Peter Mead has a short post on pulpit humour. What follows is based on his thoughts.
Some congregations frown on all attempt by preacher to make them laugh. For others, it would seem that laughter is next to godliness. Most of us will take the middle line, avoiding the opposite extremes of laughing at nothing, and laughing at everything. But even then we need to think carefully about its uses and abuses for the preacher.
- Be authentic. If you are a naturally serious person (and some people are), don’t try to ‘force’ yourself to be funny. Don’t try to be funny just for effect: to impress your hearers, or to endear yourself to them. If you are not skilled in joke-telling in everyday conversation, then avoid telling jokes in the pulpit (it simply won’t work). If, however, your own sense of the absurd comes bubbling through from time to time, then this will not only help create rapport with your hearers, but can actually be a part of the process of unlocking your text or topic.
- Be joyful. We are resurrection people, and have much to be thankful for and joyful about. Don’t waste time, and don’t demean God’s word, by mere silliness. Any humour you use should, directly or indirectly, serve the gospel.
- Be loving. Use humour to build up, not destroy. Avoid all forms of hateful or disparaging speech. A bit of self-deprecation or self-mockery may not go amiss, but don’t put others down. Don’t use ‘in-jokes’ that only some people will understand.
- Be varied. Don’t always use the same type of humour. People will only want to hear occasionally (if at all!) about the cute things that your children say and do!
- Be sensitive. Sometimes the Bible passage, or the circumstances in people’s personal lives or in the world around us, don’t lend themselves to any form of humour. To imagine, for example, that every sermon must begin with a funny story is folly.
Bottom line: be true to the biblical message, to your hearers and to yourself, and then by all means make ’em laugh (or, at least, smile) from time to time.