Online Humor: Do-Do’s and Don’t-Do’s
Humor is a funny thing.
It’s hard to tell when you’ve hit the mark right on the ha-ha’s or if you’re going to get emails in all caps. So many churches shy away from humor unless it’s so safe and blah that your grandma is the only one who thinks the pastor’s joke is funny…and even then, she’s not sure how jokes tell people about Jesus.
Social media is such a minefield these days, but we can’t afford to let our church channels become a barren wasteland of event advertisements and encouraging quotes. They need life.
So, before getting into the do’s and don’ts of online humor, let me hit you with these parameters for do and don’t from Scripture:
Do: A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Prov. 17:22
Don’t: Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. Eph. 5:4
That’s how the Bible often presents truth: tension-filled pairs. It’s our job to find the middle.
Do’s and Don’ts
Do: Take part in funny things that happen in the life of your church.
When someone says or does something funny, acknowledge that it’s funny! You can even add your own commentary back. Be human.
Don’t: Be mean or sarcastic about it.
What you don’t want to do is try to be the kind of funny that is at someone else’s expense or comes off as sarcastic. This translates as bullying online and isn’t received well.
Do: Use emojis, memes, and gifs
Sometimes, you will get a comment that you have no idea how to respond to. That’s the perfect use for an emoji. Just a smiley face or a heart will communicate enough. Also, memes and gifs are just funny. They can convey so much more than you could describe by text and I think they are actually a safer response, chosen correctly, when you want to convey fun without offending people.
Don’t: Use emojis, memes, and gifs if you don’t know what they mean
However, you want to be careful which ones you use, especially with memes and gifs. I once responded with a gif of a headshot of a guy in a yellow Polo shirt looking up and smiling and nodding in a poll I created on Facebook. I got a message soon after that guy was actually a porn star! I had no idea. And the person who did know? Female. How did she know? Lesson learned.
Do: Lighten up and be yourself
You might be very concerned with keeping “the voice of the church” front and center. That’s good. But you can also change that voice to something that is a little less stale by being yourself. People aren’t dumb, they know there’s an actual human back there pulling the strings of your church social, so be yourself.
Don’t: Try to be funny all the time.
That being said, there are limits to how much of your personality should go into social. If you’re a generally funny person, this can work for you. However, if you’re typically not a funny person, then don’t try to be. Get someone else to help you with those kinds of post ideas.
Do: Channel your inner dad-joke or Jim Gaffigan
Dad jokes and Jim Gaffigan’s food bits seem to do really well across the board with most people. Guys like John Crist and Tim Hawkins have found a happy medium for comedy in the Christian world. It’s a good gauge for what your audience may also find funny. It might seem a little lame to you, but that is typically the line I try to walk and it serves me well on my church channels.
Don’t: Channel The Babylon Bee or Dave Chappelle
But it’s tricky. Your crowd isn’t going to get satire and they’re not going to find social commentary on current events type comedy funny, but divisive. You’re going to get comments like “Is this our official stance on this issue now?” and stuff like that. Plus, you either get the Bee or you don’t. Those that don’t feel stupid when they realize it was satire and those that usually inform the ignorant are usually not super nice about it. Ie. “It’s satire, dummy.”
Do: Get out from behind the camera
I’ve heard this question a lot: Should I get in front of the church’s camera for social or just let the pastors be on camera? My answer is to share the load. Sometimes, you need to get on camera and that’s ok. It reminds everyone that there’s a real person behind the scenes that isn’t the pastor running social. Besides, humor often needs facial expression, tone, and timing to work, and you just can’t get that with text or a graphic. You need a face for that. And last, you can’t always get a pastor to take the time to help you out on social and you need to shoot a video today. Go for it.
Don’t: Try to be the star of your church’s social
But, the fame is infectious and so is the convenience. So make sure you’re catching other staff members in their fun as well. We had a production director who hurt his foot recently and we had one of those little scooter crutches laying around. When he started riding it up and down the hall, of course, I captured it for Instagram Stories! If your church is a fun place, then your social media needs to reflect that. Otherwise, you’re being dishonest about who you are.
Any other do’s and don’ts for humor on social media? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments or over in my Facebook group. Follow me on Instagram for more social media and church communication tips and tricks!