What Can Comedians Teach Us About Ministry?

What Comedians Can Teach Us About Ministry There’s a principle in improvisational comedy called “Yes… and.” The gist is that when someone offers an idea or direction during the game or skit, the other actors should respond with “yes… and” instead of “no” or “but.” By immediately accepting the idea and not shooting it down the energy and action of the game is maintained instead of screeching to a stop:

(NB: The idea isn’t to actually say “yes… and”; it speaks more to a mindset than a scripted line.)

Beyond comedy, this is also a good principle for ministry.

When people come to register at a parish or to ask for a sacrament, they come to us in the midst of their lives: dealing with wounds, asking questions, and searching for the meaning and community that will bring them fulfillment. This process is ongoing. More often than not they have not reached the end of their spiritual journey, ready to “cast down their nets” and embrace the life of Christian discipleship. As a result, they may balk when encouraged to take the next few steps to become engaged in religious education, preparation for marriage, or turn away from some abiding sin.

For example, many couples today come to parishes already cohabitating. This is obviously far from the ideal. Church teaching and sociological studies show that marriages are more likely to succeed if couple live apart until their vows are completed. However, many couples in this situation encounter the blunt message that “until you separate we cannot proceed with marriage preparation.” Many no doubt turn away and simply procure a civil marriage in place of the sacrament.

Adapting the “yes… and” mindset, a pastor or marriage preparation coordinator might instead say:

“Welcome! We are so glad you have come to the Church to celebrate this sacred occasion! However, we note that you are both currently living together. In order to best prepare for your wedding and marriage, we would ask you to consider living apart for the next six months until the wedding. Think of this time as a retreat as you prepare to make your vows. And we would like to help you do this. In fact, we have a couple in our parish who have a spare bedroom that they have offered to anyone preparing for marriage, rent free, so that you can make the most of this time of preparation.”

Adopting the “yes… and” mindset helps to open doors to evangelization by acknowledging the reality of people’s lives while also pointing towards further healing, deeper relationships, and growing faith.

How could you adopt the “yes… and” mindset in your ministry?