Why Pastors Should Walk Slowly in the Church
One pastor I served with for several years had a tremendous bit of advice that stuck with me to this day on how to conduct yourself as a minister in the church. He said, “Always walk slowly through the church on Sundays.” When he taught his staff on this, he recounted how a minister, hurried and rushing past people without taking time to stop, shake hands, talk and catch up on the week clearly showed the congregation that he simply didn’t care about them. This is when I realized that how you walk through your church and interact with your congregation on Sundays greatly affects their perception of you as a person and as a pastor.
On Sundays, the pastor , ministry staff and key volunteer leaders are “on stage” in their interaction with church members and guests. This is not a task that can be delegated easily. Each staff or key leader, because of their position, must represent the church with their time and attention to members and guests. Let me suggest four things every minister and pastor should do as they move among the church on Sundays.
Be accessible. Plan time to be accessible to members and guests. Do not lock yourself up in your office or study until the service, then retire there shortly afterward. That’s for rock stars, not for pastors. Members of your church want you accessible when they come to church. Be prepared in your message and other responsibilities before coming on campus, so that you can spend your time being accessible to those around you.
Be personable. Along with accessibility is a need to be cordial and inviting in your speech and actions. Certainly there’s a seriousness to preparing to teach, but at the same time, your warmth and desire to connect personally with your people should be a top weekend priority. Often it is said that some pastors are great preachers but poor pastors—or vice-versa—for this very reason. Pastors who are unable to create a good balance between their persona in the pulpit and their time among members often create a negative impression in one area or the other.
Be interested. Don’t let Sunday be about you. Ask questions of your members and guests. Show an interest in their lives and the lives of their families. Use these moments as opportunities to learn about them. I’m not good with remembering names, so I make a point of clarifying names of spouses, children and relatives and friends when I talk to people at church. I try to connect names to significant life events—“Carol is graduating, John broke his leg, Mark just lost his job,” etc. Don’t let a weekend slip by without getting to know more about those you shepherd.
Be intentional. Finally, let your time with members and guests on Sundays be a priority in your day. Make time to do this, each and every week. Hold your head up, make eye contact, and pause to greet those who you cross paths with. Seldom if ever have I heard the criticism, “That pastor just spends too much time with his people.” Often, though, we hear the opposite. “The pastor is isolated, insulated, and doesn’t have a good picture of his congregation.” Don’t let this be said of you. This Sunday, on the way from your car or your office to the pulpit, slow down, shake hands, exchange greetings and remind your congregation that you care deeply about them as their spiritual shepherd.
Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt.