Nine Distractions That Should Not Happen to the Pastor Right Before the Sermon

In a previous post, I noted several things you should not say to the pastor right before the sermon. I was amazed at the number of responses I received. One pastor made it clear that I really had not addressed many of the major issues. It’s not just what people say, it’s other things that can happen as well.

It made me realize once again the primacy of preaching. Most pastors have put in hours of study and preparation. The sermon is critical to the life and the health of the church.

Though I included some of the distracting comments people make in this list, I have also included other distractions. Please pray that your pastor does not have to experience any one of these.

  1. Personal and family problems. It is so difficult to be focused on the Word of God when the pastor is dealing with problems of this nature. Please pray for your pastor daily for protection from these types of challenges and problems.
  2. Physical problems. My son, Sam, preached a sermon, then threw up and passed out. I have no idea how he made it to the conclusion of the message.
  3. Someone who says, “I need to talk to you after the service.” Don’t say that! Can you imagine what the pastor is likely thinking the entire service?
  4. Malfunctioning equipment. Every pastor and every church has many stories here.
  5. Staff tension. This issue is of the same ilk as number one. Instead of family members, the tension or problem is with staff members.
  6. Volunteers absent. “Pastor, we don’t have enough nursery workers, and the pianist has not shown up.” True story.
  7. Unfair requests. I now have eight different stories where a pastor was asked to unclog a toilet right before the sermon. I’m not sure what to make of this pattern.
  8. Last minute requests. I was in a church two years ago where the pastor showed me a handful of written notes. All of the notes where last minute requests for him to make announcements.
  9. Criticism. Yes, it happens. Too many pastors are criticized right before they preach. Criticisms sting regardless. But these criticisms right before the sermon are major distractions.

I ask on a regular basis that you pray for your pastors. Could I also ask you to pray that there will be no distractions right before the sermon? It could make a huge difference in the message and in the church.

Let me hear from you.

Posted on May 30, 2016

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Phillip says on

    Worship Pastors deal with many of the same issues.

  • Mark Woolfington says on

    This week I heard from someone, moments before the worship service, that one of the church’s vacuum cleaners wasn’t working properly. I sent them in the direction of the nearest Trustee, aka, the guys who handle the building and grounds related stuff.

  • Michael Ritchie says on

    Christians have to have big forgivers all the way around. Otherwise congregations will not survive. Just a plain fact.

  • we had someone come up to one of our deacons asking for money before the service. The deacon thought it would be a good idea to bring him to the pastor right before he was to preach that Sunday morning then leaves the two alone. The guy asking for the morning then begins to yell at the pastor asking him for money until the pastor gave him a twenty just to leave him alone. I can’t imagine what our pastor was thinking the whole time.

    • I’ve heard from many pastors about people who strategically walk in right before a service asking for money. Be careful. Many are scams.

      • Rev. Hunt says on

        In my teens I had a pastor with a repeat customer so-to-speak. Once (after about the third or fourth time being asked for money), he offered to take a special offering for him, but he had to sit in on the service. The man shouted, “I don’t want your god, I want your money!” (I was in ear shot for that part) The man was then asked to leave. As this was a minister that helped me along the way to becoming a minister, I asked him one day why he asked the man to leave? He said that he was no longer helping the man, but becoming a crutch.

      • Maynard Sumner says on

        This happen to us and I told the person if he had a real need the broad would meet after church and talk about it. That is what we did after church and we give him the money. Two weeks later he was back to give us 150% of the money.

  • Kabugo.E.Hope says on

    Thanx alot, as a pastor it is a blessing to me. My question is How can a pastor avoid such distractions at such a moment?
    Stay happy and Blessed

  • David Henderson says on

    I have also been asked to unclog a toilet before going out to preach. From reading these comments that seems to be common. I listened to a previous podcast you made regarding the topic of announcements in the service and it really helped. I have now done away with announcements near the beginning of the service and instead I will mention one thing at the close of the service and only if it is a church-wide announcement. I have had a particular problem with one individual who always gives me something they want me to announce right before I go out. And it is never a church wide announcement. I think this may have solved the problem. 🙂

    • Thom S Rainer says on

      Excellent! Thanks for the feedback, David.

      • russ grunert says on

        I was custodian of a church years ago when they built a new auditorium a few years ago he had a small room built backstage with a private entrance into it. He’d go directly there it had a restroom and a coffee pot fridge. He’d come out when he was needed greetings announcements and to preach. He was a bear to be around Sunday mornings

  • 1. I’ve got an 8 year old and a 9 year old, gonna happen, but it’s ok, they are my first priority.

    2. I’ve got some good elders at the Church that can fill in for me on short notice. I recognize I’m extremely blessed, very few pastor’s of Churches with 200 people can say that.

    3. Don’t ever do that, even to your worst enemy. It’s completely out of bounds for a professing believer.

    4. Yeah, happened last Sunday. Oh well.

    5. It’s happened, can be a distraction. It can always wait.

    6. Try not to be that guy if at all possible.

    7. We have a rule. If it’s not in by thursday when the bulletins are printed it doesn’t get announced. It wasn’t easy to get there, just takes a little perseverence.

    8. be careful with these. Although I did unclog a toilet once, but it didn’t bother me, sometimes a menial task helps me to relax and focus.

    9. Again, don’t do this. Even if you have a problem with the pastor, it can wait. the ministry of the word is more important than our disagreements.

    • Thom S Rainer says on

      Excellent responses, Jason. Thank you.

      • Although I agree with these being a distraction, I appreciate your response. My husband is the music/media associate pastor at our church…I really think the devil is in sound equipment. I am so impressed by our lead pastors ability to recognize sometimes it doesn’t work…you just pray and move on and look to the Holy Spirit. I really think many of these are just the devil getting into ones head. Maybe if we are so focused on God and praying diligently, even when they happen we can recognize whose work it is and move on. I know it something my husband has practiced and helped him.

  • Phil Pearson says on

    I’ve experienced each of these-didn’t have to unclog toilets but did find a ladder to replace a lightbulb in one of the ladies restroom stalls.
    It is the criticism that came in a Sunday school class that threw me for the real loop. The sermon that followed was the worst I have ever preached-probably should have just sang a few hymns, prayed and then dismissed. Apologies were made to me after the service but damage was done.

  • carlton kelley says on

    I am a priest of the Episcopal Church and have experienced my fair share of distractions and unwanted comments before a liturgy begins. However, it is up to us to create an environment where quiet time before a service begins is realized. I would also say that the service should provide enough time prior to the sermon to quiet the soul prior to preaching. The sermon is only part of our worship of God. The pastor is not an entertainer. I would also say that priests/pastors should be praying earnestly for their congregants that they would be spared some of those family problems that distract. But, those distractions are part of our lives and, most especially, our offering to God. “You will have trouble in the world, but I have overcome the world.”

    • Thom S Rainer says on

      Thank you, Carlton.

    • Rev. Hunt says on

      Amen. Our service places the sermon near the end. About the only distraction that can happen that throws me off is this one little girl who insists on shouting “Hallelujah!” from the Jr. Church room during the message. It’s adorable, but distracting none-the-less.

      • Please don’t ever let her know that she is a distraction to you. Be thankful that she wants to Praise the Lord in her way. Our Pastor wants to hear Amen, Hallelujah, and Praises during his sermon, he says it helps him to know that we are in agreeance with him and what he is preaching. Praise should never be a distraction.

  • Victor Markle says on

    I’m wondering, where are the Deacons in this situation. As a Deacon, I try to take some of these burdens away from my Pastor. Our Deacon body meets and prays for our Pastor every Sunday morning.

  • Renee DeMoss says on

    All of these are very true, and a Pastor and his leaders fail to establish healthy boundaries for church people. Every church member should be considerate of another church member. Sometimes I wonder how my husband makes it day by day but mainly because I am a woman and we are much more emotionally driven. Men have boxes or compartments in their minds to store things until needed, including their critics.

    • Thom S Rainer says on

      I just prayed for you and your husband, Renee. Thank you for your willingness to serve the Savior.

  • Once in a mid week bible study I asked a gentleman if he was saved and how did he become saved because his thinking was more works related. All I wanted him to see is his salvation is by grace alone. I meant no ill will. On that Sunday he barged in my office as I was ready to walk out and told me he is offended anyone would ask him if he was saved. He mentioned something about always having issues with pastors and then walked out. He sat unhappily in the service and has not returned.

    Post sermon issue: When asked “why didn’t you pray for Mr or Mrs so and so who is in the hospital or is sick”. Because I did not know!!

    • Thom S Rainer says on


    • When he barged into the office and said that, you should have just smiled and, “And yet your attitude is so Christ-like!” ;o)

    • Stephen says on

      Only God saves us. It’s a question that’s impertinent and is often spoken in arrogance. If we are really saved by Grace, why not leave aside human judging and let God be the only one to be dispensing and determining His Grace and His free gift if salvation, not men. Leave that to God, then, and simply show your faith by your love.

      • Rev. Hunt says on

        However, there is something to be said about the ability to ask a legitimate question in the hopes of giving edification. If a pastor doesn’t try to help others along their spiritual path, then they aren’t much of a pastor. Also, I’d like to point out the telling statement that the man had problems with ministers in the past. I work a second job as I refuse to be a financial burden on a small church with a low income. The place I work treats people well and pays fairly for the work being done. However, a relative of my wife’s had nothing good to say about the place after he found out that I work there. He went to the point of walking out. But, having known the person for some time, and having personal experience with the place; I’m willing to write off his remarks based on his attitude. Some people are next to impossible to please and will take offence at the first opportunity.

      • Maynard Sumner says on

        The BIBLE in Matthew 7:20 says ” By their fruits you will know them.”

      • How then are we to fulfill 2 Timothy 4:2?
        It is a charge for us to complete. Should we sin by ignoring God’s Word?That is what the council tried to do with Peter and John. They posed the question do we listen to you or God?

      • Hebrews 13:17

    • The scripture is clear in the command to be concerned about people being saved. Because of the shift in American cultural attitudes, I think people tend to be more offended now than every before when this subject is addressed. There is an art to
      asking questions that are worded so that we communicate how much we are concerned about someone’s eternal destination and simultaneously ask them to share that information in a way that motivates them to be open and honest and without putting
      them on the defensive.

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