No, this is NOT a patronizing title! I know every one of you can tell the difference between wood and acrylic! However, can you always tell the difference between a lectern and a pulpit? I’ve been around the church my entire life, and there are still times I’m not sure, “Is that a pulpit or a lectern?”
The sanctuary of the church I grew up in had two pieces of furniture at the front of the platform that speakers used. On the right (from the congregation’s view) was the “church pulpit”. The primary user of this piece of furniture was the preacher. He would share the sermon from the pulpit and he also used it at other times such as sharing announcements. However, over on the left was a smaller piece of furniture referred to as a “lectern”. Others who participated in the worship service would use this location when reading Scripture, sharing a special in song, etc. While there are a lot of various historic factors and theories regarding the origin of this delineation, in today’s culture, the distinction between a pulpit and a lectern is basically similar to what I recall growing up.
Eric Krise of Woerner Furniture, a storied manufacturer of church furniture, shares, “The most significant difference between a pulpit and a lectern is size. A pulpit is usually wider and often more ornate than a lectern. In fact, a few of our models of pulpits are essentially one of our models of lectern with ‘wings’ attached to either side of the lectern, which makes it more substantial.” A quick look at the Woerner Model 3350 Pulpit and then the Woerner Model 3300 Lectern will allow you to immediately spot the distinction Eric refers to.
While sometimes being able to distinguish between a pulpit and a lectern will not be as clear as these examples, most of the time I believe you’ll accurately use the correct term. If not, just speak confidently because those around you will be no more sure than you are!