Pastor | Christian Clergy

How to Address a Pastor, Minister

Pastor with a doctorate

—-Envelope:  how to address a protestant minister
—-—-The Reverend (Full Name)

—-Salutation: how to address a protestant minister
—-—-Dear Dr. (Surname):

—-—-See post below on this page for more on ‘how to address a pastor with a doctorate’.

Pastor without a doctorate

—-—-The Reverend (Full Name)

—-—-Dear Pastor (Surname):

how to address a protestant minister

The forms above are traditional for formal correspondence in writing.

—-#1) Use of THE REVEREND: The Reverend is a courtesy title, and courtesy titles describe the person. The Reverend always precedes a full name. NOTE: Using a less formal form 0f address might be right sometimes: using this formal form is right just about all the time.

—-#2) Use of REVEREND: Sometimes the Reverend is informally shortened to Reverend (or Rev.) and used as an honorific like Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr. before the name. While not the most formal form, it is the preference of some pastors and their congregations. If you know an individual pastor prefers simply Reverend (Name)  (abbreviated in writing to Rev. (Name) – use it: it is always courteous to follow the preference of the individual.

—-#3) MINISTER as an honoriific Minister is sometimes used to describe any member of clergy: “He is the minister of  a church in Maryland.”  
—-But some congregations use minister as an honorific – Minister (Surname) – for a member of the congregation who is clergy but is not the Pastor.  For this latter member of clergy addressed as Minister (Surname), modify the form for Pastor above.

—-#4) PASTOR as an honoriific:   ‘Pastor’ as an honorific – as in Pastor (Surname) – is widely accepted among Protestant clergy. Among smaller, independent congreations other forms may be preferred: check for local preference. Episcopal and Catholic priests use Father (Surname) orally and in a salutation.

For forms of address for other clergy follow the appropriate link in the list at right.

– Robert Hickey how to address a protestant minister

How to Address a Pastor & Spouse?

How do I address a sympathy card to our pastor and her husband – Pastor Allyson Smith and Wilson Smith?

—-—-—-– Comstock

Dear Comstock,

—-#1) People with courtesy titles rank higher than people without courtesy titles. Formally your Pastor is listed first. Her husband is listed second.

—-#2) When a person has a title, they get their name written as a unit – not mixed with another person’s name.
——–Avoid: The Reverend Allyson and Mr. Wilson Smith
——–Much better: The Reverend Allyson Smith and Mr. Wilson Smith

—-#3)In many historically African-American congregations the wife of the pastor is known as the First Lady.  See more on use of this form.

—-—-The Reverend Allyson Smith
—-—-and Mr. Wilson Smith

—-—-Dear Pastor Smith and Mr. Smith,
—-—-Dear Pastor and Mr. Smith

—-Or if you are on a first name basis, depending on what form of their names you use in conversation, you might use to start your note:
—-—-Dear Allyson and Wilson,

—-#3 If the pastor is a man, then the forms are:

—-—-The Reverend Calvin Jones
—-—-and Mrs. Jones

—-—-The Reverend Calvin Jones
—-—-and Ms. Brenda Simpson

—-—-Dear Pastor Jones and Mrs. Jones,
—-—-Dear Pastor Jones and Ms. Simpson,

– Robert Hickey

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

How to Address a Two Pastors Who are Married?

What is the proper way to address an invitation to my pastor and his wife who is also a pastor of her own church somewhere else? Thank you in advance.

————– Susan Wise

Dear Ms. Wise:

—-#1 You didn’t mention if they both use the same surname … so I will assume the do. I will also assume you address each as Pastor (Surname) in conversation rather than Dr. (Surname), Father (Surname), or something else.

—-#2 Formally when a person has a special form of address you write their full name as a unit and don’t combine it with other people’s names.

—-#3 The rule for name order is to list ‘your intended guest’ first and ‘their guest’ second. If they are both invited equally then it’s more typical to list them ladies first, men second. But since you said he’s your pastor and she is his guest – list your pastor first & his spouse second:
—-—-The Reverend Clinton Jones
—-—-and The Reverend Susan Jones

—-On the salutation or inside envelope:
—-—-Dear Pastors Jones,

#4 If they use different surnames names:
—-—-The Reverend Clinton Jones
—-—-and The Reverend Susan Wilson

—-On the salutation or inside envelope:
—-—-Dear Pastor Jones and Pastor Wilson,

– Robert Hickey

—-See These Related Posts:
—-—-Couples: Private Citizens
—-—-Couples: Military
—-—-Couples: U.S. Officials
—-—-Couples: Same Sex

How to Address a Pastor with a Doctorate?

The office staff at my church writes our pastor’s name as – Rev. Dr. B. W. McClendon, Ph.D.  Is it appropriate to use all those titles all at once?

————– Mrs. Brown

Dear Mrs. Brown:

—-#1) In the U.S. – the tradition is a simplified style which uses 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)

—-In a university catalog, degrees are listed after the name:
—-—-(Full Name), D.Div.

—-In a salutation (and conversation) use an honorific:
—-—-Dr. (Surname)

This rule is followed when formally addressing U.S. elected officials who are ‘the Honorable (Full Name)’. When we address them as ‘the Honorable’ we do not include another title or rank in front of their name: E.g. none of these is combined with ‘the Honorable: Dr., Mayor, Senator, General, Judge, Professor, Mr./Ms./Dr.

—-—-Yes The Honorable James Higgins, Senator for …
—-—-Never The Honorable Senator James Higgins of …

—-—-Yes Dr. James Higgins
—-—-Yes James Higgins, Ph.D.
—-—-Never Dr. James Higgins, Ph.D.

—-So … That’s the rule … one thing before or after, not both.

#2)  This is in contrast to the British who 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 you do see it. I am just saying it’s not stylistically consistent with the standard U.S. styles.

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.

—-#3) 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 likes to be addressed in conversation 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

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

How to Address Retired Clergy?

Do you still use ‘Rev. (Name)’ or ‘The Reverend (Name)’ to address a retired minister? In conversation do I still call them ‘Reverend (Name)’ or ‘Pastor (Name)’

—-—-—-– Higgins Clinton

Dear Mr. Clinton,

Retired clergy continue to be addressed in the style of their still-active counterparts. So, your pastor is ‘The Reverend (Full Name)’ forever. It never expires.

Formally the envelope look like:
—-—-The Reverend James Wilson

In the salutation use the same form of the name you use in conversation. Use whichever honorific is their preference. These are formal options:
—-—-Dear Pastor Wilson:
—-—-Dear Reverend Wilson:
—-—-Dear Dr. Wilson:

Of course, if you are on a first name basis then you could use:
——–Dear Jim,
——–Dear Pastor Jim,
——–Dear Father Jim,

– Robert Hickey

How Should Clergy Sign Their Own Name?

How should a pastor sign his or her name on a formal letter?  Should I be signing:
——–Rev. (Full Name)
—-—-(Full Name), Pastor
—-—-Pastor (Full Name)

—-—-—-– DPM

Dear DPM,

While others will refer to you are those forms you suggest – when you formally put ink on paper, sign your full name. No title before your name. Nothing after your name.

E.g., I never sign ‘Mr. Robert Hickey’ …. I just sign ‘Robert Hickey’.

Include any titles. degrees, offices and organizations in the signature block over which you sign your name.  That will explain who you are.

– Robert Hickey

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

How to Address a Pastor and Her Military Husband?

My question has to do with addressing an invitation’s envelope. Our Pastor, Alyson Smith, is married to a retired Lieutenant Commander Richard Smith, USN. He is to be receive his Ph.D. soon. Dr.? Commander? Lieutenant Commander?

————–- Bobbi Sue Minton

Dear BSM:

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

In the US, academic post nominals are never used with a military rank. He can be ‘Lieutenant Commander Richard Smith’ (‘Commander Smith’ in conversation) or ‘Richard Smith, Ph.D.’ in an academic environment. But he is never ‘Lieutenant Commander Richard Smith Ph.D.’.

Name order is determined by who has higher precedence. An active duty or retired military officer will have higher precedence than a civilian:
—-—-Lieutenant Commander Richard Smith
—-—-and The Reverend Alyson Smith

BUT guests, regardless of their rank, are listed before their escorts. If she is the invited guest and he is invited as her escort (as a courtesy to the guest), then 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. Formally it is always correct to fully spell out military ranks. But within the armed services they routinely use ‘service-specific abbreviations’. I won’t get into all that here, but just know that they do exist.

– Robert Hickey How to Address a Protestant Minister

—-See These Related Posts:
—-—-Couples: Private Citizens
—-—-Couples: Military
—-—-Couples: U.S. Officials
—-—-Couples: Same Sex

Not Finding Your Question Answered?

—-#1)  At right on desktops, at the bottom of every page on tablets and phones, is a list of all the offices, officials & topics covered on the site.

—-#2)  After checking the list and reading the posts, 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 or so (unless I am traveling.)  Note: I don’t have mailing or Email addresses for any of the officials and I don’t keep track of offices that exist only in history books.

—-#3)  If I think your question is of interest to others, I will post the question & answer – always changing the names and specifics.

— Robert Hickey

The Protocol School of Washington (PSOW) was founded in 1988 and offers open-enrollment, classroom-based programs where students learn to become a licensed Intercultural Etiquette and Protocol Trainer, or can earn a certificate in operational protocol by completing Protocol Officer Training. Private, on-site training is also available to provide tailored training solutions. In 2020, PSOW launched online, instructor-led training to meet the needs of students worldwide.

PSOW has offices in: Washington, DC; Columbia, SC; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The school is nationally accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) and provides international protocol, cross-cultural awareness, business etiquette, and image training preparing professionals to build lasting business relationships.


Protocol and Diplomacy International – Protocol Officers Association promotes the protocol profession and raises awareness of its central role in business and diplomacy through education and networking. PDI-POA’s mission is to share the highest level of collective expertise, training, information and advice regarding accepted rules of protocol. PDI-POA is committed to facilitating communication, understanding and cooperation among individuals, governments and cultures around the globe.