Have you been invited to be a guest preacher?
I have had the opportunity to do a bit of guest preaching lately. I have also dealt with my fair share of good and bad guest preachers.
Here are some tips to help make you a better guest preacher—one they will actually want to invite back.
1. Honor the senior pastor.
Most pastors do not get nearly enough appreciation for the extremely hard work they do for their church. They will never stand up on stage and toot their own horn.
So, as the guest preacher, you should toot it for them.
Let the people know why you love their pastor. Create an opportunity for everyone to clap for him. Give the man some honor and recognition (1 Timothy 5:17).
2. Respect the time limit.
Ask how long you are scheduled to preach and stick with it! DO NOT go longer than the time you are given. You are a guest. Don’t overstay your welcome!
Not all churches have a clock visible from stage, so I personally use the Presentation Clock app on my iPhone. I set the time I have to preach, and it counts down for me. The timer turns yellow when I have 10 minutes left, red when I have five minutes, and inverts colors and starts counting up every second that I have gone over.
It is a simple app, but immensely helpful.
3. Arrive early.
Be there before you have to be. Get to know the sound guys and other volunteers who arrive early, talk to people in the audience before the service and participate in the worship service.
Don’t freak everyone out because the service is about to start and they don’t know where their guest speaker is. I had this happen to me once.
4. Stay late.
Don’t preach and run. Again, talk to people. Stick around and hear their stories. Pray with them.
Hanging around until the place clears out benefits everyone. They want to talk to the guest speaker. They will encourage you. They will feel important because you listened to them. And you will always learn something.
5. Know your audience.
Tailor your application to whom you are speaking to. If you are preaching to teenagers, your application needs to be different than if you are preaching to senior citizens. Preaching to inmates in prison should be different than stay-at-home moms.
Know whom you are speaking to and what they are going through. And if you don’t know, ask.
6. Honor the topic/text/series you are given.
I don’t care if you don’t like it or would rather preach on something else. Follow instructions. Do your absolute best to honor the direction and intention the church sets for you. It is not about you. Help the church win.
7. Know the stage transitions.
Know when are supposed to walk onstage. Know how it will be handed off to you. Also, know how you are supposed to hand it off when you are done. Are you supposed to pray, lead into communion, introduce a song or close out the service? The transitions are important.
I went to an event once where the guest speaker was always clueless on when his cue was to come onstage. As a result, there were many awkward transitions that distracted from the message.
8. Say “Thank You.”
Make sure you say “thank you” to the pastor who invited you to preach. Thank any of the staff who help you. Thank the video and sound people. Thank the worship leader. Don’t act like a rock star. Show your gratitude.
9. Learn how to accept a compliment.
People will inevitably compliment you. Even if you don’t preach well, some people will still say “good job” out of sympathy. It’s weird, but true.
Do not be arrogant and boast about yourself: “God has given me a tremendous gift!”
Also, don’t be so humble that you brush aside their compliment: “It has nothing to do with me, sir. All glory to God.”
Repeat after me. “Thank you.” That is it. That is all you need to say. A sincere “Thank you.”
10. Come prepared.
Take your invitation to preach seriously.
Be professional. Know your material. Provide notes, slides, scripture, videos or outlines in advance. Communicate with the person in charge of the service so you know what to expect.
You also need to be prepared for anything. If you have slides or videos on a computer or DVD, always have a backup just in case one fails. If you preach with an iPad, have backup notes.
BONUS TIP: Ask for feedback.
After you preach, send a follow-up email. Thank them for the opportunity to speak. Let them know you enjoyed your time with them. And, most importantly, ask for feedback.
You could ask them to take a brief survey, or just ask if they have any tips on how you could do better next time. This shows that you care, and also that you are eager to learn and get better.
The feedback you get from this will be gold. Don’t get offended. Take it seriously. Never stop learning and working to get better.
In the end, you still have to deliver a great message. Bring your ‘A’ game. But add these tips on top of a great message, and you will be the kind of guest preacher whom people want to invite back.
What tips would you give to guest preachers?