For an entire month, there was the picture of an overstuffed chair by a fireplace on a billboard located next to the busy highway going into the downtown of a vibrant and relatively large Midwestern city. The billboard had only the picture, no wording, and the fireplace did not have a fire in it. For the second month a dog, curled up in the chair, was added to the billboard, but there was still no wording, and the fireplace was still not lighted. Day after day as people passed the billboard going into the city, they looked up at the billboard for clues that would reveal the billboard's significance.
The billboard became the subject of discussion throughout the city and suburbs -- at service clubs, small talk before and after business meetings, around water coolers and copy machines and in break-rooms, among car poolers, on radio talk shows and newscasts of radio and TV stations, at dinner tables back home after work and even at schools and colleges in the area. And the state highway patrol issued warnings of traffic slowdowns due to "gawkers block" during rush hours. For sixty days there was a billboard on a busy highway that thousands of cars passed every day with no clue as to its meaning or who was sponsoring or paying for it. What could its meaning be?
Finally, at the beginning of the third month, the mystery was resolved. The following words were superimposed across the picture of the dog curled up in the chair in front of the fireplace that was now lighted: "They sure know how to take care of a fella at the First Lutheran Church." The church got high marks throughout the area for the billboard -- and also got results: reportedly weekly attendance and membership increased significantly.
Ministers and members of their congregations may want to do more creative advertising of that nature, but their churches do not have the money to rent highway billboards. That may be the case. But many churches already have a billboard of their own in the form of an outside bulletin board, and how that bulletin board is maintained and used advertises the general nature of the church.
Having short messages that are informative, relevant, meaningful, and positive and are changed weekly indicates that here is a church that truly endeavors to meet the changing needs of people in today's daunting world. On the other hand, one may deduct that the bulletin board that is never changed and not well kept is indicative of a stagnant, uncaring and irrelevant congregation.
The following are several examples of quips for outside bulletin boards that have received favorable comments and positive results. These short squibs were meant to help people understand that Christianity, in addition to being concerned about the condemnation of sin and the everlasting salvation of the soul, is a positive religious faith that helps people live more worthwhile, productive, and happy lives while here on earth.
• Some minds are like concrete -- thoroughly mixed and permanently set.
• Where one goes hereafter depends largely upon what one goes after here.
• Folks with a lot of brass are seldom polished.
• Beware of a half-truth; you may end up with the wrong half.
• Whenever the going seems easy, it's good to make sure you're not going downhill.
• The best way to get even is to forget.
• Rumors are easy to float and hard to sink.
• Temper is a valuable possession. Don't lose it.
• Don't give anyone a piece of your mind. You need it all yourself.
• What is the biggest room in the world? The room for improvement.
• If you want to avoid criticism, then do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.
Sometimes it is not what is on the bulletin board, but what is missing, that is significant. Many outside bulletin boards do not have the times of the church's worship services. How do people not well acquainted with the church know what time the worship services are? Not including such information indirectly indicates that the church is not particularly interested in having non-members and visitors attend worship or other activities. Or in some instances, the worship times are in such small letters that it is almost impossible to read them when driving by in a car. And there should be a telephone number and a website address that people can go to find out times of worship and other information about the church.
Another item frequently missing on the outside bulletin board is the title of this week's sermon or the theme of this week's Sunday service. Posting this information weekly lets people know that the church services are not monotonous or static in nature, but change from week to week. Doing this requires the preaching minster to be creative in selecting sermon titles that are inviting and informative. It is also nice to have outside bulletin boards lighted at night.
There is so many ways that the outside bulletin board of a church can be used to influence the lives of people and to advertise the services, activities and general nature of the congregation. And for those churches that now have an electronic bulletin board, there are even more imaginative ways of keeping the passing public interested in what is posted on your bulletin board.
Maintaining an outside bulletin board and keeping it relevant takes considerable time and effort. This is something that the minister and members of the congregation can work together on and share responsibility for.
• The church has many willing people: some willing to work and others willing to let them.
• The kicking mule cannot pull.