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The hope for all ministers is that they have a chance to experience Sabbath rest at various times of the year, taking a week or two (or if you are really lucky, even more!) to rest and recharge.

Usually we as pastors are rushing to get everything buttoned up before we leave, and unfortunately, we do not always give much advice to our guest preachers. That’s where this article can hopefully be helpful.

My recommendation is to create a one-page, bulleted template that you can quickly update before you head out of town for your vacation or conference.

Crucial Items to Include:

  • How many services do you have?

  • What are your service times & locations?

Many churches modify service times in the summer, and my last congregation even moved to a different location in our building, so it’s good to confirm this info with your guest preacher to avoid any confusion.

  • How long is the average sermon?

Also important, what is the maximum length the sermon will be before the congregation begins to revolt? (This is real; don’t act like it isn’t!)

  • What are a few of the unique features of the church (size, theological bent, more conservative/more liberal etc.)

This can be incredibly helpful for the pastor as they prepare their sermon.

  • What else besides the sermon will the guest preacher be responsible for in the service?

I prefer to do the sermon and benediction alone, but others may not mind doing more.

  • What does the preacher typically wear on a Sunday morning?

  • Be as specific as possible—for example, robe or no robe? Suit or business casual? Hawaiian shirt and jeans? Each church is different and it’s nice for a guest not to feel they’ve unintentionally broken your church’s “dress code.”

  • Who are key leaders in the church to contact in case something goes wrong (car breaks down on the way, you get the flu Saturday night)? Include their phone numbers.

I’d never thought of this before, but my most recent host included it with other instructions.

Also helpful but not absolutely necessary:

Before and After Instructions

  • Do you have a prayer time before worship? Do your leaders expect the pastor to join in this time?

  • Do you have a receiving line after worship? Does the congregation expect the pastor to stay after and meet parishioners?

That’s all I can think of for now, but what about you? What am I missing? What instructions have you found helpful when you took on pulpit supply?

Feel free to leave your thoughts below!

Rev. Stuart Strachan Jr.

Stuart Strachan Jr. is an ordained (Presbyterian) Pastor. His primary passion is
equipping the saints for the ministry of the church (Eph. 4). His website, The
Pastor's Workshop, exists to resource pastors and church leaders.  He has served in
churches in California, Washington State, and most recently Pennsylvania.
In his free time, Stu enjoys golf, reading a good book, and watching baseball.

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