Preaching Articles

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?

Brandon is the editor of Pro

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Karl Frank

commented on Feb 6, 2014

"What tips would you give to guest preacher ?" First, and to me most IMPORTANT, Pray, pray and more pray, about the Heavenly Father would have YOU preach, PRAY with pastor of church before the service, PRAY with all the people helping with the service, PRAY for the congregation before starting your sermon, PRAY at the close of your message, and finally, PRAY with the pastor who invited you to preach G_d's word to his congregation.

Phillip Holbrook

commented on Feb 6, 2014

I think that is trying to state the obvious. That goes without saying. Obviously, no brief article has the space to state the absurdly obvious. That would be like criticizing the write because he didn't say, "Now make sure you are saved before you get there!"

Anonymous Contributor

commented on Feb 6, 2014

I thought the article was great just what I needed to here no changes. I think new worship leaders could learn from Brandon

Troy Heald

commented on Feb 6, 2014

I would add, ask what translation of Scripture they are used to. I used to speak about 25 times a year just filling in various churches in my rural area and I always asked that question. It is good to speak using a reference they are used to hearing from. I am not saying one translation is better than any other (I have my favorite) but I will speak out of whatever translation they are used to hearing from. Often, you will hear "it doesn't matter" or something like that. In that case, maybe find out if they have pew bibles and what translation they are.

Phillip Holbrook

commented on Feb 6, 2014

That is great advice! Today that is terribly important. In my area - in the Southeastern Bible belt - we have a great deal of KJV only churches.

Keith Roberts

commented on Feb 6, 2014

Be gracious. On one occasion the church where I was speaking had a new worship leader. When she introduced me for the main message, it went something like this, "Oh, yeah, we have Keith for the sermon". There is no point in getting upset; that will only throw you off. So, again, be gracious when glitches happen with introductions or the sound system.

Phillip Holbrook

commented on Feb 6, 2014

Been there, done that too, my friend.

Richard Scotland

commented on Feb 6, 2014

Good article - mostly common sense and good manners but I bet there are a few horror stories out there where common sense and good manners were AWOL. I am assuming the "praying" part goes without saying!

Phillip Holbrook

commented on Feb 6, 2014

Absolutely true, Brother! I spoke at only one church in my early preaching ministry that wasn't nice! Each church has its own unique personality, and thouh they are few, some are not polite and welcoming. I was very inexperience when invited to speak at a very remote and rural church. The folks were friendly enough, but very different from most people I knew at the time. Following the morning service, nearly everyone complimented my preaching! I was scheduled to speak in the AM and PM services. Following the AM service at 12 PM on the nose, not one person invited me to lunch, or even suggested where I might find one! This was in woods- miles from anything. They handed me a set of keys- to their pastorium on campus! That night, their Chairman of Deacons asked if I would be interested in becoming their full time pastor! I was a first year seminary student. I look back on this and laugh. Never a dull moment in ministry...

Phillip Holbrook

commented on Feb 6, 2014

This is some great, foundational advice that primarily applies, in my estimation, to younger and relatively inexperienced "preacher boys.". I would like to add one caution: If you are a Bible College or beginning seminary student, be careful about asking for preaching/homiletical advice from lay people. Yes, you must establish rapport with them and be engaging, however when you are young and impressionable, don't expect professional public speaking advice from non-professionals. My advice is to seek the counsel of that Senior Pastor. He is a professional.

Phillip Holbrook

commented on Feb 6, 2014

I say this because I have seen very promising young seminarians who became discouraged because of overly critical comments from just one or two of those folks (and usually you can find at least one in any church) who feels it is his/her calling in the Christian life to be a critic.) If you are experienced, you are all too familiar with the "Crotchedy Critic", whom even the senior pastor cannot please.

Glenn Myers

commented on Feb 6, 2014

Point #1 is so big. Really there are a lot of pastors starving for some affirmation. Do some homework on the host pastor you you can offer an intelligent affirmation. But for Pete sake don't over do it that just get's so uncomfortable for your host.

Phillip Holbrook

commented on Feb 6, 2014

I think that goes without saying! Anyone who isn't prayed up, studied up and ready to share the Good News of Jesus Christ's death, burial and resurrection will not be invited to speak anywhere in very short order! I don't believe the writer needed to include this anymore than he needed to say, "Make sure you are a child of God before preaching your sermon."

Phillip Holbrook

commented on Feb 6, 2014

I apologize. To avoid misunderstandings, I mistakenly posted the comment here when I intended it to be a reply to Frank's comment. (Disclaimer)

Mh Constantine

commented on Feb 6, 2014

I speak at a lot of churches, many of them repeat visits. All of the points are just excellent. I would only add: remember you are there to serve that congregation for the glory of God. You are not there to promote your ministry or preach on something that would bring confusion in that church. The key is adaptability, and the heart of that is submission, both to God and to the local leaders. So, though I would be considered charismatic by some, I can and do minister in churches that are not in that tradition and do not feel that I have to jam my experience down their throats. The best words I can hear from a senior pastor: "We trust you. Even if I am not there, I know the church is safe with you."

Ian Watson

commented on Feb 7, 2014

Just some humor. Friend of mine - invited to speak about his missionary call. Arrived at church - elder says, Remember to preach the gospel. On the platform, leader says, We'd like to hear your testimony. Friend manages to pack it all in. At the door, old lady says, That was terrible, you never mentioned "the blood".

Mark H. Stevens Thd

commented on Feb 8, 2014

I agree with all of the tips, but must comment on the 1st one. I think honoring the Pastor can go overboard at times, I assume you are a white congregation, in Black churches especially Pentecostal ones the honoring of Pastors boarders on cultish in some churches, let's give Jesus and His word top billing.

Anonymous Contributor

commented on Oct 14, 2015

I do a lot of traveling ministry. The funniest response I ever got from a question was from a baptist pastor. I asked how long I had to preach. He said I could preach as long as I wanted to...but they were all going to leave at 11:30. Made me smile. I always tell that story when I preach at a new church for the first time.

Anonymous Contributor

commented on Oct 14, 2015

I do a lot of traveling ministry. The funniest response I ever got from a question was from a baptist pastor. I asked how long I had to preach. He said I could preach as long as I wanted to...but they were all going to leave at 11:30. Made me smile. I always tell that story when I preach at a new church for the first time.

Bev Sesink

commented on Oct 15, 2015

I would suggest that if the church has a website that you take a few minutes to view it to better understand the church. You can learn a great deal about it just be taking the time to do this.

Delwyn Campbell

commented on Jul 8, 2019

When people compliment me for the sermon, I have always said, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow." They always reply, "Amen, Pastor!" Saying "thank you" is like the waiter taking credit for the meal. I must disagree with the author, because I cannot take credit for what God does.

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