Dealing With the Preaching Contract

Dealing With The Preaching Contract

We’ve been talking in this blog about the agreements that exist between a congregation and the preacher.  You can check this out in the previous posts.  This is sometimes referred to as the preaching contract, and it includes subtle things like the time of the service, the dress of the preacher, and how the service proceeds, how long the sermon is, etc.  We’ve talked about those things in this blog.  In this post we look at the choices that you have in dealing with the preaching contract with your congregation.

There are some other very subtle agreements, ones that seem just to be common sense, but there are expectations out there that you should know about.  People expect to be able to see you.  They also expect to be able to hear you.  You should be friendly, at least that’s what they expect. It’s part of the contract.  Prayer should be part of the service.  You should peach in an interesting way, and you should use language that they can understand.

Wow!  All of these kinds of subtle cultural expectations are part of the preaching experience!

So How Do You Deal with or Change the Contract?

That’s a good question.  Can the contract be changed?  You should know that you have three choices when it comes to dealing with the preaching contract in your church.

Abide by The Agreement

You can abide by the agreement.  As you get to know the people to whom you preach each week, you’ll have a growing understanding of what the contract is, and then you make the decision to go along with it, no matter what it is.  This is what many of us do.  You should know, however, that there are some other choices.

Renegotiate the Contract

You can renegotiate the contract.  I’m in the process of that right now with a church with which I am working.  They’ve had an agreement that at least half the songs will be out of the hymnal, and will be accompanied by the organ.  Part of their agreement, as well, is that there will be three songs at the beginning of the service that will bethe worship wars accompanied by other instruments and singers.

A church survey identified the worship services as one of the reasons.   So, I talked with some key people about the possibility of changing things up.  I then arranged to lead a couple of services with my acoustic guitar, an electric guitar player, and bongo drums, along with twice the usual number of vocalists.  We did updated hymns and contemporary Christian music intertwined throughout the service.  So the renegotiation began with me asking permission to test the waters for another practice.  Today we are continuing to explore what worship will look like as we are now seeking a new Worship Director.

Violate the Agreement

You can violate the agreement.  Sometimes this is the right choice to make, but know that you do it at a great risk.  There was once a guest preacher who arrived early at the church where he was to preach.  He had dressed in dirty clothes, and looked like he hadn’t bathed or shaved in days.

The modern priest passing by injured manAs people arrived at church that morning, he tried to engage them in conversation.  He talked about his sick wife and her need for food and medical care.  This was a church that valued coming to services dressed up and well-behaved.  The guy in the church parking lot didn’t fit their image of who should be in their church.  Imagine the surprise when he was introduced as their guest pastor, and preached on the Good Samaritan.  He was violating the agreement, but was doing do to make a point about who we are to be looking to reach and touch.

These are your choices.  The lesson is that you will be dealing with the preaching contract at all times in your relationship with your congregation.  The best thing you can do is to identify what peoples’ expectations are, and then make some choices about how you are going to respond.  How you respond will directly affect your relationship with the people who hear you preach.

Next time we’ll talk more about this subject, beginning with the idea of power in the church: who has it, and how that impacts your preaching ministry.

Here is another reflection about some of the expectations for the pastor and worship team.