Humor: Helping an Audience Adapt

For several decades, our church sanctuary had an antique pulpit which was cumbersome to use. The surface for notes or a Bible was small and irregular, and the height was unsuitable for most speakers. So for many years there as the pulpit minister, I suggested that the leadership replace it with a Lucite pulpit. This change was finally made a few months ago.

I feared there would be resistance from a few of the senior members who treasured the sentiment of the old pulpit, and it would be a visual adjustment as well. At my son Josh’s suggestion, I decided to introduce the Lucite pulpit with humor on the first Sunday it was in use. Lucite lectern

We chose to play on the characteristics of the Lucite for the audience to get used to the concept. We also adapted an old listening joke to the topic and in the process broke down barriers to accepting the new over the old. Here are some of the lines I used to introduce the new pulpit.

“As you can tell, we’re working on building a culture of transparency here. The elders might tell you that this new pulpit is an effort to bring the speakers and the worshippers closer together, but you can probably see right through that.

“Two preachers were talking about Lucite pulpits, and one said, ‘Did you hear the story about the dirty Lucite pulpit?’

“His buddy said, ‘No.’

“The first preacher said, ‘Well, you couldn’t see through it, anyway.’

“The second preacher thought that was pretty funny, so the next Sunday he tried to share it with his own congregation. He didn’t get it quite right, though. He asked, ‘Have you heard the story about the Lucite pulpit you couldn’t see through?’ After their negative responses, he said, ‘It was too dirty to tell, anyway.’  And they fired him.

“All kidding aside, this pulpit is a clear improvement over the other one.”

The audience smiled and chuckled and I began my sermon. Humor has many uses in a presentation, and helping listeners to adapt to the new is one of them.

To see Steve in action from his Lucite pulpit, click here.

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at

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