The other day, on the spur of the moment Caroline and I decided to explore a small town not so far from us. The sun was shining and so we happily strolled through the town. As we walked along the High Street we passed three churches.
We came first to a United Reformed Church: it had a great position in the centre of the High Street, and either side of the imposing main entrance were two large notice boards on which were stuck all kinds of community notices. But apart from telling us the times of the Sunday morning service as also of a daily prayer service, there was nothing which told us about the church and its activities – let alone anything about Jesus.
The second church we came to was the Methodist Church. Here we discovered that the church was blessed with a minister with three degrees – B.A, M.A. and M.Phil. But again, apart from the times of the Sunday services, there was nothing to spark our attention.
Finally, at the end of the High Street was an Anglican church. At the entrance there was a sign which declared: “Here to worship God and serve his community as visible and generous people of Christ” – and underneath was the vicar’s phone number, together with his email address. There was no doubt in my mind that of all the three churches, the noticeboard outside this church was the best.
Still to be fair to the two other churches, they could have been worse. Two years ago I was driving through some old mining villages in South Wales and was appalled to discover that most of the Nonconformist churches had no noticeboard at all, or if they did then there was no information as to the times of their Sunday services, let alone anything else. They were clearly dying churches – and sadly they deserved to die for they had no vision for reaching out beyond themselves.
So what should be on a church noticeboard? In the first place the name of the church should be clearly displayed – this is all the more important for church buildings which do not look like a traditional church. Along with the name, the service times should clearly stated. And of course, passers-by should know that we would be pleased to see them. A simple phrase like ‘Everybody welcome’ is essential. Ideally there should also be directions to a church-website. But more is surely needed.
John Truscott (www.john-truscott.co.uk) has what he calls the ‘Red Dragon test’: He writes:
The go-ahead Red Dragon will of course have a pub sign outside in full colour. But there will be more than this. There will be signs showing menus, special brews on offer, and above all, a large blackboard with carefully painted chalk-like notices to advertise what the house is offering. What about your church? Test your sign-board by top pub standards, not by the other churches down the street…
Are there appropriate black-board or other signs telling you what is on the menu, in language that people will understand and at a size they can read? How many of your present words would be gobbledegook to a typical 30 year old who has never been to a church service?
Test all this not by asking fellow church members what they think, but by stopping real people out in the street and asking for their honest impressions.
The Diocese of Gloucester has two further suggestions:
Think about having a small latest news section where you can display exciting events and interesting details about church life… Why not include a short prayer for your community on the notice-board? Knowing that they are being prayed for can be reassuring for many people and may prompt them to turn to the Church if they are going through a difficult time.
Both these suggestions assume that people will be willing to come close up to the notice-board. Furthermore, both suggestions assume that the church notice-board would be updated every week.
Then there are, of course, what we used to call ‘wayside pulpits’ to attract people’s attention – but that requires a good deal of imagination and creativity. But take care what you put up: some repel rather than attract. Here I have in mind messages such as ‘Be sure your sin will find you out’; ‘Staying in bed and shouting at God does not constitute church’; or ‘When the rapture comes who’s gonna change this sign – will you?’
Church notice-boards should attract? Does yours?
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I like the idea of comparing your springboard to a good pub- welcoming, refreshing, inviting and interesting.