I am privileged to speak in dozens of churches each year. Most churches take good care of me, but some churches go the extra mile. When that happens, it’s fun to tell others about a congregation that is thoughtful and thorough in their approach toward guest speakers.
As your church considers guest speakers, here is a sample list of steps these churches have taken:
- Following up with correspondence to clarify expectations. Most of the invitations I receive come via email. It always helps when a follow up includes details about the assigned topic (if there is one), travel, lodging, speaking time limitations, and media possibilities.
- Asking about honorarium and expenses up front. I do not have a set honorarium expectation. I do assume, however, that a church that invites me to speak will cover my expenses. Not having that conversation ahead of time – preferably at the church’s initiative – puts the speaker in an awkward position of wondering.
- Contacting me directly – often via a phone call from a leader – to contextualize the assignment. I like to approach my opportunities missiologically—that is, I want my approach to meet the specific context of the church. That’s easier to do when someone gives me details about recent sermon topics, current needs, and future plans prior to my preparation.
- Providing a specific point person. The process is always easier when I or my assistant communicates with only one person. The level of confusion is almost always directly proportionate to the number of people involved in the planning conversations.
- Offering a choice of lodging. One church gave me these options: a hotel, a church member’s home with a “hotel-style” guest room, or the home of a church member interested in missions. My preference is almost always a hotel room, but I am grateful when the church discusses options with me prior to making lodging decisions.
- Inviting my spouse to come. The church that makes that offer affirms my wife’s partnership in my ministry and makes it easier for me to accept the invitation. One organization with whom I’ve worked – an organization with budget challenges – offers to cover my wife’s expenses in lieu of providing a speaking honorarium. I take that offer so my wife may be with me.
- Sending prayer cards prior to my arrival. It means something special when I receive prayer notes prior to my time with the church. A card that says, “Dr. Lawless, we’re praying that God will do mighty things” is incredibly encouraging.
- Providing a specific host while I’m at the church. Too often, I arrive at the church wondering who will meet me there. The day is much easier if a host greets me, takes me to the proper place, and guides me throughout the event.
- Verifying data before introducing me. Internet data and bio information are not always accurate. For missionaries serving in dangerous areas, providing a full written or recorded introduction may be risky. In other cases, pronunciation of names is difficult. Confirming the information first will help avoid embarrassing situations later.
- Giving a personalized gift basket. Many churches provide a gift basket with water, snacks, and a local souvenir. The churches I remember most are those who provide a basket with my favorite beverages and snacks. To know they sought that information ahead of time is humbling and affirming.
- Sending flowers to my spouse. When I’m away from home for several days, imagine my wife’s surprise when the church sends flowers to thank her for her support. We do not have children at home, but I am aware of churches that provide small gifts for children as well.
- Guaranteeing speaking time. If a speaker is invited to speak for 45 minutes, the best churches make sure that time is available. To invite a speaker but then reduce his/her time is disrespectful.
- Guarding “down time” in the schedule. Most speakers want to be accessible as needed, but we usually need breaks (especially those of us who are introverts). Giving us time to rejuvenate without feeling guilty for having “alone time” will make us better speakers.
- If providing an honorarium and expenses, giving separate checks for tax purposes. Record keeping is never fun, but it’s much easier if the church clearly differentiates the payments.
- Offering a follow up report. After we prepare, pray, and present, seldom do we hear how the Lord may have used our efforts beyond the event itself. A simple email report sometime later can provide much needed encouragement and inspiration.
What other ways would you recommend to take good care of guest speakers?