Ron is the founding pastor of a church in Harrisburg, PA, and a graduate of Denver Seminary in Colorado.
Pastors Need to Be Able to Count on Their Congregations
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.
Church Behaviors That Discourage Pastors
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.
7 Things You Shouldn't Do in Church
- Come Late
- Bring Problems to the Pastor's Attention Before He Preaches
- Refuse to Sing During Worship
- Catch up on Messages and Texts During the Service
- "Rest Your Eyes" During the Sermon
- Speak Only to People You Already Know
- Leave as Quickly as You Can After the Service
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.
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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 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.
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