I’m not sure the best way to start an article about sarcasm is with a sarcastic title. But whatever. Let me tell you a story.
It was a few years into my current ministry at Heartland Church. I was leading our weekly rehearsal and one of my team members who wasn’t scheduled that Sunday was hanging out in the sound booth. During the middle of rehearsal, he cracked a joke into the talkback mic. About me. In front of the whole team.
I don’t even remember the content of the joke. Had it just been him and me and a few of our friends, it probably wouldn’t have registered. But during rehearsal in front of the whole team, it was disrespectful of me and my
Before I even had a chance to be angry at him, a Holy Spirit-induced thought came to my mind: I created this. I loved to joke around and be sarcastic. And I had a bunch of guys (and a few girls) on my team who enthusiastically jumped right in. I essentially created a culture where it was okay to tear someone down, as long as it was done with a smile and followed by a, “Haha, just kidding.” We claimed it was our love language. Except it wasn’t.
A Commitment To Love Other Team Members
If you’ve been following this Team Members Only series, you know we’re talking about Seven Critical Commitments that team members need to make. One of the critical commitments we need to make is to love, encourage, and challenge other team members.
Let’s be real: loving encouragement and healthy challenge can’t be couched in cutting humor. A little teasing and joking among friends isn’t the issue. But a worship team culture of sarcastic humor is.
Sarcasm at its core is about insulting or belittling, and falls into the category of mordant humor. That’s OK, I had to look up mordant, too. It’s this: Having or showing a sharp or critical quality; biting. Check out some of the synonyms: caustic, cutting, scathing, acid, sharp. Oh yeah, and sarcastic.
From what I’ve seen as I work with other churches, sarcasm is deeply rooted in too many worship ministries. It’s a symptom of team members and leaders not being brave and loving enough to confront each other directly. Sarcasm shrouds our true feelings in humor and guards us against an emotionally-vulnerable interaction. The sarcastic remarks are arrows shot from behind a wall of distrust and fear.
You might be thinking, “Dang, Jon, we’re just joking a little. Lighten up.” I used to think that, too. But I saw what my team had become. And I started to see what I was doing to people on my ministry who didn’t enjoy the joking. I also realized the condition of my heart was creating this sarcasm.
So I stopped. I still had fun. I still joked around. But I tried to curb any humor that was remotely at the expense of another person—even if I knew they could “take it.” I also had a few crucial conversations along the way with others who joked that way.
My team culture changed. Slowly, over time. And now when the occasional biting zinger comes flying out from someone (including me), it sticks out as hurtful and not how we treat each other.
Sarcasm: Shut It Down
A practical path toward a healthier team is a “hard stop” of humor that cuts people down—even it’s “all in fun.” Because while the joke might be fun for some, it’s still an arrow that wounds the heart, of both the recipient and the shooter. When those arrows stop flying, and those walls come down, we can start being real with each other. That’s when the loving encouragement and healthy confrontation can happen.
So let me give you a couple steps to take if sarcasm is an issue in your own heart or on your team.
If you tend to be sarcastic…
- Ask God to show you why you gravitate towards sarcasm. (Be ready, this will start a journey for you.)
- Ask a friend on the team to call you on the sarcasm when they hear it.
- Don’t engage. When the jokes start flying at the next rehearsal, don’t add fuel to the fire.
If your team members or leader tend to be sarcastic…
- Pray for them—that their hearts will be softened towards this issue.
- Lovingly bring the matter to the attention of the leader. Share this article if you need to.
- Choose to engage in some one-on-one conversations with other team members. Don’t come from a place of moral authority. But approach it more like this:
“When you said _____ to Tyler, I think you just meant to be funny. But I’m not sure he took it that way. Here’s what I heard when you said it: _____.”
Let the person know you love them and want the best for the worship ministry. Again, it’s not fun, but when you begin to be brave and loving enough to confront this issue, your team will become healthier and stronger.
The bottom line is this: language shapes culture. And none of us want words like biting, cutting, or belittling to describe our worship team culture.