If I was being completely honest…
my favorite books are anything involving Calvin and Hobbes or The Far Side.
That may not seem incredibly spiritual or deep, but ministry requires that I regularly dive into the spiritual, deep end of life. Maybe you do, too. If you want something along those lines to read that also has plenty of practical leadership tips, I’d (humbly) suggest my book “Uncommon Wisdom From The Other Side: A Senior Pastor Talks Youth Ministry.”
All self-plugs aside… let’s get back to laughter. Absurdity, wit and satire can be therapeutic and remind us that laughter is as much of a gift from God as a Sabbath is.
We leverage this in our church’s weekend services by showing a stand-up comedy clip or a clever themed-video. We might even play an interactive game with the whole congregation that you’d likely see in a typical student ministry. Most of my messages involve some type of self-effacing humor.
It all tracks back to when I learned the value of laughter in one of my first serving opportunities as a Christian. Our youth group had an incredible drama ministry with artistic resources that outmatched my high school. I eventually joined into it, performing wacky, Saturday Night Live-esque skits for hundreds of my peers each week. The volume of laughter in that room was incredible.
Initially, I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever been a part of. We did everything from stereotype famous pop culture characters to invent our own inside-jokes that everyone got into. A fellow actor and I once devised a clever handshake for a sketch that took at least three minutes to perform. Within a week, the majority of our youth group was doing it.
I only later understood the real purpose for our time on stage. Our youth pastor explained how many students weren’t coming into the room “ready” to hear from God. By helping them laugh through appropriate humor, we were serving God. It let them know that we could speak their language, which opened the door to them realizing God spoke their language, too.
Laughter creates shared experiences, but it also disarms strongholds.
You know this when one of your kids (be it in your youth group or your own family) makes you laugh in a moment that you’re trying to be firm. It’s incredibly difficult to put the “tough face” back on, no matter how hard you try. The same is true of when you use laughter to help kids giggle out loud and establish a positive emotional climate with each other.
This is why I intentionally bring along funny and interactive books on road trips or when traveling to serving experiences. Anything that can get kids talking or laughing at gregarious-and-almost-slightly-annoying levels opens up the conversational playing field. It establishes that students can be themselves, which in turns leads to them more easily talking and opening up.
Here are some ideas to get you pointed in the right direction:
- Pass-these-around books: Have enough books for everyone in your vehicle to look through and find the comic strips they like. The goal is that at least every 5 to 10 minutes they need to show someone else one they thought was funny or that they related to.
- Conversation starters: Sometimes all you need is the right set of questions to get students talking and laughing.
- Game/Program resources:
Got any more I missed? Please add your comments below so we can really get an exhaustive list going. While you’re at it, tell some friends about this – maybe a lot of youth groups are in need of a little more laughter.
P.S. Oh yeah, and buy my book. After all, “a brutha’s gotta eat!”
Thank you for loving students!
Tony / @tonymyles