Why don’t we have green stop signs? This is a simple question with a simple answer. A green stop sign is confusing. Our culture’s sub-text says red means stop and green means go. It is obvious why we don’t have green stop signs. But how many churches and pastors prepare communication pieces that could be considered just that—green stop signs?
Pull out your trusted bulletin/worship folder/program. Look at just the words, your content. Look at the number of words. Do you have an entire paragraph dedicated to asking guests to stay after the service for a “meet and greet”? Have you announced the same youth event in three different paragraphs on three different pages? Now look at the container, the way it is presented; font types and sizes, backgrounds and print quality, inserts and paper color. In an attempt to be thorough and catchy are you using ten fonts three ways with varying sizes trying to make it fit?
Green stop signs. You clutter your message with too many words in too many ways.
Consider why a stop sign works.
First, the content is clear and correct. The transportation people want you to stop. So, they ask you to … stop. They don’t write, “Slow.” Slow isn’t the response they want. They don’t write, “We the D.O.T. insist you desist forward momentum at this time bringing your current conveyance to a halt on this prescribed location.” Ridiculous? Yes. How many words did you use in your announcement Sunday morning? How jam-packed was the slide asking for volunteers? How many words did you put on the billboard you think everyone can read as they drive by at 65 mph? Is it possible your communication is lost because your content is cluttered or unclear? Stop signs work because they say “stop” and nothing else.
Second, the stop sign works because it is red, just red. The container does not hurt the content. It helps the content. A green stop sign still says “stop” but not as effectively. Yes, blue is pretty and less offensive and urban grunge fonts are all the rage but those creative decisions dampen the message’s effectiveness.
The stop sign works because it fits the situation. I’m in a car. I can read it at a distance. It is big enough, bold enough, high enough and neat enough. Your communication might be lost because you haven’t considered your reader’s context.
Pull out your church’s top communication pieces. Look at your invite cards, inserts, bulletins, announcement slides. Do you have any green stop signs? Are you expecting people to understand something when you have made it virtually impossible to receive or take seriously? Use this filter:
- What is the content calling for? This is the response question. If you don’t want people to respond then why are you saying anything? They’re busy.
- Does the container hold the content but not inhibit it? Communication isn’t just the content. Communication includes how you present it. One filters into the next. It isn’t a cool font if it deters your message.
In a world where more and more people are hanging up signs on this metaphorical road called life your church can’t afford to get lost in the crowd. Slow down. Make it clear. Don’t hang a sign people will drive right by.