Jumat, 07 Agustus 2015
Pastors Need Laughter, Too
by Ted Cunningham
We preach funerals, officiate weddings, counsel couples, pray with addicts, and prepare weekly sermons. Pastoring is serious, eternal business. No doubt. There are highs and lows, and the only way to maintain ministry longevity is to practice good self-care. It’s in the best interest of your family and congregation that you minister with a joyful heart.
Caring for the pastor’s soul requires lighter moments. If we’re serious 100% of the time, our souls drain. We need to escape and unwind. We need to cut loose and laugh. Good self-care includes taking laughter seriously.
Laughter is a choice. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). When we rejoice, we express joy and delight. No matter what we’re going through, we choose to rejoice. We choose to laugh. In one of his classic sermons, Dr. Gary Smalley used a cheerleader’s pom poms to express joy over difficulties and stress. Rather than stew and sulk when trials hit you, Gary throws the pom poms in the air while he cheers and laughs. Like contentment, joy is a decision.
Laughter is a season. Solomon wrote, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4). Some moments in life, like a funeral, require deep, somber reflection. There are also appointed times, called “seasons,” when we laugh. Emotionally healthy pastors find great freedom in expressing a wide range of emotions. They choose not to remain in a dry season forever.
Laughter is a medicine. This is probably the most common understanding of laughter we have from Scripture. It’s the most often quoted passage for laughter. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Good humor has the power to diffuse conflict, resolve anger, and restore relationships. I’ve seen it happen. This is a pill worth popping.
Here are a few ways to add necessary laughter to your pastoral life:
Hang around funny people. Do you have humorous friends? If so, call one of them to grab coffee, lunch, or even go fishing. There’s only one rule. No serious theological discussions or counseling. Every pastor needs a friend that brings great joy to their life. Keep that friend close.
Discover your laugh style. I have what my family calls a slow, machine gun laugh. My wife has what I call a silent, patriotic laugh. When something strikes her as humorous, she places her hand over her heart and leans forward, but very little sound comes out. Take some time with your family tonight, and describe one another’s laugh styles. Laughing is contagious. Talking about laughing will create more laughter.
Find humor in the intolerable. You don’t have to get mad or frustrated at everything “bad” that happens to you. Choose to laugh. Legendary comedian Charlie Chaplin once said, “To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it!” My dad’s favorite comedian, Bob Newhart, believes “Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it, and then move on, not taking ourselves too seriously.” Nineteenth Century preacher Henry Ward Beecher is attributed with saying, “Humor makes all things tolerable.” Amen.
Invite your congregation to laugh with you. Pastor, you don’t need to be a comedian or great joke-teller to laugh. Laughter is of high value at our church. We have a serious mission, and we enjoy one another in the process. We’ve had people leave our church because I use too much humor in my sermons. We’ve also had people leave because our church is too big. Our student director, Mickey Pittman, says, “If you don’t like laughter and lots of people, then you probably won’t like heaven.”
A few months ago, I asked our congregation to describe their laugh style. Here are what a few of them said:
“I have a combination of Betty Rubble and Woody the Woodpecker.” – JoAnna
“Loud, hand over mouth, and then snort. I sometimes can’t stop laughing. Hate I miss some of what you say coz I am still laughing at one of your jokes.” – Christi
“My laugh sounds like I’m gasping for air. My 3 siblings laugh the exact same way! Haha it’s making me laugh just thinking about it.” – Ashley
“Does the silent laugh with your eyes closed and non-breathing count?? Cause if it does…then that’s me.” – Brandy
“It’s been described as contagious.” – Bobby
“I laugh hard and with joy, and I have been known to snort.” – Martha
“Julia Roberts explosive laugh when something is really funny. Bah ha ha!!” – Randi
“Engine revving up.” – Katy
“Extremely loud….quiets a room…” – Leah Jane
“Variety laugher- keep people guessing.” – Mesa
“I just know this…. It’s loud!!!” – Kaye
A Dallas pastor once asked, “Is your church a cruise ship or a battleship?” My immediate response to that question was, “I hope we are both.” We take seriously the purposes of the church. That fits the battleship word picture. We also believe in the fellowship of the saints spending time together with “… glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people…” (Acts 2:46-47). I guess that would make us a cruise ship too.
Copyright © 2015 by Ted Cunningham. Used by permission.
Ted Cunningham is the founding pastor of Woodland Hills Family Church. He married Amy in 1996, and they live in Branson, MO with their two children, Corynn and Carson. Ted is the author of Fun Loving You, Trophy Child, and Young and In Love, and coauthor of four books with Dr. Gary Smalley. He is a graduate of Liberty University and Dallas Theological Seminary.