Over Labor Day weekend, I made a 12-hour trip to Kansas City. During that road trip from Birmingham to KC, I saw a lot of billboards. I remember only one though. It was for a church, and it was bad.

And by bad, I don’t mean bad as in the famous “Go To Church Or the Devil Will Get You!” billboard.

Devil Will Get You

It was bad because I couldn’t read the entire ad before driving by, and I couldn’t even tell you what church put the billboard up.

Billboards are a great way for churches to advertise, but if you’re going to spend the money and time, there are some rules to follow.

1. Use 6 words or less.
Remember that people are driving by the billboard, not walking by.

2. Don’t use billboards for direct response marketing.
Don’t clutter your billboard with phone numbers, addresses, and websites. No one will have time to write that down or memorize it. Use your billboard for branding.

3. Don’t try and be clever.
The church billboard I saw was trying to be clever. I honestly think that whatever their message was probably would’ve worked really well on a direct mail card. But with just seconds to digest the message, I had no time to wrap my mind around their call-to-action.

None of these rules are new for anyone with advertising knowledge, but they’re important.

Next time I make that miserable 12-hour drive, I’ll be on the lookout for church billboards that are delivering clear messages to their communities and passersby.