Using banners to celebrate mission and ministry in the UMC

Photo courtesy of Patricia McNeely. (#BeUMC t-shirts available for purchase online.)
Photo courtesy of Patricia McNeely. (#BeUMC t-shirts available for purchase online.)

Whether elaborate advertisements or simple signage, visual messages make an impact. Local United Methodist congregations have embraced banners to serve as visual invitations to welcome and celebrate their communities.

Ads draw people’s attention to an intended focus, help you to remember what’s displayed and invoke an emotional response that leads to acting upon the message. In that vein, a well-designed banner or sign can convey information effectively and lead to increased attendance at services and events. Outdoor signage can reinforce a church's branding and messaging, creating a consistent visual identity that people associate with an individual church.

Research shows that signs are effective in changing behavior. They're even more effective when displayed near the point of action of the requested behavior and presenting a polite message.

Recently, United Methodist Communications’ Local Church Services team assisted several churches with banners highlighting #BeUMC campaign messaging.

The #BeUMC effort celebrates the stories of God at work through the people of The United Methodist Church. As a reclaimed, revived and renewed beloved community, we forge ahead in mission and ministry. That is staying anchored in the Bible, praying, making disciples for Jesus Christ, sharing the Gospel and working for peace and justice so that all may experience the Lord's love and grace.

"Helping over 300 congregations to openly express how they're proud to #BeUMC has been a joy,” notes Steven Adair, director of the local church team. “It's great seeing photos and hearing stories of members utilizing the banners, putting their faith into action and lifting up the work of the UMC on their social media channels and in their communities."

“I love the banner,” exclaims Kurt Cooper, Emporia State Campus Ministry Chaplain for the Great Plains Annual Conference. “We have two United Methodist churches in our community; both committed to staying United Methodist. Our campus ministry sits on a main street that’s directly across from the Emporia State University campus. I am thankful to have the #BeUMC banner outside of our building as both a witness to the campus and the community that we, as a ministry, are committed to staying United Methodist. Our building is on a street that is an exit off of I-35, so we are the first bit of United Methodism people see as they arrive in Emporia, Kansas.”

Photo courtesy of Kurt Cooper.Photo courtesy of Kurt Cooper.

From a small town in Kansas to New York state, #BeUMC banners are reflecting love of God and neighbor.

“The #BeUMC sign has meant a lot to our historic church,” says Pastor Janelle Gayle of Mt. Calvary - St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Harlem, New York. “While our church was under scaffolding [for exterior work], we had been seeking ways to let folks know that we are open and ready to serve them. This sign has been most beneficial when outdoors ministering with our Helpful Outreach feeding program. As the community pass by, many ask for more information about the UMC and our church. The sign has been a great conversation starter and another way to build connections for people who may be new to the area and are looking for a church to visit.”

 Helpful Outreach event photo courtesy of Pastor Janelle Gayle.Helpful Outreach event photo courtesy of Pastor Janelle Gayle.

Banners help church visibility no matter how long they've been in a community.

“Our little church has been on the corner of two busy highways in Tolar, Texas for about 100 years,” shares Patricia McNeely, the church secretary at Tolar UMC. “Some people have asked if we were open as the parking lot is in the back of the building off the highway, so cars aren't always visible to drivers. The #BeUMC banner has stopped all the talk about whether we are still here. It has given us a vital and conversational presence in our small community. The banner has raised awareness that we are still doing God's work. This #BeUMC campaign has given us a new introduction to our community.”

Photo courtesy of Patricia McNeely. (#BeUMC t-shirts available for purchase online.)Photo courtesy of Patricia McNeely. (#BeUMC t-shirts available for purchase online.)

The banners have also served as reminders of how we are better together.

“Having this outward and visible sign of our connection to the UMC has been a powerful reminder of what is possible when we all work in mission and ministry together,” says Sharon Rosenfeld, Director of Communications for Sterling UMC in Virginia. “Though we may have our differences, what binds us together is far more powerful than what separates us! We are just scratching the surface of #BeUMC. But we have been moved by the videos, images and stories. We plan to offer a spring class for those who want to grow deeper in their knowledge of the church in action."

Photo courtesy of Sterling UMC.Photo courtesy of Sterling UMC. 

Pastor Wayne Dickert of Bryson City UMC in North Carolina, echoes that sentiment sharing that “we love our banner that serves as a sign that all people will receive a warm welcome and experience God's presence. It is good to #BeUMC!”

Photo courtesy of Bryson City UMC.Photo courtesy of Bryson City UMC.

Pastor Kim Houff in Hawaii points out that “at First UMC of Honolulu, #BeUMC means that we are part of a diverse denomination that truly represents the many people who make up the body of Christ.” Their congregations reflects diversity and unity as they extend a warm welcome to members and visitors alike.

Photo courtesy of First UMC Honolulu.Photo courtesy of First UMC Honolulu.

“We can’t wait to see how the #BeUMC campaign changes our ministry,” adds Rev. Amiri B Hooker of Wesley Chapel UMC in Lake City, South Carolina, whose congregation is eager to see God continue use their local church in the community.

Photo courtesy of Wesley Chapel UMC.Photo courtesy of Wesley Chapel UMC.

From tropical Honolulu, to small-town America, to historic Harlem and everywhere in between, the United Methodist Communications created banners are reminders of the shared values of United Methodists while offering inspiration for today and hope for the future.

*Aaron Crisler is a senior public relations specialist at United Methodist Communications.

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