March 4, 2018

Intended Audience of Church Reader Boards

St Mary, Ellingham, Norfolk - Notice board - - 1500728
John Salmon / St Mary, Ellingham, Norfolk
Most of the churches I drive by every day (and there are a lot of them here in Mississippi) have electronic reader boards. A few use them to list the chapter and verse of various bible verses, presumably so some curious passerby might look them up to see what they say. A few share at least a portion of the verse, sometimes with an unintended comedic effect. Some prefer to threaten their audience with hell. But most seem to use their reader boards simply for advertising. They post the time their Sunday service begins, the title of the sermon, or a brief announcement about something the church is doing outside of their usual schedule.

With as many churches are there are around here, I often find myself wondering about the intended audience of these messages. Some are probably aimed at those who already attend the church and could be thought of primarily as reminders. That certainly makes sense. Some are probably designed to attract the attention of those of us who are driving by and have never been to the church before. It is hard to imagine anyone driving by, seeing the message on their reader board, and deciding to attend the church because of it. I suppose this could happen, but I bet it doesn't happen very often.

There are an awful lot of regular churchgoers in this part of the country. In one sense, this could be good for any individual church because most of the people who live here are strongly inclined to attend church. Perhaps it could be their church. At the same time, the vast majority of people around here are already attending a church. I wonder how much success any of these churches have in luring congregants away from other churches. I'd guess not very much. From what I've observed, there seems to be a tendency to look down on those who attend the "wrong" church. That seems like a bit of a hurdle to overcome.

Could the primary audience for their reader board messages be those of us who are not already attending another church? If so, this would seem to be a tiny audience. There just aren't that many of us around here. Those who are interested in attending a church likely began doing so soon after moving here. Those of us who have no interest in setting foot inside a church seem unlikely to change our minds based on anything we'd see on a reader board. Of course, I suppose the same could be said of the door-to-door proselytizing that is so common around here, and it isn't like that is going to stop anytime soon.