Proper pulpit etiquette

Written by meredith burgio
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Proper pulpit etiquette
Learning pulpit etiquette can take the pressure off of speaking at churches. (Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Pulpit etiquette is important when entering ministry work or visiting another church. Learning how to conduct yourself in the pulpit is a way of demonstrating respect to those who have invited you on staff or as a guest speaker. Your behaviour is not only a reflection on you, but also the church leadership as a whole. Pulpit etiquette for each church may be different, but learn the basics to ensure you are remembered for all of the right reasons.

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Addressing the Staff

When you are called to speak at another church, you will want to thank the church for inviting you before beginning your sermon. Thank the church's highest standing leader first. Use his full title starting with the ordained title first. For example, a person with a doctorate, but is also a bishop should be called Bishop Dr. John Smith. The church's title will always come first. When in doubt, ask how they would like to be introduced. Leave any nicknames or inside jokes to yourself. The pulpit is not the appropriate place for these names.

Dress Code

If you are speaking at a church with a more formal dress code than what you are use to default to their dress code. Although your church may have a looser dress code, dressing up will show your appreciation and respect for being invited to speak. Additionally, when dressing for an event, keep the outfit simple. You do not want to distract the congregation with a loud outfit or accessorise with an over the top hat or tie.

Seating

When assigning seats in a pulpit reserve the centre seat for the church's leader with the highest standing. The seat to his left or right is for any guest speakers. The remaining seats can be given to the other clergy. From the centre, sit them from highest to lowest ranking clergy.

Speaking

As a speaker, you must respect the time of the congregation. Before you begin planning your sermon, ask what the time limit will be. Work within the time limit. Many congregants are use to church services being a certain length. Going over that time limit can lose your audience's attention. This is especially true of any visitors in the audience not use to sitting through long sermons. You will not want to overwhelm them by using vocabulary they may not be familiar with. If you must, define it clearly for the congregation. Keep the talk focused on one topic or point and back up every thought and idea with Scripture. The teaching should be short and concise and biblical.

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