Pastors Behaving Badly 04: Putting the “Guest” into Guest Speaker

Youth Guest Speaker - Sermon Series & Sermon Graphics - Ministry Pass

And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee (1 Cor. 12.21 KJV)

One of the places you are going to have to relate to other ministers is when you invite them to come and minister at one of your churches or conferences. As much as you can, build a good relationship with guest speakers, loving and honouring them. Firstly, you need guest speakers! You cannot equip the church all by yourself. Secondly, guest speakers speak to each other. If you treat one of them badly, you will suddenly find no one wants to come and speak for you! Some people ask me why I have such great guest speakers. Well, I never really know why they come in the first place, but I do know why they come back, and this is why:

Guest speakers are just that – guests. And we need to treat them like honoured guests and honour them during their time with us.

  • Invite them to a meeting you know people will attend. Do not invite a guest speaker to a early morning prayer meeting or youth service! Invite them to the big service! If they are coming to your conference, give them the best session of the conference!
  • Be there – unless you absolutely cannot be there. If you are building a new relationship with the guest speaker, be there even if you absolutely cannot be there!
  • Introduce the speaker yourself, do not delegate that task. Ever.
  • Find out how your guest wants to be introduced. They are the guest, treat them like one. If they prefer “Prophet Smith”, don’t get up and introduce “Pastor Smith”.
  • Find out how to pronounce their name properly (this is something I am terrible at, growing up in Scotland has given me a very strange grasp of how names are pronounced).
  • Use the proper and correct name of their church and/ or ministry.
  • You will not be able to get on well with all guest speakers. Some of them genuinely do not like people, some of them just do not like you. Some will be your new best friends, others will not. Some ministers just will never come to you no matter how much you invite them. None of this is a problem. Start to work out what speakers you like and appreciate and ask your pastors and elders which speakers they would have back – the answers might surprise you. Now don’t just go by what they say, but you should listen and know what they think.
  • If the guest speaker is senior to you – older than you, more experienced in ministry than you, has a larger ministry than you then give them freedom to minister. Do not call them forward for you to minister over them. A lot of young immature “prophets” love to make a name for themselves and link themselves to larger ministries by giving them a prophetic word. No, let the Bible stand that the lesser is blessed by the greater (Hebrews 7.7). If you are in the presence of a great minister, shut your mouth and listen and learn.
  • Avoid inter-church politics. There can be rivalry in the town, and don’t invite a speaker to cause grief to another pastor. We had a minister contact us with a very powerful healing ministry who wanted to come to us, but we found out that another local church had just ended the relationship with them. This speaker actually asked me to go to the car park of the other church and leaflet the cars. I refused, I will not deliberately cause strife! Don’t join a ministerial gang in your area – cliques of ministers who go around attacking others!
  • Some guest speakers are far from perfect. John wrote about a man called Diotrephes who loved to have pre-eminence. Some guest speakers want to be honoured far above their station. They insist on the best restaurants, the best offerings. You will soon notice their lobbying for lordship over you, pre-eminence over you, they will not be serving you or your people. They are dictators building their ministry out of your people. If you are uncomfortable, do not let the minister appeal for partners or attempt to draw people away from you. Stand up for your people! Sometimes you need to be gracious during the event, then make a note – that one is not getting invited back. Sometimes it is like the X-Factor, you never know what someone is really like until you see them off-stage. Then you know, do not invite back!
  • If the guest speaker is junior to you, with a smaller ministry, less experience and so on, then show them some respect. Don’t call them “son” or “junior”, give them a decent respectable offering and make sure you use their title if that is their preference. Make sure your church know that you are backing this person! If they mess up, generally it’s less because they are trying to lord it over you and more because of inexperience in discretion, in handling money and so on. Do not correct them in public, have a quiet word with them in private.
  • Always follow up when someone comes: thank them in person, and give them an honorarium that is generous for your church size. If you have to save up a few weeks or months to invite someone, do it. I have over and over, and I get the best guest speakers in the world.
  • Welcome the guest speaker from their point of entry. If they are coming from overseas meet them at the airport. Do not expect someone to make their own way from around a foreign nation! Never ever do that. That’s terrible advice. Do not send a junior minister to meet someone, you make sure they are met by someone of the same level and ilk. If they are the senior pastor, you as the senior pastor of the inviting church go and pick them up. Hire a decent car if you have to, do not drive them around in a banger with the windows missing! If you have to delegate, delegate to the most important person in your ministry.
  • Often I have actually driven a guest speaker to the next location as the pastor has not realized how important it is to come and get them. If they are preaching somewhere else, I will go and listen to them in a context where I am not the pastor, then drive them back to our church. You learn a lot driving some speakers around (some just want to sit and rest, be mindful of that) and besides it is just good manners. Do not delegate that to someone who works in admin or a volunteer!
  • In the church, have a seat so that the visiting speaker is going to sit near you. Keep an eye on them so the more “flaky” Christians do not dominate their time after the service.
  • If the visiting minister has brought his wife, family, or other staff, publically identify them and acknowledge them. Never disregard anyone’s associate – what if they end up being the next Elisha!
  • Treat the visiting pastor’s wife well. For goodness sake, she is a very important person. Even if only because she will be the one deciding if her husband comes back to your church!
  • Give your guest speaker time! Do not invite someone from overseas who flies 8 hours to your church to speak for 15 minutes. Get a grip! Give them an hour!
  • When you introduce your guest speaker – be excited. Do not introduce them as the next apostle Paul or any other flattery, but just genuine excitement about them, and let the church know you are excited to be there and listen. I often hold up my notebook when I introduce a guest speaker and let my people know I am going to be sitting down and taking notes today. That helps them take this very seriously.
  • Be clear and direct with your guest speakers. If you want them to make an altar call, tell them. If they wrote a great book and you want them to speak on it, ask them. One of our best online guest speaker sessions this year of lockdown was Bob Yandian speaking on end-times. I was listening to him preach to his people on end-times and I asked him directly “would you be willing to share some of this with our people” and he was happy to. There is nothing wrong with doing that, and it helps guest speakers to know they are genuinely helping your people. Do not surprise your guest! Let them know everything in advance, let them know they will be taken care of. If a minister likes a topic well enough to write a whole book on it, trust me they will normally enjoy speaking about it.
  • Get them a box of treats for their room. Find out what they like and make sure it is there for them.
  • Discuss finances and other requirements beforehand! You need to know how much money they expect, you need to know how they expect to arrive at your meeting and leave your meeting, you need to know what kind of accommodation they expect. If you are a smaller church, let the speaker know, let them know honestly what you can afford, and let the speaker make a decision whether to come anyway or not. Be upfront, honest and direct.
  • Expenses may surprise you – it is expensive to travel and speak. When I travel to Europe for example, I might fly fairly cheaply, but I may have to get an Uber to the airport for a very early flight, even spend a night at the airport hotel to be there early enough. I know ministers who have flown to the UK, travelled around churches and Bible Colleges and not made enough to fly back without using their ministry savings. That is a very bad reflection of our nation! I never want a minister to return from the UK with more debt!
  • A good honorarium should include both expenses covered and a blessing for the minister. They should be more blessed from coming to you than if they didn’t! Take into account the rank and seniority of the minister, their relationship with you, and so on. Ministers who are fathers to you personally should be especially honoured. Also, let the honorarium take into account the number of days a person ministers. A gift for a single Sunday morning should not be the same as a four or five day conference! Give the offering in person, and to the correct person in person by the senior pastor.
  • You should not take a long time to get that money to the person. I know churches that just completely forgot to give! We had a situation once where a cheque written to an American ministry took over three months to clear, so now I do not write cheques, I use PayPal or BACS internationally. I want them to have that money before they even get on the plane! It is decent to give them a Thank You card too!
  • Do not leave the visiting speaker at the mercy of your least dignified people! Escort them from the meeting and help them yourself to get to where they are going next.

(My next post will put the shoe on the other foot and give keys to be a good guest speaker).

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