Publicizing the Sunday School

by Pastor Jack Hyles

(Chapter 5 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, The Hyles Sunday School Manual)

For too long the church has been satisfied with hiding herself in the corner and letting other institutions take the lead in publicity and advertising. Without entering into anything that is questionable, the church should certainly let its community know of its existence. In other words, the church should be kept in front of all the people all the time. There are two reasons for this: One is immediate and the other is long range. Certainly we should be working and advertising in order to reach people immediately. But on the other hand, we should always let the community be aware of the church’s presence. Every time a person sees a Pepsi Cola sign, he does not immediately stop and buy a Pepsi Cola, but if the Pepsi Cola Company can implant their product in his subconscious mind, he will reach for a Pepsi Cola when he desires a soft drink. A local church should be kept so much in front of the people that when one decides to go to church, the first one he will reach for a Pepsi Cola when he desires a soft drink. A local church should be kept so much in front of the people that when one decides to go to church, the first on he will think about is yours and mine. When Easter Sunday comes, his first attention will be toward the church that has been before him the most during the year. It is vitally important that the church publicize herself and establish an awareness on the part of the people of her existence. There are many different forms of publicity that will aid in reaching more people for the Lord Jesus Christ.

1. Talk. The greatest publicity in the world is the tongue. We should certainly take advantage of it. More and more the commercial people are taking advantage of the testimony. “I used a certain brand of deodorant and I finally got married.” “Listerine got my man.” “When I started using a certain mouthwash, I got a raise in pay.” “Folks finally started speaking tome when I used this particular soap.” “I use a certain washing powder and my clothes are the whitest.” “I can’t believe this is a non-caffeine coffee.” These are statements that each of us hears regularly. The secular world has come to realize there is nothing that sells a product quite like the testimony of a satisfied customer. This is also true concerning the church. Enough people talking favorably about the church and her work can sway an entire community’s attitude toward the church. Many times after a wonderful Sunday I will ask my people how many will promise to tell at least five people what God did for us on that day. If a thousand people tell five people each, five thousand people have been influenced simply by the use of the tongue. There is also no doubt that these five will continue to spread the good word until the entire area will know that something is happening at the church. Nothing will take the place of this type of publicity. The church’s advocates should be busy spreading good news as the church’s opponents are spreading bad news.

2. Printed matter. The Sunday school should take advantage of advertising through the printed page. Of course, much care should be taken to see to it that everything that goes out from the church is done properly. A particular staff member or even layman can train to be an expert on proofreading. In the First Baptist Church in Hammond a staff member has been chosen for such a task. It is her job to proofread everything that goes out of the offices. Sentence structure, proper grammar, punctuation, etc., are all checked very carefully, and every attempt is made that goes out from the offices.

Another staff member has been designated as the expert on preparing brochures and other printed matter. One need not be an expert to be appointed to this task. If he has character, he will develop the knowledge and talent necessary. The pastor could tell this staff member or layman what he has in mind. This specialist then draws up a suggestion and sends it back to the pastor for approval. It may be altered, or it may be accepted as is. In some cases it may be completely vetoed, and the specialist draws up another idea.

There are several types of such publicity that may be used.

(1) Brochure. This brochure is given to each person who moves to our city and to each prospect that we visit.

(2) Promotional letter.  Such letters are mailed out by departments and classes from week to week. They should be striking, attention-getting, and well-prepared. After letters have been mailed out for a period of years, some people just put them aside and do not open them. In such a case, it might be wise to put some publicity on the envelope, thereby causing the reader to have enough curiosity to open the letter. Such an envelope is shown below.

3. Newspaper. In some areas this is the most effective form of advertising. This is especially true in average-size cities. The city of Hammond has a population of a little over 100,000. There are perhaps another 150,000 people who lives close enough to be considered prospective attenders to our services. Most of these families take the Hammond newspaper. Hence, an ad in a paper in such an area is of vital importance.

Much care should be taken to make the ad attractive and acceptable. It is usually best to steer away from anything spectacular and sensational such as announcing unheard-of sermon titles, etc. It is also wise never to use the ad as a means to attack, satire, ridicule, or slander. It should simply be used to inform the people what is going on at the church.

Such an ad may be used to advertise the sermon topics of the Lord’s Day. Much care should be made by the pastor that his sermon fulfills the title. A crowd may be attracted one time by a sensational sermon title, but if the sermon is not as sensational as the title, the people will not return.

In many cities there is a Saturday church page. Some have a Friday church page. The use of this page is very important in the ministry of an evangelistic church. If possible, the fundamental church should have the largest ad on the page. if this is not possible, it should at any rate have the best prepared ad on the page. People should come to associate our churches with efficiency and properness. They may not agree with us in doctrine, convictions, or separation, by they should certainly get the idea that we know where we are going and what we are doing.

In a newspaper ad there should be one thing that stands out above everything else. Notice the following:

You will notice above that one ad has nothing which stands out, but the other has something which would immediately draw one’s attention as he scans the page of the paper.

The big headline of the ad should tell the story and should present the drawing card. So many churches use the word “revival.” Lost sinners are not looking for revivals. The headline should be something that catches the attention of the common man.

Notice above that the right ad would appeal to most anyone. The other one would appeal only to those who are already in love with Christ and His work.

The headlines should usually be in thick, bold letters. Small letters may be more eye-catching than larger ones if the print is thicker. Bear in mind that the heavier the black, the more outstanding the white.

Notice that the wrong ad has big lettering but is skinny and does not stand out from the ad, whereas the bolder, blacker print catches one’s eye immediately.

It is best to have a church ad near the margin of the paper. It is even better to have it placed in the corner.

Appropriate pictures should be used regularly for the church ads. Especially is it good to use pictures that are unique and that tell the story of the church and Sunday school. Pictures of people should be used more sparingly. Following you will see several ads that do and some that do not use pictures to their best advantage.

You will notice above that we have used pictures of progress and pictures that tell the story of the First Baptist Church. These are also pictures that deal with the uniqueness of the church. This is a very important feature in advertising. One of our mottos is, “The difference is worth the distance.” Therefore, it is wise to be reminding the people constantly of what the differences are. This should not, of course, be used to point out the weaknesses of sister churches, but rather the strengths of ours.

Of course, such advertising is expensive. There are several ways that such expenses can be raised.

(1) The budget. This is, of course, the best way. Several hundred dollars, or several thousand dollars could be designated from the budget for publicity purposes. This is the painless and easy way.

(2) The Wednesday night offering. Many churches do not have an offering on Wednesday night. Such an offering can be taken and used for advertising. In past times it has been suggested that people give all of the change in their pockets, and this money can be used for publicity.

(3) Departments and classes. Each adult class could be responsible for an ad periodically. Suppose the Sunday school has ten classes and ten departments, then each group would be responsible for the newspaper advertising one week out of twenty.

Advertising pays off. It does not immediately pay for itself, but in the end it will more than do so.

Some Sunday schools and churches will be unable to afford big ads. This, of course, can be compensated by attractiveness and proper content. Below are some sample small advertisements.

As the church begins to grow and as the income increases, more and more should be designated for advertising. As the ads become larger and larger they will be along the lines of those below:

When churches become large and budgets become big, there are times when full-page ads or half-page ads are desirable. Several times in my ministry we have used even a small section of the paper for the church. Some sample large ads are seen below:

The local church should also take advantage of news releases. The newspaper should be flooded with interesting articles about the church. These should usually be accompanied by pictures. Such things could be written up in articles: “The Adopting of the Church Budget,” “The Adopting of Plans for a New Building,” “Ground-breaking Day,” “Promotion Day,” “Dedication Day,” and other special days along with articles about special guests who appear from time to time at the church. Following are some sample articles:

As is the case in all advertising through printed matter, the articles should also be done properly, attractively, and neatly. Nothing but the best should represent the Lord’s work.

The pastor should never become offended if his articles are not used. A good relationship should be developed between the church and the news media. Patience and kindness should characterize all of our relationships with the outside world. The news media should know the church and the pastor as the friendliest and most courteous institution and person in town. Occasionally a note of gratitude should be written from the church to responsible authorities of the newspaper and to others who help in the advertising program.

4. The radio. The use of the radio, like the use of the newspaper, will vary in its effectiveness in certain areas. We have a varied radio ministry. At the time of this writing we have a nationwide broadcast presented on approximately fifty stations across America and the Caribbean. This, of course, is a needed ministry, but it does not immediately affect the ministry of the local church. What does affect the ministry of the local church, however, is our daily radio broadcast called “The Pastor’s Study,” which is head locally from 9:00 to 9:30 each weekday morning. In some areas the population listens to the local radio station, but in other areas it is almost completely overlooked. If used properly the local station can be a great help to the church. Following are some suggestions regarding the local broadcast:

(1) It is not usually a good evangelistic ministry. Most of the people who hear religious broadcasts are already Christian people who have a desire to hear the Word preached. Very few unsaved people voluntarily hear a gospel broadcast. The fact is, however, that some do, and enough Gospel should be presented to reach them.

(2) A daily broadcast is usually best. Someone has said that a weekly broadcast promotes the church and that a daily broadcast promotes the preacher. This may or may not be true, but it certainly is true that a daily broadcast can promote both, and it is necessary to do both. It is necessary to do both in order to get people to come to the church to hear the preacher. It is certainly not pride nor sin for a church to attempt to get people to come to hear the preacher. This, of course, must be done within bounds and should not include bragging, boasting, etc. A daily broadcast, if done properly, can be used to acquaint the community with the activities and work of the church so as to arouse curiosity and desire in the hearts of those in the area.

(3) A daily broadcast should include intriguing announcements about the church activities. This is one of the main purposes for a daily broadcast. On Monday morning, for example, we like to read the reports of the previous day. Naturally we stress the good things that happened. We try to whet the appetites of the listeners so that they will have a desire to attend our services. Throughout the week we keep before the people the activities of the coming Sunday, or for that matter, all of the activities of the week. As the week nears its end we stress more heavily the wonderful things to which we are looking on the next Sunday.

(4) The pastor should be a friend of the listener. A personal feeling should exist between the pastor and the radio listener. In a real sense the radio listener should feel that he has a radio pastor. We do some preaching on our daily broadcast, but for the most part it is a folksy, neighborly chat in improving the church’s image as well as the preacher’s image in the community. Many times people get the idea that the fundamental church is hardboiled, and that the preacher trips old ladies as they walk across the street and pushes little children in front of cars. This fallacy can be refuted by a kind, passionate, tender voice coming daily from the church to the community.

(5) Good, well-planned music should be used. From one-third to one-half of the broadcast perhaps should be good gospel music. Well-trained voices should be used and well-rehearsed specials should be presented. It seems unwise to stereotype one’s church in the minds of the community by using anything but good, solid, tested gospel numbers. We have found that the people are blessed and the church is helped by the use of such numbers as “The Old Rugged Cross,” “Rock of Ages,” “At Calvary,” and the songs that have been tested through the years. We stay away from novelty numbers except as an occasional exception. It should definitely be established in the minds of the hearers that the church uses good music and prepares it well. More and more of the secular stations are turning to musical programs. The church could certainly learn a lesson from this and present good, solid, musical numbers on the broadcast.

(6) The name of the broadcast. The naming of the broadcast should come after its format is planned. When the format is established, the broadcast’s name should be descriptive of the format. Since our broadcast comes from the pastor’s study, and is conducted by the pastor as he sits at his desk, we call it simply, “The Pastor’s Study.” We attempt to make the listener feel that he is in the study listening to the pastor. It is a chatty, “howdy-neighbor” kind of a get-together. The name should not be trite or overly used and should be chosen with prayer and care.

(7) The theme. The theme song of the broadcast should be one that helps to tell what is to come. For example, on the Pastor’s Study broadcast, it would be unwise to begin with the singing of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” However, on a broadcast originating in the auditorium of the church, when the entire church service is presented, one would not want to start the broadcast with the theme song, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” The theme song should be appropriate and descriptive. It should be a forerunner of what is to come.

(8) A typical daily broadcast.

a. The theme.

b. Introduction and words of welcome by the pastor.

c. Some special musical number. The pastor should gradually introduce the number. A few words can be said about the song. We avoid such trite statements as, “Here is a beautiful little number,” “Now God bless Mrs. Jones as she comes to sing for us,” etc. Suppose the number is “Does Jesus Care?” The pastor may simply lead into it by saying something like this: “Many of our listeners have burdens and heartaches today. Many times in the midst of burdens and heartaches we wonder if anybody really cares. The world is so busy and people are in such a hurry that so few have time to care and so few who have the time have the heart to do so. We can be thankful to God that there is One who cares. The ladies’ trio now comes to tell you who He is.” Immediately the song is sung. Such is the case of all of the special musical numbers that follow. In some cases the music will be broadcast live. We find it necessary, however, to tape scores of numbers and professionally play them on our daily broadcast. The pastor’s portion is live, but the numbers are played by tape. Proper planning with the radio station in the purchase of proper equipment will make the broadcast seem live. There are multitudes of people who think the singers are actually in the pastor’s study each morning.

d. A thought for the day. We keep several files of thoughts. From various religious periodicals we clip points, provocative thoughts, etc., and use one each morning. We prefer something that is striking and thought-provoking. It may be something concerning a current event that is alarming. It is always something to stir the minds of the listeners.

e. The chuckle for the day. Here is something that we have recently started on our broadcast. This is not a telling of joke, as such, but some little humorous incident that can be told in fifteen to thirty seconds. Usually it is about a preacher or a church. A few days ago I told a little story about a man who brought his dog to church. The preacher made the dog leave. After the service the man gave the preacher $25.00. The preacher could not understand why he had done so, especially since he insisted that the dog leave. He asked the man, “Why did you give me $25.00 after I had made you take your dog out of the services?”

The man replied, “Pastor, it was certainly worth $25.00 for my dog not to have to listen to that sermon.”

Of course, the chuckle should be brief and refreshing or else it would not be wise to have it at all.

f. The second special song.

g. Happy birthday time. It was Pastor Tom Wallace from Elkton, Maryland, that introduced me to this idea. He had used it with great delight. We simply get the birthdays of all of the people we can and call their names on their birthday. The staff comes into the pastor’s study to sing “Happy Birthday” to them. Many look forward to this part of the broadcast each day.

h. “It happened on your birthday.” We try to find interesting things in Christian history as well as secular history that happened on each day of the year. This way we can interest those having birthdays by telling what other famous event took place on their birthday.

i. Third special number. This number is dedicated to those having birthdays.

j. The prayer list. At the first of each broadcast the pastor says a word about those who have need of prayer. He encourages them to call the church office and tell the people of their prayer needs. It is nothing unusual to have sixty or seventy people to call in during the course of the broadcast. The secretaries take the prayer requests, bring them to the pastor, and at prayer list time, he reads each name and each request for prayer. Then he prays for each person by name and by request. This normally takes about seven to eight minutes. This is a wonderful way to be of service to those who have need of prayer.

k. Fourth and last special number. This can be dedicated to those who called in for prayer. This number could be one that is comforting, such as “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Rock of Ages,” etc.

l. Message. From five to fifteen minutes may be left for the message if the aforementioned things have been expedited properly. Sometimes the pastor gives the message earlier in the broadcast and then ends with prayer time. This message may come anywhere. For that matter he may get a thought from the reading of “It happened on your birthday,” and he may take five or ten minutes then. Perhaps he may have his mind provoked by the “thought for the day” and take awhile to discuss this and bring his message at that time. In most cases, however, the pastor would want to close the broadcast with his message.

There are other ways in which the church could use the radio. A weekly broadcast may be of benefit. In such a case it should not be as folksy as the one above. It should be a little bigger and a little more impressive.

Some churches use spot announcements to good advantage. This is certainly worth consideration.

For many years I broadcasted my Sunday school class live over a local station. Some churches like to broadcast their services. At any rate, or whatever the type of broadcast, the Sunday school should be stressed over and over again. Probably more people attend the church during the Sunday school hour than during any other hour of the week. This makes it an important time. Certainly the Sunday school should receive the bulk of the advertising on radio. Goals, attendances, drives, pushes, special days, etc., should be kept before the people on every radio broadcast.

Again let us emphasize the importance of doing God’s work properly. The pastor and musicians should take care in the planning of the broadcast. It should be interesting to all and offensive to none as far as presentation is concerned. We may offend people by our convictions but let us not be offensive by doing God’s work in a lackadaisical way. It is the most important work in the world; let us treat it as such.

5. Church Signs. The first impression that many people get of a local church is from signs. Because of that, much care and preparation should be taken in the choosing and purchasing of church signs.

(1) The sign should be proportionate in size with the church plant. The church with a large physical plant should have a sign proportionately large. A church with a small plant should, of course, have a sign in ration with the size of the building.

(2) The sign should be professionally planned and made. Literally thousands of church signs need painting and even editing. It is unbelievable that some churches even misspell the name of their church. I have seen Baptist spelled “Babtist” and “Babptist.”

In other cases, the sign is so old or so poorly done that people cannot read the printing. In some other cases the church does not even have a sign. This is completely unbelievable and yet true.

(3) Sensationalism, deceit, and provocation should be omitted on the church sign. The sign is not to preach a sermon. It is simply to identify the church. Many signs are so provocative that they prevent people from coming to the services. The church can state her position in such short, terse language on a sign so as to keep people from hearing that position as preached in power and energy of the Holy Spirit from the pulpit. How tragic! It is also wise for the sign to be very honest in its content. A church could be the fastest-growing church in town and words to that effect could be placed on the sign (though I doubt the wisdom of this). The next year, however, the church may not grow as rapidly. The sign could become dishonest. The church should always be honest with the public and never in the least deceitful. The product should always contain the contents listed on the cover. This is especially true in the Lord’s work.

(4) There are many different types of signs that can be utilized in the life of a church:

a. The changeable copy panel. A nice, conservative changeable sign used to advertise the current work, activities, and ministry of the church can oftentimes be of benefit. Much care should be taken that this sign does not look like a theatre marquee. Hence, it probably should not be located over the main entrance, and it should be much more conservative than a theatre-type marquee. A flat, solid, changeable copy panel is preferable for a church. Some churches find it beneficial to have the main permanent sign and changeable sign in one unit. Regardless of the size, shape, and location of the changeable sign, it should be used only for advertisement, inspiration, etc. It could announce the coming of special speakers or the title of Sunday’s message. Again, sensationalism should usually be avoided. To say the least, sermon subjects on the sign should never be exaggerated, and the sermon contents should certainly be up to the announced sermon subject.

The following are some advertisements that have been used on the changeable sign of the First Baptist Church of Hammond:

b. Church buses.

Many churches utilize buses in their transportation program. When this is done, these buses should be attractively painted. Each bus should become a rolling signboard. It is best to steer away from spectacularism, but certainly some good advertisement could be used in the publicizing of the church as the buses roll through the streets of the city. At this writing the First Baptist Church of Hammond operates 60 bus routes. This gives us 60 rolling signboards which cover the city of Hammond. Not only do they advertise the church on Sunday, but throughout the entire week. These buses are not serviced at the same service stations or garages, but rather at strategic locations throughout the entire area. This means that these 60 church buses are parked all over, giving us 60 billboards. Again let me emphasize the importance of

the lettering and painting being professionally done and well done. At times it might be wise to ask someone just to drive the buses around town. Think how many people can see one church bus in a day’s time as it is driven up and down the streets of the city.

c. Miscellaneous signs.

Some churches have utilized the advertising space of park benches. Others have purchased the space on sides or backs of city buses. Still others have front license plates for the cars of their members. (This is done only in states which do not use state license tags on the front as well as the back.) We have found it wise to have the church’s name neatly engraved on the back of the custodian’s uniforms. Over and over again we are simply saying: Keep the name of the church before the people all the time. A community should always be church-conscious, and the fundamental church should take the lead in advertising.

6. Letters. The Sunday school should make much use of the mail. Hundreds of thousands of letters from the First Baptist Church of Hammond are sent each year. Seldom is the week when hundreds of letters are not sent through the mail. Sometimes these are church wide mailings. In other cases they are mailed to departments or even classes. Samples of such letters follows:


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