What your guest preacher needs to know to be successful.

JUNE 2018
‘Tis the season for guest preachers isn’t it? Especially as we head into the fourth of July. I had the great opportunity to preach for a congregation on a recent Sunday and thoroughly enjoyed it, even if I found out afterward that only half the congregation showed up! If you know the solution to that dilemma, let me know.


Some folks in my last congregation did the same thing: they thought, “If Pastor Stu has the week off, so should I!” Anyhow, it got me thinking that it can be really helpful to send some information ahead of time to the guest preacher to prepare them for your congregation. They say when it comes to preaching, it’s “Context! Context! Context!” but what do you do as a preacher when Sunday is the first day you’ve walked through the doors of a church?


I have a solution: pastors, prepare a one-page document spelling out the specifics of your church for your guest preacher. (I’ll try and write a sample up for folks if they think it would be helpful-leave a note in the comments). Some important things I think are crucial 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.)

What is the maximum length the sermon will be before the congregation begins to revolt?
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 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.

Perhaps consider having a point person in charge so there’s no confusion when you first arrive (thanks Chip Hardwick).

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’ve got for now, until next time,

Grace and Peace,