An Open Letter on Platform Etiquette for Preachers and Teachers

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The following letter is an example of what could be shared annually by Senior Pastors with all who teach and preach the Word in the local church. The details should be adapted for each context.

Thank you for your willingness to share your gifts of preaching and teaching at our church. We are blessed with a congregation of people who take the Bible seriously and are eager to grow. This letter is an annual review of the policies and etiquette for preaching and teaching at our church. None of these are written with you in mind but are rather the result of self-reflection. I ask for your forgiveness where I have failed and your cooperation in holding one another accountable for the ministry entrusted to us by our congregation and, ultimately, by God.

Please observe the following:

  1. Appear professional in your appearance. Operate from the principle that we do not want anything about our appearance to distract people from worshipping God. Men, if you have facial hair, it should be neat and well-trimmed. A business suit and tie are appropriate platform attire for Sunday morning. Business casual is appropriate for Sunday evening. Women, be modest and simple in your appearance. Our appearance must always be in accordance with the church manual.
  2. Avoid preaching/teaching anything inconsistent with our published doctrines and practices or anything you are unprepared to defend biblically.
  3. Avoid preaching/teaching about divorce and remarriage or dress standards. As the Senior Pastor, I will address those issues as God leads.
  4. Avoid criticizing or insulting the congregation or any person in the congregation. Examples: “You aren’t smiling,” “You need your beauty nap,” etc. Avoid describing people as “stupid,” “dumb,” “fat,” “ugly,” or in other stereo-typical terms that are subjective and unnecessary.
  5. Avoid referencing a person’s race unnecessarily or using racial caricature. For example, in giving an illustration do not refer to a person as “a black man” when a man’s being black is irrelevant. Such a reference to race only stresses a difference that is not essential and may imply an “us-them” mentality. We are a multi-ethnic congregation and affirm that there is one human race created in the image of God.
  6. Avoid negative references to political candidates. Instead, address specific issues, address them biblically, and offer your evaluation of a political position in reference to Scripture.
  7. Avoid negative references to government assistance programs or welfare. There are many people in our congregation who receive government assistance and it is not caring or kind to make them feel embarrassed or belittled.
  8. In order to maintain unity among all followers of Christ, please avoid negative comments regarding other Christian denominations. As God guides me as the Senior Pastor, I will address particular issues regarding denominations such as the United Methodist Church and homosexual ordination. You may follow my lead on this by repeating what I have said publicly.
  9. Congregations generally do not appreciate being asked to respond audibly to a sermon for fear of giving the wrong response and causing embarrassment. Therefore, avoid posing questions to the congregation which call for a right or wrong response. Rhetorical questions should be clearly understood as not intending a response. Asking a question in which there is no wrong answer may be fine as a technique for maintaining the attention of the congregation in more casual settings, but not typically in a Sunday morning worship service.
  10. The Sunday morning Corporate Worship Service should generally end by noon or earlier unless the Holy Spirit leads otherwise. This should include time for people to respond to the sermon (see point 12).
  11. In general, the Sunday evening gatherings conclude by 7:00pm. Again, this is entirely dependent upon the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Celebration Service includes increased focus on prayer, music, and testimony so please be sensitive to this time as you preach. Due to the lack of childcare during this service, it is difficult for the congregation to remain focused beyond this time.
  12. A response should be planned for all Sunday morning sermons. I trust you to follow the Spirit’s lead as to how to give the response. If I feel led by the Spirit to speak during the response I will move to the platform and remain at my chair until you acknowledge me. Otherwise, you may call me forward or close as you believe is appropriate.
  13. Finally, please keep in mind that all of our Sunday services are livestreamed and archived. I have found it helpful to review our services in order to improve my delivery and platform habits.

Thank you so much for your assistance in the ministry of the Word. May God honor our ministry with the salvation of the lost and spiritual growth among His people.

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David Fry
Senior Pastor at the Frankfort Bible Holiness Church. PhD in Systematic Theology (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School). MDiv in New Testament Theology (Wesley Biblical Seminary).