TRAVERSE CITY — A bevy of blogs affirmatively answer a fundamental question.
Does God have a sense of humor?
Dee-Dee Franklin, office manager at Living Hope Church in Traverse City, believes it to be the case and freely shares that message with parishioners and passers-by through the church's roadside sign.
"I think God has a sense of humor and I like to translate that into the sign," Franklin said of the church adjacent to Grand Traverse Mall at 3050 W. South Airport Road.
She combined both humor and scripture in the message displayed on the sign during the lengthy reconstruction of South Airport Road that tested drivers' patience.
"Prepare the way for the Lord. Clear the road for him," Franklin said, citing Isaiah 40:3. "People laughed at that one. Mostly people that are in our congregation."
Franklin's personal favorite was on the sign during the fall when a particular seasoning is all the rage. "On the third day, God created pumpkin spice," the sign read.
Mayfield Chapel on the corner of Garfield and Church in the small Grand Traverse County village has a history of putting funny phrases outside its historic place of worship. Pastor Steve Hayes even posts photos of the sign and its messages on the chapel's Facebook page.
There are currently 75 different photos posted under 'The Sign!' The photos are from the last three years but the practice dates back even further.
"People seem to enjoy the sign so I thought I would post pictures of past signs," wrote Hayes, the chapel's pastor since 2011, in the subhead.
The churches, like many others across the country, use humor as a way to call attention.
"It's kind of a draw that way ... and gets people to know that we're here and still open," Hayes said of Mayfield Chapel which, despite its 1887 roots, can be overlooked on the way from Traverse City to Kingsley.
"It's to make it seem like we're an approachable place," Franklin said. "People might want to come check us out because of the sign."
Franklin should know.
"Before I even attended, I wanted to come here because the signs were so hilarious," said Franklin, who has been part of the Living Hope congregation for a decade.
Franklin said she took over the sign duties from Roby Isaac when she began working at the church six years ago.
"He was the king of hilarity," she said.
Hayes inherited the job from Mayfield Chapel and Sunday School Association president Sue Foster and her late husband, Bob. The attention it creates is the reason Hayes keeps performing and taking his duties seriously — even if the message is not.
"I continue to do it because I've had so many people mention it," he said. "Wherever I go, when people find out that I'm the pastor at Mayfield Chapel, they say, 'Oh, that's the one with the sign.'"
Franklin and Hayes look within for their messages. Sometimes they'll be given suggestions by others.
"Usually I try to come up with something on my own," Franklin said.
"I have had others suggest some that I've used," Hayes added. "Some of them are ones that I've thought of, others are things that I've found. So it's not always original."
Franklin said she saw a message online that she liked so much she had to post it: "There are some questions that can't be answered by Google."
Both churches like to rotate the sign phrases every couple of weeks. Of course, Mother Nature can get in the way of that. Plus, while Franklin comes up with the ideas for the messages, implementation falls on others.
"It depends on the events we have, the weather and the availability of a volunteer to go out there and change it, especially when there's a lot of snow out there," she said, adding that the sign has frozen shut before.
There currently aren't any words on the side of the south-facing sign in Mayfield. Hayes said a snow plow knocked out the frame that holds the letters on. Repair will have to wait for spring.
Not all the sign sayings are humorous. Franklin said events or scripture that the pastor wants to emphasize also adorn the Living Hope sign — and sometimes stay up longer.
But funny seems to be the biggest hit.
"I try to think of something that will be silly and fun," Franklin said. "Fun and silly and get people's attention."
Hayes said he tries to evoke one of three reactions with the the Mayfield Chapel sign — and usually succeeds.
"There's a variety of it from time to time," he said. "Sometimes it'll make you laugh, sometimes it'll make you think and sometimes it'll make you cringe."