7 Easy Ways to Put a Not Welcome Sign on Your Church

church sign 1

I was running recently on a route I’ve run many times, but I missed this sign until this particular run. It was too “good” not to stop and take a picture with my phone.

I saw the sign and the first word that popped in my head was “Closed”. As another sign I saw in a store window said recently (which I don’t completely understand) “Closed for Business”. (How can you be closed “for” business?)

None of us would intentionally place a sign like that on our church doors. “Closed for business”. I’m sure that’s not the intent this church has with this sign. Yet I’m certain that some of our practices serve the same purpose.

Over the years, Cheryl and I have visited dozens of churches. Whenever we travel we try to find a church. I’ve spoken at and consulted with a lot of churches. All types and sizes.

From personal experience — here are some ways you can place a closed sign to visitors on your church.

Only do “church” on Sunday. Don’t attempt to build community with people who attend — especially not with someone new to “the community”. Let people know by your actions — or lack of actions — that you’re comfortable with the people with you now and there is little room for new friendships. Don’t reach out to people you haven’t seen in a while. We recently visited a church, filled out a visitor card, and only placed our email and phone number on the card. Two months later we have yet to hear from anyone.

Don’t act like you’re happy to see people. Have no one greeting in the parking lots or at the doors. I once was the guest preacher at a church. Not one person greeted us in the church. I literally had to go find somebody to tell me when to preach. Not one other person besides the person I found ever spoke to us. I realize that’s the extreme but I wonder how many times visitors feel that same way in our own churches.

Confuse people. Display confusing signage or, better yet, none at all. And, don’t think about using people as guest hosts. I can’t tell you how many churches we have been to where it was very confusing which door to enter and where to go once we entered the door. At times, if I weren’t the speaker — as an introvert especially — I might have left. Just being honest. I have to be honest even more and say that was somewhat true of the church where I am pastor now. Hopefully we are making strides towards correcting that with signage and people.

Make it uncomfortable for visitors. If you really want a closed sign up, everyone should talk to the only people they know. It’s either that, or you could make visitors feel very conspicuous. Have them stand up maybe — or raise their hands — and keep them up until an usher comes by.

Have your own language. Use acronyms. Yes acronyms please. Just pretend like everyone already knows what you’re talking about. Don’t differentiate between VBS and vacation Bible school. Everyone knows that, right? And, use names during the announcements that no one knows but the regulars without any explanation of who they are.

Have closed groups. And don’t start any new ones. When any small group has been together more than a few years — with no new people entering the group — it’s a closed group. A new person coming in will not feel welcome. They won’t know the inside jokes. They don’t know the names of everyone’s children’s. They feel left out when personal conversation begins.

Beat people up without giving them hope. Be clearer about how bad they are than how great the Gospel is.

Those are a few of my suggestions. If you’re looking for a way to put up a closed sign.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Add video comment

Have you Subscribed via RSS yet? Don't miss a post!

20 thoughts on “7 Easy Ways to Put a Not Welcome Sign on Your Church

  1. While most of your points are good ones, having "No Parking" signs are not a good measure of welcoming. In our case, we are next to apartments, and we tried to be lenient with tenants. They repeatedly left our lot a mess, leaving trash all over, oil leaks, etc. It eventually go to the point that on Sunday mornings, almost 1/2 of our lot was filled with cars of people who lived in the apartments meaning that we ran out of room to park. On snowy days, parked cars meant that our lot could not be plowed, or at least that half of it would have to be shoveled if the people ever moved their cars. We had to put our proverbial foot down on the matter.

    There are other good reasons, such as insurance to prohibit parking.

    However, pastors and regulars should be park in the furthest spots, leaving the closer spots for others to park in.

    • The real key here is not the sign. Its the content on the sign. Just like a door you don't want people to enter. You can say do not enter. Or you can say please use other entrance. It's the way you communicate don't.

      • Thanks. Obviously, it's not the sign, but the content of it. But remember, you can ask people to do something all you want, but until there is some level of enforcement, you have no ultimate leverage. In our situation, we had asked people not to litter, not to leave messes, not to park there on Sundays, and to move their cars when it snowed. I had talked to many of them personally on several occasions. In snow storms, I would leave letters on their cars asking them to move so we could plow. It didn't work. We had to enforce it (only once or twice) and then people got the message.

        In the case of parking, I am not sure how it could be worded any better. We considered a number of ways to word a sign so that it wouldn't be prohibitive or sound negative. There was just no way to do it that we could come up with.

        I took your approach for several years against the desires of the leadership team, and it backfired on us.

  2. We changed our signs from "Church Parking" to WELCOME! We are across from a hospital and have an agreement with them, allowing their employees to park in one of our lots and our employees to park in their lot (these lots are actually closer to the entrances employees use in each case.) The only time this is not possible is when we are having a funeral or some other event during the day. Then, we do have to put chains across the lot for part of the day, until the event time. This allows our members and guests easier access to the church. However, most of those in the downtown area on weekdays know that this is the only time the chains are up. One of our other lots is near a bar and it has a WELCOME sign also. That lot is often utilized by the bar patrons, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. But instead of telling them CHURCH ONLY, we want them to know they are welcome here.

  3. While I totally agree with you on all of these, I do feel I should point out that in some places the “Church parking only” signs are required. Our last church was not allowed per the city to let anyone park in our lot except for church business – it was right across the street from a major university and I guess they didn’t want private groups profiting from parking availability. They tried to push back to no avail. Certainly not all with such signs would be in that boat and I don’t disagree with you that it’s off-putting, just saying perhaps there actually IS a good reason.

    • And, yes, there may be a legal requirement in some places. That's not the case with this one but I certainly understand your point.However, even with that being said, the way you say something often lowers the boom. Perhaps you say, according to state law we are not allowed to let you park here. Maybe you even have the word please on the sign.  But I do understand your point, I would just simply have to look for a better way to say it. 

  4. I've seen chains across church driveways. I have to think that those churches had some pretty good reasons for locking up but still, the message is not welcoming.

    • There's one in our community and the area actually could use the parking lots during the week to promote commerce in the district. The same district they probably review the most support from. 

  5. I hate to see verses posted outside a church like "The wages of sin is death…" So disheartening. I don't know why they would expect anyone to feel welcome because of seeing that.

  6. We have been visiting several churches lately looking for a new church home and the one thing that I wish that more of them would do is introduce themselves before they start speaking. There may be several people that come to the platform and lead singing, read scripture, announcements, pray, and preach. Who are you? Are you the pastor? or the assistant pastor? Who just prayed for sick or the offering? A deacon? A pastor? A layperson? Who are you people?! Yes members know who you are but the visitors do not.

  7. I visited a church last Sunday where not a single person spoke to me the entire time. I found it hilarious after a while and wondered if anyone would say anything to me before the night was over…and I walked out without even a man who bumped into me saying "excuse me."

    As for making visitors stand up…well…if a church does that, I will NEVER go back there. A corollary to that is a church hosting an event and then forcing everyone to "contribute" to the gathering in some way. Some of us visiting a new place want to get a feel for it, not be put in the spotlight right away.

    • I so agree. Thanks. And, in fairness, you could have easily been in our church, sat in some sections, and got away without anyone speaking to you. I've heard from a few who that happened to — but, as a whole, that's rare in our church, thankfully. We do a pretty good job of talking to people. And, as an introvert, I strive not to put people on the spot when they are new. It's always a work in progress. Thanks for sharing.