The area that I appreciated the most in pastoring was leading our congregation in welcoming and caring well for our guest speakers. I led a congregation that started with a handful of attendees and grew into a weekly attendance of thousands. The one area that remained consistent from the beginning was understanding the importance of “ministering well to the minister.” I am concerned that in response to the excessiveness and opulence of some, many churches are relinquishing the responsibility and ignoring the importance of caring well for guest ministers.
Recently, I was asked to speak at a church that I had never attended. I was asked to speak at three weekend services. I arrived, as requested, one hour before the first service. I immediately realized when I arrived that I was not sure of where to go to prepare. I entered a side door to find the worship team conducting a sound check. I was surprised that I had been in the building for five minutes and no one had approached me. I sat for a few moments in the worship auditorium and finally had the nerve to approach one of the sound technicians and introduce myself. I asked where I could hang my coat and sit while awaiting my sound check. He escorted me a small room with a large-screen television that was blaring a rock concert laced with some colorful language between song sets. It required some prayerful focus as I adjusted to a somewhat distracting environment.
My experience of lack of preparedness and guest-care has become more common among congregations of all sizes, demographics, and locales. There are five ministry excellence ideas that can provide opportunities for church teams to model hospitality through appropriate and welcomed means. They are as follows:
1. Preparedness – There should be clear communication (phone call, e-mail, and/or text) that clearly spells out the expectations and accommodations to the speaker. Many pastors have designated this communication role to individuals or teams that solely focus on the supportive care of the guest.
Information regarding airport pick-up or who will greet the guest upon their arrival is discussed. The more information that is shared, the more comfortable the experience for the guest minister. Inquiry should be made as to food and beverage preferences, allergies and special requests.
The guest speaker should be given an opportunity to conduct a sound check and should be familiarized with the church facility, stage positioning, and seating. It is always a good idea to check with the speaker to make any arrangements for his or her spouse and others who may be accompanying him or her. Parking for the guest speaker should also be secured.
2. Lodging accommodations – In earlier days of church ministry, it was customary to have the guest minister stay with the hosting pastor. There are some congregations that continue this practice. However, I suggest that those days are far gone.
Budgetary plans should be reviewed, prior to inviting a guest, that allow for the speaker to stay in either a four or five-star hotel. Many hotels are willing to offer churches a discounted rate. The guest, and often the host pastor’s family, will appreciate the privacy.
3. Privacy – Many church leaders feel the need to stay with the speaker or take the speaker on a tour of the city. It is best to check with the speaker and ask his or her preference. Some, like myself, enjoy just having quiet and relaxation before ministry. Others may desire to have more fellowship time with the host. There are no set rules.
Some churches have opted not to use the guest’s name when lodging, particularly for high profile speakers. If the guest is traveling with their spouse, there may be even a more appreciation of having some free time until the scheduled event. A written itinerary is always a welcome sight.
4. Refreshment and beverages – An assortment of beverages should be prepared in an accessible and nicely displayed area. I recommend bottled water (room temperature and/or refrigerated), various juices, a coffee/tea service, packaged assorted snacks, and mints. My church would prepare snack gift bags with some of the items to be enjoyed in the hotel room or while traveling back home. Often, a gift card for coffee or a dinner was included.
5. Honorariums – Sadly, the financial compensation for many guest speakers is understated or even overlooked. It is imperative that an honorarium be prepared and presented to the guest speaker before their departure. The honorarium should be appropriate based upon the duration, scope, and size of attendance at the church event.
Assuming the guest has not requested a specific honorarium, I suggest that it should be generous and respectful of the speaker’s and his or her family’s sacrifice of time. Appropriate arrangements should be made to provide IRS 1099 information to the church financial officer.
Finally, considerations should be made with regards to reimbursement of mileage, airline tickets, and any other incidentals. The guest should never feel responsible for facilitating his or her needs regarding the ministry event. Let me be clear. Churches cannot afford to skimp here. I believe God will immeasurably bless a host congregation that is generous and appropriate in its honoring of the ministry gift that is shared with the church.
Yes, there are always extremes and excessiveness. However, there is appreciation for the hosting church that seeks to exude ministry excellence. Let us seek to serve those that serve God’s people with appropriate honor. Serve well, beloved!
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