What I'm about to tell you could put me on some ministry hit lists. I could get beaten with hymnals, immersed in the baptismal (for a little too long) or Bible-whipped across my jaw. I'm about to share with you a few of the subtle "tricks" some pastors use in the foyer on their church members. These highly guarded ministry secrets could get me taken out by some rogue pastoral network. So if this is the last blog you see me post you'll know what happened. ;)
How do I know some pastors use these tricks? Because, having gone to church for the last forty years or so, I have personally been on the receiving end of some of them. And, sadly, having been a preaching pastor for a decade, I used some of them to ward off close-talking congregants or church members with the "best" idea yet.
So, without further adieu, here they are...
1. "Let me pray about that."
A church member brings the pastor a ministry idea. The pastor responds, "Let me pray about that." Interpretation? "There's no way in the world we will ever do that but I need time to come up with a spiritual sounding excuse to tell you no."
2. The Shoulder Pause/Play Button
Okay, I'm super guilty of this one. When I was a pastor I could work the foyer like nobody's business. I would talk to anyone and everyone I could. I figured this was the one time a week I could literally rub shoulders with everyone at our church.
If I was talking to someone and saw somebody that I desperately needed to talk to I would put my hand on the shoulder of the person I was talking to and say, "excuse me for a moment." I'd then tell the other person what I needed to tell them as quickly as possible and then take my hand off the shoulder of the person I was talking to and finish the conversation.
I forget where I heard it but someone once said that shoulder is like a pause/play button on a TV remote control. Put your hand on the shoulder and you're pressing pause on the conversation. Take it off and and you're pressing play.
Maybe this is bad but I still find myself using the pause/play button even though I'm no longer a pastor.
3. "How long have you been attending here?"
When I was a pastor and saw someone I didn't recognize walking up to the church building I would ask, "Is this your first time here at Grace?" It only took one, "No I've been going here for four years now" for me to stop asking that question.
"How long have you been attending here?" is a far less dangerous question because, whether it's their first or fiftieth time attending, you're pretty safe in not offending them.
BTW, if you ask them this question every week sooner or later they'll be on to you.
4. "Well let's pray right now!"
Sometimes after preaching two or three times on a Sunday morning a preacher gets exhausted. Inevitably it's that one person at the church who, if he/she got paid by the word would be filthy rich, approaches the pastor and begins a 30 minute diatribe about their situation.
"Well let's pray right now" is a way some pastors bring a period to a comma in the conversation. It's a pastors way of saying, "Dude, I'm tired. Let's land the plane and quit circling the airport!" And, as long as the pastor genuinely prays, it's an effective way to wrap up a potentially endless conversation.
5. Protect the quarterback
Okay I have a problem with prolonged huggers and close talkers. With these people I play the role of the offensive lineman. I put my hand on their non-pause/play shoulder and I protect the quarterback (aka "my personal space.")
When someone gets past my guard and goes in for a hug I turn my body to the side, and my hand on their back then, after a second or two, I pat four times which is pastor-speak for "Let my people go."
6. "Walk with me to my car."
Interpretation? "You have one minute to tell me what you're going to tell me because I'm off to Sunday lunch with my family as soon as my key hits the ignition."
It's interesting how much can be accomplished in 60 seconds.
7. The handoff
When all else fails (some) pastors handoff. They say something like, "Well you know (so and so) has some expertise and experience in that area, let me have them give you a call this week." Or, if the person with experience happens to be within eyeshot of the pastor, he'll walk the person over to the unsuspecting "expert" and hand off the church member into more capable hands.
Like I said these secrets could get me taken out. Pastors could conspire against me for spilling their ministerial secrets.
By the way if you took this tongue-in-cheek blogpost too seriously and want to give me a suggestion I guarantee you one thing...I'll pray about it.