Your Communication Strategy Starts at the Top: Why Senior Pastors Are to Blame for Bad Church Signs

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.

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.

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Sam Rainer III

Sam serves as lead pastor of West Bradenton Baptist Church. He is also the president of Rainer Research, and he is the co-founder/co-owner of Rainer Publishing. His desire is to provide answers for better church health. Sam is author of the book, Obstacles in the Established Church, and the co-author of the book, Essential Church. He is an editorial advisor/contributor at Church Executive magazine. He has also served as a consulting editor at Outreach magazine. He has written over 150 articles on church health for numerous publications, and he is a frequent conference speaker. Before submitting to the call of ministry, Sam worked in a procurement consulting role for Fortune 1000 companies. Sam holds a B.S. in Finance and Marketing from the University of South Carolina, an M.A. in Missiology from Southern Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies at Dallas Baptist University.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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