Ministry Etiquette

Etiquette: How to Respond In Open Forum Meetings with Your Pastor

As a minister of the Gospel or a leader in ministry, there may be opportunities in which you are invited to participate in a meeting with your Pastor. These kinds of meetings can be trustee meetings, diaconate meetings, informational or instructional meetings, evangelism meetings, or even church body meetings: the list goes on and on. However, as a ministry leader, there are a few etiquette tips that you should consider, especially if there are others invited to the meeting, particularly laity, younger ministers, or guests.

Therefore, please view and consider the following non-exhaustive etiquette tips. Remember, these are not meant to over-ride or skew the existing protocol of your local assembly, but to work in tandem, providing you with a baseline as to how to conduct yourself amongst your pastor, or other higher officials in a meeting or other official gathering.

1.) Time: If the pastor calls a meeting at a specific time, make every effort to arrive at least 10 minutes before the meeting. This gives you an opportunity to review the agenda  (if one is available) and think about your questions or concerns. It also, gives you a moment to settle yourself and pray that the Holy Spirit allow God's highest good to come out of the meeting.

2.) Don't Interrupt: Once the meeting begins and the Pastor begins to speak, do not interrupt. Interruptions causes distractions for others and may cause the Pastor to lose his /her train of thought momentarily and important information can be missed. Most pastors will let you know if the meeting is for informational purposes and questions are to be held until the end; or they will let you know at the beginning of the meeting that it is an open dialog meeting where questions will be accepted throughout. If you are unsure of the type of meeting it is, observe the meeting and wait until the Pastor asks if anyone has any questions. Now, sometimes you may have that burning question, you feel you just have to get out. Take a moment and write it down, or type it in your smart phone or other smart device until the time for questions has arrived. Once the latter occurs and you have a question or concern, make eye contact with the pastor and raise your hand, and wait until you are acknowledged before you began to speak.

3.) Tone: The way you speak, especially in an open meeting to your pastor, or to anyone for that matter is very important. The last thing you want is to come across rude or disrespectful. You know the old adage, "It's not 'what' you say, but 'how' you say it!" Therefore, regardless of the subject matter, don't you allow your emotions or disagreement to make you the contentious one. Take your time, speak in a conversational tone, and ask your question. Now, understand questions and disagreements are two different things. So, only use your time of questioning to seek understanding, not voice disagreement. For example, if the Pastor says, we are going to close the food pantry at 4 p.m.. each day." However, you know, because you work the food pantry that more people start showing up at 5 p.m.. Instead of voicing your disagreement, and telling the Pastor that he/she doesn't know what they're doing, and he/she's wrong! You would gently ask, "Pastor, have you considered ,or is there a plan for how we would reach the 40 or more people that generally show up after 5 p.m..?" This way, you will learn of the Pastor's rationale, or you will learn that maybe he/she wasn't aware that 40 or more people show up after 5 p.m.. And this would give you an opportunity to share more.

4.) When To Take It Offline: One thing you don't want to do is contend with the pastor in front of other people. It is rude and it is a behavior that is not for public consumption. Especially, if you are a seasoned minister or leader, the last thing you want to do is be contentious or disagreeable in front of younger /other clergy, members, or guests; or you don't want to share information that is not meant for public dissemination. It's not a good example, it's not integral or honorable, and it's a quick way for other guests to not consider asking you to minister at their ministry services and events. Therefore, if you strongly disagree about a matter, and you feel that you need to express yourself, you should ask your pastor for permission to "take the matter off-line." In other words, you would ask if you could meet briefly after the meeting or set up a separate personal meeting to express your concerns.

5.) Follow Through: Whatever the intent or the outcome of the meeting is supposed to be, ensure that you do your part. What is the point of meeting if you are not going to follow-though and do what you've been asked to do. Therefore, if you were asked to gather information for hotels the marriage retreat, make sure that you do it and meet the deadline of remission accordingly. Whatever, you've been asked to do, do it in love as unto the Lord.


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