COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Episcopalians are trying to get more people in the pews by offering an unusual enticement: "Summer sermons will be shorter. Priests play golf, too."
The Episcopal Church's Diocese of Southern Ohio is using humorous ads on billboards, buses and movie screens in a campaign to increase membership and dispel negative stereotypes about going to church.
The ads started at Christmas with billboards in Dayton, including one that read: "You can't fill that empty space with fruitcake."
"It's funny on one level, but it also reminds people that a lot of us have an empty space which they can either look to the world to fill or look to God to fill," said Richelle Thompson, a diocesan spokeswoman.
The ads at Easter in Dayton carried messages such as: "That bunny is a great guy, but where is he when you need help?"
With a modest operating budget of $15,000, the diocese hopes the humor will draw more people's attention. Thompson said new bus ads will begin appearing in Columbus in about a week.
"We want them to see that what we are doing is wonderful, spiritual and fun," Thompson said.
This month, the diocese will try to sell its ideas for a national ad campaign to delegates at the denomination's General Convention in Minneapolis, which begins July 30.
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