When Maria Gonzales* moved to Conyers, Georgia, she wanted to find a church she could feel comfortable in, one where the people spoke her language. One day while driving through town she noticed a highway directional sign for the local Adventist Church. That Saturday, she stepped inside an Adventist Church for the first time in her life. What led the way? A simple sign!
Efrain Poloche, pastor of the church, as well as the South Atlantic Conference Hispanic ministries director, has been a longtime advocate of churches having good directional signage. One of the first things he does at each church he pastors is ensure people can easily find the church. This often involves purchasing new signs from the Southern Union sign engineer.
Several years ago, Danny McDonald, the previous Southern Union sign engineer, offered to show Poloche how to install a sign, and provided insights on effective sign placement. This is a service the Southern Union sign engineer can offer churches for free, and Poloche has never forgotten what he learned and continues to apply those skills to the churches he pastors.
Earlier this year, the Southern Union Church Identification Service updated the design of the directional signs. This new design not only reflects the new branding guidelines established by the North American Division, but it also provides strong color accents for high visibility.
But, directional signs are only one of several signs available to churches at reduced pricing.
Robert Boram, an elder at the Morehead, Kentucky, Church, understands the importance of visitors being able to find the church. Morehead Church is located on one of the busiest roads in town, but had been using a banner as their church sign.
One week, a conference administrator was scheduled to be at the church and drove by several times trying to locate the facility. Following this unfortunate event, and the suggestion that the church needed a sign, the church members decided it was time to address the issue.
Last year, they purchased a large yard sign through the Southern Union sign program. All the members had to pay for was the sign and materials, which cost less than if they had purchased it locally, and the sign engineer installed it for free.
Their new sign allows them to place messages inviting the community to church events, or phrases that attract the attention of passersby. Boram says this exposure gets local residents thinking about the Seventh-day Adventist message.
Another benefit of the new sign is it better represents the worldwide Church and the Seventh-day Adventist name.
“In our community, Seventh-day Adventist is a good brand,” says Boram. “The church is active in the community and the community knows who we are. This sign helps people identify the location with the people of the church who have been active in the community and helping out in many different community projects.”
Edward Bryan, pastor of the Macon, Georgia, Church, says, “The sign has a lot to do with the first impression of the physical building and campus.”
“We want it to be something that is more inviting and appealing to see what is going on inside,” says Bryan.
Located near the Warner Robbins Air Force Base, the town has a constant flow of new air force personnel and visitors. Being engaged with the community is an important focus for the church, and the church regularly has community and evangelism events.
“Most of our evangelism we do through connecting with the community, doing community and social types of events,” says Byan.
When the church holds an event that is specifically evangelistic in nature, there is a large pool of contacts the members can connect with. Bryan is excited that the new digital sign will “be able to have the same visual at the front of the church that they saw online, on social media, or got in a flyer.”
In addition, the old sign “has been a real eye-sore and doesn’t give a good presentation of our Church,” Bryan says. The Church stresses evangelism and inviting people to church, and an appealing sign can be an important part of a visitor’s experience.
While the new sign isn’t installed at the Macon Church yet, the members have already completed some other renovations to the campus. It has received several comments on how much better the church is looking.
The work the church members are doing is not just improving the curb appeal. Says Bryan: “People feel like there’s new life in the church and there’s a lot of excitement going on.”
The timing of the church renovations allowed it to implement the new branding for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The updated branding provides ways for churches to have a more cohesive visual brand.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church enjoys a certain amount of name recognition. However, according to a recent audit conducted by a third-party group and commissioned by the North American Division, “we could benefit from greater consistency in church identity and branding.”
Why is branding consistency important? Visual disconnection is often perceived as unreliability. This lack of visual consistency can cause the very people you and your church are trying to reach, to see the church as unreliable.
Aristotle sums up this sentiment when he stated, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
The new design standard provides some guidelines on how a church sign should look, such as the colors used and layout of the logo. While Bryan understands the new brand standard did limit their design choices, he says it simplified their process, while giving the church full creativity over content on the LED sign.
“We have the most beautiful message, and I think that needs to be reflected in all elements of the way we show face to the community,” says Bryan.
Signs are an important way visitors know who you are and where you are located. When you think about your church’s signage, will a first-time visitor see them easily? Will they help the visitor easily find your church? Are the signs attractive and inviting?
Next time you think “it’s just a sign,” remember, you never know who will see it or what impact the sign may have. Hopefully, your church’s signage will help your church have a greater impact in the community, and help fulfill the Adventist Church’s mission.
*Maria Gonzales is not her real name.
is the associate director of communication at the Southern Union Conference.
Southern Union | March 2020