I was recently in a church that had several signs posted about not bringing food or drinks in the worship center. I asked a guest what he thought of the signs. His response was telling: “I think they are telling me they don’t want to clean up my mess.”
From that perspective, the sign was a negative sign for the church. At least from one person’s point of view it meant, “Don’t bother us.”
Many churches, however, have positive signs posted around the church facilities. Unless you are a curmudgeon, these signs would give you a favorable impression of the church. My comments after each sign reflect the message it would likely communicate.
- Guest parking. We welcome guests at our church. We want to treat you like a guest in our home and demonstrate our hospitality.
- Allergy alert. These are the snacks we will be serving your children. We care about them and their wellbeing. If they have allergy problems, we will gladly offer them an alternative snack.
- Expectant/young mother parking. We care about families. We especially understand the challenges young mothers have, and we hope this convenient parking helps a bit.
- Public welcome to this playground. We did not build this playground as just a perk for our members. We want all of the community to know they are welcome here.
- Guest welcome center. We always have someone at this welcome center during church activities. We have placed it at the entrance so you can walk right up and ask us any questions. We will also provide you information on our church.
- You are welcome to take a Bible. We want everyone to have a Bible. We provide these Bibles as our gift to you.
- Covered drop off. During inclement weather, we want you to have a place where you can drop off members of your family. This drop off is also available for those dropping off senior adults.
I love hearing from you readers. Let me know of some “positive signs” in your church.
Posted on February 3, 2016
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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I appreciate any sign that is welcoming and informing, to both guests and regular attenders.
That said, I understand why food and beverage (with the exception of water) are not allowed inside the sanctuary. The sanctuary is not a movie theater where eating and drinking and chit-chatting abound. It is a place where we can set aside worldly distractions and focus on worshiping and praising God. He — not our snacks and cell phones — deserves our full attention. There are plenty of other places within the church facility or campus where we can gather for food and fellowship. The sanctuary should remain “a place set apart” without anyone (guests or members) getting offended.
Margaret, this is a great way of putting this and I agree with you. I’m working on a sign that doesn’t sound rude in regards to the food, drink, gum, cell phones in the sanctuary.
Shalom – I came across this discussion today and wondered if you ever came up with a new sign regarding food&beverages?
I am a young pastor, and have all ways tried to look at the church in this manner. That the church building is a tool for the body of Christ; the people of the church are Holy and sanctified not the building. Tools that get used, get dirty and warn down. We should do our best to use our tools well though, so thank you for this list of how to label our tools so that all feel free to use them.
Superb! I am going to implement.
To me the sanctuary is a place of worship and as such should be treated has a holy place. Moses was instructed to remove his shoes for the place was holy ground because of the presence of God. The temple was a holy place with a most holy place within its midst, and it was expected to be treated as such. With that said the issue of food and drink is an issue of respect for the holiness of the place where we meet to worship God. We teach manners to children and we should reflect those manners, especially when meeting with God in communion and worship. I feel it is offensive, possibly offensive to God such as being on a cell phone is with other company or smacking gum while talking, to come into a holy place to worship God crunching on snacks and drinking coffee etc.; with the exception of small children and the possible need of some to have water or mints to keep their mouths from being dry and stop a cough. How do you convey this idea in a positive way through signage? Is it possible that not all signage can get its message across with positive language? I would really like to know your thoughts on this, and anyone else’s thoughts on this. Thanks.
I just thought of a possible way to word it. How about, “Please finish food and drinks before entering to worship”? What are your thoughts?
It’s a building – not a sanctuary. God did have a holy place; now He is suppose to have a holy people. Buildings are to be used to help people. When we take our buildings and turn them into temples we begin to worship the building. Be a good steward of the building, but the best stewardship of any building is using it to help people.
Thanks for your response Bob. I guess I wasn’t as clear as I thought. I wasn’t implying turning the buildings into temples. I was speaking more in terms of respect for God’s presence when we gather to worship in a place designated for that purpose. My concern is not that these are not brought into the building. To that yes I agree it is only a building.
When Christ was crucified, the veil to the Holy of Holys was torn into. From that point forward, we are able to be in the presence of God through his Son. The church building is not a place that we have to go to worship God. We do that every day in our work, home, sitting at the dining room table with our family. The church building is not the Church, the people are.
Let me make another point on this also. Once, a teenage boy stepped into our Worship Center. He had been repeatedly asked by a member of our Youth Group. He was lost! Ever so lost! He made the mistake of wearing a ball cap into the worship center. A gentleman come up to him and asked him to remove it, the teenager was shocked, and did not do it. The gentleman told him that if he wouldn’t remove it, then he wasn’t allowed in the worship center. The teenager left.
When we make the building more important than sharing the gospel, we diminish the Kingdom of God. Food, drinks, while they can be messy to the worship center, they are a small price to pay to grow the Kingdom!
Thanks for your comment Gary. I agree the gentleman was wrong in what he did and said. I was pastor of a church in which VBS kids were wearing beach hats to go along with the theme of VBS. One of the deacons took offense and had them take them off. I only became aware of it after the fact. I never intended to make the building more important than the gospel or people. I was speaking more in terms of gathering to worship in a place designated for that purpose; not any other time than that. I think I wasn’t as clear as I originally thought. I hope that I more made it more clear.
Thank you for your clarifying comments, and I truly understand you wanting to respect the building and not have the distractions of food and drinks in the worship center. I was raised in church, and I cannot bring myself to feel comfortable bringing drinks in during times of worship. But that is the value system I was raised with. Lost people do not have the same value system. When we impose our values on others, we are asking them to conform. Is it not greater to be as open and inviting as possible to share the Gospel. If it’s food and drink, then it’s ball caps, then it grows to only suits and ties or Sunday dresses. We can not reach the lost if we only reach out to them when we are comfortable with their behavior.
Again, thank you for clarifying your comments.
Well put…there is a place and a time for everything. Even in our own homes, we have guidelines for where and what we do. To me, it’s not worshipping the building, it’s respecting.
Thanks John. That was my point. It was in reference to respect for the presence of God in worship more than just not having food and drinks in the building or place designated for worship.
If you think that God gets offended at our worldlyness you should hear what Jesus said to those who tried to be righteous. Sorry David but the presence of God isn’t in your sanctuary it’s in those believers who show up every week. And the power of God is in His Word. Sanctuary’s are not Biblical they are man-made and many times they are idols.
Well… according to the New Testament, you are the temple of the Holy Spirit and you are the church. So, no more sacred places. Unfortunately, we’ve allowed the “temple model” to remain when Jesus abolished it with His death and resurrection and the establishment of a brand new movement called the “church.” So, we teach our congregation that the buildings are not sacred… you are sacred. God has blessed us with wonderful facilities and we are to be good stewards of those said facilities, but we do not memorialize or call them holy and sacred…. they are just buildings that will one day fade away.
Hi David, I understand your comment, I too feel as you and understand everyone else too. I’m working on a “positive” sign for the food, drink, gum policy and that’s how I came across this post 🙂
We have the blessing of an old, tired too small building. While we wait for the new one, coffee, tea, cookies and the notorious “red church juice” abound between services. No problem. Probably an attitude we need to carry to the new building. Nothing communicates like being ready to make people feel at home (even if it means some clean-up after the guests are gone home).
Not judging, just saying that functioning in a building soon to be torn down gives a ‘hospitality freedom’ that we’re having fun with.
We welcome those with special needs.
Many families won’t attend a church where their special needs children are not cared for.
Good list. Sometimes a church can be held captive by their facilities.
We have designated visitor parking but it is filled with our own elderly handicapped. Our campus has one handicapped accessible entranceway and our congregation is majority retired plus.
I wonder what the church liability will be if a child is hurt on an unsupervised playground like you mention as #4.
The fact that your building says its a church makes you a liability . fear of lawsuits wont be an excuse for those who didn’t evangelise the lost at judgement day.
I get what you are saying about the playground. But for security purposes we have to keep it in a secured area. Can’t really have the public coming in on Sunday mornings to use the playground at will and keep our kids secure at the same time. But great list!
You afraid of the public?
Unfortunately given the prevalence for children to be hurt (and I am not talking about falling off a swing) by adults and other children, I would say that depending on the community… location… etc. It could be a grave concern. Child abuse, sexual misconduct and abduction are all to real in our world and a reality that CANNOT be ignored simply because we are a church. How well can a church serve a community and evangelize if someones child if hurt in such a manner at the church?
I am certainly not advocating closing the community out… but steps and precautions need to be in place to ensure the safety o f ALL using the facility PRIOR to allowing open access.
In some ways… YES THE PUBLIC CAN BE SCARY!
I loved your post about the signs. It would seem the critical component is in positive wording. Look at how many of the signs used the word “Welcome”. The only stern wording was used to alert folks to a possible danger. (Allergy alert)
Most of those signs you listed could easily be re-worded to be less friendly-sounding. For example, “Guest parking”, which sounds like a lovely perk for guests, could just as easily say “Guest Parking Only”. That suggests that, unless the members are instructed otherwise, they won’t leave a space for guests.
I believe the takeaway from this is that there are positive ways to say just about anything – and it’s worth the extra effort to consider that when making and posting signs!
Making a positive first impression is crucial and I love these sign ideas. I do have a question about the food and drink sign. We are considering building a new worship center. The trash from food and drink is not so much a problem as the stains on furniture and carpet from coffee, sodas, and even mustard! What is a positive communication that can be used here?
May I share a story?
As a young minister I was called to serve a church as thier Youth Pastor. They had just completed an addition which included a gymnasium and Fellowship Hall. At my first deacon’s meeting the subject of the flooring was brought up. It seems the children of the church and community were marking up the floors. There was a motion to not allow the children to wear certain shoes, and no food or drink in the gymnasium or Fellowship Hall (lol). It appeared the motion was going to pass. Most of the men were concerned about the flooring being ruined. If the children didn’t start taking better care of the what God had provided then they were not going to be allowed back in until they learned to respect the house of God.
One of the elderly deacons rose from his seat without any fanfare. Walked over to the middle of the floor (We had moved from the conference room to the Fellowship Hall to survey the “damage.”). He slowly got down on his knees, pulled out his Case XX pocket knife and began cutting the lenolium floor.
I can still remember how I felt: terrified yet happy.
He stood back up and said, “There. Now you don’t have to worry about the children ruining your precious floor. And if you want to kick me out until I learn better that’s fine. Just tell me now.”
I’ll never forget that day…or the days to follow.
I love that story! That is awesome!
Who wants an unused church? When you find one in sure it will be vacant. Praise God for those willing to clean up after me. Now that I can do the same for others.
That brought tears to my eyes! I’d love to hug that man!
“As God’s stewards of this facility, we ask all food and drink stay in the welcome area.”
Our church has a sign for “Nursing Mothers” in what we call our “Living Room”. It’s a room meant for Bible studies or small social gatherings but it’s quite comfortable with a couch, loveseat, and some chairs. Plus we have a privacy screen up so passers-by can’t look in. It gives the mothers much needed privacy. Oh, and we have a sound system in there so they can listen to the message while comfortably taking care of their babies. Thank you for your ideas!
I like it!