Five Phrases Every Pastor Should Say Regularly

Ever notice how some people, especially celebrities, have “catch phrases”—words that they are known for? When you hear, “You’re fired,” for instance, Donald Trump immediately comes to mind. And there are so many more, from “I’ll be back” to “Read my lips” to “Where’s the beef?” to “I did not have sexual relations with that woman…” Some are positive, some are negative, some are embarrassing. But all point to the fact that the unique words of a public figure can have enormous sticking power.

A pastor’s words outside the pulpit often have as much or more sticking power than what they say in the pulpit. It’s not the teaching content I would point to here, but using our words with others to establish, grow, restore and show the importance of relationships. When walking the halls of your church, greeting people on Sundays or talking on the phone, consider these crucial phrases:

What is God doing through your life today? As you go through your day, use your words to create an expectation that God is always at work in the lives of His followers. Too often we don’t press our friends, coworkers or associates to examine their lives in light of God’s motive and mission in their daily walk. A fruitless life is indicative of someone who is not a Christ-follower. Consistently inquire how others are serving Christ and sharing their faith—and rejoice with them when they tell you that God is indeed at work!

Thank you. Gratitude is something that we often fail to express. Don’t take people for granted. Thank them for their faithfulness, their attendance, their service and their outreach. Your thanks also let them know that others notice their efforts and that they are appreciated. When polled, members involved in service roles who leave churches most often do so because they feel under-appreciated. The people holding the doors open, manning the welcome station, cleaning up the restrooms and teaching in Sunday School need to hear a word of thanks from you.

May I pray with you? Never delay praying for someone if you know the need and the moment can be shared right then and there. “I will be praying for you this week” is never as meaningful to someone as, “Let me pray about that with you right now.” Taking time to pray with people—even a short prayer in passing—can be a treasured experience and a powerful example. People often will not really believe you are praying for them unless they actually see and hear you pray for them and with them. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, did it really make a sound? Same thing with prayer.

What do you think? This one can be a bit dangerous at times and must be asked in the right context, but it’s important for the pastor to genuinely take an interest in the opinions and input of others. This is especially true of volunteers and leaders within the congregation, who expect some level of input into the ministries to which they are dedicated. This can be done more in terms of evaluation. For instance, “How did you think your invited guests responded to our Christmas program?” or “

I’m sorry. Finally, a church leader should never walk in a self-imposed “bubble of perfection”. Apologies are not limited to issues with intentional actions. Be aware of your relationships with other church members and show regret when you are unable to participate in their spiritual development. “I’m sorry I missed Tim’s baptism” or “I’m sorry to hear the Rogers are no longer in your Sunday School class. Is there anything I can do to help?” are the kinds of statements that let members know you are aware of their ongoing spiritual challenges and needs. And you are aware of those, aren’t you?


Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt.