Have you ever worried about saying the wrong thing?
As a pastor, I find myself facing many situations where I’m scared I’ll say the wrong thing. Sure, there’s an occasional slip in a sermon or stage announcement, but the place where my words find the most fear is hospitals and funerals. When you’re a pastor, walking into a time of great struggle or grief is a privilege, but when people look to you as an extension of God, it carries an unfair weight.
I hate to admit this, but I use to practice what I wanted to say before walking into an emotionally charged, grief stricken environment. I was so scared that I would misrepresent God, or simply misrepresent all of humanity, that I would practice lines like I was on a date. After all, what can you say to a husband who just lost a wife, or to a parent who’s child is suffering? What should you say when people are expecting your words to bring comfort or peace?
There are no mulligans in these moments, and I learned a few valuable lessons the hard way. Most importantly, I learned this powerful principle:
People rarely remember what you say, but they never forget how you make them feel.
That might be worth reading again.
With that principle in mind, here are a few things I try to remember when I’m facing a “pastoral moment.” Whether you’re a professional Christian or not, you can do this, too…