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May 20th, 2010
08:56 AM ET

Pastor-iReporter: How I devise my church sign messages

Editor's Note: After Illinois minister Darrel Brandon submitted one of the most popular pictures in CNN's recent church sign iReport solicitation - of the sign in front of the church he pastors - we asked him to write about how he devises messages for his sign..

By Darrel Brandon, Special to CNN

As pastor with the Illinois Clay City Christian Church, one of my responsibilities is changing the message on the sign in front of the church. But it’s more an opportunity than a responsibility. Our building is on Main Street, the busiest street in town, so hundreds of people see my messages on the sign who will never hear my messages from the pulpit.

I put a lot of thought into what goes on that sign, getting ideas from a variety of sources - including thoughts that come to me during sermon preparation. I must keep in mind that I only have room for 20 characters and spaces per line, with a maximum of four lines.

To keep people reading, I change the sign once a week.

We use it to announce special events at the church and I get teased because as soon as a program is over, I change the sign. I don’t want people driving by and reading about an event that has passed. I’ve been caught at midnight changing the sign. Once a deputy stopped because he thought if someone was messing with the sign at that hour it had to be a vandal.

I want to target the audience that does not typically go to church, so I try to post something catchy and avoid religious jargon.

One sign that caught the attention of the local newspaper was the message I put up after Michael Jackson died last year. It read:

THE KING OF POP
IS DEAD
THE KING OF KINGS
STILL LIVES

The sign that generated the most comments may have been:

COME HEAR OUR PASTOR
HE’S NOT VERY GOOD
BUT HE’S SHORT

My intention was to use a double entendre - to demonstrate a sense of humor and cash in on the fact that many people think sermons are too long. Since I am only 5 feet 6, it seemed to work.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Darrel Brandon.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Houses of worship • Opinion

soundoff (207 Responses)
  1. Steve

    You've prayed and it came true, so god exists? Have you ever prayed and it didn't happen? Don't lie, "righteous-in-christ", you know you have. Everyone has, so it's OK to admit. So wouldn't a more practical conclusion be that is was a mere coincidence that your prayer was "answered" or it wasn't?

    May 22, 2010 at 3:43 pm |
  2. Rob

    We have a pastor that does this locally as well. I am not particularly religious but always get a kick out of what he puts on the sign. A little creativity and humor for what seems to always be such a sensitive subject is always appreciated.

    May 22, 2010 at 12:22 am |
  3. JustAPerson

    Ah, church signs. I wish people would keep them just a little bit serious. I hate obnoxious jokes like, "Stop, drop and roll don't work in hell... come to church!" I cringe when I drive past a sign that displays only some poor person's offensive humor and failure at spelling.

    I like our church's sign. It says "Jesus is Lord." It's not meant to attract people to the church. That's the job of Christians who are truly living a Christ-like life. But I guess having a cool sign can't hurt so long as the message is cute like this pastor's and not offensive like some.

    May 21, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
    • Steve

      I'm an atheist and hate most church signs. But I really like his. It's self-deprecating and cute. The "stop, drop..." is just plain stupid. Unless you're a child AND THEN IT'S TERRIFYING. I know it's fashionable to attack catholics right now about their rampant child abuse, but why stop with them? Shouldn't every religious person who makes these horrible declarations within earshot of children be made to answer for their abuse? Honestly, who in their right mind would ever tell a poor child who has no ability to independently reason, and must therefore accept as truthful without conditions, that they're going to BURN IN HELL if they don't believe in jesus?

      May 22, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
  4. Michael Wong

    That's nice to hear, but do you agree with the sentiment? When I saw church signs saying that Katrina and 9/11 were judgements from God, they struck me as INCREDIBLY tasteless: these people were using disaster and tragedy as an opportunity to sell their religion. Yes, it grabs attention, but it's wrong.

    May 21, 2010 at 8:44 pm |
  5. Esteban Tellez

    Churches all over the place are desperately trying to come up with creative ways to attract more sheep because their numbers-and income- are dwindling at an alarming rate. As we evolve and become more rational as human beings, religion, thankfully is slowly fading. I hope I'll see the day when all religion disappears and falls into obscurity and this scary judeo-christian god joins the pantheon of the Egypian, Greek, and other extinct characters. I'll keep praying for that. lol

    May 21, 2010 at 1:17 pm |
    • Black Jesus

      Though the number of people going to churches is declining the number of people with faith is relativly the high. We're moving away from churches and replacing it with a more personal relationship with God. Going to church every sunday doesnt make you a Christian.

      May 21, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
  6. RE

    I like the signs. It is hard to get people to stop and listen to an actual explanation of who God is. Everyone is so busy trying to set rules by what is in their best interest. Or they have become accustomed to seeing the say Bible/Christian lingo that it means nothing to them. Many times signs that I have seen hold no value to someone who knows nothing or very little about the Bible. We need to rethink how we say things. Little snippets like "come drink the Living Water" mean nothing to some one who doesn't make the connection between living water and Christ.

    Therefore I think that the short little snippets that draw interest, instead of try to give an entire sermonin 4 lines, is a better use of our signs.

    May 21, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
  7. Happy Atheist

    Just got done reading it. It's simple self promotion. That article is about the bible saying how great the bible is.

    May 21, 2010 at 11:37 am |
  8. saydee

    you guys.... It's just a sign.

    May 21, 2010 at 11:15 am |
  9. Formwork

    The reason, in my opinion, that many people "find god" when they are at the bottom is because religion preys on the weak. And, when life's got you by the balls, it's a lot easier to be brainwashed.

    May 21, 2010 at 11:12 am |
  10. Jill American

    Funny ... same exact saying is on a church in my town in NJ this week.
    That Pastor does the same type of signs.

    May 21, 2010 at 9:50 am |
  11. Glenn

    I think this is a great story. I think this Pastor has a great sense of self and is really trying to show others that it is OK to lighten up and have fun.

    May 21, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  12. righteous-in-Christ

    Amen, I don't know this Pastor, but I am proud that he loves God and is reaching out to those who are lost, spiritually. Now, as for those who are spewing their hate and religious comments, this is the work of Satan.

    May 21, 2010 at 9:01 am |
  13. tOM

    Nice one. Should be posted at bill boards.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:57 pm |
  14. righteous-in-Christ

    I sure love what this Pastor is saying! May God bless him and his church!

    May 20, 2010 at 10:19 pm |
  15. MARY

    amazing what one little church sign can do.

    May 20, 2010 at 9:19 pm |
  16. Jeff Schieding

    Pastors need to be more creative these days.

    May 20, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
  17. Mira Ahn

    Well, it looks funny, but at the same time, it is sad. Our Holy name of God has been abused by people. Church sign is not commercial. Chruch sign is not for attracting people. Instead, why don't you write the Scriptures on the Sign? At least, people can read even one verse of the Bible through the sign.
    True gospel needs to be preached to the people.

    May 20, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
  18. Kalie

    Well I had to butt in on an argument, but I saw a funny sign once and wanted to share.

    "God is like coke, he's the real thing." -I saw it about a year ago and it still gets me.

    May 20, 2010 at 6:21 pm |
  19. Scottie V

    well, that logic would make sense, except for the fact that we can prove trees exist, evidence to the contrary would be rather hard to come up with. Where's your evidence of Hell existing?

    May 20, 2010 at 6:14 pm |
  20. Nancy M. B.

    Jesus is coming. Look busy.

    May 20, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.