People will remember some of the good things you say from the pulpit, but they will remember all of the dumb things you say. I started preaching full-time almost thirty years ago, so I know exactly what my foot tastes like.
Today, I want to start a list of things to never say from the pulpit. I would really like to hear your nevers and share them next week.
1. “Can I get a volunteer to help in the nursery?”
There are two things very wrong about asking this question. First, you are saying that you are not prepared for children, and now everyone knows it. Second, you are saying that your church does not screen volunteers, which means you are assuming there are no predators in your pews. Criminal background checks should be made of every volunteer and staff who works with minors. There should be no exceptions or excuses.
2. “Does anybody know what time it is?”
Whether you are asking what time it is or which point you are on, what people actually hear you say is, “I’m a moron.”
3. “I don’t feel good today, but I’m gonna preach anyway”
You will garner sympathy from some of the listeners, but you will be a distraction to all of them. The moment that statement comes off of your lips, you are shifting the focus off the Word and onto you. The only exception is when you are coughing or you need some water because your voice is giving out. Take the time to deal with it, then move on.
The best way to deal with an unplanned illness is to have a backup plan in place. Recruit a staff member or lay-teacher to always have a sermon ready for situations like this. Although you cannot predict the future, you can prepare for it.
4. “I didn’t ask my wife for permission to tell this, but…”
Don’t. Really, just don’t. The risk is too high and the payoff too low. Trust me, I know from firsthand (or first-foot) experience.
5. “Did I forget any announcements?”
I’ve been ambushed by many well-meaning church leaders who want me to promote their ministry from the pulpit. You can avoid promotion-panic by resetting members’ expectations about your particular role on Sundays. You are a preacher, not a promoter. Devote your attention to focusing on your sermon and your people, while delegating the important job of announcements to someone else.
6. “Would somebody change the thermostat?”
Sometimes it is tempting to call an audible on the thermostat, especially when it is uncomfortably hot or cold. However, do not let the people with the fans and blankets bait you into the temperature trap. You can never win this game.