Last weekend, New Song hosted Scott Rigsby for what we call a “Wow Weekend.” Scott is a paraplegic triathlete – the only double amputee to complete the Hawaiian Iron Man competition. Scott did some things for us that we couldn’t have done for ourselves. His unique story of perseverance in the midst of pain gripped our members. And his coming attracted 300 guests, many of whom wouldn’t have otherwise darkened the doors of a church.
Are high profile guests worth the time and money?
Only if you value lost people. (Or rejuvenating lapsed members. Or motivating your people to become inviters.)
Craig Groeshel has taught us that to reach people no one else is reaching, you have to do things no one else is doing. Scott helped us do that, and more.
The Benefits of a High-Profile Guest:
1. A high-profile guest can create a heightened incentive for your members to invite friends.
A week before Scott’s visit, many New Songers passed out invitations to their co-workers. Crossing that work-religion barrier can be awkward. The heightened incentive of hearing an athletes’ tale can help overcome the barrier. A lady who works at a gym invited her entire staff. A cross country coach invited his whole team. A swimmer emailed every swim coach in the area.
I invited my barber. I’d invited her a dozen times before, but she always said her schedule wouldn’t allow it. Two weeks ago she mentioned she was thinking about training for a triathlon. As soon as my haircut was finished, I went out to my car and brought her an invitation. She not only came, she brought her mother with her. They both told me they’d be back next week!
During our Saturday night service, I sat next to a family of five who had been invited by one of our vocalists. During our prayer time, the mother went forward and wept openly in the arms of our prayer partner. Afterwards she told me she was born and raised in Ireland, and had never experienced a church service like this. Her three teenagers all met our Youth Pastor. The whole family promised to return next weekend.
2. A high-profile guest can create a specific time to invite.
Every core member of my church would love to have a guest with them every weekend. But it’s easy to think, “This isn’t the right time, I’ll invite them next week - or the week after that, or the week after that.” With a guest speaker, they’re only with you one time. If you miss the opportunity, it’ll never return. Your church members know that. A special guest provides the “This is the day!” motivation to make the invitation your people intend to make every week.
3. A high-profile guest can create a focused time to invite.
During some stages of life, peer pressure can be a terrible thing. But when it comes to motivating us to do the right thing, peer pressure can be used by God. A nudge from the Holy Spirit, coupled with some positive peer pressure is what convinced the children of Israel to cross the Jordan. That same combination can spur a church to great things.
During the weeks leading up to our Wow Weekend, a common question was, “Who are you invited to hear Scott Rigsby?” God was at work, and so were his people. A side benefit was that several New Songers who had never before invited a friend to church invited someone to this event. Hopefully they’ll continue to the habit.
4. A high-profile guest can create an excuse to upgrade your systems.
One of the best ways to get your house cleaned is to decide to host a party. Knowing you’ll have guests, the whole family works extra hard to clean their rooms and tidy the common spaces. The same can be true when you know you’re hosting a large group of guests in your church.
New Song has a lot of military members. They tend to be reassigned every few years. So every fall we need to recruit a boatload of servants. In the weeks leading up to Rigsby, we re-staffed our usher core, invited new faces onto our PromiseLand team, and relaunched a badly-needed parking lot ministry.
5. A high-profile guest can create a leveraged opportunity to return.
Now that we have people’s attention, we have a small window to keep it. So next weekend we’re hitting a high-felt-need topic: reducing debt. Dave Ramsay’s materials have helped New Songers reduce thousands of dollars of debt, so we’re showing Dave’s “Basic Money Makeover” during the services next weekend. After Dave’s sermon, we’ll invite people to join a Finance Peace group for the next 13 weeks. (For those who may be worried about us, we’ll return to exegetical Scripture studies by the end of the month. I’ll be teaching a nine week series through the book of Nehemiah for the rest of the fall season.)
6. A high-profile guest can motivate drop-outs to return.
Unique guests will not only draw newcomers to your church, they can help draw back lapsed attenders. From time to time, fringe members can get distracted and stop coming. Last weekend I saw several smiling faces I hadn’t seen in weeks.
7. A high-profile guest can increase people’s love for you.
After each service I had core members and regular attenders say to me, “Pastor, thank you for bringing Scott here today. He was just what I needed.” A key component of a shepherd’s job is to feed his/her sheep. Occasionally that’s best done by offering them an alternative voice. By God’s grace I don’t have the story Scott Rigsby has, so I can’t offer the kind of encouragement he did.
High-profile guests can be overused. But utilized during a few key times of the year, they can bring a breath of fresh air and a boost of attendees who would never otherwise be exposed to the church and the gospel. Finding the right speakers for your congregation take a little effort, and finding the money to cover the expenses of invitations and an honorarium can be a challenge. But the challenge is well worth it.