It is one of the great dilemmas every Sunday for the pastor. Who do I speak with and for how long? Most pastors stand at a doorway after the morning service to greet those who are leaving. Others stay down front inviting folks to come and speak with the pastor to ask questions about the sermon. It is a constant juggling match that most pastors feel they fail at most of the time.
What adds to the madness is the person who aggressively hunts the pastor down after the service and feels entitled to his undivided attention for a long time. This is the person that feels a complete disregard for others that are usually patiently waiting in line. In our church, this person usually is someone who has come in off the street, does not know any better, and wants clothes, food, or money.
This could also be a church member in your church who does not choose the best time to hash out their marital problems with the pastor. Yet, we still do not what to miss any opportunities for ministry to these needy folks, especially if they are souls under our care. What do you do? 3 Suggestions:
Give them a moment. We can take this caution too far and not bother with these kinds of people at all and that is wrong. Regardless who they are, where they come from, or what their reason is to talk to “the pastor” give them a moment to find out the basics about them and their need. It will help you know how to proceed with them and possibly involve another leader.
Train other leaders to step in to help. After preaching and concluding a very important ordination service in our church, I was quickly approached by a homeless woman who walked up to the platform to speak with me before anybody else could get to me. She began to tell me about all her problems and they were many. She needed serious help and if I would have stood there for 2 hours, she would have continued to talk that long.
One of our leaders noticed what was happening and realized that was not the best way for me to spend my time as many were waiting to talk and someone else could try to help this woman. So, this leader came and took the initiative to politely take her to someone else to help her. Train your leaders to notice these moments as folks come asking for food or clothes so they can come to intervene. For me to pass them on to a deacon who is better equipped to help them in that moment than I am is a tremendous blessing to all involved.
If a person is upset with the decision you made at the member’s meeting earlier in the week and is making a scene while berating you about it, find another pastor to come and help take that difficult situation for you. Then, you are able to move to the next person. Train your pastors, deacons, and other leaders to think this way and be aware of what is happening and with discernment, jump in if needed.
Remember the sheep most commonly neglected. It is hard to pick and choose in these moments. That is why most pastors feel like they fail at it. However, what we can be sure of, is that the sheep most neglected are those who do not fight for your time and do not wait in large lines to talk with you. They do not want to add to the line and burden for you. Be willing to ask someone to set an appointment with you at the office that week to talk about that issue that will require a longer conversation than you can give them on Sunday morning, so you can prioritize seeking out that passive sheep that needs your care.
There you go. Remember, just suggestions to muddy the waters a bit more of this messy balance. The point is, pastors should be deliberate enough and leading the conversations enough that we do not allow our time to be dominated on Sundays by someone else. Be gracious. Be wise. But choose who you will talk to and for how long. If you do not choose, trust me, someone else will choose for you.