What is the first thing that catches your eye when you look at this picture? Is it the flower? Maybe the bee? When I walk in the parks, I am attracted to the things that catch my eye; that are inviting enough to get me to stop my walk long enough to admire God’s creativity and take a picture.
What is the first thing people notice when they pass by or visit your church? Does your property’s outward appearance entice people to stop and come in? Does your exterior witness to the God you worship?
It is a challenge to create an appearance that is both attractive and representative. I have coached congregations that struggle with their building and grounds, particularly with making them attractive and accessible. How do churches create spaces that convey the message they want passers-by to receive?
Some churches have flashy signs, or signs with clever slogans or comments. People seem to enjoy cleverness and humor in church signs. They take pictures of the signs and post them online. There has even been at least one book published about such signage. Do these signs work? Do the people who enjoy reading the signs ever stop to check out the church?
Some churches use banners or yard signs to make public statements or advertise events. Typically, these are temporary ways to communicate particular events or activities. They usually work well to get people’s attention for that particular activity and sometimes make clear statements about a mission or belief of the congregation.
Signage is not the only way churches can communicate. Landscaping also makes a statement about who the church is, as does architecture, outdoor furnishings, and the condition of the buildings. What does the exterior of your campus say to folks passing by?
Congregations like to think of themselves as friendly and welcoming. However, if people drive by your facilities without taking notice, they may never know how friendly and welcoming you are. How do the building and grounds reflect the welcome of the church?
Consider these ideas:
Put together a team of folks with the skills and interests to evaluate the church exterior and make recommendations on how your space can better communicate your identity. Evaluate everything — buildings, landscaping, signage, and parking.
Be generous and clear with directional signage so that guests know where to park and enter the building. If you have multiple entrances, label each one with what guests will find once they enter. Once they enter, have signs directing them to different locations (sanctuary, nursery, educational wing, etc.) When there are activities like worship services, have a volunteer at each entrance to assists guests.
Be invitational, purposeful, and playful with outdoor messaging. List worship times and special events, but also consider ways to draw people in.
If you have a large campus, have volunteers in the parking lot as well as at entrances.
Consider an outside sitting area or meditation garden, and be clear that the public is welcome to use them. Have some type of informational station that informs guests about your congregation.
Whatever you decide to do, start with the question, “What do we want our exterior to say about the God we worship?”