5 Things a Pastor Should Never Say

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Ever heard a pastor say something that made you cringe?

We pastors say a lot. From the stage, to the phone, in an email, and in passing conversations, we are communicating with people most of our days. And while much of what we share is (hopefully) helpful, there are certain things that should never be said.

image credit: Creative Commons user The Justified Sinner

5 Things a Pastor should Never Say

1. “If it weren’t for the people, I’d love being a pastor.”

You’ve probably heard this one. In fact, you may have said it yourself. Often said in a moment of frustration or as a passing joke, this is a statement that can be incredibly hurtful to the people that need help the most. It inadvertently creates a wall between the pastor and those who are in need of grace and hope. And it makes people feel like there are problems too big to bring to their pastor.

 Truth: Being a pastor is about the people. It’s about serving and giving and loving and pouring yourself out for others.

2. “This week was so busy, I didn’t even get a chance to work on my sermon.”

This is sad, really. There are a handful of things that only the pastor can do. (qualifier: having a teaching team is an option that many churches utilize, but when it’s your week to preach, this is no excuse). Preaching is one of them. It’s not that others aren’t qualified…it’s that your role that Sunday is to preach.

Truth: Having the stage (or the pulpit, depending on your context) on a Sunday morning is a great privilege. Neglecting that gift is irresponsible.

3. “I don’t have time for a small group.”

Thankfully, our pastors at Grace have never said this. But many pastors have. Their weeks are so busy with other activities (even good things) that they don’t feel like they have time in their lives for a small group. But if relationships are vital to growth in discipleship, you’d be foolish to neglect this. And it’s hard for you to tell them that small group life is worth bending their life around if you aren’t living that.

Truth: you don’t have time to not be involved in a small group. 

4. “And my ninth point, again starting with the letter ‘W’…” Seriously, just write a book. :)

Truth: people will not remember all 9 points. Pick the most compelling, helpful point, and preach a sermon with that as your bottom line.

5. “Someone like you is not welcome here…”

I got a call this recently from someone, who said, “I have a friend, her name is ____. And she’s done ____. She talked with another church, and they have asked her not to come because of some stuff in her past. Is she welcome at Grace?” Honestly, I was taken aback. It literally took my breath away. I told her that there are few things in life that cause my blood to boil. This happens to be one of them.

Truth: God’s grace is huge. Minimizing it is foolish.


What have you heard a pastor say that caused you to cringe?

 * image credit: Creative Commons user The Justified Sinner


Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • James

    I was at church tonight and my now former pastor was just straight up being rude like I hugged my girlfriend goodbye cuz she’s still in youth group and I’m in classes I’m a year older than her right when the classes and the sermon ended I went into the other building to pick her up and he straights up tells me I’m not allowed in there and the sermon was over and all I’m doing was waiting for her and he glares at me and says you’re way too old for her and that just got to my boiling point I mean come on kicking me out of church just for waiting on somebody really? should I sue him or not cuz my girlfriend and I are leaving that church due to his foolish attitude

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Hmmm, James. I’m not sure how to counsel you. My thought is that a conversation is always best. Try to get a meeting with your pastor, explain your heart, and be open to honest feedback.

      That’s all I’ve got. Without knowing the situation more, I can’t confidently speak.

  • Rabbi Stanley

    I think some of these are good, but there are others that just aren’t true. I used to be a Pastor but then I became a Messianic Rabbi and I found that there are some differences between being a Rabbi and being a Pastor but some things are the same. For one, I don’t allow just anyone into my Congregations. If I know that a particular person is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, I have no problem asking them to leave. We also don’t allow ex-cons who were in for rape or murder into our regular congregations. I have a separate meeting for them and I have told them they will never be a part of our regular services. One may say, “But don’t you believe in forgiveness?”. Yes, we do but that doesn’t mean we should expose our children to these kinds of people. It is more important to protect our kids then to please a liberal viewpoint. Also, what if the Pastor or Rabbi doesn’t like people? I don’t get the feeling that any of the prophets liked people much. I think we need to educate our members that there are different kinds of people in the world and some of those people are NOT people oriented. Who says a Pastor has to like people? If a Pastor doesn’t like talking to people, for whatever reason, if he’s a good teacher he can have an assistant pastor who DOES like people take over those particular duties. I’m sorry, but I think this article is very mamby pamby and it doesn’t fit every case. You can break some of these rules and be a successful Pastor or Rabbi. Rabbi Stanley Beit Aveinu.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Rabbi Stanley,
      I can certainly respect your position. Thanks for jumping in the conversation. I work to help keep families safe, and we do that primarily through procedures and security. But we don’t check arrest records at the door. When it comes to SERVING or TEACHING in a particular ministry, past sins may keep a person out, especially when it comes to working with kids. But I’d never want past sins to keep a person from experiencing Jesus with us in worship.

      And when it comes to loving people, I have a different take on it. I take my stance from interpreting Jesus’ words in Matthew 22. Loving God AND loving people is the greatest command in all of Scripture. I guess you can love people but not like them, but in my eyes that seems to be a stretch. Yes, maybe that can apply here and there. But I’d be hard pressed to apply that to all people in all situations. If I don’t like people, that’ll drip its way into my preaching and pastoring, and people will feel a lack of love.

      Not trying to be argumentative here. Just responding back. I’d welcome further dialog.

      • Rabbi Stanley

        I think the issue comes to “who do we unite with?” I’m not saying people with past records can’t worship, I’m saying they can worship together but not with regular members in our community. Take this example… Since I know you don’t “check criminal records at the door” as you put it, I wouldn’t feel comfortable exposing my family to a body of people who potentially has child molesters in it. A place of worship isn’t like taking my child to the baseball game, there is a certain amount of trust that one automatically shares in a church environment. So by your inclusion of convicts, you have excluded other actuall Brothers and sisters in the L-rd. I’m not the only one who feels this way, many are coming to this same conclusion and numbers in churches are drastically falling. I do not deny that we are to forgive some one who is truly repentant, but that does not mean I have to throw my reason and discernment out the window. One could reply that Yeshua (jesus) was at times found with harlots and others who had a shady past. But we must remember that He could see their hearts and intentions. As men we are also commanded to protect our families and I’d have to say, your security measurements are worthless after service when a child molester follows one of your members home. I could not recomend anyone to attend your services strictly based on your attitude concerning this issue even if we saw eye to eye theologically. No offense personally. Rav

  • Misty Balsdon

    Our pastor got mad and made a scene at church during morning service then at the beginning of evening service said he was giving God’s word and don’t be mad at him be mad at God because it was his word.

  • ItsNotTheSameThing

    I started attending church with my MIL, who lives with me. Before I went with her, her first pastor visited often. He married me and my husband. When he left, there was an interim pastor. He also visited often. It was during this time that I started going to church with her. When they found a permanent pastor, everything went downhill. It was like the new pastor formed a click, and if you were not in it, you did not matter. Then my MIL, who went to that church for many years, got sick, and we eventually dropped out of church, because getting her ready, and finding parking, and getting back to the car, to move it closer to the church, so she wouldn’t have to walk far, was too burdensome(she falls easily, has heart problems, and the illness that stopped us from going was Alzheimer’s. If you walked away from her, she would wander off, before you could get back with the car). The permanent preacher has been to our house once, in two years, even though I sent him a thank you note for coming, and invited him back, anytime. The rest of the congregation, her years long friends, have been five or six times, and only one called regularly, until she died. I don’t know what we’re going to do for a pastor when my MIL dies. This newer pastor does not know her, although he’s been there a few years. She is a wonderful lady, and it makes me feel horrible that her church forgot her. I always envisioned her pastor reminiscing about her time at her church, but now, someone who doesn’t know her, is going to give her eulogy, and as far as I am concerned, if a stranger is going to do it, it won’t be a stranger from her church, that she loved so much, before she got sick. I am hurt, and the anger I feel might cost me my soul. I don’t want to be that way, but put yourself in my shoes. How would you feel if the church your loved one attended for twenty something years dumped her?

  • Ellen

    Does the Pastor have an intent to convert people, and if so, how? This is a broad question that can mean different things. What I am referring to is when a Pastor or church has the sole intent to reach as many people as possible to convert to and join their church, because they believe that their church is the only true church. I have heard people say that they need to reach X number of people to convert. I have heard some Pastors preach, we need to pray so that unbelievers will believe and follow, and make a point to direct it at non-Christians, such as Jews, Buddhists, even Catholics (which are Christian) etc. Churches should convert people into being a better follower, not judge other religions. Every religion has a central belief, and rich sacramental practices that help carry a person through a journey to salvation. Who is anyone to say that someone else’s path is wrong?