CPU – the Campaign for Prominent URLs

Can they read your church site URL from a vehicle?

If your church website has been written with outsiders in mind, obviously you want them to visit your site. There are many ways to tell people, including contact cards, search engine optimization and paid-for Ad-Words (which can be targeted very precisely, based on searches about your own town name). But the basic, easy, no-brainer is to display the church URL on the wall of the church building or street-side noticeboard, large enough to be easily read by those in passing vehicles.

How many churches actually do this? One in 10? One in 100? It’s not very many. Please church leadership teams, sit down and work out how to display your URL in large letters and fulfill the ‘Campaign’ target. The fact that a motivated person could google for your site is beside the point. Many are not motivated, yet if they see your URL often enough, they may take the step. Others may not realize you have a website. (It is also surprizing how few retailers yet display their URLs next to the shop name.)

“And the Lord answered me and said, Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets that everyone who passes may [be able to] read [it easily and quickly] as he hastens by.” – Habakkuk 2:2 (Amplified Bible)

It does not need to be quite as big as the one above, but the bigger the better! Eyecatching, memorable, and easily readable when in a passing vehicle.

You can also use A-frame boards where appropriate to attract people on the street. Consider too an SMS Short Code [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Short_code].

More signboard strategies

The vital nature of church signage – ie. the street-side notice-board for passers by – is often overlooked. This (and the church website) are the church’s public interface with the world, the ‘shop window’ that most people will encounter first. A faded, peeling sign-board is an instant turn-off. So is a solemn graphic and lettering style which would have looked old-fashioned 50 years ago. Sign-board design should never be done by amateurs – get a professional in! Attractive boards are not a minor luxury, but a foundational necessity.

Include space for rotating and seasonal messages in text large enough, and angled correctly, to be seen clearly by people in passing vehicles. Many church signs are only readable by pedestrians. If the nearest road is a 6-lane highway, the sign needs to be big.

Tony O’Hagan shares his experience of maintaining church signs: “An important principle that we embraced was that people would get turned off and not bother to look at the sign if it only ever had a religious message. In a way, we used a kind of bridge strategy. In rotation, we’d try to put up messages that were: (a) comedy (b) wisdom (c) sgently spiritual. Some of the best quotes were a combination of these. We figured that this would hold the interest of most motorists while clearly delivering a consistent spiritual challenge. It was a window into the community.

“We felt it important to communicate our concerns for things like recent disasters, or emphasise the importance of family over other things like work or money, or highlight the value of forgiveness, or dealing with emotions such as anger. This, I believe, lays the foundation of interest and trust for when we present a spiritual challenge or an offer of God’s forgiveness and love.

“Also, putting up an easy-to-remember website URL on the church sign board is an under-utilised evangelistic strategy. You are very limited in what you can communicate via the church sign – but as an introduction to the website it can become a key that unlocks a universe! And you are highlighting that there is a very obvious local place to get spiritual follow-up if the website should bear fruit.

“I used a database with well over 1000 quotes and an online PHP/MySQL program that I wrote to select and manage them. Because it runs on the Internet it allowed anyone in our team to select quotes and record what they selected and when each quote was last used. We can use the database to search for quotes on a theme (keyword search), and also limit our search to those that had either not been used for selected period of time (e.g. 3-5 years) or never used. Years ago I wrote a simple MS-DOS/BASIC program to avoid the laborious task of counting letters to find a pair of quotes that did not exceed the number of letters that we had in stock!”

A GoogleDocs spreadsheet could achieve a similar function.

Sources of quotes

701 Sentence Sermons (by L James Harvey, Kregel Publications, ISBN 0-8254-2887-4) offers ‘single sentence sermons’ – quotations and aphorisms – which have been collected together by Harvey to “use on church signs, bulletins, newsletters and sermons”. In fact, many could be useful on church websites, on a rotating basis. Many are specifically evangelistic, others are motivational for Christians.

The book includes two chapters on the vital and often overlooked ministry of maintaining a church sign-board, and explains current sign-board technology and the options which are now available.

Australian writer Grantley Morris has put together a useful list of evangelistic one-liners. They avoid the pitfalls of being trite, slushy or religious.

Use humor

Humor can smuggle ideas and questions into people’s hearts. Furthermore, it is biblical and we have mandate to use it. Make sure though, that your attempts at humor are not cringe-worthy and lame. Ideally, test them on some outsiders who will give you honest feedback.

Pass it on

If you think this is a campaign worth promoting, please pass it on by email, blog about it, republish this page, etc.

If your church displays a really prominent URL, please send us a photo we can add to this page.

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