10 Surprising Things Church Members Said to Guests

Over the years that I’ve done church consulting, I’ve heard about (and heard personally) some surprising things that church members have said to guests. Here are a few of them:

  1. “Excuse me, you’re in my seat.” Our secret shopper wasn’t aware that everyone had an assigned seat.
  2. “Well, I never thought I’d see you in church.” I knew this first-time guest, and it was indeed surprising he was there – but it probably wasn’t best that the church member verbalized her surprise.
  3. “Women don’t wear slacks in this church.” This guest didn’t know the local rules, but she learned them quickly.
  4. “You’re late – you’ll need to sit in the front.” This usher was completely unhelpful to guests who actually had a good reason for being late.
  5. “We’ll take your children to children’s church while you go to worship.” It’s not a bad thing to help parents, but this volunteer assumed too much: that the parents wanted their children to go there, and that they would release their kids to someone they just met.
  6. “Our new pastor’s not very good.” This member was apparently not pleased with the church’s new leader.
  7. “If I’d known you were the guest preacher’s wife, I would have said something to you.” My wife was the guest preacher’s wife, and I was standing beside her. Neither one of us knew what to say.
  8. “I just want you to know that we started this church because we wanted to be hymn-singing, robe-wearing church in the community.” They were that church, and seemingly, this church member was responsible for guarding that commitment.
  9. “You can’t do this.” The member was letting the guest know that the church allows only members to take the Lord’s Supper, but her approach was unfortunate.
  10. “Please stand and tell us your name.” I didn’t think this happened anymore, but it does.

What other surprising things have you heard? 


  • Mark says:

    “These seats are saved for my friends who may be coming.” It was a whole pew that was reserved.

  • David McBryar says:

    When I started in the ministry the man I sat under had a thriving nursing home ministry and he was very nice to allow me to preach to these blessed people. After the sermon was over this elderly lady rolled up in her wheelchair and said, “you remind me so much of my grandfather.” I got the big head immediately thinking he must have been one of the greatest preachers in our area but then she said, “Oh Yes, He was a big old fat man”… my big head got deflated real quickly…LOL

  • Joe Ward says:

    After welcoming a guest to a Sunday School class, the question was asked about his profession. The man stated that he was retired beer truck driver. He was told that he was not welcome in our church, and he left.

  • Robin Jordan says:

    If we are prone to saying stupid things, there is a high likelihood that we will say them to guests who are attending our church for the first time (and may be for the last time). It is sort of like Murphy’s Law or the Peter Principle. To this day I regret how I phrased my invitation to a young couple to stay for coffee and cake after the service. The words were out of my mouth before I realizes how the couple might take them. Everything seemed to go wrong after that. The church elder whose turn it was to preach that morning fumbled his way through his sermon. His sermons are usually far more organized. The couple left in a hurry as soon as the service was over. Needless to say they did not stay for coffee and cake.

    Every church, I suspect, has church members that you cringe at thought of them saying anything to a first-time or even a returning guest. Guests do not want (or need) to hear about how the church is getting smaller and smaller, how you think that there are too many hymns or the hymns are too long, and so on.

    One explanation of why church members act they way they do – at least in small churches – is that the church rarely has guests and they do not know how they should relate to guests. But unfortunately the way they relate to guests makes it even more likely having guests on Sunday morning will be a rarity. Guests who have a bad experience at our church are more likely to tell their friends, relatives, neighbors, and coworkers about the experience. A church can quickly acquire a bad reputation in the community, a reputation that is likely to prove difficult to overcome.

  • Bob Stilwell says:

    We had a guest speaker fill the pulpit for me while my wife and I were on vacation. As a trustee handed him a pulpit supply check, he said, “We’re going to have to do something about our pastor.” I returned home that Sunday evening, expecting to find the speaker’s sermon recorded on the camcorder, only see a video of one couple’s personal attack upon me as they convinced a small number of silent, long-time member that I should be “asked to hit the road.” They thought the camera was turned off and had accidentally recording their “impromptu” meeting in the sanctuary. I was asked to resign, via email, 8 days later.

  • Doug Miller says:

    I’ve had several of these statements made to me while o was doing consulting. I opened this article fearing what you may have come to with, but was pleasantly surprised. I have not personally heard any of these in a long, long time. Thanks for the reminders.

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