Spirituality and humor are of special interest to visitors. Visitors often anticipate that entering a church may be an uncomfortable experience. When guests experience the joy of the Lord through the warm and welcoming gift of humor, their defenses are lowered; they are likely to want to become a part of such a lighthearted group.
Members who might not choose to be involved in a more overt form of outreach are often willing to help make disciples by participating in the church’s various expressions of humor. An appropriate funny story in the sermon can even lay the foundation for a spiritual truth.
Claiming the gift of humor as a valid part of the church’s general curriculum helps shape the ethos and lifestyle of the congregation. People will come to enjoy humor as expressions of spirituality. Humor unifies the common life of the congregation. Sunday after Sunday, the church can become a teaching laboratory of humor that provides wholesome and welcomed alternatives to the degrading humor that relentlessly bombards people every day.
Two “north stars” will guide us toward a new kind of church:
*Humor is a slice of life that produces some level of laughter by the way it is uniquely set apart from everything around it.
*Spirituality is living one’s life in a personal God-orientation.
You are, or you can be, a spiritually humorous person, no doubt about it: humor is a spiritual gift!
We stand with Saint Paul and his list of nine spiritual gifts in I Corinthians 12. To his nine, we add two more just for fun: # 10, “spiritual charisma” like Mother Theresa had, and #11, “spiritual humor.” Humor is so profoundly spiritual, one cannot be humorous or feel humorous when angry, tired, broken, burdened, put-down, depressed, discouraged, or defeated.
“So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:3)
On the eighth day, God created humor to keep us from getting so serious that we would want to destroy what God created the first six days.
On the eighth day, God created spiritual humor so people could laugh so much on Sunday that we would not get ground up while doing church work. How grand would it be for your congregation to laugh so much on Sunday simply because you have the spiritual gift of humor?
How to develop your congregation’s humor quotient
“Loving God, I want to share the gift of humor so others will laugh as you intended. Amen.”
Designate a new office for the church
Every church has lots of people serving in lots of offices or roles. Why not call forth humorists as a new office? Your church will need lots of humorists: several are needed for leadership in the suggestions that follow. More and more humorists will be needed as you become a new kind of church.
You should feel honored to be recognized as a humorist for the congregation! Select your eight or ten funniest, family-friendly jokes or stories and list them for your easy reference. Then consider doing any of the following:
— Transfer the jokes or stories to 3 X 5 cards for easy handling.
— Recite each before a mirror until you are pleased with your delivery.
— Set a goal of telling a funny three or four times until you get it right.
— Proceed to develop your talent until you are ready for prime time.
— Continually add new funnies to your collection.
— Volunteer to tell a funny story at Sunday school or in church (and you will be off and running!).
Humor from the Pulpit
Telling a funny story near the beginning of your sermon, and at least every eight minutes throughout the sermon, invites the congregation to listen for more. Any sermon will be improved with the eight-minute humor rule because humor is like a pew-softener. Consider setting your goal of enriching your sermons with humor on a regular basis.
— Ask four or five persons to meet you for lunch. Invite them to become humorists for your sermon preparation. Give them a list of topics/titles and scripture passages for three upcoming sermons, beginning two Sunday from then. (They will not need full outlines.)
— Ask them to listen and look for humor that will enhance the sermon.
— Tell them all you know about each sermon idea as they take notes.
— Three weeks later, invite five additional persons to become humorists.
Involving members in your sermon preparation will enhance their interest in your preaching and in worship. These group meetings will be unique opportunities to discuss the theological significance of the sermons. They will likely be your most ardent listeners on Sunday mornings.
Sunday School Giggles
Encourage each youth and adult class to select a “designated humorist” to serve for six weeks. The “DH” will be responsible for contacting someone to be prepared to tell a funny or show a funny YouTube video at the beginning of each class session.
Make clear guidelines: each story or clip must be short, clean, and funny. The church is a place of healing, and the goal is to promote the spirit of laughter because hilarity has the power to heal.
Ush-ing with Humor
If your ushers call visitors each Sunday afternoon to convey a personal welcome to the church, ask for their help with a simple four-point survey:
On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rate the service this morning on the following attributes? (“1” is lowest; “10” is highest.)
Friendliness 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Joy of the Lord 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Humor 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Caring 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
The humorist thanks the guest and concludes by saying:
“As you can see, humor is important to us because it undergirds the other three items on the survey: friendliness, joy of the Lord, and caring. We believe that when we hurt, God hurts with us, and when we laugh, God laughs with us. We believe that when people pray together and laugh together, they want to be together! That is what we are about here at (your) church. We want you to be a part of that! Thank you again for visiting. We hope you will come back.”
Humor in Your Mailbox
Select a committee of at least two to gather humor for the church’s newsletter. Request the newsletter staff to feature humorous copy, or regular copy in a humorous way.
— Invite people to clip and submit funny things; if it’s an e-newsletter, invite people to share links to funny videos.
— Ask people to send in funny cartoons.
— Jot down funny things that happen at home, work or school.
— Ask for the best joke anyone heard during the week and print it.
— Keep humor on the front page.
— Engage an inexpensive cartoonist—preferably in the church.
— Write articles about humor, and humorous articles.
— Ask everyone in church to be shopping for a “laugh machine”: it laughs when turned on and continues until turned off. (The church needs to buy one—just for fun!)
Stage a Humor Talent Show
By the time the features listed above are functioning, a humorous ethos will be evident. It will be easy for a spontaneous or designated committee to assemble participants for a Humor Talent Show. Here are winning hints for success:
— Begin with an enthusiastic planning committee.
— For variety, feature humorists telling jokes and funny stories, alternating with singers, dancers, musicians, and others.
— Give each performer/actor five minutes.
— Plan the show well and keep it moving.
— Advertise well ahead.
— Don’t charge admission for the first event.
— Strive to have every group in the church represented.
— Include the pastor(s) and staff as participants in the show.
— Keep the show to 90 minutes or less.
— Serve refreshments.
— Plan a second event within six months and consider charging admission as a missions special-project fundraiser.
After you have had the joy (and fun) of taking some of these steps, ask your congregation two questions:
would you like to return to being the old church?
do you prefer becoming
a new kind of church?