Ministers and manners? Surely, there is no need to have a conversation about ministry manners. For if anyone should know how to conduct oneself properly in public, it should be a minister. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but when it comes to displaying good manners, ministers can be the worst!
Have you ever noticed a minister chewing gum in the pulpit? How about a minister sitting in the pulpit with her skirt above her knees? (Lions and tigers and bears—oh my!) Have you ever visited a church and no one greeted you? And tell me this, preacher… has someone ever neglected to say to you, “Thank you for leading worship today. Here is your honorarium.”? (Been there!)
Ministry manners is a indeed a much needed topic of conversation. And today, BWIM is rolling out this new monthly blog series. The topic is of great interest to me—so much so that I wrote my recent doctoral thesis-project on the subject, Manners and Money: A Manual on Preaching Etiquette. This manual is presently in the process of becoming a book that will be published next spring. In preparation for my first book, I will use this monthly blog to share a few matters of etiquette that I address in the book.
Saying Thank You
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Collosians 3:17
Giving thanks is imperative when people extend kindness to you. We give thanks first to God, then to those who serve us in word or deed.
I remember one Sunday when I preached at a church out of town. I was filling in for the pastor who was on vacation. I had to travel a great distance to the church. I preached in two services that morning, and when it was all said and done, the pastor never called, never sent an e-mail, never wrote a brief note to say “thank you.”
Like me, Jesus experienced the “ministry of ungratefulness.” In Luke 17:11-19, Jesus healed ten lepers. These lepers begged Jesus to have mercy on them, and he did. The lepers were healed instantly! But only ONE out of the ten returned to tell Jesus “thank you!” It should not have been difficult for all ten to tell Jesus thank you for such a major gift—the gift of healing! Honestly, most of us tend to remember to say thank you for major gifts or major acts of service. But when we remember to tell others thank you for the small things, this is a hallmark of civility!
I recognize many people do not write personal letters these days. It seems to be a lost art. Yet technology is here to help us all! A two-minute phone call, an e-mail, a Facebook post, a text, or a tweet makes it easy to tell someone how much you appreciate their service. But thanks be to God for those who still hand write notes of thankfulness.
I was reminded of how significant personal notes can be. I preached recently at a women’s conference that was led by the pastor’s wife. She was the host, and she did an excellent job making sure all of her guest preachers felt welcomed. A week after this preaching engagement, I received a note from the pastor of the church. The pastor did not attend the Women’s Conference, but he deemed it necessary to thank me for my leadership and participation. So here’s to you, Pastor Terry Henry and Jacqi Henry and the members of Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Wilmington, North Carolina, for modeling good preaching etiquette!
C. Lynn Brinkley serves as the director of student services and alumni relations at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina. Lynn is also an adjunct professor at Campbell and an ordained minister at First Baptist Church in Clinton.