Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

February 1, 2011 – A few years ago, I drove from the Atlanta airport to the Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Georgia to attend a communications conference. During that dark, two-hour drive, I couldn’t see much around me, but the lack of traffic assured me I was driving along roads less traveled.

Along the way, I spotted a lit sign by the side of the road advertising “Ruby’s Beauty Shop and Prayer Chapel.” I chucked for a moment, then realized that in the middle of nowhere, it was probably convenient to bundle services like that. And I had to hand it to Ruby. She certainly got my attention. Where else in America could you get your hair cut and then kneel for a quick prayer?

Four days later, on the way back to the airport in daylight, I noticed more signs. Driving through rural Georgia, it’s not uncommon to pass a Baptist Church every few miles, but the signs outside the churches advertising their services with their “amusing” or “horrifying” messages took me by surprise.

I didn’t write the down the messages on those signs that day, but a quick Internet search of Southern Baptist Church signs provided me with some I remember, which I’ve posted below. And since then, I’ve noticed that this practice isn’t restricted to Southern Baptists Churches on the back roads of Georgia. Churches in Philadelphia and it surrounding suburbs use clever messaging techniques to garner attention, as well.

Do these signs actually boost church attendance? I’ve read that attendance dropped in the last 20 or so years, however, a recent Gallup poll actually recorded small upticks in attendance over the past two years. The poll found that 43.1 percent of Americans reported weekly or almost weekly church attendance in 2009, up from 42.1 percent in 2008.

Maybe the signs are working.

Here are examples of clever messages that got my attention:

Google can’t satisfy every search.
God answer’s knee-mail.
Forgive your enemies – it messes with their heads.
Honk if you love Jesus; text while driving if you want to meet him.
Staying in bed shouting, Oh God! does not constitute going to church. (I still can’t believe this one!)

And here are some messages that make me cringe:

Don’t be so open-minded – your brains will fall out.
We R Baptist! No Protestant. (I thought churches were supposed to welcome everyone.)
Christmas: Easier to spell than Hanukkah.
Obama, Osama, Hmm, are they brothers?
Sacred cows make the best hamburger. (Is this supposed to be a slam against Hinduism? I’m not sure.)
Do you smell like Jesus? (Huh?)
If evolution is true, why help the poor? (I’m not even sure I get this one.)

Finally, for a good laugh, what about these double entendres:

Don’t let your worries kill you. Let the church help.
Have trouble sleeping? We have sermons – come hear one!
Forbidden fruit creates many jams.
Read the Bible – it will scare the hell out of you.

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