5 Reasons Why People Ask Their Pastors Questions

“There’s no such thing as a dumb question” is a popular quote. I’m not sure why, because it’s incredibly wrong.

As a pastor, you might think it’s a good thing that people ask you questions. It might be. It might mean you are approachable and humble enough to be questioned. It might even mean that people value your answers.

It might.

It doesn’t, but it might.

In my pastoral experience I have found most questions have other motives besides getting an answer. Here are some popular reasons why people ask pastors questions:

1. Tests and traps
Some of these questions almost sound sincere, like they are really thinking about theology, maybe even your sermon, but really they’re trapping you. Taking a page out of the Pharisee’s playbook, they are trying to corner you and pounce on you when you unwittingly answer their carefully crafted trap question. These people will keep coming at you and they start with a question every time. When they approach, your heart drops because you know they’re ready to brawl.

2. For permission
Having a question is a nice way to get the pastor to approve the thing you want to do. “Do you think people should get tattoos/smoke weed/drink alcohol/get divorced?” It’s never “me” or “I,” it’s always “people.” They don’t care about your answer, they’re looking for permission. And if they don’t like your answer, no worries, they’ll keep asking the question until they find someone who will give them the answer/permission they want. You might be flattered that they cared to ask you. Don’t be, you’re the seventh person they’ve asked.

3. They were too stupid to listen earlier
If people would simply listen most questions would disappear. If they had listened to the 43 announcements or the previous eight times you preached on that very topic, they wouldn’t have to waste their breath and your time asking questions. If they’da been listening they’d already know.

4. Doubts, angst, and uncertainty
Some people can’t stop asking questions. They think having questions is the height of spirituality. If they knew the answers, then they’d be accountable to change and behave better. Easier to be stuck in angsty, questioning doubts. It’s all about the journey, not the destination, don’t ya know. If I knew where I was going I’d have to take steps to get there. Too hard. I’ll just keep asking directions to nowhere I’ll get.

5. Segue into their spiel
These people want “equal time.” You just preached for 38 minutes, they heard your side, now they want to set you straight. But they open easy. They’ll pretend they have a concern, a true question, when in reality it’s just how they’ve chosen to open the conversation. They ask a question and you give a two sentence answer, and then they set into their four point outline they prepared while you were preaching instead of listening to your context for whatever statement they are now railing against. They especially like to do this when there are eight other people waiting to talk to you.

So, those are the five kinds of questioners. And, yes, as I said before, there are people in your church who will ask you good questions so they can think a subject through more intelligently. They exist, all three of them.

But the rest? They’re in one of these groups above.

How should you handle these questiony people? I recommend doing what Jesus did: flip their tables over and curse their trees. No, not yet.

Ask them a question in return. Figure out why they are asking. Throw them off a little bit. Get them to think, get them to consider the answer themselves; most people only listen to themselves anyway. This is a great tactic used by our Master, it would be good if we disciples of His wouldn’t take questions as flattery, but rather as an opportunity to reveal hearts.

Good luck out there. Fight the fight. Be ready always to give an answer, just don’t be shocked if your answer is not why they’re questioning.  


For more overly cynical takes on pastoral ministry, CLICK HERE to get a copy of the book I wrote, because it will show you why I’m overly cynical about pastoral ministry!

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