When your congregation is between pastors, there will be times lay leaders will need to arrange for pulpit supply. Here are some tips for extending hospitality to your guest preacher:
Pay generously, or at least fairly. High-quality sermons generally take at least ten hours to research and write. Do the math and make sure you are compensating a professional with an advanced degree accordingly. Multiply the pay if there's more than one worship service. And if your preacher is coming from out of town, reimburse mileage and cover a hotel room.
Think through what it is reasonable to request a guest to do. Worship logistics vary greatly from one church to another, and there’s a lot that isn’t written on the order of worship. Plus, it's odd for a guest to give the welcome (“Welcome to this church. I’m here for the first time too!”) and greet people coming forward to make commitments at the end of the service. (“I’m happy to invite you into this faith community that I don’t belong to.”) Minimize the potential for confusion and awkwardness by asking the preacher to do only what laypeople or staff cannot.
Ask if the minister would like to take on particular piece of the order or worship. For example, I like to read the primary scripture text myself, because I use inflection and pacing that set the stage for the sermon.
Make sure the preacher has a point of contact who will be onsite. Give a name and a cell phone number in case your guest gets lost or has car trouble. Let the minister know where to park and at which entrance the point of contact will be waiting.
Physically walk the visiting minister through the order of worship. Related to point #2 above, help the preacher know where and when to sit and walk and stand. Rehearse the communion liturgy, if applicable.
Don’t make the preacher chase down the check. Give payment before worship. That way the minister isn’t worried that getting paid depends on making hearers happy, and the minister doesn’t have to ask to be paid.
Thank your pulpit supply. Many guest preachers do so on top of many other work and personal responsibilities. Appreciate them for taking 10+ hours to prepare a sermon, 1-1.5 hours to be in worship (more so if there’s a second service), and however long to drive to your church.
Aside from the gifts that hospitality offers to your guest preacher, treating your pulpit supply well will let potential candidates for your ministry position know that they should check out your church. (Clergy talk to one another!)
Ministers, what would you add to this list?