Ahh, the church sign. Beloved piece of Americana, source of belly laughs and dad-joke groans, and a conduit between the clergy and laity.
Even the least religious among us has likely driven past a church sign and had a chuckle at some cheesy pun, or learned what time Christmas Eve services will be held.
But maybe it’s time for the church sign as we know it to go.
Blasphemy? Perhaps, but before you blow a fuse, let me clarify.
Like the rest of the world, the church is becoming increasingly digital. Inside your church, you likely use some type of church management software and a projection system, and maybe your pastor is even a social media star.
So what’s with the clunky old changeable letter sign out front when there are digital church signs available?
Is a digital church sign right for your church?
Maybe your church is growing rapidly, and you have 100 young, tech-oriented families attending every week.
Or, on the flip side, perhaps your church is in a town of a few hundred people, and Mr. Smith takes pride in stopping by every Monday afternoon, rain or shine, to change the message on your trusty old sign that was installed in 1953.
A basic, but cryptic, traditional church sign.
Whether or not a digital church sign makes sense for you depends on your situation and budget, so let’s dig into the details.
How does a digital church sign work?
Unlike a traditional sign with changeable letters, a digital sign requires a source of electricity and a connection—whether wired via cable, wireless, or cellular networks—to upload messages and graphics.
In addition to your church management software (which manages daily operations), your digital church sign should come with its own content management software that lets you manage the sign content.
One of the biggest advantages of a digital church sign is directly related to this software. While it might take an hour to rewrite your message on a traditional sign, you can change the message on your digital church sign in just a few moments.
Whelp, this church sign definitely isn’t working…for anyone.
Need to add a second Christmas Day service due to overwhelming demand? Announce it immediately on your new sign. Sharing good news like a birth or an anniversary? Your digital church sign is there for you.
This all ties into another major advantage of digital church signs: rotating messages.
While traditional church signs can leave you stuck with one message for a few days or weeks at a time, digital signs let you schedule several different messages—think announcements, psalms, or spiritual quips—to cycle through.
According to Creative Digital Signs, “Screens can deliver specific messages based on time of day. For example, customers in a restaurant might see ads for coffee and bagel specials in the morning and ads for dinner entrees in the late afternoon and evening. And text or other screen elements can move or change to draw the eye of the viewer to a specific area of the screen.”
For church purposes, this means that in the morning you can advertise weekly services, while at night you might advertise small group events.
How much does a digital church sign cost?
Masonry sold separately (via Wikimedia Commons)
There are two big reasons churches often choose to stick with traditional church signs rather than upgrading.
The first is ease of use. Anyone can tote a box of letters out to a sign and spell out messages. A digital church sign, on the other hand, has a built-in learning curve when it comes to navigating the software, powering up and down, and getting your message to show up.
This means price will likely be the biggest deciding factor in whether your church goes digital. While the benefits of a digital sign might be appealing, if it’s not in your budget, it’s not in your budget. Operating like a megachurch when you have a modest budget won’t do anyone any good.
How can I get the most out of my digital church sign?
A festive display.
If you’re ready to go digital and add a versatile, powerful communication tool to your repertoire, you need to know how to best harness it to maximize its benefits.
Here are five tips to help you get the most out of your new digital church sign:
- Keep your information fresh. Nothing undermines the effectiveness of your new sign more than an outdated message advertising an event that happened two weeks ago.
- Schedule messages based on time of day. If you’re advertising a youth group, schedule it for after school lets out. An event for seniors? Aim for the early afternoon.
- Use the bells and whistles, but sparingly. Some of the more advanced LED church signs have features such as full color and animations. However, the same takeaway from my church bulletin design article holds true here: the simpler the better. You want to inform and intrigue, not dazzle and distract.
- Be your own audience. Every once in awhile, get outside and give your sign a look. Traditional church sign curators have to deal with pranksters rearranging letters to make crude jokes, while digital signage masters have to beware hackers and glitches. It pays to give your sign an occasional look to make sure everything is on the up and up.
- Have fun, and be funny. Don’t forget what makes traditional church signs so memorable: they usually leave passersby with a smile on their face. Just because you’ve gone digital doesn’t mean your sense of humor has to stay behind (you can even use emojis).
Do you have a digital church sign?
Has your church gone digital with its sign? If so, I want to hear about it! Leave a comment letting me know what’s better about digital, what you miss about your changeable letter sign, and what tips you’d give to a church thinking about making the transition.
Want to read more about connecting your church to your community? Check out these other articles on our church management blog: