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Happy New Year’s resolution for churches: LAUGH!

Both active churchgoers and seekers of the faith like to laugh. Comedy is a non-threatening, yet meaningful, way to communicate God's love, break the ice and improve team-building.

Humor can communicate God's grace and forgiveness in a friendly environment. “For everything there is a season, ... a time to weep, and a time to laugh.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4a, NRSV) How can you effectively use humor in your church?

Humor expresses God’s joy.
Humor does not discriminate. It targets families, single adults, youth and mature audiences. Used effectively, humor can open hearts to the truth as laughter relaxes people and gets their attention.Check out these fun icebreakers and games for children. Though they're geared for youth, any young-at-heart child of God can play.

Sermons offer a wonderful opportunity to infuse humor. Sermons generally have serious themes, but gentle humor is a wonderful way to break the ice and captivate your audience.

Perhaps you are writing a sermon on finding God’s love in these technological times. Information from so many different sources bombards us, and it is difficult to get to Jesus’ simple message. The following story illustrates that.

A child watched her exasperated mother sift through and delete a long list of junk e-mails.

“This reminds me of the Lord’s Prayer,” the child said. 

“What do you mean?” the mother asked. 

“You know the part about delivering us from e-mail.”

Humor and spirituality share common themes. Don’t worry if your humorous anecdotes or jokes fall flat; keep moving with your message. One great way to avoid that awkward silence, is to simply ask people up front to kindly laugh at your bad jokes. You may need to prompt them when the time comes.

Humor relieves tension.
A 2008 fire in Charlestown, W. Va., caused $300,000 damage to the Oakland Church, but it did little to dampen the spirits of church leaders.

Debris was scattered around the sanctuary near the pulpit, and a tattered wall stood as evidence of the fire's path. As they surveyed the damage, the Rev. H. Kent Tice said, "Well, I think Joe wanted a new drum set."

The church, located across from a housing subdivision, also operates a restaurant. One leader joked that the special of the day was barbecued chicken.

Humor shows humanity.
While some people are uncomfortable with humor and feel its use in church is irreverent, we need not view humor and religion as antagonistic. Humor reminds us of our fragility, weakness and humanity. It helps us to learn humility. Children laugh 400 times a day, and adults chuckle an average 15 times a day. Why can’t some of that levity happen in church?

You might secure humorous videos to use in your services by linking to appropriate funny videos on YouTube. Consider asking a visually tech-savvy church member to create original humorous footage.

Ignite Media posts this video, “Real Christians of Genius,” as a “humorous reminder of Paul’s charge to share our faith with people in both a relevant and understandable manner.” Why not record and post the weekly sermons that might attract new people?

You can find countless religious jokes on the Internet, and no denomination is exempt from a gentle joke. 

The Butterball Company set up a Thanksgiving hotline to answer questions about cooking turkeys. A woman asked if she could use a turkey that had been in the bottom of her freezer for 23 years. You heard me, 23 years. 

The Butterball expert told her it would probably be safe if the freezer had been below zero the entire time. The expert then warned that even if the turkey were safe to eat, the flavor would likely have deteriorated.

The woman said, "That's what I thought. We'll give the turkey to our church."

Humor teaches. 
This hilarious 5 ½-minute spoof video, “What if Starbucks Marketed Like a Church: A Parable,” uses dry humor to send a message: If Starbucks marketed like most churches, it wouldn’t be a global success. By turning church marketing on its ear, you encourage viewers to rethink how they welcome church visitors. More than 300,000 people would not view a straightforward analysis of how churches market themselves.

A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, 5, and Ryan, 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. “If Jesus were sitting here, he would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake. I can wait.’” Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you be Jesus!”

Take care.
Make certain that your jokes do not offend or hurt anyone. Avoid humor that uses discriminating or vulgar language or targets a group of people. Harmful humor also includes jokes that ridicule beliefs and values. You can use humor to express a concern without reinforcing stereotypes, attacking opponents or putting down people’s rights to their own beliefs.

Tailor your humor to the audience. Young adults might appreciate a humorous story about Facebook, for example. An older generation might prefer the comedy of Henny Youngman. Neither may “get” the joke of the other generation.