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Pastor Appreciation: 7 Things Not to Do in Church

Ron is the founding pastor of a church in Harrisburg, PA. He is a graduate of Denver Seminary in Colorado.

Do you really appreciate your pastor? Do you value all the hard work, dedication, prayer, and personal sacrifice that comes with being the go-to leader of a congregation filled with diverse, far from perfect, often needy, and sometimes ornery human beings? I can tell you from experience, it’s not an easy job!

But then, it’s not really a job at all, it’s a calling. God has promised to provide those He calls to that work everything they need to accomplish the task. And part of that provision is you.

And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake.

— 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13a (NKJV)

One of the things God intends for pastors and other church leaders to be able to count on to help them in their work is the genuine appreciation and hearty cooperation of the members of the congregation.

And that support should not just be verbal. Words of approbation and appreciation are crucial, and not to be neglected. But much more important are the things church members actually do to support and encourage their pastors in the work.

Some great ways to discourage your pastor

Do you know that your behavior in church can either encourage or discourage your pastor? Most church members never seem to think about that, but as a pastor, I can assure you it’s true. And believe me, pastors need to be encouraged!

So, if you’d like your actions to be encouraging rather than discouraging to your pastor, here are seven things you should avoid doing when you come to church.

1. Come late

Many church attenders seem to think they are right on time if they arrive 10 minutes into the sermon. They have no idea how disruptive their late arrival is, especially if the congregation is a small one. In our sanctuary the main entrance is clearly visible to those seated, and heads are sure to turn when people enter during Bible reading, prayer, or the sermon.

Your pastor has studied hard and prepared the opening of the sermon for greatest spiritual impact. Latecomers may miss that. More importantly, remember that the worship time that precedes the sermon is when the congregation gets to minister directly to God. You definitely don’t want to miss that!

2. Bring problems to the pastor’s attention before he preaches

One of the advantages of being in a relatively small church is that members have more direct access to the pastor than is common in larger congregations. And pastors want to know about the problems parishioners are dealing with so that they can offer the spiritual and practical support that is a fundamental aspect of their calling.

But please use some discretion! The hour or so before the pastor preaches is not the time to hit him (or her) with personal or church issues.

Most pastors highly value having time to quiet their minds and prepare themselves spiritually before going out to lead the congregation in worship. Being subjected to a fervently expressed account of the latest dispute between Deacon Jones and Elder Smith doesn’t really help that process!

3. Refuse to sing during worship

I understand that you don’t like music, have no singing voice, and don’t know the songs. But when you stand (or sit) stone faced while the congregation is supposed to be singing together, it does put something of a damper on the proceedings. And believe me, in a smaller church, your pastor, standing up front and looking out over the congregation, notices.

More importantly, singing is not about singing — it’s about worshiping God. And isn’t that why you’re there? So, go ahead and make that “joyful noise” Scripture encourages us to make. Both God and your pastor will actually like it!

4. Catch up on your messages and texts during the service

The cell phone is a marvelous invention. Most people these days literally don’t know how to get along without them. And one of the most useful features of these ubiquitous devices is that we can carry them with us, in pocket or purse, everywhere we go. But a church service is not the place to use your phone!

I remember several occasions when someone pulled out their cell phone while I was earnestly teaching Bible Study. The moment it came out, everybody noticed that phone, including me. Can you spell D-I-S-T-R-A-C-T-I-O-N? Whether it’s checking messages, texting, or, heaven forbid, actually talking with someone, using your cell phone during a service is not only distracting to everyone else, it also communicates major disrespect to the person leading that service. Don’t do it!

5. “Rest your eyes" during the sermon

As a pastor, I’m amazed that people don’t seem to realize that preachers notice when congregants' eyes are shut during the sermon. Of course, you are wide awake, listening intently, and have only closed your eyes to rest them. But still, it’s not encouraging to see several people “resting their eyes” and every so often giving that little jerk of the head that happens when people catch themselves nodding off in public.

Get some sleep the night before, and give your pastor the encouragement of eye contact during the message.

6. Speak only to people you already know

One of the worst experiences for a visitor or newcomer to a church is to be ignored by the regular attenders. What that communicates loud and clear is that they are being discounted as outsiders rather than being welcomed into the church family.

Our church has a “three minute rule” — for the first three minutes after the worship service ends, members are expected to seek out people they don’t know and initiate conversation with them. Only after they have done this should members spend time with their friends.

7. Leave as quickly as you can after the service

Most pastors encourage congregants to develop relationships with one another. One of the most obvious indications of that not happening is when an individual or family makes it a practice to bolt for the car immediately after the service has ended. Church members who know and love one another can’t resist taking a few minutes after the worship service to chat. That’s part of what builds a congregation.

Poll Question

Your pastor needs your encouragement!

The Bible is clear that it is the responsibility of church members to not only esteem their pastoral leaders highly (if you don't think your pastor merits your esteem, you are in the wrong church), but to actively encourage them both by word and action.

If you’ll avoid these seven common practices many church members unthinkingly engage in every week, you’ll go a long way toward keeping your pastor encouraged.

If you can think of other ways church attenders often encourage or discourage their pastors by their behavior in church, please share them in the comments below.

© 2016 Ronald E Franklin


Sreerama Reddy on March 02, 2020:

The church where a believer regularly attend for quite some time, wants to leave the church and go to some other one for higher level of growth in the word of God. Can he do so and under what circumstances?

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on February 19, 2018:

Thanks, Yves. I think one way to gain confidence in singing is to focus on the audience, who is God alone, and not the people around you. Parents love to hear their children sing, no matter how they sound, and God is a great parent!

Yves on February 18, 2018:

So happy to learn that pastor's enjoy it when all of the congregation sings. I feel that most congregants, myself included, sometimes sing too timidly. Frankly, I can barely carry a tune, but it is my sense that I should be brave enough to sing "lustily." Sometimes I do, but not consistently.

Anyway, each point you've made is well taken. I like to think I follow them pretty well, even if I am not a regular church goer. Such a useful article, Pastor Ron. Enjoyed it very much.

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on October 07, 2017:

That is very true, Ronald. Thoughtfulness, being here now, and paying attention is a real skill. You are so right that we can be discourteous without meaning to. :)

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on October 06, 2017:

Thanks, Kari. The word I would use is thoughtfulness. I think many times we are discourteous not because we intend to be, but we haven't stopped to think about how our actions impact others, and especially our leaders.

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on September 26, 2017:

Many of these issues are just common courtesy. Courtesy is so important in life and I try to show it to everyone. Thanks for the article. :)

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on February 23, 2017:

Thanks, pstraubie48. We all transgress sometimes, but I think it's good to keep these things in mind so that they don't become the norm.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on February 23, 2017:

So well said....I am a member of a tiny church, only about 15 of us on a weekly basis. And there are times when maybe one or two of these infractions occur....I TRY not to be guilty of any but as I am human I know from time to time I must have been.

Angels are headed your way this morning ps

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on July 25, 2016:

Hi, SueGoryan. Sounds like the first church you visited was focused on ministering to folks who want a less structured service. I'm glad you found a church that fits who you are. Thanks for sharing.

SueGoryan on July 25, 2016:

I came too early a few years ago when I was looking for a new church and it was not good-for me! 15-20 minutes too early showed me a very casual church with people shouting greetings and visiting across the room to each other; shorts & jeans were worn and flip flops were taken off on many people; loud laughing and running thru the church. I HAD wanted to read my bible since I was there early, but there was no way I could concentrate. I guess my upbringing of 'the church is the house of the Lord' did not fit in there, and neither did I. The pastor had no one's attention after he droned on & on for 50 minutes and was still talking when I slipped out as best I could....I will never sit in front of a new church again as my 'getaway' did not go unnoticed, but I already knew when the service started (about 15 minutes late) that I would not be back. I found a great church about a month later that respects the reverence of the church, has a couple of thoughtful pastors that understand the meaning of holding a thought, instead of rambling on too many subjects for an hour, and they even hold their parishioners attention (at least 90% of them) at all times and the members even seem to respect decorum & dress accordingly. I AM old fashioned maybe, but I respect the setting and the pastors and what brings us together on Sundays

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on July 25, 2016:

Hi, Faith Reaper. That texting-in-church family is all too typical of the cluelessness many display about what is appropriate during worship. We pastors probably need to address it more than we do. Thanks for sharing that example.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on July 24, 2016:

Pastor Ron, these are excellent points to consider in being mindful in supporting a pastor. I have been guilty of a few of these things here and will remember from now on how it may be rude to the pastor.

The other Sunday an entire row of a family was sitting in front of us and what was so distracting to me was that they all were on their phones texting or checking Facebook during the sermon! I can understand teenagers trying to do such, but their parents were too!

Thank you, again, for sharing these insightful suggestions.

God bless

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on June 19, 2016:

So true, MsDora. Same for when someone thinks a task is beneath them. If a person thinks they are too "big" to pick up paper in the parking lot, they don't yet have the humility to preach or teach.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 19, 2016:

Good points, Pastor Ron. It can also discourage the Pastor when a member refuses an assignment because he or she thinks someone else should do it. Praying God's favor on you and your ministry.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on June 19, 2016:

Hi, Eric. I'm probably like you in that greeting people I don't know does not come naturally to me. It's something I have to deliberately focus on doing. But I remember how it felt when I've visited churches and no one spoke to me, so I know how important that kind of attention is. Thanks for sharing.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on June 19, 2016:

Thanks, Jodah. I just wanted to raise awareness of some things that people might not have thought about, and if it had that effect, I'm glad.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on June 19, 2016:

aethelthryth, I think pastors understand that some people are going to have difficulty staying awake simply because of what may have been happening in their lives (like lack of sleep). If, like you, they are doing their best to be attentive, but just can't help closing their eyes from time to time, you can't really ask for more. What is discouraging to pastors, I think, is when they can see that someone has clearly made the choice to tune out the message, and use the time to catch up on their sleep. But, of course, I don't really know since I never have anybody sleep during my sermons!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 19, 2016:

Man, I was doing great until that last one. Maybe I am not anti-social but certainly close to it. This evening I will do better. Although we do do our greetings more before and during service. We notice that Christ was a leader while man. We notice that we are to be Christ like. I am not saying that the leaders are more Christ like -- but it gives me pause to think about it. We must encourage them and pray for them. Thank you Ron.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on June 18, 2016:

Good advice Ron. I admit to not considering a couple of these before, and I am guilty of "resting my eyes" when not getting enough sleep the night before. I do appreciate the preparation that a pastor must put into his sermons however and try to always be encouraging, sing to the music, and leave questions for a more appropriate time. This is a good reminder to be even more supportive and helpful.

aethelthryth from American Southwest on June 18, 2016:

I fall asleep in church pretty often (for the same reason I very likely will in a few - too few - hours from now), but not nearly as often as I fell asleep in lectures in college. And I have to say, sometimes I am really tired but fighting to stay awake because the pastor is teaching something about Scripture that I never noticed in there before and it is fascinating. College professors rarely have the privilege pastors do of talking about the actual words of the God of the universe.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on June 17, 2016:

celafoe, your comment clearly shares your point of view.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on June 17, 2016:

Thanks, word55. I suspect that many pastors, especially of smaller churches, can identify with these issues.

charlie from From Kingdom of God living on Planet earth in between the oceans on June 17, 2016:

what a load of hogwash. totally against scripture. but well put from THE CHURCHES OF MEN . A pastor is not a scriptural position, it is descriptive of a ministry performed by God anointed men who understand NO MAN IS OVER ANOTHER. and that the head of man is Christ alone.

if a man takes a "church position" of pastor he makes it clear he is man apointed, and not God anointed. In the true kingdom of God there is NO hierachy, no clergy and certainly no place for man appointed "leaders"

Al Wordlaw from Chicago on June 17, 2016:

Very well said RonEl. I certainly do agree with you. I didn't like that when I was in the pulpit.

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