No one ever bangs the mic during the announcements portion of Sunday service and says, “Is this thing on?” or ends the whole thing by shouting, “You’ve been a great crowd. Make sure you take care of your ushers!” But they should, because occasionally the people that make the announcements treat the whole thing like an open mic night at a comedy club.
Something about the power of the mic and the heat of a spotlight tends to transform normal looking members of the church into comedians or even would be pastors. What was supposed to be a simple, “There’s a gravy jamboree this Thursday night in the Community Hall” somehow morphs into a def jam comedy session which must just be excruciating for the pastor to watch. During those moments, I have to imagine pastors are silently thinking, “If I threw a hymnal from where I am sitting, would it be possible for me to: A. Knock him out cold? B. Get the drummer to help me carry the body back to the pews?”
How do you stop this phenomenon? Certainly the first step is prevention, you simply ask the right people to do announcements. But even that’s not flawless because you don’t know 100% how someone is going to act on stage. The mic and a crowd do unexpected things to people. But even if we can’t avoid it, maybe we can recognize it quickly and eliminate it by looking for these warning signs.
Signs your announcements are about to jump the tracks:
1. The Daily Show
This is probably the most common joke format and takes its name from the popular satire news program, “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” In this approach, the person reading the announcements tries to add a “zinger” after every bit of news they share. For instance, “The singles retreat will be held on Labor Day at Destin Beach, Florida. A retreat for singles? What are they retreating from? I’m the one with four kids. I should be down on that beach, am I right?” (This may or may not involve someone saying “Yowza!” after each item in the announcements.)
2. “That reminds me.”
This is the kiss of death phrase when it comes to announcements. When someone says this, what they’ve really just said is, “I want to reflect on what I just read with some ideas, insights and general rambling that is so off script it will make your teeth hurt. I’ve segued out of the ‘volunteer for VBS’ message using the phrase ‘that reminds me’ and will now be sharing something I learned recently in Leviticus.” If you are a pastor you should get 42% sweatier if you ever hear this phrase during a series of announcements.
3. No notes
You want your announcer to have a note card. Andy Stanley doesn’t even try to memorize the announcements, but like riding a bike with no hands, some people want to show off and go up there without any notes. Usually, midway through, they end up running into a metaphorical mailbox right after they silently yell, “Look mom, no hands!”
4. The Bermuda Triangle of “I said ‘good morning'”
If you’ve never spoken publicly before please, please heed these words of warning: never, ever enter into a Bermuda triangle of double greeting. You think it will be light and playful, there are probably “how to preach” books that encourage people to ask the crowd to repeat the phrase “good morning” if the first one wasn’t loud enough as an icebreaker, but fight that temptation. If your guiltfest “I said ‘good morning'” doesn’t work the first time then you’ll think you need to do it a second time and if the good morning you receive is progressively smaller than the original response you’re just traveling down hill at that point. You’ll keep doing it until finally it’s only one guy in the fifth row saying “good morning” and there’s a big bail of tumbleweed made of leftover palm branches from Easter rolling across the stage as you awkwardly wait for a good morning that just isn’t coming. (Cue lonesome harmonica.)
5. The sermon audition
Whenever I get into an elevator at work with an important executive, a recognition I can usually make based on the crispness of the pleats in their pants, I am tempted to make an elevator speech. I am tempted to say something so wise and insightful and awesome that right on the spot they say, “How would you like a raise and an office with a door and a new project that involves filming the follow up to Breakin’ 2, Electric Boogaloo? We’ll call it “Breakin’ 3, Rise of the Worm?” And the same thing happens sometimes when you give an overly ambitious person the task of providing the announcements. We think it’s a sermon audition. We think, “This is my one shot. Don’t mess it up Jon. In fact, you better lose yourself in the music, the moment. You own it, you better never let it go. You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.” And then your palms get sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy. There’s vomit on your sweater already, mom’s spaghetti. You’re nervous, but on the surface you look calm and ready, to drop bombs. But maybe that’s just me. And people from 8 mile.
At North Point Community Church, where I attend, staff members do all the announcements so unfortunately I don’t get to see most of these warning signs. And we don’t use hymnals so I couldn’t throw a glancing blow even if I wanted to.
How about you though?
What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever seen happen during the announcements at church?