Guidelines For Using Humor In A Sermon

Guidelines For Using Humor In A Sermon

This will be the last post in this series on humor in a sermon.  The previous posts begin here.  In this post we’ll develop some guidelines for using humor in a sermon that will help you in the use of this effective tool.

Guideline 1 For Using Humor: Let the Audience Decide

What I mean is this: don’t tell your audience that you are going to tell them a funny story.  That can set you up for failure if they don’t think it’s funny.  Simply tell the story and let them decide whether or not it is mildly humorous or hilarious.

Guideline 2 For Using Humor: Don’t Explain

Guideline #2 for using humor in a sermon in your church is simple.  Don’t explain your joke.  I know personally that this is a strong temptation if people don’t laugh to the extent that you think they should.  It is very tempting to think that they didn’t laugh because they didn’t understand it, and so, you go into an explanation.  The bottom line is that if you have to explain a joke, it wasn’t funny.  This is an important guideline for using humor in a sermon or talk.

Guideline 3 For Using Humor:  Keep Rolling

This guideline is especially applicable if nobody laughs at your joke or story. Sometimes amateur comedians will hesitate and say, “Oh, that was a real bomb!”  in reference to the attempt at humor.  If you aren’t a pro, it’s best to just keep on rolling in your sermon.  Move on to the next point.

Later, you can think about the joke or story and try to figure out why it didn’t work. Was the joke bad, or was it your delivery?

Guideline 4 For Using Humor: Practice

Delivering a good joke or a humorous story is a skill.  Earlier in this blog we looked at the need for practice before preaching a sermon.   That counsel goes double for telling a joke.  Practice it until you can tell it smoothly, as well as use the tactic of a pause in the right places.

Guideline 5: Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

Recently I tried to tell a humorous story in a sermon.  It bombed.  There were only a few small chuckles, at best.  After the service I ran into a member of that church who was a seasoned speaker.  He comfortingly said, “That didn’t go too well, did it?”  I laughed in response.  And he began laughing in response to my laughter.  The failure of a joke became a laughable joke between us.

Sometimes, when things haven’t gone as well as you’d like, it’s best not to brood over the failure, but to laugh at yourself well.  This will put others at ease, and will work well to set up a time in the future when you will tell another humorous story or joke in the sermon.

Guideline 6: Don’t Make Fun Of Serious Subjects

There are certain things that aren’t funny.  In fact, there are more things now that aren’t good subjects for humor than just a few years ago.  Don’t tell a joke about other religions, or jokes about certain nationalities, or about gender or sexual orientation.  Avoid telling stories that put down other races or countries.  This is the kind of thing that can turn people off, and they may miss hearing the gospel.  Not only that, your hearers may not be quite as ready to listen to you the next time you preach.


I’ve tried to present some guidelines for using humor in a sermon that will help you be more successful in your preaching.  Humor is a powerful tool, but it can be destructive if you don’t use it well.

For your consideration, here’s another point of view.