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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  • I was recently surprised on a Saturday by the members of my congregation with a 50th birthday fellowship at one of their homes. The next day, Sunday, as I was walking past one of the ladies’ classrooms, I stopped in to say good morning and before I could get the statement out, one lady — a member for almost 30 years and who has been very supportive of me and the church — informed me that she was not told about the event and that she had other places to go to church (where friends had invited her). I thought she was kidding, but she was not.

    I apologized — I do not know why as I knew nothing about it — for lack of communication and I didn’t know what else to say.

    That really took me aback — I had a knot in my stomach — and all I could think of was how not to lose these devoted members — I just could not focus on the sermon as my eyes caught them sitting in the service. On top of that, we had some guests who have been coming for a couple of weeks — usually warm and friendly — but visibly not impressed as the service did seem to “struggle” a bit.

  • I once had a congregant tell me right before worship that ‘some people’ were telling him that my son was too distracting. At that point, he was 2-years-old, and my faithful-beyond-reason wife was doing her best to keep him in church and civil. I pastor the contemporary worship service in the cafetorium/fellowship hall where families are welcome.

    It put me in a huge funk during the service; I also chose not to divulge that conversation to my wife. I let her make the call on the kids in worship. But, if my kids aren’t allowed to be there – and be kids – somebody else may think their kids aren’t welcome, and I just can’t have that.

    My relationship with that person was completely different after that.

  • L Eubank says on

    My husband preached his father’s funeral 2 days ago. Just minutes before the service began, a family member asked if she could have some of the cremated remains! Talk about timing!

  • A month or so ago our scribe came to me just before the service and told me as I didn’t visit so-and-so when he was sick- he declined becoming an elder. I didn’t know about the sickness- and was stumped

    • What? You didn’t know a pastor is supposed to be able to read minds? It has to be in the job description somewhere, or so many people wouldn’t expect it of us.

      P.S. Any sarcasm you detect is purely intentional. 😉

  • Jane Colarossi says on

    How about when members tell the spouse and expect the message to be relayed mmediately!?!

    I want to thank you for ALL that you do!


  • I was once told that one of our special needs members had an accident in the fellowship hall. A single t*** was lying on the floor outside the women’s restroom. A group of ladies were standing around it staring at it like it was a stick of dynamite. I grabbed a mop and cleaned it up, but I was flabbergasted that they needed to involve me.

  • I made it a practice early on when someone approaches me to say “What you have to say is very important and I want to give it my full attention, but I can’t right now because of the sermon, so please email me and let’s set up a time to talk in the week.”

    It usually works, and I think it’s because I stop them early and start with acknowledging that what they are saying is important and demonstrate that I’m trying to be able to give them my full attention.

    If it’s important, they’ll make an appointment. If it wasn’t, they won’t.

    I’ve only been preaching about 7 years at the same place and it’s a campus I the leader at its beginning so its been easier to set that standard. I’ve been lucky with facility stuff because of the situation we are in. We started at a school where we had to pay one of their custodians to be there as pay of the rent, we had a guy (not me) with the walkie talkie whose role it was to call him, so I stayed out if the loop there most all the time. Now, we rent from a great church and we meet after their morning service, so most problems are handled already.

    I also have great volunteers that feel empowered to handle stuff, and we had a lot if conversations to set the standards of the “right way” to do things, so their hearts and their commitment are ways God protects me.

  • Rowan Zeelie says on

    Fresh out of college, my second Sunday in my first ever church and our organist doesn’t turn up. I don’t know the congregation well enough yet to ask anyone else to play and so we sing our hymns unaccompanied. My introduction to the first hymn: “When the early church gathered in their homes to praise God they didn’t have an organ to accompany their singing and so today we’re going to be like the early church.”
    It went okay until we sang a hymn where I got the tune wrong and we ran out of lines for the tune I was singing to!

  • A lean in over my shoulder while announcements are taking place and says “aren’t you going to announce my granddaughters graduation party?” Like I was up there doing announcements. I said no, and as they leaned back I heard under their breath, “I guess I’m the only one that cares around here”

  • Donnie Brannen says on

    How about rebellious members on cue putting Bibles or hymnals in front of their faces and keeping them there during the sermon?

  • When people want appointments, like I am carrying a calendar or my assistant is following me around. I also don’t like it when people tell me to call them or let them know when I can get together with them right before I preach. I forget, and then it’s all on me. . I LOL about the toilet. That has happened more than once.
    thanks for the post.

  • This Sunday, I heard immediately before worship that 4 different people were very upset that we were not planning to recognize Memorial Day. We were. We just didn’t have “patriotic songs” planned. BEFORE we started worship, I went up front and apologized. I explained that we were planning to recognize the military. We simply had selected songs that, after prayer, we believed were most appropriate. I told people they were welcome to meet with me after the service.
    I wish I could say that I led the service and shared the message well, but I highly doubt it. I was so wounded that people thought we’d forgotten…

      • Barb Hall says on

        We encountered this as well. Instead of having time to meet and greet individuals my husband and the organist had to quickly get together and pick new songs and have the board changed. Then their were those that were bothered that Amazing Grace was dropped. Parishioners just do not comprehend the study and time that goes into a service.