How to Talk to Your Pastor–or Not–on the Way to the Service

We’ve all been there in one way or the other. As church members, we need to tell the pastor something – and the only time we see him is as he makes his way to the service. Or, as a pastor, we’ve been the recipients of those conversations. We don’t want to appear rude, but nor is our focus on conversations.

Here are some ways to talk with your pastor during that time:

What you should NOT say:

  1. “I have a complaint about xxxxx.” Even if your complaint is valid, that’s not the time to bring it up. Don’t distract your pastor from his focus on preaching the Word.
  2. “Did you hear about xxxxx?” He may have already heard, or perhaps he hasn’t. In either case, he’s likely not in the best position to hear the details. His mind is rightly already moving toward the service.
  3. “I really didn’t like your sermon last week.” Again, it’s simply not the time to bring up that concern. Talk to him during the week if you must, not just before he prepares to preach again (and, to be truthful, he may not have liked his sermon last week, either . . . so you may need to cut him some slack).  
  4. “I’m having surgery this week on Tuesday at 7:30am.” He probably wants to know that information, but tell him when he can listen more completely. Use email or the telephone.
  5. “Please pray for me about xxxxx.” I know including this one on the "don't" list might get me in trouble, but here’s my point: pastors are often bombarded with such requests on a Sunday. To expect him to remember every one (or even to write down every one while on the way to worship) is unfair. Use another means to get the word to him.
  6. “We just want you to know we’re leaving the church after this week.” Frankly, someone who gives the pastor this information just prior to a service might be both unkind and disrespectful. Why give him hard news just prior to his leading a service? 

What you SHOULD say:

  1. “We love you, pastor.” That’s only four words, but they’re often needed ones. You might be the only person to say those words to him this week.
  2. “We love your family, pastor.” Assuming you love him also, these words may be even more important to the pastor than #1 above. A man who trusts that his congregation loves his family will look forward to worshiping with that congregation.
  3. “We’re praying for you.” When those words are more than just words Christians are supposed to say, they mean the world to a pastor. He needs to know his congregation is interceding for him.
  4. “We’re looking forward to the Word today.” When a pastor knows his listeners have come with interested and waiting ears, his excitement over preaching the Word soars. Let him know.
  5. “Thanks for being a man of God.” Integrity matters, and we too seldom thank those who model it before us. As a pastor, I would hear these words as both an encouragement and a challenge to fight to stay faithful and holy.
  6. “I want to contact you this week to see how I can best help you.” You don’t need to get into the details in this conversation. Keep it short, and be committed to your word. Your pastor may need to know he’s not alone in his work.

What would you add to this list? 


  • Bill Pitcher says:

    “Pastor, we have to sit down right now and plan the…[event that’s 3 months away.”

  • Cynthia A Garman says:

    Here’s a gift card for xxxxx restaurant. You work long and hard. We appreciate it Take some time to treat yourself!

  • Curt says:

    Too many Pastors I have seen are book knowledge smart and some are way over the top focused on technical knowledge and somehow lack the heart knowledge. The things that are written here that a person “should say to their pastor” need to be a part of the absolute core of the pastor himself and they must travel out of the heart through his mouth to each and every member of the congregation regardless of any personal knowledge of the person or even in having full knowledge of the person. Heart felt compassion and a servitude heart (like Christ washing His Disciples feet) is what the Pastor is supposed to be like. Church is not a business, it is a representation of Christ with the body of believers and then the pastor as the leader feeding them while washing every members feet both literally, and figuratively. Feeding His flock is what they are supposed to do. The real question is for all pastors is,…”how should a pastor talk” to the church members and guests just prior to the service. What he should say and not say is more important than questioning the members and guests method of speaking to the Pastor. Note the word is “service” as it is called and not a business meeting with a CEO or a profit center moment to just pay the bills. The focus of a pastor is to be humble and serve as he is caring for and feeding Christs flock with the heart and compassion of Christ.

  • Jeff says:

    This is an interesting article. I can’t help but wonder if we go too far past the Biblical requirements of pastoral leadership, heaping more responsibility than is required in Scripture. Nowhere in Scripture do we actually see a single individual “at the top” of an assembly of believers. There are many gifts given to the body of Christ, of which one is pastoring. Could it be that we elevate one above all others?

  • Mark says:

    I would like to respond to your May 13 article “How to talk to your pastor”. First a little background. I grew up in Augusta, GA and have been a Southern Baptist most of my life (a good bit of my military life was served under differing chaplains and not necessarily SBC chaplains). I am a retired from the USAF where I was a pilot for over 20 years. While you were chasing cheerleaders I was living in a hooch in Central America protecting your right to live free and worship where you want (I will refer to this later). I graduated from the University of Southern California in 1980 and have been married for 30 years with two children. Our daughter was an honor graduate from Georgia Tech and is now a big wig for Delta Airlines. Our son graduated, summa cum laude from the University of Georgia and is now a lawyer in Kansas City. My wife has been an elementary school teacher of over 30 years. Yes, I am bragging but to have a successful life you must work at it and be dedicated to that endeavor. Being a pastor requires dedication.
    I saw your article on Facebook yesterday and I read it with interest. I believe your article hits to the heart of the problem with the SBC and churches in general. A pastor should be a servant FIRST, period. Being a pastor is a calling and that is something I have never experienced. Today too many pastors approach the position of pastor as a job and it is not a job. Today’s pastor wants 2 weeks of vacation and 2 more weeks sabbatical to rejuvenate and then the ability and time to participate in ‘Iron Man’ competitions. When I grew up in Augusta one of our pastor’s sons was my best friend. Our pastor’s family did not have a vacation from when I was in 2nd grade until I was a senior in high school. He was not a martyr but he was called and dedicated to his church.

    I want to hit on some of your bullets specifically:

    1. I have a complaint about xxxx. I believe pastors should be in the congregation meeting and greeting instead of ‘holed up’ in their office before a service. Now I will agree it is probably not best to hijack a pastor as he is about to go up on the podium before a service, but as a servant the pastor can and should listen after telling his member he has just a couple of minutes.
    2. Did you hear about xxxx. A pastor should pretty much always stop and listen humbly. What if the member is trying to say ‘Did you hear about Mrs. Jones, she fell at her house this morning and broke her hip’? His mind should be always moving toward how I can be of service to my members.
    3. I really didn’t like your sermon last week. You probably should not accost a preacher on a Sunday about this. It probably could be handled during the week. You can then go over the 3 stories the pastor copied from the internet and basically read them. Preaching is a lost art and most of the time because of laziness.

    The next two probably upset me the most.

    4. I’m having surgery this week on Tuesday at 7:30am. A pastor should ALWAYS be receptive to a member in need. PERIOD. I would not advocate standing up in a service and disrupting a service to say this but a true pastor would take that person immediately aside and have a short private prayer with them. So what if the Sunday service is delayed 3 minutes. A member’s legitimate well-being trumps all!
    5. Please pray for me about xxxx. If a preacher is upset about a member asking for prayer, whenever then that member is in need, that person should not be a pastor! If a pastor gets a call at 2:45am asking for prayer he should offer to meet with the person immediately and pray. Asking face to face for prayer is always the best. What are you advocating a Facebook message? Again delaying the Sunday service for 5 minutes is not going to kill anyone and a refusal to pray is unbelievable.

    6. We just want you to know we are leaving. I read articles in the ‘Christian Index’ about pastors complaining about members leaving and not saying anything. The pastor should say thanks for telling me and could we talk about this sometime this afternoon. Again a servant would do this.
    7. The next six bullets make it sound like we should treat a pastor like the Pope! Pastors are servants. They should be saying these things to their membership. They should be lifting up their members. How many pastors visit now a day? Not many, they are training for the Iron Man.

    Bottom line here is pastors are called to be servants who are available to their members anytime, anywhere. Get out in the congregation prior to any service and meet and greet on a casual basis. Just like USAF officers don’t decide when and where they perform their mission, they do it without whining about doing their jobs. I don’t know when the change came from a calling to a job but whatever you folks are teaching at the seminaries needs a complete overhaul. Quite frankly I place a large amount of blame on seminaries.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks, Mark, for your thoughts. 

    • Ken says:

      Thank you for your service to our country. I would never tell you that military personnel have an easy life, especially since I’ve never been in the military. Now I want to as you one question: have you ever been a pastor?

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