Four Ways a Pastor Can Show Love


lovePastor, you set the tone and atmosphere in your congregation. If you want to know the warmth of your church, put the thermometer in your own mouth.

I’ve visited some churches where the pastor’s lack of love is the main reason the church isn’t growing. Some pastors, by their cold demeanor and lack of personal warmth, virtually guarantee that visitors won’t come back. And in some larger churches, I’ve gotten the impression that the pastor loves an audience but doesn’t like people.

Great preaching without love is just noise in God’s view.

Every time I speak to at Saddleback, I repeat a simple reminder to myself. I never preach or teach without thinking this:

“Father, I love you and you love me. I love these people and you love these people. Love these people through me. This is not an audience to be feared but a family to be loved. There is no fear in love; perfect love casts out all fear.”

Let me suggest some practical ways that you can demonstrate your love:

Memorize names. Remembering names shows that you’re interested in people. Nothing sounds sweeter to a second-time visitor than hearing you use his or her name. While I don’t have a particularly good memory, I work hard at remembering names. In the early years of Saddleback, I took pictures of people and made flash cards to help me remember their names. I knew every person’s name in our church up to about 3,000 in attendance. After that my brain fried. I ask new members in the membership class to tell me their names on three different occasions to help me remember it. When you work hard at remembering people’s names, it pays great relational dividends.

Personally greet people before and after services. Be approachable. Don’t hide out in your study. For the first three years of our church, we met in a fenced-in high school where everyone had to exit through the same gate. Each week, I personally greeted every person that came to our church. They couldn’t get out without passing by me!

One of the best ways to warm up a crowd is to meet as many people as you can before you speak to them. Get out among the crowd and talk to people. It shows you are interested in them personally.

Touch people. At Saddleback we believe in a high-touch ministry. We give a lot of hugs and handshakes and pats on the back. Today our society is filled with lonely people who are starving for the affirmation of a loving touch. So many individuals live by themselves and have told me the only loving physical contact they ever get is at church. When I hug somebody on Sunday morning, I often wonder how long that hug will have to last.

Study the ministry of Jesus and you see the powerful affect of giving people a look, a word, and a touch. Look people in the eyes when you talk with them. Eye contact says, “You matter to me.” Give everyone a word of encouragement. Offer a warm, personal touch to show you really care.

Use a warm, personal style in writing to visitors. We have a series of letters I’ve written to first-time, second-time, and third-time visitors, telling them how glad we are to see them. I don’t sign them with “Dr. Warren” or even “Pastor Warren.” I simply sign them as “Rick.” I want visitors to feel they can relate to me on a first-name basis.

If you send a letter to visitors, write it like you talk to people, not in stilted, formal language. I received a visitor letter once that said, “Our church would like to acknowledge your presence with us last Sunday and extend to you a cordial invitation to return on the next Lord’s Day.” Does anyone really talk like that? Instead say, “It was really great to have you. Hope you can come back.”

One of the most important issues every pastor must decide is whether you want to impress people or influence them. You can impress people from a distance but you have to get up close to people to love and influence them.

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Rick Warren About Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of, a global Internet community for pastors.

  • Pastor joe Denitto

    Love cannot be taught, it can only be caught. Not head knowledge, but revelation of who Christ is in you. Then as we meet spirit to spirit love who is Jesus Christ is released to each other. Love is not a feeling He is Commitment.

  • Nigel Halliday

    A great challenge, in Ireland we are more formal. I stick out my hand and the huggers hug me and the hand shakers brake my fingers!
    God has called me to pastor, anyone prepared to teach me? Let me know….
    The Lord bless

  • PastorMason

    “One of the best ways to warm up a crowd is to meet as many people as you can before you speak to them.” Jedi Master stuff! Thanks!

  • Peter Gowesky

    What a great post. I really appreciate your words this morning Rick. I received an email just last night from an individual who is leaving our church simply because he felt like the pastoral leadership hasn’t loved him well enough. These are great insights. I will be sharing them with our pastoral community today. Thank you!

  • Julian Richards

    A great post, with some good points to take on board. I was recently challenged about spending time trying to organise and do set up, putting chairs out and alll the ancilliary stuff on a Sunday morning with* “all of that is stuff anyone can do, but only you can greet people as pastor -delegate the other stuff and get yourself to the door” – very wise advice!
    With regard to touch and especially hugging, I guess the UK is a more formal society, when greeting people, it is important to gauge whether a hug will be too close. I have in the past made the mistake of hugging people who have shrunk back as I have done so – I have learned to ask “are you a hug person or a handshake person?” as I greet them, and then respond appropriately. This is particularly true of men.

  • chris

    At a recent funeral, I saw a man I hadn’t see in ages. I started to shake his hand and he said to me, “in my family, we give hugs.” I’d never thought about the formality of a handshake vs. the love of a hug until that time.

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