There’s a critical lesson that every one with a church website needs to be aware of. This lesson is in the form of a parable.

The Parable of the Church Sign

It all happened at a small community church where there was a pastor, a congregation, and a business meeting. The community church had been in existence for a few years, but had see no real growth. There were only 48 people coming to the Sunday morning service each week. The pastor had to work another job in addition to his role as the pastor of the church. During this particular business meeting, they decided that they needed a church sign. Surely, that could be used as a tool to advertise their church and then grow in size.

So, they allocated a lot of money to buy a very nice letter sign. It was emblazoned with the name of the church, the service time, and the pastor’s name. Next week, the sign installers came, dug a hole, installed the sign, and gave to the church a big package of letters to go in the letter sign. The church members were excited. The pastor had the honor of placing the first message in the letter sign:  COME TO COMMUNITY CHURCH: SERVICES EACH SUNDAY AT 10:30AM.

With joy and pride, the 48 people came to church the next Sunday, beaming with glee at the shiny new letter sign. Undeniably awesome. There was the pastor’s message, tall black letters neatly arranged against the pristine white of the letter sign. It was a beauty. After the sign was installed, a few more people visited Community Church. The sign was working.

The only problem was that putting letters on the sign became more of a chore than a delight. Usually, the pastor forgot, because he was very busy. Some people volunteered to help out, but they forgot to put up new messages, too. Sometimes, the church would have arguments during business meetings, because some people wanted to put up funny religious slogans like “how would you like your eternity, smoking or non-smoking?” Other people thought that the religious messages were corny, and they wanted to put up lengthy quotations from the Puritan writer John Owen and the Christian writer Abraham Kuyper.

Some people even put up messages, but made terrible misspellings that created severe embarrassment for the church.

Mostly, though, the church stopped updating their sign. Eventually, the letter sign wasn’t as noticeable to the people of the church. It didn’t catch their eye like it used to when they drove to church. They didn’t even notice when the sign had a new message…which wasn’t all that often.

During the summer, they decided to update the sign to announce VBS:

After VBS, the entire church was exhausted from the busy week. And they forgot to update the sign. Winds came. Rains came. More winds came, and the poor letter sign lost a few letters. To make matters worse, Pastor Smith had to resign, and a new pastor came in. His name was Pastor Jones. The sign now had the wrong information! Then, they decided to change the service times to 11am since they found out that people were sleeping in too late and were missing the 10:30 service

Eventually, the letter sign became more of an eyesore to the church than an invitation to the church. It fell into disuse, and eventually had the opposite effect. People would drive by, glance at the sign and think, “Hm. I don’t want to go to that church. They don’t update their sign very regularly. I wonder if they closed down. Too bad.”

Other people would drive by and think: “I wonder what a Sea Ent is.”

Only five visitors came to see the Sea Ent, but they left halfway through the service, disappointed that they hadn’t seen the Sea Ent. To make matters worse, one of the biggest families in the church had to move to another state, and they church only had 31 people after that. (It was a big family.)

The end.

The Moral of The Story:

The  moral of the story is not that you need to update your church sign. this is a parable. We’re talking about church websites. This parable speaks to the need to update your church website. I’ve seen churches who excitedly make a website, often paying a lot of money to get it professionally designed. Then, they forget about it. Like a church sign with missing letters and outdated information, the church website falls into disrepair. Instead of a positive presence on the web, the church website has the opposite effect. With erroneous information, old-school graphics, flashing fonts, and poor coding, the website makes people disinclined to visit the church.

The Brief Moral of the story:  if you have a website, keep it updated.

Oh, but if you do have a church sign, keep it updated. (And, please don’t use cheesy religious slogans.)

If your church website is old school or too hard to update, you can have one with your Sharefaith membership.

Church sign images courtesy of Says-It.

About The Author

Daniel Threlfall has been writing church ministry articles for more than 10 years. With his background and training (M.A., M.Div.), Daniel is passionate about inspiring pastors and volunteers in their service to the King. Daniel is devoted to his family, nerdy about SEO, and drinks coffee with no cream or sugar. Learn more about Daniel at his blog and twitter.

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