I’m a funny guy.  I love to laugh and I love to make other people laugh.  Sometimes I just enjoy making other people feel awkward, but that’s not the point of this post.  I have tried and failed miserably at humor from the pulpit, and here is a list of what I’ve learned.  

  • I’m not as funny as I think I am:  My wife tells me this all the time, but I’m just too hard headed.  The harsh reality is that I’m not even half as funny as I think I am.  I would do well to remember this each time I attempt a joke.
  • Not everyone has my sense of humor:  This is closely related to point #1.  My sense of humor tends to be a little on the dark side.  Not everyone shares my sense of humor, and I should not expect them too.  There are some things I should just keep to myself.  Correction, there are many things I should just keep to myself.
  • Not everyone has a sense of humor: There are some who have had their sense of humor surgically removed.  They just refuse to laugh at anything.  I have a difficult time relating to these types of people, but as a pastor, I must.  They have helped balance my personality by teaching me that not everything in life has to have a joke attached to it.  Still, come on folks, laugh a little, or at least crack a smile.
  • The pulpit really is not a place for humor:  I’ve determined it’s just too risky to try a joke in my sermon.  If the joke falls flat, everyone checks out of your sermon.  The gospel is too important to muddy the sermon with an unnecessary joke.
  • Family humor is off limits:  I once tried to tell a joke about my wife being pregnant.  It wasn’t funny and on top of that I forgot the joke and fumbled around for the right words and settled on the phrase, “her belly”.  Again, this joke was terrible and awkward.  When we tells humorous stories or jokes about our families, we never know when those attempts at humor will leave them vulnerable and embarrassed.
  • Reading internet and email jokes is strictly forbidden: I once had a pastor who only read half of the email joke before he tried to read it from the pulpit.  He started reading it during his sermon, and the last half of the joke was off color at best, dirty at worst.  He kept reading the joke.  I thought it was funny, but I followed the congregation’s lead and stayed silent.  It was awkward, and it turns out, that pastor was sending out his resume.  He left 4 months later.
  • Some humor is acceptable:  We don’t want to be robots.  We want to engage our congregations with humor.  I’m not going to leave that part of myself totally behind.  I have a favorite deacon who likes to pick on me, so I pick back sometimes.  I’ve asked him to tell me if I cross the line.  

These are the lessons I’ve learned about humor from the pulpit, I’ve learned these mostly through error.  What do you guys think?  Is there anything you would add to this list?

You might also want to read: Southern Baptists, Phoenix, and the alt right. What to do Now.

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7 thoughts on “Humor in the Pulpit

    1. Thank you Chuck. I agree. I think part of the reason humor has degenerated so much is because language has become so utilitarian and minimalistic. No one speaks or writes well anymore. What do you think?

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      1. I agree…
        Always remembered asking a very successful person many, many years ago his secret…
        “Always say Please and Thank you”
        ‘Good Manners’ work wonders for individuals seeking personal strength and positive growth.
        It has been a shame seeing a large segment of society switching form a Character Ethic to a Personality Ethic.
        Enjoy you day and all following

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  1. I think in the right situations, humor is what makes people relatable. I know that when I am laughing, I’m more apt to want to put myself back into a similar situation = a return to the place where the laughter was had. I know that some humor is inappropriate and off color, but for the most part, a good clean poke at life, and how we live it, leaves me with some additional respect for the teller of the joke.

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    1. Absolutely and thank you for commenting. I have extra caution because of where I speak. Some jokes that would be tolerable in secular speaking would be off color from a pulpit.

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  2. You bring up some very good points, Tony. Humor is like beauty, it’s in the ear of the listener. Any stand up comedian will tell you that. You are a funny guy, I found myself laughing and chuckling at various points in your piece. I particularly enjoyed your failed attempt at a joke about your wife’s pregnancy. Cheers!

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