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When Church Signs Suck

September 14, 2006 by

One of the first impressions that a church gives a passer-by is its church sign or marquee. In recent years, it has become chic for churches to quote presumably pithy sayings on these church signs. It is my assessment that most of these church signs “suck” (by CMS’ definition of the word), especially when taking the “Church Marketing” perspective. What follows, then, is a Top Ten List (of sorts) that outlines when church signs suck.

1. When a church sign makes its author seem smarter than or superior to the reader, it sucks. What potentially new parishioner wants to attend a church that humiliates those that read its sign? Example: “It’s a new year, why don’t you do something new: go to church.”

2. When a church sign contains poor theology, it sucks. Let’s do give the world something different to look to, rather than the proverbial same old, same old. We do believe that Christianity is something radically different, right? Example: “Faith in yourself has won many a race: never quit trying.”

3. When a church sign tells a joke that isn’t funny, it sucks. The world already thinks the church is out of touch with our culture’s realities. How exactly are lame jokes helping change that idea? A good rule of thumb is that if you have to question whether a joke is funny or not–it isn’t. Example: “Seven days without prayer makes one weak.”

4. When a church sign tries to sound “deep” but just ends up being confusing, it sucks. Often these church signs fall under the category of what I call “Fortune Cookie Church Signs”. Example: “He who rows the boat doesn’t have time to rock it.”

5. When a church sign makes light of hell, it sucks. Today’s culture doesn’t take the idea of hell seriously at all. Churches who make jokes about it on their sign only make it worse. Example: “Stop, drop, and roll doesn’t work in hell!”

6. When a church sign contains poor grammar and/or spelling, it sucks. A rather sad, new phenomenon (within the last few dozen years or so) that churches are dealing with is the often mistaken idea that the general populace is more intelligent than those involved in the ministry. In older days, priests and pastors were some of the most well respected academics, and I feel that should be the case now. That is sadly no longer true in many parts of the country and world. Poor grammar and spelling on a church sign only proves this point for those that believe it. Example: “Will the road your on get to my place? -God”

7. That last sign reminds me: Church signs that purport to quote God suck. The Bible does such a good job quoting God, do we really want to try and top it?

8. Church signs that ask questions without providing answers? They suck. A common misconception is that a question on a church sign will persuade someone to attend the church in order to find the answer. I have found that it is far too easy for a passer-by to simply turn the question into a rhetorical one, and consequently it can be ignored. Example: “Whose child are you?”

9. Church signs that use outdated pop-culture references suck. This is actually a great way to get a youth group involved (in a small way) in the ministry of the church. If you are wondering if a pop-culture reference is outdated, simply ask the youth group. It will show that the church is not only eager to connect with them on their level, but it is eager to seek their opinion on matters as well. Example: “Walmart is not the only savings place.”

10. Church signs that use homophones in an attempt to appear clever suck. This goes for rhymes, homonyms, alliteration, assonance and all those other fun devices from freshman English class. They are generally not very clever, funny or profound. Example: “No time to pray makes easy prey.”

Most churches would admit that their church signs serve one of four purposes. First, the church sign can encourage current members to attend. Second, it can encourage non-believers or those who currently do not attend church to attend. Third, a church sign may improve the church’s image in the community. Fourth, a church sign can be another outlet for a church to glorify Christ and make Him known. Church signs from the above ten categories do none of those, so why use slogans and sayings like them?

I am often asked, “What then should we put on a church sign?” I have found that the following ideas work very well:

  • Bible verses. (Note: Please choose Bible verses that make sense on their own and do not require a theology degree and three chapters of context.)
  • Service times.
  • News of how the church is working in and with the community. As a special bonus, not taking the time to think up these slogans actually leaves time for a church to work in and with the community.
  • General church news (new pastors, exciting growth, new programs, new buildings, etc.)
  • Upcoming sermon titles, provided they do not breach any of the above 10 categories.

For a rather extensive archive of church signs that suck and reasons why they suck, you can visit Crummy Church Signs. You may also want to check out church sign trivia, the church sign generator, a really sucky church sign and our very own church signs poll.

Post By:

Joel Bezaire

Joel Bezaire is a musician and math teacher who lives in Nashville, Tenn. and attends West End Community Church. His blog and web site, Crummy Church Signs have categorized and commented on over 400 church signs that suck.
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77 Responses to “When Church Signs Suck”

  • Vinny
    September 14, 2006

    Nice list. I would add that if your church sign looks junky (faded letters, hasn’t been painted since Noah got off the ark, night light is broken), it definitely sucks.
    Also, not to be picky, but since you brought up spelling and grammar, the word you want is populace, not populous. Populace is a noun, while populous is an adjective.

  • Joel Bezaire
    September 14, 2006

    Re: Populace v. Populous…
    Exactly why I am not in favor (nor am I in charge) of any church signs!!

  • todd
    September 14, 2006

    so, this is the best post i’ve seen for a while. so funny, and so true and so sad all at the same time…

  • Jonathan
    September 14, 2006

    Thanks for a timely post! We’re a church plant that just launched this past Sunday night. The church building we meet in has a road sign that literally had the example from #5 on it – we were offended by it… and we’re Christians! (imagine how non-Christians must feel seeing it everyday on the way to work…).

  • LJ Scott
    September 14, 2006

    I’m a Christian looking for a church and have disqualified any church with lame marquees as it shows how out of touch they are.

  • Sr. Mary Hasta
    September 14, 2006

    I tried very hard to get a photo of a church sign I saw in Centralia, WA on a trip the other day, but I didn’t want to offend the people who were out there mowing the lawn.
    Painted on their church sign (so they were stuck with it for a while) was, “We’re teeming with life!”
    My first thought was, “A good dose of antibiotics will clear that right up.”

  • Cory
    September 14, 2006

    My recent favorite:
    “Prevent Truth Decay… Brush Up On Your Bible!”

  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    September 14, 2006

    Re: Populace vs. Populous, that’s been corrected. You can pretty much be sure that any spelling mistakes around here are my fault (except for in the comments of course).

  • Bob Brown
    September 14, 2006

    I hated maintaining the church sign.
    Everybody would offer clever phrases and I had a stack of books, but I would typically prefer to post points from last week’s sermon up there.
    I prefer useful over clever any day.

  • David Springstead
    September 14, 2006

    Our church has a new sign which faces the intersection where the building is located. They are using the sermon titles each week which, while safe, are quite boring. I’ve made suggestions of doing other things, but have been “outvoted” by the Sr. Pastor.

  • Matt Farrand
    September 14, 2006

    “Life stink? Try our pews.”
    Really. I’m not making it up.

  • Tim
    September 14, 2006

    Our church sign is guilty of almost all of these and it irritates me every time I see it. My wife and I kinda laugh at how corny our reader board is at times. But how can I show a list like this to the lady who updates the board without totally offending her?

  • Joel Bezaire
    September 14, 2006

    I wouldn’t show her this list, to be honest. Possibly suggesting some of the positive alternatives (towards the bottom) is a better way to go, rather than showing her what is wrong with the current slate of sayings that are posted.

  • Jeff
    September 14, 2006

    I was on a youth ministry discussion board once and the youth workers were literally in competition in trying to out-cute each other on their church signs.
    I suggested that they simply post the service times and that they had great childcare during the service. I might as well of suggested that Jesus was just a good teacher for the grief I got.
    Keep rattling the chains of the greeting card crowd!

  • Katrina
    September 14, 2006

    This is perfect. Our church sign is reserved for functional purposes only (website, service times. upcoming events) and I am so glad for it.
    Another category: Church signs that are smugly superior or dogmatic (not to mention assumptive) suck.
    Real Example: “They Are Not Called The Ten ‘Suggestions’”
    True as it may be, it’s not exactly a way to warmly invite people in.

  • Benjamin Sternke
    September 14, 2006

    Great article. I’d add to #1 that signs that take an adversarial stance with the reader are not likely to gain many visitors. An example I saw once: “Without Christ life is all fun and games until you die and go to hell.” I thought, why not just throw rotten tomatoes at cars that pass by? That’ll have the same affect.
    I posted a few pictures (some real, some fake) of bad church signs in a post on how not to do a church sign a few weeks ago.

  • Perry
    September 14, 2006

    This is one of the BEST posts on this site I have ever seen!!! My two pet peeves are church signs and Christian bumper stickers (maybe another post idea there!)
    Christians have SO MUCH to say…but so many times the way we say it “sucks” & so the world thinks we are a joke.
    Keep up the awesome work–you guys are doing a great job!

  • kelly
    September 14, 2006

    “Weather Forecast: Reign Forever”
    “Come on in! We’re prayer conditioned!”
    No joke.
    Thank God our church always has upcoming events or service times on our sign.

  • Ethan
    September 14, 2006

    How about church signs printed on paper – like a yard sale sign.
    Rain and ink mix all too well.

  • Cory Miller
    September 14, 2006

    My church is in the process of constructing an electronic sign in front of our church right now. And we’re on a busy street next to a mall. The tips were very helpful in thinking this through for me as I’ll be the one maintaining it. Thanks, Joel.

  • Johnny Leckie
    September 14, 2006

    Thanks for posting this!
    I did a similar post in two parts on my blog earlier this year, and the highest number of hits I receive to them are from people searching for “clever sayings for church signs.” Ugh.
    (Find them here: Here’s Your Church Sign and Suggestions For Better Church Signs)
    There’s definitely too much “marquee madness” out there…

  • Daniel Miller
    September 15, 2006

    Ha, that was a great read. My favorite (from a few years back) “God can mend your achy breaky heart”. I kid you not.
    On a funny note the “Stop, Drop, and roll doesn’t work in hell” has been made into a t-shirt by threadless:

  • flod logic
    September 15, 2006

    Not only does this one fall under the stupid joke/pun category, but the potentially condescending category as well. I saw the following on a local baptist church’s sign:
    “Prevent truth decay – read the AV 1611 KJV Bible”.
    A sign is most likely not going to convince many people to want to read the Bible as it is, much less seek out a specific translation that a lot of people will have a hard time understanding! Ugh.

  • Walt
    September 16, 2006

    I’m embarrassed to admit it here, but I thought “Seven days without prayer makes one weak” was funny.

  • Billy
    September 18, 2006

    I have to laugh at a few of the comments. Some folks don’t like Christian bumper stickers, but it’s ok with cars riding around town with stickers on the back promoting their church (aren’t those considered “Christian bumper stickers”)? What’s the difference? Some folks don’t like signs that make lite of the severity of Hell, but yet they infuse humor into their message. I’m not trying to argue for or against the points in the article, but I think it’s kind of hypocritical of some individual’s attitude towards it. As I’ve heard someone say before, “Of course that’s your opinion and you have a right, but you’d be wrong”. Just a thought.

  • Perry
    September 18, 2006

    Hey “Billy” (wink-wink), I would say you missed the point of the article dude. :-)
    Bumper stickers advertising the church name is NOT BAD MARKETING…IF the church does church with excellence. However, bumper stickers with phrases like, “Get saved or microwaved” are ridiculous. One must ask the question, “What is the point of the message?” Like Mark Batterson says, “The best message deserves the best marketing.”
    Also–making fun of hell and using humor in a message…yep, you missed the point of the article not once, but twice my friend. I myself use humor in messages…as well as many other speakers. It’s not that we have a problem with humor…it’s that we have a problem with the stupidity that some churches show in their marketing. I would say telling a well placed joke is a good thing…saying that reading you Bible will prevent “truth decay” is flat out cheesy.

  • Matt Holley
    September 18, 2006

    Ah, the church sign. Growing up as a P.K., my dad would always enjoy coming up with clever sayings for the church sign. He was a very punny and witty person, so they were cute to some, funny to few. I can relate to this blog so well. People who put up the signs need to remember that it is the same as sending an e-mail. Emotion, inflection, and facial expression are not part of the experience.

  • Lynn
    September 18, 2006

    I pass a local church in our community 4 times each day. I wanted so badly to call the church office and plead with them to correct their sign which read…
    “The Ten Commandants are not multiple choice”

  • Jenn
    September 26, 2006

    Two signs I saw today:
    “Be an organ donor, give your heart to Jesus”
    “A day without prayer is like lungs with no air”
    Makes me ill just thinking about it…

  • chuck
    September 28, 2006

    We recently purchased an electronic sign. It has generated both positive and negative comments, but it has been noticed. We have had several people say that they started coming to church because they saw the sign.
    We stay away from cute slogans, we don’t even include Bible verses (which I think shouldn’t be on the sign). We do a Welcome, the time, sermon title, weekly events, and more importantly we list other community events, including other churches on a regular basis. It has become more of a “community sign” as opposed to our church sign.

  • Kenny (blaqenedwyte blog)
    October 7, 2006

    Just saw one yesterday:
    I almost drove off the road.

  • lukas
    October 9, 2006

    One church sign near us read “Hot and Bothered? Its cool inside.” I don’t think they knew what they were saying.
    I blogged a couple of entries from last month, what do you think of these for sign ideas?

  • Gigi
    October 24, 2006

    I have performed google searches in the past on several topics and your website comes up, but I’ve never taken the time to look at it because of your websit name “Church Marketing Sucks”. the word ‘suck’ is repulsive to me and just doesn’t sound like a word a Christian based site would use. So . . . why do you use it?

  • Robyn Tippins
    October 24, 2006

    So many times in our attempt at humor we alienate those who we most want to reach, whether it be on church signs, bumper stickers or Ts.
    Laughing at yourself is ok, but laughing at others, via your holier than thou sign is sad.
    I hope that many people read this post. For what’s funny to us just may result in some real change in the hearts of those attempting to reach the unchurched.
    Thanks for this. I love this blog :)

  • kristen
    November 7, 2006

    OK I confess – I stumbled upon this site because I am in charge of our church sign and was looking for ideas on what to change it to! A few months ago I volunteered to be responsible for changing the sign (what was I thinking??) because I saw it was unattended and now I understand why it was not being updated regulary. It’s not as easy as I thought! After reading this blog I literally ran to church to change the cheesy message that I put up 2 months ago (yep uh huh it sucked). Great blog, helpful info, I’ll be sure to visit again…if I’m not too busy coming up with appropriate, relevant, unoffensive yet meaningful church sign messages.

  • Kayt
    December 2, 2006

    You are the perfect example of the human race: completely ignorant and stupid!

  • Justin McGee
    December 17, 2006

    Church signs are one of my biggest frustrations. I see these all over the place! people have to have the cheeziest sayings on their sign, and for what? To make sure they are the dumbest looking church in town? I actually read this article a couple of months ago, but as I was browsing thru the pages, I had to come check it out again. from what i got from the article, cheeze sayings aren’t necessary at all! i agree!

  • Julie
    January 17, 2007

    Thankyou!!!! I thought I was the only one who 1. hated doing the church sign, 2. after hours of searching through web sites and books to find “clever” one liners could only find cheesy christian sayings I cringed at – thanks for providing a positive alternative. I also thought though that your web site from the title was going to be a “christian bashing” – but I was so desparate to find something decent to put on the sign I thought why not …

  • Matt
    February 23, 2007

    This is in response to the comment that signs with poor grammar “suck”
    1) Writing on a sign needs to be understandable. This is true.
    2)Spelling errors can’t be up there.
    Following these two guidlines though, abbreviated spellings, alternative punctuations, and sentence fragments are ok on a church board. Remember that they are only about 5 lines, or 23 syllables, of space in most cases.
    Besides this, it is much better to have what you say on your board be as short as possible. This allows for reading it by at 40 miles per hour! The shorter the better!
    Another thing to remember is that many signs don’t have every possible punctuation mark. Periods, dashes, elipses, quotation marks, and apostrophes are not found in many sets. Dashes are easy to “make” using white paper and tape and an F. The rest, you can’t. Is it possible to understand the saying perfectly without these? Yes.
    Is it bad grammar? Probably. Remember though, the idea of register. We don’t use the same grammatical conventions, for example when communicating by AOL IM, that we do when writing an essay or a business letter.
    One other thing I’d like to mention is the criticism on “old looking” letters. They are very expensive. It’s not easy to get replacement letter in the budget.
    Of all the things that need doing in a church?! For many congrgations, I’m not sure it is good stewardship.
    I’m sure any church, whose ratty church sign letters that offend you
    would be glad to have you as an anonomous donor to replace them.

  • Donald
    April 1, 2007

    I disagree I feel that anything within the perameters of the Holy Spirit and our Fathers guidance that we should use whatever possible to get an unbeliever to notice God in some way. Jesus Himself used the tools of the day to make his oil, money, lampstands…and so on. “Marketing” in the right spirit is not “sucky”

  • tyty
    April 9, 2007

    I agree with lukas. The word “sucks” is repulsive to me too. It does not sound like a word that Christians should be using. I was not allowed to say this as a child, nor do I still use this word. My children are also not allowed to say this. There could be a better choice of words.

  • Laura
    July 3, 2007

    As I was looking through this page I was amazed to see how much this topic bothers people. It really amazed me. I mean, I always saw the church sign to be a quick little pick me up as you drive by. Granted, I agree about the holier than thou messages, and the ones about hell. But I kinda like the cheesy one liners. I think that all marketing works that way??….I’m just saying this as a minister and as a p.k. I have grown up with this stuff. I always get more positive comments from the cheesy signs (our sundays are better than baskin robbins) than the ones that have scripture or things on it. I don’t feel that churches mean to offend anyone with the cheesy signs. I just think it is something light hearted and is supposed to be fun. I mean I don’t get mad every time I pass a billboard on the highway. Just thought I would throw my two cents out there.

    • Len McLaughlin
      December 27, 2011

      I agree with a couple of comments. The word “sucks”, had a very sexual and repulsive reference when I was growing up, and I gringe at the use of it in this web site. It seems almost comical to me to read all the criticism of “cheesy” and tasteless signs when the most offensive language is on the actual web site?? Also, I too am amazed at the level of negative response to light and humorous sayings. I guess some folks just seem to always have an offended spirit or attitude. So a funny or cute saying is tasteless on a church sign, while our culture embraces “suck”, “sucks” or “sucky” as just fine? Really? Paleeeeeeze.

  • Jon
    August 14, 2007

    I would just like to say I love the cheesy Church signs I see and I have to laugh out loud at those of you who are so offended by them. If you don’t like them that’s fine, but I know plenty of people that do and enjoy reading them, and to dedicate a website to making fun of them and saying they suck doesn’t seem right. You want to talk about our Christian witness, I wonder what non-Christians who stumble on this sight think of you making fun of other Christians and their ideas they put on signs. Some of you (Christians) say the cheesy signs you see make you sick, lol, give me a break. Is all this complaining and making fun of Church signs suppose to help build the unity of Jesus’ body the Church? I think not.

  • Jeanne
    August 20, 2007

    Interesting site. I’m among those who find the “sucky” characterization offensive, but decided to read the entries since I recently volunteered to put sayings up on the church sign…based on the fact that I enjoy seeing them as we ride along in the car. True, some are better left unsaid. Others are food for thought. I am glad I read your site though because it will cause me to be more discerning in what I choose to use on the board. Since we live in a vacation destination spot, for this month ours says “Awesome creation – Awesome Creator!

  • susan
    August 23, 2007

    Hi! I have found this site helpful, by finding out how others feel about church signs. And I will also be more careful choosing when we decide on our new church signs.I will try to be positive,encouraging, & uplifting on it. But, I am one of those that look for and enjoy Church signs. I agree that some are too long,boring, or not that funny. Church should look exciting and inviting. The sign should not remain the same all the time – for too long. When I see a sign changing from time to time…I think “Wow, they are with it.” There is something going on there at that church…they are alive!! Thanks for the info.!

  • ian docker
    September 17, 2007

    We are in the process of installing a new electronic sign so I found the site to be helpful. I agree somewhat with the advice and general responses that people have made for I too get miffed at religious cliches and judgemental statements. Having said that, I’m still amazed what many people find interesting and informative. Therefore, lets not be so overly cautious to the point that nothing creative is evey said or done. Thanks

  • Craig
    September 25, 2007

    ohhh get a life… If church signs suck so much why don’t you do something positive about it. It sucks that you have put all this effort into being negative about church signs

  • Joel
    September 27, 2007

    Heh. Craig is funny.
    “Why don’t you do something about it…”
    What a riot! Thanks, Craig!

  • Trina
    September 27, 2007

    I too have made it my business to update our billboard, and stumbled on this page looking for ideas. Quite honestly, I found this page to be quite discouraging. After reading most everyone’s comments, I’ve decided that I will allow GOD to use me as I decide what to post on the board. Just as in life, I will NEVER be able to satisfy EVERYONE. Even today, I am learning not to depend on other folks opinion as I make decisions for myself. I appreciate everyone’s comments and opinions, but when it’s all said and done…it’s like this…Thanks but no thanks! I got this!
    Be blessed all!

  • Memphis
    December 27, 2007

    As someone who is in charge of our church’s sign and trying to
    constantly come up with witty things to put on the sign:
    Besides that anything you can do to help introduce people to God is good.

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