Positive Picketing

Positive Picketing

September 15, 2010 by

What can a small congregation do when all around us the news is negative and the image of Christians continues to degrade? We can grab our picket signs and hit the streets.

I’m the moderator (council chair) of Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ in St. Joseph, Michigan. A small group of us were gathered to discuss church business a few months back, when the topic of conversation strayed to a certain Kansas preacher and his flock. They’re well known for demonstrating at military funerals in ways that (I think) reflect rather poorly on followers of a doctrine of peace and love.

A sudden thought dawned on me: What if Christians were seen presenting a positive message, instead of a negative one? What if we were perceived in our community as cheerleaders and supporters rather than angry critics?

And the idea of positive picketing was born. Instead of rallying around something we’re against, we rally around something in support of it.

Our church has done three such events so far, picketing a local chapter of the Red Cross, the fire department and a VA outpatient clinic. We meet ahead of time to make signs, we show up and let the “target” of our picketing know what’s going on, and we “demonstrate” on public property showing our support and love.

A few notes on our tactics and lessons learned:

1. Make it quick and easy.
Our approach is to keep it simple. We gather at our church beforehand to make signs. We carpool to the site, let the “target” know what we’re doing and “demonstrate” for an hour. That’s it.

2. None of our picket signs identify the church.
That’s intentional: We do not want any of the immediate attention to be directed to the church. We decided that to self-identify while picketing might be construed as marketing-for-gain rather than marketing-for-message. And this is a long-term project. We intend to keep doing this, once a month or so, and just let the consciousness build in the background.

3. Good locations and good causes.
Targets are chosen for various factors: Service to the community and location of site (drive-by traffic is a big plus) are the two main criteria. Our messages are simple: “Thank You!” “Good Job!” and we always make sure to have a “Honk if you love [target’s name]” sign. Cars honking offers a big boost to the participants and the target alike.

4. Don’t ask permission.
Our first event positive picketing event didn’t even happen because we made the mistake of asking for permission. After weeks of phone tag and negotiations we were turned down—the large local institution thought our efforts would be misinterpreted. Since then we decided that as long as we could do our work from public property we would no longer ask permission.

5. Keep learning and improving
For our third effort we showed up at the local volunteer fire department for our first evening attempt at positive picketing. We got a lot of attention from cars driving by, but we didn’t realize that the fire department would be empty at the time. So we’re still fine-tuning.

Demonstrative Marketing
When we initially discussed different marketing ideas, I kept holding out for something demonstrative. In other words, don’t just tell people what we’re about, or that we’re different from most other churches, show them. That’s what makes positive picketing work.

It all crystallized for me when someone leaned out their car window and asked, “Why are you doing this?” I answered, “Because we can. And because it’s the right thing to do.”

Post By:

Jeff Boes

Jeff Boes is a faithful member of Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ in St. Joseph, Michigan. He's been active in church service and leadership for over 25 years in two different UCC congregations.
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12 Responses to “Positive Picketing”

  • Ian
    September 15, 2010

    I don’t know. When I see a person holding a posterboard sign, I pretty much automatically assume they’re protesting against something and ignore them (except occasionally car washes).

    • Samantha
      September 15, 2010

      I think it’s a fabulous idea, using what others have meant for negative, in a positive encouraging way. Thank you for thinking “outside the box”. I also like that you are doing it for no personal gain, for yourself or for the church, just because it’s the right thing to do. Gives me something to think about.

  • Chris Syme
    September 15, 2010

    This is such a good idea. Our church did this last summer when a road crew was working on the entrance street to our church all summer forcing congregants to find alternate ways to come to church each week. Instead of griping, the last week of the project, the church posted “thank you signs” on the street for the crew and threw them a picnic lunch. It was a huge testimony to the fact that Christians like to bless and not curse, and the people on the crew (and passersby) were encouraged. I am all for this. People will notice the good–people dismiss the bad.

  • Joey Judkins
    September 15, 2010

    I would love to see like 20 people rallying around anti-homosexual picketers with signs that say “God Loves Homosexuals, but hates THIS guy –>” pointing to the “God Hates Fags” dude.

    • Bob Croft
      September 16, 2010

      I don’t think you understand the point of this post. You take on the same charateristic as the person you’re faulting. The point is that you “hate that guy” not God.

  • Brad Blue
    September 16, 2010

    Love this! Such a fun, refreshing idea!

  • Steve
    September 16, 2010

    I like it – it’s a great idea to get Christians promoting a positive agenda!

    In Australia, Outreach Media produces posters that churches can subscribe to receive, that are displayed in custom-made cabinets outside the church.

    By way of example, Australia recently had an election, and with any talk of politics comes the rubbishing of politicians. Outreach Media took a different angle – running with the line ‘Don’t just vote for them, pray for them’. I like this reminder – and it’s a unique perspective that Christians can bring.

    Likewise, their poster last Christmas was also a positive message, that cut through the flood of consumerist messages we’re used to seeing each Christmas.

    You can see a full archive of the posters on their website.

  • Eric
    September 16, 2010

    Pics or it didn’t happen!

  • Shawn
    September 16, 2010

    Love this idea!

  • Jeff Boes
    September 17, 2010

    We also have a gallery of photos from each of the events at our own website. Our next event is 09/21/10, and we’ll be picketing a local police station.

  • Jeff Boes
    September 22, 2010

    Positive Picketing now has its own Facebook page:


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