How to address a Pastor

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   1. Formula For
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   2. Use of Rank by
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   3. Q&A on
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How to Address a Pastor
The Reverend is a courtesy title that describes a person. As a courtesy title like the Honorable our Your Excellency it always precedes a full name.
The Reverend is shortened by some to Reverend (or Rev.) and used as an honorific like Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr. before the name. This is not the most formal form, but is the preference in some congregations. If you know an individual pastor prefers simply Reverend (Name) -or- Rev. (Name) -- use it: it is always courteous to follow the preference of the individual.
      However, the forms I show below are the most traditional and formal.  Forms for just about every other type of clergy is can be found here .

              -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Pastor with a doctorate

Envelope, official:
    The Reverend (full name)

Letter salutation:
    Dear Dr. (surname):

How to Address a Pastor without a doctorate

Envelope, official:
    The Reverend (full name)

Letter salutation:
    Dear Pastor (surname):

FYI, here is what's come into the Blog that relates to this office/rank.
   For recent questions sent in, check out Robert Hickey's Blog.

   For specific offices/ranks, check out Robert Hickey's On-Line Guide.

How Should Clergy Sign Their Own Name?
       How should a pastor go about signing his or her name?  I'm wondering whether I should be signing my name as "Rev. (Full Name)," "(Full Name), Pastor," or " Pastor (Full Name)."
     -- DPM

Dear DPM,
        When you say signing your name …. well, actually we just sign our names as … our name.
        I never sign Mr. Robert Hickey …. I just sign Robert Hickey.
        Physicians don't sign their prescriptions (if you can read their signature) as Dr. (Name), they sign as (Full Name).  Full Name, MD appears in writing on the form, so they don't need to include MD in their signature.      
       So, it would be odd to give yourself an "honorific" when you sign your own name.
       Formally in writing your name is written (e.g., on the letter for you to sign above, in the weekly bulletin, or a sign outside your church} as:
              The Reverend (Full Name)  or
              The Reverend (Full Name), Pastor
       In up to you to let others know how you like to be addressed in conversation or a salutation -- Rev. (Name), Pastor (Name) etc..  So if you prefer pastor, a salutation would be:
             Dear Pastor (Surname).
       -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Pastor?
      I would like to send an African Methodist Episcopal Zion Pastor a letter requesting that my organization visit his church on a selected Sunday to close a weekend celebration of our anniversary.  How should the greeting read?  (for example,  Greetings Rev---- in the name of the Father)  is this appropriate of should I just say Dear Rev._________?

             -- Maryann Lee

Dear Ms. Lee:
        I give the best forms for protestant christian clergy on
        Address him as "The Reverend (full name)" and "Pastor (surname)" as noted there.
        I have never encountered a member of the protestant clergy who did not like that form, unless they also hold a doctorate and prefer "Dr. (surname)"
        While many clergy use "Rev." like "Mr./Mrs./Ms" ... but not all do, and some object to shortening "The Reverend" down to simply "Rev.".   So I suggest you not use "Rev. (Name)" unless you know it is his personal preference.

            -- Robert Hickey

Addressing Clergy as Pastor (Name) on a Mailing Label?
      I am preparing a mailing list for regular correspondence in the United States. I have a few protestant pastors to whom I will be sending periodic newsletters. All of them go by Pastor (first name). I noticed on your website concerning how to address clergy that you told everyone to use The Reverend when addressing envelopes. Since none of my pastor friends call themselves Reverend, I was wondering if it was permissible to address them as "Pastor (David Jones)" or "Pastor and Mrs. (David Jones)" instead of "Rev. and Mrs. (David Jones)".

              -- Jennifer (Desiring not to offend)

Dear Jennifer:
    You write .... "none of my pastor friends call themselves The Reverend"
    It makes sense that none of them call themselves The Reverend.
    The Reverend
... The Honorable ... and ... His Excellency ... are all courtesy titles used by others when addressing the person  ... are not used by the person themselves.
    For example, if you write to your U.S. Senator he/she would be The Honorable (full name) ... but when they sign their name ... they don't use
The Honorable as part of their name.
    I always suggest the most formal form of address ... which is the form to which I find the fewest people object.  The most formal way to address an envelope to most a protestant cleric is:
        The Reverend (First Name) (Surname)
               Name of Chruch

    A letter's salutation is the same form of their name you would use in conversation:
        Dear Pastor (Surname)
            or if they have a doctorate:
        Dr. (Surname)
            and of course the Episcopalians use:
        Father/Mother (Surname)

You write .... All of them go by "Pastor (first name)"
    If you know them as Pastor (first name) ... then you are on a first name basis with them.
    I am not (so far) ... so I'd call them Pastor (last name) until they asked me to call them Pastor (first name)
    My mother's pastor likes to be addressed as Pastor Jim ... and I call him that so in conversation.
    But I'd still address mail to him as The Reverend James Ensor.

You write .... "Rev. and Mrs. (David Jones)"
    It is not unusual to encounter Rev. used as an honorific like Mr., Mrs., Ms. or Dr. ... such as in ... Rev. (Last Name)  But it's a form I'd use only if I knew it is their personal preference. Many pastors don't like it ... and complain to me in e-mails about it all the time!
    The formal way to write the pastor and spouse who uses the same last name as the pastor .... would be to keep the person with the title's name as a unit and not mix it with their spouse's name:
        The Reverend David Jones
            and Mrs. Jones

-- Robert Hickey

How to Address Retired Protestant Clergy?

     I’ve used your site several times recently and it’s extremely helpful.  Thanks for providing such a comprehensive reference. My current questions:
     1. How do you address protestant clergy?  For example, do you still use “Rev.” or “The Rev. Dr.”  to address a retired minister?
     2. Does a person’s personal preferences matter in forms of address?  For example, the minister mentioned above writes but uses no forms of address with his signature.  When you respond, do you use his professional honorific or a standard like “Mr.”?
         -- Higgins Clinton

Dear Mr. Clinton,

    Clergy continue to use "The Reverend" for ever.  It never expires.
    I would always do the envelope formally:
        The Reverend James Wilson
                        ... that form of his name is for the post office.
    Also there's a rule that in writing one does not give oneself an honorific .... so the minister not signing his name on a letter as "Pastor James Wilson" make sense. I don't sign my name "Mr. Robert Hickey" ... but that is how others would address me.
    Is that what you mean?
    I would formally address him in a salutation as something like "Dear Dr. Wilson"  .... or if I was on a first name basis "Dear Jim"

    -- Robert Hickey

How to Address the Husband of a Pastor?
       What is the proper title for a husband of a pastor? Would it be First Man?
               -- 3019881523

Dear 3019881523,
     What a pastor's husband would be called would be by the tradition of the congregation. But that said .... I have never encountered a congregation with a special title for the husband of their pastor. He would be Mr. or whatever honorific to which he is entitled.
     In my observation, among traditionally black protestant congregations they DO call officially call the wife of a pastor First Lady and they DO use the title as an honorific:
          In writing ... First Lady Nancy Smith
          In conversation .... First Lady Smith
     But .... I have never observed this pattern used in white protestant denominations.

                -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Pastor with a Doctorate?
       I need to mail something to my pastor, Rev. Calvin Cole who has received his doctorate. How do I address the envelope or even introduce him?
        -- Marsha Talltree

       Is is appropriate to use two titles together such as Rev. Dr. The clergy and other staff at my church refer to our pastor as Rev. Dr. B. W. McClendon. He has a PhD and is also a Pastor of our church.
        -- Mrs. Brown

Dear Ms. Talltree and Mrs. Brown:
    In the U.S. the tradition is a simplified style to use one thing before a name or one thing after a name. Not both. 
     With a pastor with a doctorate these are the traditional forms:
   On the envelope or address block on a letter:
           The Reverend (Full Name)
     If you want to use the degree, then nothing before the name:
        (Full Name), D.Div.
     In a salutation (and conversation) switch over and use an honorific:
             Dr. (Surname)
    We follow this style when formally addressing U.S. elected officials who are The Honorable (Full Name). When we address them as the Honorable we do not also include Dr., Mayor, Senator, Professor, Mr./Ms./Dr. or anything else before their name. One thing before or after, not both.
This is in contrast to the British who do include every honorific and post-nominal all at once:
The Reverend Dr. (Full Name).
In the U.S. you see the British Style used by some clergy, notably the Episcopalians – probably influenced by the Church of England. Other non-Episcopal clergy use the compound style too, so I am not saying you don't see it: You do. I am just saying it's not stylistically correct.
      If you know it's their personal preference -- use it.  It's always courteous to address an individual in the form they prefer regardless of whether or not it is by the book.
    NOTE: When the correspondence is formal ... use The Reverend rather than just Reverend or Rev.  Sometimes clergy use simply Rev. as an abbreviated honorific, preferring to be addressed as Rev. (Name). It's definitely not everyone's preference, but it's each person's option to be addressed in the manner they prefer.
    My mother's pastor says he likes to be orally addressed as Reverend Bob, so I address him as
Reverend Bob. 
In writing I would use The Reverend (Full Name).
   In a conversation or salutation, if I did not know his preference, I'd use Pastor (Surname). That's widely acceptable and works for all the Protestant denominations. As far as I know no one is offended by it.
          -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Pastor Who is Also a Chaplain?
     Regarding my pastor, who is also a military chaplain:
     I must write a sentence in our summer worship schedule for the church newsletter regarding the pastor's “Godspeed Celebration” we are holding before his deployment to Afghanistan. Which of these would be considered correct? Are any of them simply not correct at all?
    The Rev. (full name), chaplain of the ..., Indiana Army National Guard.
    The Rev. Lieut. Col. (full name), chaplain of the ....
    Lieut. Col. (full name), chaplain of the .... and pastor of ....

Is there another form that would be more preferred?

                -- Lynn Harriman, Indianapolis

Dear Ms. Harriman,
    I think you are saying he is the pastor of your church ... AND he is also a chaplain?
    There is a tradition in American forms of address that we only give a person one title at time.
    ** As a chaplain he'd use the form I have on Chaplain Armed Services
    ** As you pastor he'd use the form I have on Pastor
    Your first option is the most formally correct for you at his church:
           The Reverend (full name), (degrees held)
    If it's a sentence you can include more information ..
            The Reverend (full name) is a Chaplain of the Indiana Army National Guard holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
    And when he's on active duty with the National Guard they will use his chaplain form of address and note is also the pastor of your church.
            -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Two Pastors?
    What is the proper way to address a letter to my pastor and his wife is also a pastor? Thank you in advance.

         -- Susan Wise

Dear Ms. Wise:
     I cover how to address two pastors in Chapter Nine: Joint Forms of Address.
You didn't mention if they both use the same last name ... so I will assume the do.
    And I will also assume you address each as Pastor (surname) in conversation rather than Dr., Father, or something else.
    That said ... on the envelope ... address it to "your pastor" first ... and put the name of his or her spouse on the second line:
        The Reverend Clinton Jones
            and The Reverend Susan Jones

    On the salutation to both use:
        Dear Pastors Jones,

      -- Robert Hickey

How To Address a Pastor and His Wife?
     How do I address a note to a pastor and his wife when both hold PhD's and she is a college professor?
     -- Lucy Hendershott, Great Falls, Virginia

    How do I address a pastor and his wife when she's doesn't have a special title?  She uses Mrs. or maybe Ms.
     -- John Price Buchanan, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Dear LH and JPB:
    I include forms for every different type of formal joint address in my book. On social correspondence (as opposed to official correspondence mailed to their office)  you don't use academic or any other kind of post-nominal initials. So no PhD.
    Put each name a line of its own ... so each gets their full name just right
            The Reverend Dennis Winslow
                and Dr. Marilyn Winslow

        The Reverend Dennis Winslow
                and Mrs. Winslow

    Clergy goes first. A person with an advance degree is lower than a member of clergy.
    Traditionally when a wife has a special honorific ... like "Dr." or a military rank she gets her full name.
when a wife uses "Mrs." and the same family name -- the wife's given name does not appear.
     If you want the full name of the pastor's wife to appear, then you have to get inventive. Today many women are perfect fine with "Ms." all the time. Thus a more contemporary form would be:

           The Reverend Dennis Winslow
                and Ms. Marilyn Winslow

    You definitely want to avoid:
         The Reverend and Mrs. Dennis and Marilyn Winslow
      And finally regarding:

            The Reverend Dennis and Mrs. Marilyn Winslow
     The form Mrs. (Her Given Name + Surname) is disliked by some women who follow the rule that it is the form for a divorced woman who could not be Mrs. (His
Given Name + Surname) anymore so subsequently uses Mrs. (Her Given Name + Surname).
                -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Female Pastor & Her Husband?
      How do I address a sympathy card to our female pastor and her husband on the death of her husband’s son from a previous marriage?
    -- nskcomstock

Dear nskcomstock,
    Most formally on an envelope your Pastor is listed first since she is The Reverend (Full Name) and he is a Mr. (Full Name). People with courtesy titles rank higher than people without them.
     And because she has a title ... she gets her whole name as a unit ... not mixed in with her spouse's name. So avoid anything resembling The Reverend Allyson and Mr. Wilson Smith
... which is really bad.  
     And assuming they use the same last name ... the most formal would be:
          The Reverend Allyson Smith
               and Mr. Wilson Smith

     In the salutation you could use the form you think she prefers in conversation ....
          Dear Pastor and Mr. Smith,
          Dear Dr. and Mr. Smith,

     Or if you are on a first name basis use:
          Dear Allyson and Wilson,

               -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Pastor and Her Military Husband?
     My question has to do with addressing envelopes.  Our Pastor, Alyson Smith, of the Presbyterian Denomination, is married to a retired Lieutenant Commander, USN, Richard.  He is to be awarded his PhD soon.  Regardless of the degree, I have not been able to find out how one is to address an invitation, card, or letter to the two of them, together.
         --- Bobbi Sue Minton

Dear Ms. Minton:
I have an entire chapter on joint forms of address in my book for just this type of situation. I am guessing you are addressing him socially, so ... socially his name is written:
        Lieutenant Commander Richard Smith
    As a member of the clergy, her name is written:
        The Reverend Alyson Smith

    Regarding his PhD.
In the US academic post nominals are never used with a rank. So he can be Lieutenant Commander Richard Smith (or Commander Smith in conversation) or Richard Smith, PhD (or Dr. Smith in conversation if he wants to be address as "Dr.") but never Lieutenant Commander Richard Smith PhD.

    Usually holders of PhD's don't use Dr. (name) unless they work in academia or research. E.g., the holder of a doctorate in French who teaches would use
Dr. (name) .... The holder of a PhD in finance who works at a bank wouldn't. But ultimately it's his option how he is addressed.

    An active duty or retired military person has higher precedence than a civilian so is listed first. So in most circumstances the joint form would be:
        Lieutenant Commander Richard Smith
            and The Reverend Alyson Smith

    BUT if she is the invited guest ... and he is invited as her escort, then as the guest her name would appear first:
        The Reverend Alyson Smith
            and Lieutenant Commander Richard Smith

    I have spelled out "Lieutenant Commander" every time above, to avoid the whole issue of how to abbreviate his rank. I cover that in my book on pages 94-98 (service-specific abbreviations) if you need that information.
                  -- Robert Hickey

Not Finding Your Question Answered?
(1) At left is a list offices/officials covered and (2) below are other topics covered in my blog. Between the two I probably have what you are looking for.
     But after checking both lists if you don't see your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day (unless I am traveling.)
      If I think your question is of interest to others, I will post the question & answer – but I always change the names and specifics.
      -- Robert Hickey

Mr., Miss, Jr., III, & Names        
Married Women       
Deceased Persons         
People with Two Titles
Post-Nominal Abbreviations and Initials         
Sequence Post-Nominal Abbreviations: Sr., Jr., etc.    
Couples: Private Citizens / Joint Forms of Address 
Couples: U.S. Military / Joint Forms of Address     
Couples: U.S. Officials / Joint Forms of Address      

Former Officials            
Professionals and Academics        

United States Federal Officials, Currently In Office             
United States State Officials, Currently In Office              
United States Municipal Officials, Currently In Office             
       All About The Honorable with U.S. Officials         
       Former United States Officials of all types             
United States Armed Services
       Addressing Active Duty Personnel              
       Addressing Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Veterans      

Tribal Officials 
Clergy and Religious Officials           
Canadian Officials         
Australian Officials          
British Officials, Royalty, and Nobility        
Diplomats and International Representatives
Foreign National Officials and Nobility        

Author's Name on His/Her Book       
Business Cards, Names on
Introductions, Names in
Invitations: Names on
Invitations: Names of Armed Service Personnel on        
Name Badges & Tags            
Names on Programs, Signs, & Lists            
Naming a Building or Road            
Place Cards            

Plaques, Awards, Diplomas, Certificates, Names on    
Precedence: Ordering Officials 
Tombstones, Names on      

Site updated by Robert Hickey on 6 April 2020


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