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[Editor’s note: This is a companion article to this checklist I wrote for guest preachers.]

Maybe the pastor is taking a well-earned vacation. Or perhaps he’s traveling to a conference. Or maybe he’s under the weather. Or perhaps your church doesn’t have a pastor at all. Regardless of the circumstances, you have a Sunday morning coming up with no one to preach. What are you going to do?

Finding a Guest Preacher

There are many places to find someone to fill your pulpit. Here are some good places to start:

  • Your own congregation. Is there an elder or deacon in your church with some teaching ability? Is there a young man who might have a potential gifting for ministry? You’re not looking for the second coming of Tim Keller here – someone who can faithfully exegete a passage of Scripture will do just fine.
  • Your denomination. There are probably experienced ministers who are either retired or between pastorates who would be happy to fill your pulpit for a week (or more).
  • Recommendations from fellow pastors. Hopefully, you have good relations with other pastors in your area, both within and outside your denomination. Asking one of them to recommend someone is a great way to find candidates. (This is how I once ended up filling the pulpit of a small church whose pastor had recently retired – and how I ended up being called as their next pastor!)
  • Social media. This tactic is a bit more risky, but if the options above aren’t bearing fruit, it’s worth a try.

Making the Arrangements

Once you have a candidate who’s willing and available, your job is to make the guest preacher’s task as easy as possible. And that means giving him as much information as you can.

  • Email or call the guest preacher to discuss details. (I recommend email for this exchange of communication so the guest preacher has written notes to refer to, but backing it up with a phone call is helpful too.). Include things like:
    • How long your sermons typically last.
    • How does the sermon end – in an altar call, prayer, etc. Will the guest preacher be expected to lead an invitation? (Recommendation: If you have an elder or deacon capable of leading an invitation, have him take those duties over so the guest preacher can focus on preaching.)
    • Expected attire. Let him know what the congregation expects preachers to wear.
    • The version of the Bible you preach from.
    • Whether you use slides in preaching.
    • Whether you’re in a sermon series.
    • Whether he’ll be expected to give a benediction, lead communion, etc.
    • Who his point of contact on the day of the service will be (and their phone number).
  • Plan to provide an honorarium to the guest preacher. This is especially true if the guest preacher has had to travel to reach your congregation. Have the check printed, signed, and in the possession of the point of contact before Sunday morning.
  • Check in with the guest preacher the Friday before he is to fill in (or have the point of contact do that).

On the Day Itself

  • Have your point of contact ready to meet the guest preacher 20-30 minutes before the service begins. This is a great opportunity to go over any last-minute questions, as well as to pray together.
  • Make sure that the honorarium is delivered to the guest preacher either before or immediately after the service.

Afterwards

  • Shortly after the engagement (within a week if possible), follow up with the guest preacher via email. Be sure to pass along any encouraging words from your congregation.
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