5 Things Pastors Should Never Do

Avoid these five common mistakes if you want to be an effective pastor or church leader.

Recently, I was pleased to see a military chaplain back in town, visiting his family and our church with his wife and children. We reminisced over a little history going back to when he was a local pastor.

One Sunday morning, exasperated over the lack of faithfulness from the church members, he had unloaded on the congregation and ended up walking out on them in the middle of his message. Then, if that were not bad enough, in that evening’s service, he began by apologizing. But he kept on talking.

The more he talked and explained, the more the anger still festering inside broke loose and spewed out onto the congregation. Once again, he walked out, leaving the congregation sitting there stunned. The next day I mediated between him and his deacons, as they accepted his resignation.

That was a number of years ago, and he now tells me that, like untold millions of people before him, the army made him grow up.

Never vent your anger on your congregation. Here are five other no-no’s that pastors should always avoid.

1. Never violate a confidence, either in or out of the pulpit.

“But that story is too good not to tell.” Ever heard that? Or worse, have you ever said it?

If you must, ask the individual for permission to tell the story no closer than a hundred miles away and assure them you will camouflage details and change names so no one would ever make the connection.

2. Never tell a story about your wife without her full support.

And I mean her enthusiastic affirmation, not just begrudging permission. However, don’t be surprised if she never gives permission for you to use anything she said or did. Most wives do not appreciate becoming the subject of her husband’s sermon.

Related: 7 things a pastor should never say »

Violating that will result in conditions you would not wish on your worst enemy, pastor. It’s not worth it—believe me.

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That being said, you might see if she will agree to let you tell the story as having happened to “a pastor I know and his wife.” If you do this, you must rehearse it 23 times to make sure nothing slips out that shouldn’t.

3. Never fail to minister to someone because “they don’t deserve it.”

Be thankful you are not given what you deserve. “Freely you have received; freely give.”

4. Never make a promise you do not keep.

If you said you’d look something up and get back to the questioner, do that promptly. If you fail in this and remember it sometime later, write them a note immediately with a sincere apology.

And on that subject, never fail to apologize when an apology is in order. Far from that diminishing you, you will grow in the minds and hearts of those to whom you apologize.

5. Never take the week between Christmas and New Year’s as personal vacation time.

It’s the quietest week of the year, and a great time to go into the office for a few hours each day and get some work done. Since nothing is happening at church, you and your family will have the evenings to yourself. I always loved that week.

Joe McKeever spent 42 years pastoring six Southern Baptist churches and has been writing and cartooning for religious publications for more than 40 years. This article was originally published on McKeever’s blog.