The first Pulpit Etiquette post was on “Seminary did not Teach Me this..”. Well today I have another post. As I was sharing with some brothers and sisters coming into ministry we talked about the do’s and don’t about the pulpit. While I was thinking about this topic, I was reminded of a book Dr. Patricia A. Gould-Champ at STVU (The Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University) had us read. The book was titled, Riding in the Second Chariot by Rev. K. Edward Copeland, J.D. The book has some good information in the chapters.
He pointed out in Chapter 2 of the book that, “There are certain items of protocol and etiquette that every minister ought to know…..it boils down to common sense”. Yes common sense. We all grew up in a home where it was expected to have the proper home training before we went to visit others. Our parents wanted to make sure we did not bring shame to them when they allowed us to visit friends and relatives. We were taught to be respectful and say “Yes/No, ma’am/sir, please, thank you, excuse me and may I. Also, when you encounter a situation your parents did not teach you, use common sense. So when we visited people would say that’s so and so child and they are so well manner and respectful.
This type of home training is applied to the pulpit from the same angel and a lot of common sense. Many people believe by growing up in church we will have all the pulpit basic training needed. Well, not true. There are some pastors and seasoned associates who will take the time to explain pulpit etiquette, but then there are those who may think you already know what to do. So before you charge into the pulpit here are some basic taken from Copeland’s book (added "her" or "she" to make gender inclusive):
How am I to conduct myself when visiting another church?
Always wait for an invitation from the minister in charge before you take a seat in the pulpit
If you are visiting another church and have not had the opportunity to speak to the pastor or the minister in charge before service begins, sit in the congregation
Always acknowledge the pastor who allows you to preach in her/his pulpit
The pastor is showing trust and confidence in you by allowing you to minister the Word to her/his congregation
Always encourage the pastor who allows you to preach in her/his pulpit
Give the pastor some encouragement publicly or privately. Send a thank you card or note to the pastor who invited you.
Always do what you have been asked to do
If asked to pray during altar call, do not sing your favorite song
If asked to read scripture, do not try to adlib or provide a mini-sermon
Always support the preacher
Good preachers support the preacher while she/he is preaching.
Always treat the pulpit area with the utmost respect
While the worship service is in progress, you should be concentrating on worship, demonstrate good posture and countenance the congregation is watching you.
Always speak audibly and distinctly
Learn how to use the microphones properly
Adjust the microphone to the proper height
Speak directly into the microphone, but do not swallow it
Listen carefully to how the microphones are set when you are in an unfamiliar setting
Keep the microphone between you and the direction you are facing while you speak
How am I to conduct myself at my home church?
Be attentive to the needs of your pastor and visiting preachers
Make sure that the preacher has the proper liquids available (an usher or pastor aid will handle this)
For the guest preacher find out before hand the prefer water temperature
Familiarize yourself with you pastor’s post-sermon routine (i.e., cape, coast or scarf around the neck) to avoid the affects of a draft after preaching. You may travel with your pastor and would be responsible
If the pastor or guest pastor needs to change out of their wet clothes after service, gently usher them to the pastor’s study
Arrive to church at least 15 minutes before worship service
If running late call the church to inform the pastor
If you are late and worship started sit in the congregation not the pulpit
Be attentive to the flow of the service
Do not disrupt the flow of the service by offering unauthorized commentary or adding elements without pastoral permission
Be a catalyst for worship
Participation in the elements of worship can do a lot to set the tone in the congregation
Learn how to leave your worries, problems and negative emotions out of the pulpit
Remember the congregation watches your demeanor and your attitude
Prayerfully Support the Preacher
Preaching is hard work. The preacher is a representing God and is in constant spiritual battle. Use prayer to uplift the preacher while preaching
Whether your pastor or another associate is preaching have a guaranteed “amen” from you