“iPod? iPad? Try iPray … God is listening!”
“Honk, if you love Jesus. Text while driving, if you want to meet him.”
“Forbidden Fruit Creates Many Jams.”
“If God Is Your Co-Pilot, You Better Switch Seats.”
Ever wonder where those witty — sometimes unorthodox — church sayings come from?
At Faith Lutheran, they are typically the brainchild of Dana Singer, who views her mission to change the message on the sign as outreach to people who pass by the church at 2726 W. Market St. in Fairlawn.
“I try to put a message out that will get people’s attention. It has to be short because people driving by don’t have a lot of time to read it,” Singer said. “My goal is not to get people to come here, necessarily. I just want them to think about God and be encouraged to strengthen their faith.”
Like Singer, the people behind many of the local church signs, avoid fire and brimstone messages and promote thought-provoking, laugh-inducing quotes. Many of them, like the Rev. Roderick C. Pounds Sr., ultimately view the church sign as a way to spread the message of God’s love.
“The sign allows us to take our message beyond our walls to people who may never come inside. We want to use it for blessing and encouraging people,” said Pounds, pastor of Second Baptist Church on South Main Street in Akron. “Our goal is to share a positive word that speaks to people’s hearts, no matter what their faith background is.”
Most recently, the digital sign in front of Second Baptist has shared with passers-by that “God Is Always In Control.” The message is meant to give people hope during tough times.
While some of the sayings evolve from brainstorming and creative thought, others are borrowed from other churches or found online and in resource books.
The Rev. Jim Roma, pastor at Wintergreen Ledges Church of God on Wooster Avenue in Akron, strives to come up with something original every time he changes the message on his lighted sign. He said before putting up a message, he considers its purpose.
“That purpose can change from week to week. You might want to get information out, share a scripture, give people an idea of the ‘tone’ of the church or impart a word of encouragement,” Roma said. “You also have to consider your target audience, who you want to connect with.”
Roma’s church even did a study to make sure the size of the letters on their church sign corresponded with the distance to the road and the speed of traffic.
“If the lettering is too small, people can’t read it and you want to make sure the message is brief enough for people to grasp its meaning in the time they drive past without crashing into someone,” Roma said. “If you’re going to make the effort to use a sign, you’ve got to give some thought to it, if you want to make a positive impression.”
This week, Roma, like Pounds, is reaching out to people who are troubled or feeling down by encouraging them with “In Everything Give Thanks.”
Sometimes Roma and Pounds develop short messages from sermons and Bible studies. Sometimes messages are in response to an event or tragedy.
After the mass murder of 20 children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Singer was moved to change the message on the sign at Faith Lutheran to share “We Mourn With You.”
After the power outage in last month’s Super Bowl, she changed the sign to read “Do You Have A Game Plan When Your Lights Go Out?”
Although Singer normally changes the lighted manual sign once a week, she sometimes changes it more often — like this week when she replaced last week’s message with information about the joint Lenten program with neighboring St. Hilary Parish that took place on Wednesday. On Thursday, she replaced the program details with the current message: “God Offers Second Chances & More. Do You?”
“We want to offer people something different as often as possible,” Singer said. “I like to make it edgy but never anything that I think God wouldn’t approve. If I have doubts, I always run it by Pastor Jean [Hansen].”
Singer’s recent Lenten message [“Lent Is Coming. Get Your Ash in Church”] generated a few phone calls from parishioners who questioned its “appropriateness.” But it didn’t raise as many eyebrows as two of her other messages of invitation: “Join Us For Happy Hour Sundays 9:15 & 10:30 a.m.” or “Free Wine Tasting. Sundays 9:15 & 10:30 a.m. Forgiveness Included.”
“Maybe our definitions of happy are different. I’ve learned that you can’t be real thin-skinned because not everybody appreciates your humor or your play on words,” Singer said. “I do this as part of giving my time and talent to the church and I have discovered that God always finds a way to get the words up on the sign that he wants there. I trust God to give me the right words.”
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or firstname.lastname@example.org.