Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Writing for church bulletin boards

Church outdoor bulletin boards, the ones with the changeable letters, can be lots of work. Thinking of catchy and interesting things to put on them can take lots of thinking.

A friend sent me a link to the Reader's Digest's 11 Funny Church Signs. This one was the most subtle.

Unintentional humor is worth a chuckle, but writing intentionally amusing or attention-getting titles and quotes is work.

CNN's Belief Blog has a feature called Your Church Signs. Readers send in photos they have taken of church signs they think deserve a larger audience than just those who happen to pass by.

United Methodist churches seem to score a pretty good market share of the signs chosen by CNN. For example, here is a sign from our friends at Old Otterbein UMC in Baltimore located a block or so away from Camden Yards.

Here is a sign from Campbelltown UMC in Campbelltown, Pa., that made CNN's blog.


The Baptists get their share of hits as well, but I am not always sure whether CNN is laughing with them or at them.

I used to be the pastor of a downtown church in Philadelphia, right next to City Hall. We had two outside bulletin boards -- one for the sermon topic and the other for attention-getting quotes. Putting amusing, thought-provoking, or catchy titles and quotes on the boards was a tradition that went back at least 20 years, maybe longer.

It was part of my job description to come up with the quotes.

Because we were right next to City Hall, reporters passed our building every day. One of my sermon titles made it into the Philadelphia Inquirer. The title was  "Jesus' Chutzpah." I recall that it was the title of my Palm Sunday sermon that year. I did a version of that sermon once at Foundry.

A number of our sermon titles and quotes made it into the Inquirer, which was always a thrill. I can't remember all of the quotes that the Inquirer used but I do remember the one I am most proud of. It was a paraphrase of something Frederick Buechner had written.

The bulletin board said: "Sex isn't sin, but then it's not salvation either."

When you come across a church bulletin board that you find interesting, amusing, or provocative, remember that someone probably did a lot of thinking to figure it out. Back in Philadelphia, there were weeks when it felt like coming up with a quote for the bulletin board took more time and energy than preparing that week's sermon.

At Foundry we've come up with a message that we like (although it is a strange thing to have to advertise). It is on the bulletin board by our main Sunday entrance and it has remained the same since 2005 when a pastor in Virginia denied church membership to a gay man who sang in the church's choir. 

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