do if you knew the reasons people aren’t becoming part of your church.

  1. Know where you have opportunities to improve. If you’re like a lot of churches, you may have ideas about what the problems are and how to fix them. To quote a good friend of mine, “I’m probably not going to tell you anything you don’t already know, but you may be walking past things you can no longer see.” Mystery Guests help you see what you can’t see on your own, but they also tell you how to make it better.

Wanting things to be better means we have to be willing to get feedback. Honest feedback.  Having mystery guests visit your church gives you the ability to walk a mile in your visitor’s shoes. Then it’s up to you to take action and make future Sundays the most welcoming they can be.

About Faith Perceptions
Faith Perceptions is a market research firm that provides churches and faith-based organizations with research about their target market. We send mystery guests into churches across the country each week to report back to us on what their experiences are like. We use this information to help churches improve the way they welcome and connect with guests. Faith Perceptions has been evaluating the first-time guest experience since 2008.